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Blood Lessons: What Cops Learn From Life-Or-Death Encounters

Always believe you can survive, no matter what

When do police officers find themselves in that mudroom between life and death, fighting desperately to enjoy all the rest of the days of their life?

As Trooper Matt Swartz explains in Chuck Remsberg’s 2008 book, “Blood Lessons,” it happens on a day of “perfect ordinariness.”

In the book, Trooper Swartz and more than 20 other law enforcement officers tell their stories that begin on days “of perfect ordinariness,” but end with gunshots, careening cars, snarling dogs, blood, and death.

Ultimately they are stories of survival and for the benefit of the reader, reflection.

Remsberg, law enforcement’s perennial Sgt. Esterhaus, continues to tell every cop in America and beyond to “be careful out there.” An entire generation of police officers and trainers has used his books, “Street Survival,” “The Tactical Edge” and “Tactics for Criminal Patrol” as the bibles of police survival tactics. These powerful and informative books are to modern law enforcement what Sun Tzu’s first edition of “The Art of War” was to Chinese warfare – a must-read.

In “Blood Lessons: What Cops Learn From Life-Or-Death Encounters,” Remsberg did something completely different from his first three survival volumes. With the assistance of the surviving officers, permanent record, witnesses, victims and sometimes even suspects, he captivatingly details more than 20 stories of survival. Then, instead of letting a pundit “Monday morning quarterback” the incidents, he lets the officer-survivors themselves tell the reader what they learned in each dramatic event...a term that falls far short of effectively describing these incidents. There are no real words to describe these encounters from the outside in, but the officers, with the help of Charles Remsberg, paint pictures more vividly than Hollywood ever could and more honestly than Hollywood ever would.

Officers in these real-life dramas have faced down murderers, torturers, bank robbers, terrorists, bushwhackers, active shooters, mad dog killers and even mad dogs.

They have been shot at and missed, shot at and hit, ambushed, stabbed, bitten, hit by cars, and bombed. They have survived comas, lost their sight, their hearing, limbs, and sometimes their partners. In each story, the officers share how they struggled back from the brink and survived physically, legally, and emotionally after a few seconds of ultimate challenge and horrific terror, which interrupted and quite often changed their lives.

Then, in a retrospective, they share their hard-learned and dearly paid for lessons of survival with all officers who pick up this book and read it.

Read this book and then read it again. Then put it down and in another year read it again. If you want to share the book with another officer, buy another one and give it as a gift, but save yours.

Take notes. Mark pages. Highlight important points learned and use it as a reminder that you must be prepared – and stay prepared – whether on duty or off, no matter your age, skill level, or job assignment in law enforcement.

Every officer has had a field trainer tell them at one time or another, “There is the easy way to learn and the hard way. Better to learn the easy way.” The officers in “Blood Lessons” have learned the hard way, and they are allowing you to learn the easy way by sharing their stories.

One message in “Blood Lessons” that is repeated from officer to officer is that the training and preparation done before an incident – in skills, physical ability, mental, and emotional preparedness – can make the difference between life and death.

The stories are heart-wrenching and powerful. The “blood lessons” shared in this book are numerous. A primary theme that runs through the book is, “Always believe: You can survive, no matter what.” A second theme is the crucial role preparation plays in survival and success.

You might be asking, “When do I have time to read a book?”

How about today? Today is a perfect day to start to read this book…“a day of perfect ordinariness.”

Be careful out there.

Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized police trainer who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full-time law enforcement experience. Marcou’s awards include Police Officer of the Year, SWAT Officer of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Domestic Violence Officer of the Year. Upon retiring, Lt. Marcou began writing. Additional awards Lt. Marcou received were 15 departmental citations (his department’s highest award), two Chief’s Superior Achievement Awards and the Distinguished Service Medal for his response to an active shooter. He is a co-author of “Street Survival II, Tactics for Deadly Encounters,” which is now available. His novels, “The Calling, the Making of a Veteran Cop,” “SWAT, Blue Knights in Black Armor,” “Nobody’s Heroes” and Destiny of Heroes,” as well as his latest non-fiction offering, “Law Dogs, Great Cops in American History,” are all available at Amazon. Dan is a member of the Police1 Editorial Advisory Board.