ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “Integrity Based Policing” by Dan Barry (Memoir)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

Experience firsthand policing in America’s Playground. This book contains stories that are based on my thirty-year career with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Despite all my “peaks and valleys,” I never lost my love of policing, or passion for the people I served. While many of my experiences are amusing, they also are enlightening for people considering a career in law enforcement. My most important lesson learned is that decisions must be based on ethical soundness, as opposed to other motivations.

The challenges facing American police officers have never been greater. Besides the dangers from criminals, they also need to navigate through administrations that are often more concerned about tomorrow’s headline, than providing true leadership. As opposed to considering ethical soundness, agencies are often most concerned with only the politically popular path.

My prayer is for police agencies to work in partnership with the citizens they serve in making our neighborhoods a safer place. For this to be achieved “Integrity-Based Policing” must become the new standard for all agencies to adopt.

REVIEW:

This is the year, and this is the book, my friends.

Dan spent thirty years in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and in those years, he saw many things: the rise and fall of Community-Oriented Policing (COP), the development and erosion of trust within the department’s command structure, and the unfolding (as well as conclusion, in some cases) of careers as those he worked with rose through the ranks and came into their own. He worked in a number of assignments, from serving as a patrol officer to commanding the Organized Crime, Criminal Intelligence, SWAT, and Patrol bureaus. Basically … he’s seen it all, and he’s probably worked almost every possible position within the LVMPD in order to write a memoir that is also, in many ways, a call to action to re-orient the direction of policing in the United States.

Have I mentioned that this book is timely yet?

The elephant in the room here has to be addressed: There are presently numerous calls to “defund the police” as a result of widespread protests associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ve spent some time over the last few weeks attempting to understand what exactly this means, and while there are likely a range of opinions all being voiced under the umbrella term, the general idea seems to be not so much “get rid of all police, all police are bad” but rather “let’s reroute some of the funding currently going toward policing into community-based programs that aim to eliminate the root causes of crime.” And while I’m sure some would say that’s a very gentle interpretation, I do think it’s one that in many ways is relevant to the work Dan Barry did within the LVMPD, the changes he witnessed, and where he hopes to see policing go in the future.

Barry emphasizes ethics time and time again throughout Integrity Based Policing, drawing a line under the fact that much of the leadership he saw was warped by appointees jockeying for perks and power within the police hierarchy. From the first page to the last page of this memoir, Barry argues in favor of Community-Oriented Policing (COP), which I probably can’t do justice to in summary but which seems fairly well defined by its name. Throughout his service, he privileged what he called “face time” in the community, with officers stationed within the communities they served so that they could better serve their needs before a crisis situation could develop. He describes several examples of COP in action during his time commanding various bureaus, and the erosion of public trust that took place every time a unit was taken from his command and required to move away from the COP mentality. And trust is a big deal to Barry, to the point where it is actually his central mantra and service motto:

  • Truth
  • Respect
  • Understanding
  • Stability
  • Transparency

To Barry, all five of these elements must be present in order for a police unit to be effective, and these five elements do seem to be exactly what many of today’s protesters most want (particularly transparency and respect, I think). Whatever else we think of the BLM movement (I don’t want to get hung up on that for the purposes of this review), I am grateful that conversations around trust and community policing are back in the public dialogue. And I’m even more grateful that we have Dan Barry’s thoughtful, experience-based memoir as well. I think that readers of all demographics and political perspectives will find something useful and compelling here, whether it’s Barry’s dedicated pursuit of eliminating corruption among the city commissioners, his years promoting policing as something more than just once-and-done interactions with the public, or his growing exhaustion after years–decades–of pushing back against all of those who used the police bureaucracy to promote their own personal agendas. His calm and fact-based writing keeps readers invested, and more importantly, keeps readers’ trust.

As in policing, so too in writing.

IN SUMMARY:

Dan Barry stuck with his vision for ethical policing through thirty years of difficult policing, and continues to do so in his memoir, Integrity-Based Policing. He provides exactly the kind of experience-based evidence that point toward effective means of reforming police departments across the country and winning back public trust–and it centers on being part of the community, of being in the community, and being of the community. His emphasis on preventative measures and face time are a refreshing change from the charged dialogue currently dominating the news; change can be made, should be made, and here are some additional, practical ways to bring it into being.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Integrity Based Policing wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about Patrick McLean’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

I’m going to completely pivot directions and take a dive into some health-related writings next time!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Outskirts Press book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “God, Me and the Blackhorse” by Barry Beaven

God, Me and the Blackhorse by Barry Beaven

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

Doc Beaven belonged to a devout Christian family. Because of his faith he chose to be a non-combatant and became a medic who never carried or fired a weapon. After teaching medics he went to Viet-Nam where he was sent to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the first and only independent Cavalry regiment in Viet-Nam. While only having 13,000 troopers during the war the regiment developed an elite reputation for combat and was commanded by the best of commanders, including George Patton’s son. Doc Beaven was awarded several decorations including the Purple Heart, and talks about life and the difficult choices in the war as well as the combat and those who served. Following the war, he became a physician and currently works in Correctional Medicine.

REVIEW:

I have always been cautious of wartime memoirs and even the more realistic wartime fiction, particularly those memoirs and fictions of the Vietnam War, but having taught several of Tim O’Brien’s books in freshman courses, I have a deep respect for the literature that came out of the Vietnam War. I saw how it worked upon my students. Mostly I taught core classes where very few of the students actually wanted to be there, but reading about Vietnam straightened more than a few backs. I’m cautious about reading books from that moment in history because … you can’t read them and remain unaffected. And as is perhaps to be expected for someone of a generation that has never seen a draft, I have no stomach for war.

I began God, Me and the Blackhorse before COVID-19 became the life-altering specter that it has become, and I’ll be honest: I had to put it aside for a couple of weeks when things here in Montana looked bleak. But it’s a compelling read, and once the new normal of working from home and so forth had fallen into place, I found myself drawn back to Barry Beaven’s voice and experiences in his memoir.

His story isn’t the typical one coming out of Vietnam, either, so I learned a great deal about the function and realities of being a noncombatant medic on the front lines. There were a lot of good surprises in reading this book. For example, I knew going in that Beaven had taken the medic path in part because of his religious beliefs, so I expected something more like the memoirs of wartime chaplains that I’ve read, which tend to have more to do with either falling out of faith (disillusionment) or distinctly preachy in tone, mapping the faith lessons of battle onto the peacetime lives of readers who have never been. There’s nothing wrong with those types of books; it’s just that my own religious upbringing means I’ve already read so very many of them.

Beaven is not preachy. His is also not a story of great disillusionment or loss of faith. From what I can tell, he had his reckonings, but he keeps his faith and is rightly proud of his decisions during that time to this day. His is the voice of a thoughtful observer, the kind who notices small details not just because they tended to save his life or help him save the lives of others on a regular basis, but because that’s the kind of storyteller he is. One of my favorite moments in which we watch Beaven watching others is this one:

We had a Spec 6 medic with the unit then. He was an LPN and basically ran the medics. Dr. Cupps was in charge, but the scut was run by him. He had this bad hand tremor that would shake constantly up until the moment he had to do something, and then it would smooth away. It was fun watching him suture or cut as he’d have this shaking needle heading for someone’s skin but then be totally smooth when the needle touched the skin

Through a wonderful command of the details, he perfectly reconstructs both his world and the many personalities moving through it during the wartime years. He summons the tedium of the endless patrols, punctured as it was by sudden bouts of hostile contact.

And yes, he paints a pretty good picture of the kind of emotional callouses combat medics have to develop in response to so much death. And while he puts his readers in that moment perfectly, Beaven the adult memoirist does draw back every now and again to comment upon the actions and thoughts of Beaven the young medic.

But it’s not a tedious read, I guarantee you. Beaven has a good sense for when to give his readers a bit of humor. I may or may not have laughed out loud (I admit nothing) when I read the line:

One of our squadron’s medics stole a jeep and drove to Saigon for a bash and sold it to pay for the party. We got him back but not the jeep.

It’s asides like this that make God, Me and the Blackhorse more than just another record of a hard time. And it’s Beaven’s personality that I find the most valuable aspect of this very interesting memoir.

IN SUMMARY:

Barry Beaven is one of those rare wartime memoirists who knows how to let a story breathe, and rarely does he try to tell his readers what to feel. Throughout God, Me and the Blackhorse, he documents the experiences and the emotion of working as a medic in Vietnam with a specificity of detail that those historical fiction authors who have not seen combat simply can’t replicate. Once you settle into Beaven’s voice and style, you find yourself running alongside him to the aid of the wounded amidst the thunder of enemy fire.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find God, Me and the Blackhorse wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about Barry Beaven’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

I’m trying out a lot of different things as I try to break myself out of a little bit of a recent reading rut: young adult literature, fantasy, and … sports fiction? I’m fascinated by the role American sports play in history and society, having grown up in large part abroad, so I’m digging into Patrick McLean’s A Sense of Urgency. I’m hoping this book will help me understand baseball, because even after fifteen years stateside, I’m only just now beginning to understand American football. Time to figure out another sport!

 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.