Reviews of The Thin Blue Lifeline

I have had the opportunity to review & read THE THIN BLUE  LIFELINE: Verbal De-escalation of Mentally Ill and Emotionally  Disturbed People – For Law Enforcement Officers.  I cannot recommend  this book highly enough.  It is relevant, well-written,  operationally-based, and goes to the heart of the matter in dealing with  people who are in crisis – not just for dealing with “mentally ill” folks – but virtually everyone with whom police officers come into contact. This moves policing communication so far beyond “Verbal Judo” and “Tac Com” that those systems cannot even compare (though, to be sure, there are some similar techniques that they utilise in those systems). In an age where police officers are under increasing pressure to move from call-to-call, there can be accompanying pressure to resolve situations more quickly than they should be resolved – which, when time is compressed, usually leads to the application of physical force. This book offers perspective, is incredibly insightful and will help officers recognize specific issues and conditions. It provides real-world, usable tools, tactics and techniques to help resolve situations at the preferred threshold of “Officer Presence” and “Communication.” If you own books such as: “The Art of War”;  “Sharpening the  Warrior’s Edge”; “On Killing”; “Training at the Speed of Life”; “Police  Pistolcraft”; “Warfighting”; “Terror at Beslan”; “On Combat”; “The Green Beret  in You” – you MUST add this extremely relevant text to your  library. I wish I had read this book 25 years ago.

Joel A. Johnston
Staff Sergeant 1314
Use of Force & Municipal ERT Coordinator
Province of British Columbia

Excerpts from a review by Sergeant Ed Flosi (retired) former lead instructor for use-of-force training, as well as defense and arrest tactics for the San Jose Police Department.

Looking at the Table of Contents, I almost fell over when I saw that there were 67 chapters. A closer look revealed that the chapters were very short and all very nicely arranged so that similar topics were discussed within the same part of the book. Knowing how busy most of our days are, I thought this to be a brilliant idea as these chapters could be broken down and easily digested in a short amount of time.

Unlike other books or seminars I have attended on this topic, this book does not try to train you to diagnose a patient — the authors want you to be able to recognize certain behaviors in individuals and then give you tools to help successfully handle the event.

Ellis and Chief Hutchings really do get it. They understand that we have a dangerous job and that we will not be able to talk everybody into handcuffs. Nor do they place unrealistic demands upon us and put us into unsafe situations. Indeed, in the preface the book clearly mandates that “it’s about safety.”

Excerpts from a review by Steve Ashley of ILEETA (International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association)

The first thing you notice is that the authors had plenty of help in developing the book. While Amdur and Hutchings are the credited authors, a well-rounded group of professionals from across North America, and around the world, reviewed, critiqued, proofed, and kibitzed in the development of the text.

The next thing you notice is that this is not a book that will go “over your head”. It’s written to be used as a tool…a guidebook on how to deal with EDPs. There’s a fundamental focus on officer safety, and on successfully defusing the behavior that draws so many of these individuals to our attention.

The authors start out by discussing the fundamentals of de-escalating and controlling EDPs, including threat assessment. They then move to a discussion of “centering”, and several dimensions of that essential skill. Next, the authors undertake a detailed, interesting discussion of “unusual, intense, and eccentric communication styles.” That chapter – in and of itself – is worth the price of the book.

There is an excellent discussion of manipulative strategies that are used by opportunistic and manipulative individuals. Following that, the authors offer tools to help officers in communicating with individuals that are suffering from severe mental distress. There is also an excellent section on understanding and dealing with suicidal individuals.

However, now comes the one fundamental issue that many LEOs will appreciate; a thorough discussion on recognizing patterns of aggression, and how to de-escalate angry individuals. These sections have the potential to reduce and prevent a lot of officer injuries and deaths.

There’s much more in the book, including an excellent and thought-provoking section on managing rage and violence, and a section on communicating with troubled (read drug addicted, mentally ill, and emotionally disturbed kids) youths.

There are also several useful appendices, including one on dealing with active-duty and veteran military personnel, setting up a Crisis Intervention Program, information for support staff (especially station personnel) on how to deal with aggressive individuals in the police lobby and on the phone (just in case you can’t get around to buying the volume aimed at dispatch centers, Everything on the Line, which you should absolutely add to your set), and a suggested response protocol for police dealing with a possible excited delirium incident.

Steve Ashley, ILEETA  Advisory Board