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400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  1,002 ratings  ·  138 reviews
How does it feel to be in a high-speed car chase? What is it like to shoot someone? What do cops really think about the citizens they serve? Nearly everyone has wondered what it’s like to be a police officer, but no civilian really understands what happens on the job. “400 Things Cops Know” shows police work on the inside, from the viewpoint of the regular cop on the beat— ...more
Kindle Edition, 211 pages
Published October 1st 2014 by Quill Driver Books (first published January 1st 2014)
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 ·  1,002 ratings  ·  138 reviews

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Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
PLOT | Don't let the economical cover design and link-bait sounding title fool you, 400 Things Cops Know is requisite reading for a better understanding of law enforcement, as well as for learning about problems endemic to urban American life. The book is written by Adam Plantinga, an active Sergeant in San Francisco, who boasts fifteen years experience shared between two different urban departments. He breaks policing down into its loosely-defined components, and then writes a number of aphoris ...more
Jan 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Had heard this is the "bible" for many crime writers & it did not disappoint. Alternately funny, grim and touching, really gives you an appreciation for what cops go through on the job.

Plantinga is a gifted writer & brings little snippets of the realities of a tough and often thankless profession into sharp relief.

If you like "The Wire," "Homicide," or crime fiction by Michael Connelly or George Pelecanos, this one's a keeper.
Eric Plume
Dec 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Excellent reading, written by a person who knows the subject they're writing about. Anyone who is curious about police work or law enforcement culture ought to pick this book up and give it a scan. I've been doing research on crime and police action for a couple years now and I was enthralled by what I read here. The subject matter is presented in a forthright manner with a sprinkling of dry humor and tough-as-nails street poetry thrown in...The result is both easy and hard to read by turns, but ...more
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Smart, funny, and useful -- should be on every mystery and crime writer's shelf. And they should take it down and browse it once in a while! Readers who don't write will find it full of intriguing law enforcement details, from the daily occurrences to the rare-but-noteworthy. ...more
Betsy Ashton
Sep 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes I buy a book because I think it will be good for research in the future. I usually scan it, pick up and read random chapters and put it on the shelf. Then I bought 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman by Adam Plantinga, I thought I'd follow the same pattern. So did not happen.

I don't know what I expected, but Plantinga delivered so much more information in a way that made this list of "things" a page turner. Well written with terrific organization, the bo
Oct 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this book because I heard the author speak at Saturday's California Writers' Club meeting. His presentation inspired me to buy the book from him and to read it right away. I was not disappointed at all. This is a great read. The format - numbering things cops know is a really smart way to impart a plethora of first hand information from a beat cop. It's very well written, engaging, eye-opening, and even heart-breaking. Having read it and hearing Plantinga speak gives my much more insight ...more
Jeremy Hornik
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Terrific book by a writer who is also a patrol officer and currently a sergeant. It reminded me of Homicide, with less tendency to go into editorializing. Humble and straightforward in its premise, "400 Things" puts you into the position of being a patrol officer better than any other book I know. A powerful mix of detail and broader theorizing, it is neatly broken into 400 paragraphs, in chapters with titles like "18 Things Cops Know About The Use of Force" or "28 Things Cops Know About Booze a ...more
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is a quick read. It is interesting to get a police officer's perspective on life as a cop, and thankfully Adam Plantinga gives what appears to be an honest portrait. I do not understand why anyone would want to be a cop and Adam doesn't offer any insight into the why. He states that 90% of the people are good and 10% are bad, a police officer will spend 90% of their time with the 10%. It becomes a we (the police) against them (all 100% of us) because they judge everyone based upon that 10%. ...more
Jul 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Well, if you ever wanted 400 reasons not to be a cop, this book has them. Although, I can just give you one reason: it will kill your soul.

As with 90% of the other reviewers here, I read this as a part of research for potential crime story writing.
I'd say it's a good start.

By the way, the little rivalry that they have between cops and firemen in Brooklyn Nine-Nine and every cop movie ever? Totally true. This author likes to sneak in jabs now and then at the boys in red.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Oh man! What a listen. His disturbing insights into society and criminals would be hilarious if they weren't disturbingly true. I saw a guy the other day who lodged a machete into an innocent man's skull in a failed attempt to steal his car. Some wonderful do-gooder ran into the assailant with his car. There were two girls who showed up in the ER, wanting to see if the criminal was OK. The cops had to bar the young women from the room. The fact that they were interested in interacting with a vio ...more
Jan 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
At a time when all cops seem under attack, this is a good reminder about how absurd, surreal and relevant this job is every day to the person who calls 911. With compassion and humor, Plantinga does not hold back from sharing criticism or admiration, but the details steal the show. I will never look at a man wearing a leather jacket with a fake fur collar the same way again. Read it for the details, and let them flow over you.
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look at the profession of law enforcement by an actual officer. It was easy to read, but had a few typo's (maybe the digital format). It was interspersed with humor and was a welcomed eye opener in this time of open season on law enforcement by the media and others. The author does make some good points and offers a couple of common sense suggestions that we all would be wise to heed. ...more
Terry Odell
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
A must-have, must-read for anyone writing crime fiction involving police officers. The author, a veteran cop presents a well-written, articulate summary of 19 different aspects of police work. Instead of spouting "just the facts," he puts you inside the head of a cop, something necessary for writers who want their characters to be believable. ...more
Robin Costic
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book gave a very "real" account of policing in today's environment. Everyone should read it for an informed account of what really happens - there could be more understanding of what cops are faced with and not so many unfair judgements. The NYC mayor would do well to take a peek within it's covers. ...more
Jun 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Entertaining and informative. Funny and well written recollection of lessons learned policing. Well worth the time. If you are interested in police work, and who isn't, this is a hilarious way to get an inside look. Be warned, some strong language and graphic descriptions of vice.

If he had another book, I would read it.
James R Jackson III
Nov 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well. We always wondered.

A book that tells the truth has merit. This truth is not a literary explication of a truth or two. Thank goodness the author

can write with humor,or this book would have hurt a lot.
Bill Collins
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book, at times, was kind of a downer, as it shows you what all cops have to put up with and what they encounter on a regular basis. It is well written and let's you know what it is like to be a cop and how they see things. It makes you really appreciate what they do. ...more
Bourne Morris
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Terrific read and full of good information
Feb 03, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers, non-cop friends of cops
Recommended to Claire by: writing message boards
So many message boards boast that, if you are going to write about police officers, you have to read Adam Plantinga and you should probably start with this book. I am absolutely glad I did.

He is a police officer (patrolman, now sergeant I believe) with a degree in English literature and won awards for writing. The guy knows his stuff, and he knows how to express it clearly. This is invaluable!

The structure of this book has its pros and cons. Plantinga organized his thoughts into individual topic
Jul 05, 2019 rated it liked it
This was an interesting and rather fun book. The premise of making it a list of 400 things seemed a bit annoying at first but with time was handled in such a way as to be a minor gimmick that was fun while serving as a workable framework to insert stories and thoughts and anecdotes. And overall this felt like a genuine thoughtful introduction to what life is like for a police officer. The risks, the considerations, the pros and cons, what the life often leads to (or doesn't), it was quite enjoya ...more
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book! I've sometimes wondered what the day-to-day life of a police office might be like. The author provides 400 very short articles on all the aspects of police duties that most people probably wonder about.

The author makes a point to call out a couple of very important facets of police life throughout the book: (1) the mind of a police officer is already overloaded with rules, regulations, and the current state of popular opinion before he/she even starts their sh
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
A dark, funny, and sad look into the world of policing. It's informative but also grisly at times. I learned some things I could've gone without knowing.

What's ironic is that Plantinga spoke of a prostitute who told him more than he wanted to know. Dude, sometimes you've told us more than we wanted to know! Some descriptions were graphic to make a point, but other times he just didn't need to go there. It's almost like an older brother trying to gross out a younger brother. Yes, I get it. Cops
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
400 Things Cops Know by Adam Plantinga is a very interesting book about what cops do on the job. Written by a former police officer, it gives people an inside look about what it’s really like to be the long arm of the law. This book shows that the job of a police officer isn’t as glamorous as it looks, but that it is dangerous and stressful. It shows that police officers aren’t as respected as they should be. I would rate it 5 stars because Plantinga is descriptive, funny, and straightforward a ...more
Anxiety Diaries
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
I still don't know what to make of this book. Some of the items were insightful, such as the police guidelines and requirements on necessary force, due process, and search and seizure. Some of the items and stories help humanize police officers, showing some of the fine lines they have to walk and the Catch-22 situations their jobs place them in on a regular basis.

However, more than one of stories show the sexism and hazing that still goes on inside many departments. Plantinga states these thin
Craig Adamson
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Listened to as audiobook. But would be a good read.

I really enjoyed this book. The author is a cop but writes like he talks and doesn’t try to clean up or scrub thing so they sound bland or sterile. There is some cursing but it is in context and he explains why he’s saying what he’s saying.

Very insightful. And I like the fact he challenges cops to be better, but doesn’t shy away from the Monday Morning QBs who decry “police brutality” and “excessive force”. Even better he challenges the people
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, 2020
What to say about this book? First, it's not a story. It is what it says, 400 things that cops know from doing their job grouped by topics. Some items you get a sentence or two on, others you get more. Some items made me laugh while others brought me to tears. I appreciated the look into what has to be a difficult job to do for many, many reasons and I also appreciated the way it was done. While there was humor involved in a number of the things listed (the rivalry between cops and firemen shown ...more
Vince Cooper
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Would you read 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons From a Veteran Patrolman again? Why?
Yes, as an investigator I can relate to almost every point listed, just with a little different experience. Many laughs, many flash backs, and many head shaking moments.
What was one of the most memorable moments of 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons From a Veteran Patrolman?
how quickly police work can go from humorous to incredibly sad.
Was this a book you wanted to read all in one sitting?
J. Amill Santiago
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Widely entertaining. Definitely interesting and intriguing. Plantinga opens up a window for us to peek at a police officer's world: from the cynicism sphere within the profession to the long-term effects the job causes on the average cop, Plantinga discusses it all. At certain points, Plantinga would make comments about the contradictions, paradoxes, and holes within the system sprinkled with philosophical commentary about good and evil, moral ambiguity, life-and-death situations, societal dynam ...more
Muhammad Jubayer
Jun 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Not the book I hoped for.
This book would be a great pick for investigators or crime story writers perhaps. Filled with trivia, tiny details of every encounters, what happens inside the synapses of every cop, and different body parts of the criminals they shoot at; you name it, this book has it! Eventually, making it more like a boring bullet-point slide.
Having been written by a patrolman, this book conveys plenty of should-have predatorial instincts of the cops more than it outlines any street-s
Victor Ward
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting book that describes the police point of view about their job, their world, and those they interact with. I think there is some kind of unknown tradition in police officers describing themselves as English majors, giving a resume about their years on the force, and then presenting a giant series of lists on their chosen topic. Seriously - this is the third book I've read in which all three of those items are true and they aren't by the same author. That aside, the information is re ...more
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