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Into the Kill Zone: A Cop's Eye View of Deadly Force Hardcover – April 15, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the movies, police shootings are often glamorized; in real life, they’re often vilified. This engrossing oral history looks at such shootings from the point of view of the cops for whom they are an extreme but unavoidable part of the job. Klinger, a sociologist and ex-cop, interviewed 80 police officers in four states, who, like him, shot someone in the line of duty. He addresses the issue thematically, including chapters that explore the cops’ attitudes toward killing before they joined up, police training on the use of deadly force, incidents where interviewees refrained from shooting when it was justified, and the legal and psychological aftermath of shooting incidents. The shootings are described in vivid detail that probes the agonizingly complex, split-second choices cops must make over whether or not to shoot, most made under confusing and chaotic circumstances, often when the cops themselves are threatened or even wounded. Klinger’s sympathy with the police is evident. He disparages "antipolice activists and other windbags" and doesn’t seem to have interviewed anyone whose shooting was found to be unjustified. The experiences and responses are too diverse—some cops fall into depression after a shooting, while others take it in stride or even find it "exhilarating"—to allow for much generalization, so the interviews add up to little more than a collection of fascinating war stories. Still, readers will come away with a renewed appreciation for the difficulties police face every day on the streets.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"His new book, Into the Kill Zone: A Cop's Eye View of Deadly Force, is based on research he undertook for the U.S. Justice Department and includes information from 80 interviews with officers involved in shootings. The accounts are incredibly intimate,...The result is a fascinating though slightly repetitive series of first-person narratives on a taboo topic."
(Larry Olsen, Houston Chronicle, May 21, 2004)

"Most people's knowledge of police work comes from television and the movies, and the demands of drama rarely allow for an accurate portrayal of the life-and-death decisions so often made by the typical cop on the street. Klinger's book puts the reader in the cop's shoes, and indeed behind the trigger. For anyone interested in how things really happen, Into the Kill Zone is an excellent place to begin."
(National Review)


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (April 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787973750
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787973759
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,260,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ran across this book in my local bookstore and bought it primarily for research. I was soon captivated by the author's ability to step aside from the subjects of his research and let them tell their own stories in their own ways. The book is broken down into 5 main stages any officer involved in a shooting will go through: before you become an officer, basic training, instances when you could have shot but didn't, the shooting incident itself, and the aftermath (including investigation and responses). In each case, the officers speak for themselves. The ring of authenticity is unmistakable. I commend Klinger for resisting the impulse to "clean up" the accounts to make them fit some preconceived assumptions about what an officer "should" be thinking, experiencing, or remembering. The book also gives information on how to access Kinger's complete final report (the academic exercise behind the stunning testimonies) on the Internet. This is a profound introduction for a general reader and a powerful affirmation of officer integrity for those with a special interest in the subject, especially for those who are or know officers themselves.
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Format: Hardcover
I thought the best way to begin this review is to start by stating what "Into the Kill Zone" is not. This book isn't:

1.) A graphic description of police shootings

2.) A psycho-social monograph on police officers who have shot people

This isn't to say that there aren't elements of both of the aforementioned items contained within the book; however, those expecting copious amounts of blood and gore should look elsewhere while those dreading a dry, academic treatise should read on.

David Klinger is a Sociologist who teaches criminology at the University of Missouri - St. Louis. His qualifications to write on the topic of deadly force are unique and extend beyond his CV. Prior to entering academia, Dr. Klinger was a policeman. On July 25, 1981, just 4 months out of the Los Angeles Police Academy, 23 year old David Klinger was forced to shoot and kill a man who was attacking his partner with a butcher's knife. As might be expected, the shooting shocked the author and ultimately changed his career path. After another 3 years of police work, Mr. Klinger quit the force and entered graduate school. Eventually he earned his Ph.D. and in time, got a grant from the United States Department of Justice to study the impact of shootings on officers. The present book draws on the that research.

Each of the 5 chapters of "Into the Kill Zone" consist of stories told in the officers own words. Additionally, the chapters all deal with deadly force in some way. Chapter 1 concerns how the officers came to choose a career in law enforcement and their thoughts on the prospect of using

deadly force prior to joining the police force. Chapter 2 is about basic training and how it affected their attitudes vis-a-vis deadly force.
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Format: Hardcover
I grabbed a copy of KILL ZONE after Malcolm Gladwell described it as "fascinating" and "extraordinary" in his new book BLINK. KILL ZONE does not disappoint. In fact, it is a wonderful read, taking the reader inside the hearts and minds of our nation's police officers in a way I've never seen before. KILL ZONE presents the stories of dozens of cops who have shot suspects in the line of duty and lived to tell about it. In five lucid chapters, it covers 1) why men and women become cops, 2) the training young officers receive about making the ultimate decision that Gladwell focused on in the last chapter of BLINK, 3) how cops manage to avoid pulling the trigger when they have justification to do so (some incredibly scary stuff), 4) gunfights (the stories of officers' perceptions during shootings, as Gladwell touched on in BLINK, are quite amazing), and 5) how officers live with the knowledge that they have shot someone. I was particularly taken by the story of a young female officer who killed a carjacker after he shot her through the heart, staved off death by the sheer force of her will, and then went back to work to keep protecting her community. In all, KILL ZONE offers a compelling portrait of how America's cops deal with the awesome power they have over life and death. Like I said in my review of BLINK, anyone who wants to learn more about decision making under extreme pressure and the intriguing topic of police shootings should do what I did and read Klinger's KILL ZONE
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Format: Hardcover
I first heard about this recently-released book when I caught part of an interview with the author on our local public radio station. He told the story of how a life-and-deadh situation four months into his police career forced him to take the life of a violent criminal in order to save his partner's life.
Having two close friends who are police officers, the subject immediatly interested me. I picked up the book and was instantly hooked. From the first few pages, this book gives you a "from the inside" look at deadly force situations. The book is interesting from start to finish. It raises important questions and gives the reader a point of view that is often overlooked. I strongly recommend this read.
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