I suppose it’s a combination of the lousy economy and the growing uncertainty in our retirement plans, but it seems as though I’ve been seeing a marked increase in the number of emails and phone calls I receive from cops who’ve decided they want to become police trainers. This is outstanding! It’s exhilarating, gratifying and humbling to stand before your peers and share a little knowledge and insight with them, and we certainly need more qualified trainers in this increasingly complex and dangerous profession.
Many of my fellow crimefighters don’t know how to get the ball rolling, so the first thing I always ask anyone looking to broaden their training horizons is this: “Are you a member of ILEETA?”
The International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association’s annual conference is one of the best tools to help a new or an in-service police trainer take their career to the next level. It’s also a great place for seasoned trainers to try out original material, learn a new skill, see old friends and make some new contacts. In addition to literally hundreds of training classes, ILEETA offers an outstanding vender hall, numerous social events, and unique competitions and awards. You can also rub elbows with the editors and authors from virtually every major law enforcement publication and website (including, of course, PoliceOne!) and talk directly with the manufacturers of everything from mats to software to batons; it’s virtually a one-stop-shop of police training and information.
However, the training world is not without its frustrations, and ILEETA is no exception. As is often discussed in the hallways between classes or over an adult beverage at night, you see a lot of grey hair at ILEETA (although thanks to my hairdresser, you won’t be seeing mine!). The “over 40” crowd is most definitely in the majority among the primary trainers, and even among the attendees, we’re not seeing as many “young guns” as we should be. It is imperative that we begin to pass the torch of knowledge and skills to our profession’s youth, but what if they’re not there to receive it?!
What is keeping the young trainers from stampeding onto the national police training scene? I’ve heard some of my colleagues say that the new generation lacks the motivation and the drive. I say it’s much more complicated than that. Police departments are short handed and young cops are busy. The newer generations tend to have more family responsibility, both parents probably work, so it’s harder for mom or dad (or both) to attend an out of town conference. Many lack departmental support. It’s no secret that many attendees pay their own way to ILEETA, and many more don’t even get training time or help with travel expenses. And unfortunately, these youngsters often have no one to guide and mentor them.
I was so lucky. I began as an FTO, became a regional trainer and then thanks primarily to ILEETA’s predecessor, the American Society for Law Enforcement Trainers (ASLET), I was mentored by (and still am) some of the industry’s finest: Jeff Chudwin, Val VanBrocklin, Gary Klugewicz, Andy Cassavant, “Little Joe” Ferrera, Bob Lindsay, John Meyer, Roy Bedard, Dave Grossman, Bruce Sokolove, Kat Kelly, Kevin Gilmartin, and of course, Dave Smith, just to name a few. A handshake, a kind word, a bit of advice, a returned email, and even just an encouraging smile can make or break a young trainer’s experience — before, during and after a conference like ILEETA.
As veteran trainers, we need to make sure that we’re not only furthering our own careers and helping out our contemporaries, but we must also bring the youngsters into the police training world. Mentoring is as critical a skill and ability as any of the “bats and guns” stuff we learn along the way, and we need to do more of it.
I know some of you are gun shy about bringing new people into the fold. Most us have been burned more than once by a charlatan, an imposter, or a charmer who lacks the work ethic that is essential in this arena, but we have to continue to take chances, we must try and find those who have the heart and soul of a great teacher who just need a chance. Law enforcement is a risky business, and we have to take risks in all areas of our lives in order to succeed. It’s been said that a good leader is “always training their replacement.” Well, I believe that an outstanding trainer is doing the same. No one lasts forever (nor do our hips, knees and eyesight!) so lets work harder at bringing the next couple of generations along with us as we train and educate our heroes on the front lines of law enforcement throughout the world. We need good trainers now more than ever.
See you at ILEETA!