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Where Do Trainers Go To Learn?

Written by Ed Nowicki

They enroll in their state’s version of an instructor development course. These courses usually run from 24 hours to 80 hours and are offered by various Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) councils, or their equivalent. The FBI also offers a quality 40-hour instructor development program, which they can deliver in the field, time permitting. Many universities, colleges and community colleges also offer non-law enforcement specific instructor development courses, including some that specialize in adult learning. Many of these meet the POST requirement for an instructor cert.

We all know that a law enforcement officer’s training doesn’t end with recruit academy. In addition to on-the-job training, officers also attend in-service and specialized training programs. So, if in-service training is required of law enforcement officers, why isn’t there any instructor-focused, in-service training for those who teach in-service training? Of course, the answer to this “train the trainer” need can be found by attending the annual International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) Conference. This is held in the Greater Chicago area during the spring of each year.

Membership in ILEETA is select because there is a qualification requirement of being assigned to education or training duties, full or part time, within the criminal justice system. There are no associate or student members in ILEETA, just regular members. In order to attend an ILEETA Conference, a person must be an ILEETA member.

A number of specialty-focused, and high-quality, annual instructor conferences also exist. These include conferences offered by TASER, Monadnock, and the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI), National Tactical Officer’s Association (NTOA), and so on. These narrow scope conferences do a commendable job within their concentrated focus.

The annual ILEETA Conference has a broader focused goal of making all instructors, better instructors, no matter what topics these instructors teach. The ILEETA conference also tries to offer unique concepts and approaches to both instructing and adult learning.

Additionally, the ILEETA Conference offers a wide range of instructor certification programs in order to allow experienced instructors the opportunity to become certified instructors in various specialized areas. The 2008 ILEETA Conference offered 25 separate instructor or armorer certification programs. Although ILEETA offers both instructor and armorer certification programs, it is not the “certifying body.” The certifications are through private training or equipment companies, such as Glock, Taser, DS Arms, Monadnock and others.

Training is the clear focus of the conference, but ILEETA also offered a one and a half-day vendor expo as a complement to the training offerings. This completely filled the vendor hall, with 118 vendors displaying their products and services to a key target audience: agency instructors. Large companies, such as L-3 Driving Simulators, Meggitt Training Systems, Polycom, SigSauer, IES Interactive Training and many other were on hand. Many smaller companies also decided that being a part of this vendor expo was worth the investment of time and finances.

Sergeant Rick Leach of the Cedarburg, WI Police said, “It was great to see the latest technology and so many great products that were offered by the vendors, even though we have so few dollars in the budget. Many vendors offered an ‘ILEETA Conference Special,’ which helped to extend a budget. The vendors were willing to work with you, which was a big plus.”

The cadre of conference presenters read like a “Who’s Who” of law enforcement trainers. Well-known names like, Grossman, Means, Spaulding, Humes, Yates, Sanow, Ayoob, Klugiewicz, Chudwin, Rossi, Lewinski, Farnam, Willis, Artwohl, DuVernay, Dave Smith, Truncale, Larry Smith, McKenna, Hoyer, Lindsey, Peterson and many others made presentations. The conference presenters did not just present their topics and leave. They switched roles and became students as they attended other courses. The best instructors transformed into some of the best students. Other well-known instructors decided they did not want to teach this time and focused on learning new skills and obtaining additional information.

The blend of general instructor topics, along with a wide range of specialized instructor-related topics, appealed to virtually any law enforcement instructor, regardless of the individual discipline. In addition to the Instructor and Armorer Certification Track, four additional training tracks included: Management and Administration of Training; Officer Safety and Use of Force; Instructor Development; and, Specialized and General Training Track. A total of 115 total courses were offered at the 2008 ILEETA Conference, with as many as 17 sessions running simultaneously from 0800 hours to as late as 2200 hours on some days.

As a clue to the quality of the sessions, more than 100 courses were rejected, so the offerings presented were some of the best of the best. It’s difficult to get 800 strong-willed individuals to totally agree on the value of any specific training program. In terms of course evaluations, the majority of the presenters were “big hits,” and the “less than expected” presenters were rare.

The ILEETA conference is not a “one-size-fits-all” training conference because there were so many offerings. Sergeant Richard Maxwell of the Colts Neck Township, NJ Police Department stated, “Other conferences that involve specific topics or areas of training are fine, but you cannot pay for the diversity available at the ILEETA conference. I feel that it is so worth the value that I pay for all the expenses, due to a lack of agency funding.”

“The instructor and armorer certification courses are mainly focused on areas involving use of force or physical skills, which is fine,” said Harvey Hedden, ILEETA Conference coordinator and deputy executive director. “We are doing our best to find additional instructor certification offerings...We’d like to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for instructors, if at all possible. Each year we try to add needed instructor training programs.”

Many attending the 2008 ILEETA Conference did not want to get certified as an instructor or to participate in hands-on training programs. Some people believe that ILEETA is a “hands-on” defensive tactics instructor-oriented association. This is not even close to being true, since much more than half of the 2008 ILEETA Conference offerings were not “hands-on” offerings. This all-inclusive approach to conference training program offerings is a standard of the annual ILEETA Conference. There’s no doubt that active physical participation in learning new motor skills is an important factor for some trainers, but not for all of them.

So, what does a first-time ILEETA Conference attendee have to say? Lieutenant Gary Gudac of the Asheville, NC Police said, “I have been to many conferences and training seminars in my 20 years in LE, and by far this one was the best. Plenty of classes to choose from and well-known instructors in field. First time attending, and I am looking forward to next year’s conference.”

The 2009 ILEETA Conference will be held in Wheeling, IL on April 20-25. It will build upon the previous success and also provide many new offerings in order to maximize the value for those attending.

Ed Nowicki, a nationally recognized use-of-force expert, is a part-time officer for the Twin Lakes (WI) Police Department. He presents use-of-force instructor certification courses across the nation and is the executive director of ILEETA. He can be reached at ed@ileeta.org.

Published in Law and Order, Jun 2008

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