Those who attend police and tactical conferences, courses, seminars, workshops seem to be cut from the same cloth. No matter what their agency, position, or geographic location, they share a common purpose. They want to not only better themselves, but also improve their agencies, and ultimately the law enforcement profession.
What is admirable is how many attendees go at their own personal expense, on their own personal time. Of course, there are many attendees whose agencies send them to training on departmental dime and time. They’re the “lucky ones.”
The contrast can be seen in the following two cases. The first is a SWAT team leader, whose department sent him at city expense, on city time to virtually every tactical and supervisory course imaginable and did so for many years. I ran into him at every course and conference that
I went to. He probably has enough certificates to “wallpaper” his house.
However, I’m not sure how motivated to learn he was, not when he was late or missed many of the sessions he was supposed to attend. Maybe he’d attended too many conferences and/or did too much “partying.” Whatever the reason, he was conspicuous by his frequent absences.
Contrast this guy with another officer, a detective, who attended every training opportunity he possibly could on his own time and expense. You see, his department had “buried” him—taken him off the street—because of a couple of controversial shootings.
However, the department underestimated this detective’s determination. Over the years, he went to every type of training opportunity he thought might be beneficial to him as a police officer. And by doing so, he became one of the department’s best trained officers despite the department’s best efforts to end his career.
The contrast between these two officers can be summed up in a few words: dedication, determination and motivation.
Many officers who participate in “outside” training, do so on their own. This takes a special breed of cop, one who is dedicated and determined to better himself/herself and, in so doing, also benefit their fellow officers and entire agencies.
You know the officers I’m referring to because many, if not most, of you who read law enforcement publications and Websites on a regular basis are also willing to train on your own. I have a theory (not scientifically proven) that many, if not most of the officers who train and read on their own, also happen to be their agencies’ best, most respected “go to” leaders.
This isn’t by chance or luck. No, these dedicated officers go above and beyond what’s expected of them, and the result is they not only better themselves, but they also benefit their teams and agencies.
They also happen to be the same attendees you see year after year at various training conferences and seminars like TREXPO. And in the process they make invaluable, often longtime contacts, not only with other repeat attendees, but also with some of the instructors who are experts in their fields.
Imagine the good fortune of two young Northern California police officers who lunched with one of SWAT’s true legends Ron McCarthy after his presentation at TREXPO West. I quickly realized I was witnessing a rare event: Ron McCarthy offering his sage advice to these two appreciative young officers.
Where else, other than at police conferences, do you have the opportunity to gain knowledge of such high caliber? Where else can you interact, often one-on-one, with some of the world’s most knowledgeable tactical practitioners? Where else can you make so many contacts and friends, some for life? Where else can you do something, often on your own, to help better yourself, your team, and ultimately your agency?
Whether it’s TREXPO, NTOA, ILEETA, CATO, OTOA or any of the other high-quality law enforcement conferences and seminars available, go to as many as you possibly can. If it’s a question of affordability (time and money), ask whether you can afford not to go. Your answer might surprise you.
Let’s hope your agency will send you. But if they don’t, do what it takes to go anyway. You’ll be glad you did. And if you’re anything like me, once you find a good conference and go the first time, you’ll be hooked.