For several decades now the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) has been pursuing a mission of helping law enforcement agencies in the United States and other countries establish uniform training standards. To achieve this goal, IADLEST has through most of its history focused its attention on providing resources and networking opportunities for directors of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) organizations nationwide. But with the help of Envisage Technologies, a technology company focused on training and legally defensible records, IADLEST has come to realize that it can also help individual law enforcement officers find quality training.
As anyone in law enforcement knows, training budgets are strained and many officers either individually or under the auspices of their agencies must seek out training opportunities outside of the academy or their agencies' required in-service training programs. "Training is the first thing cut and the last thing that should be," says IADLEST President Brian Grisham.
The problem that many officers face when trying to find such training is that other than word-of-mouth from other officers or recommendations from their agencies, it is difficult to know which training programs are good and which are a waste of time and money, or worse, dangerous. That's why IADLEST has turned its attention to creating an evaluation system for and catalog of POST-approved law enforcement training.
IADLEST's National Certification Program (NCP) evaluates both online and in-person training programs for law enforcement officers. Mike Becar, executive director of IADLEST, says one of the missions of the certification program is to help agencies and officers narrow down their training options to the safest and best courses. "There are hundreds of vendors providing law enforcement training," Becar says. "Some of the training is very good and some of it isn't."
Becar says some states leave evaluation of training up to the agencies, but he argues this doesn't always work. "Most agencies just don't know how to evaluate training, and if they do know how, they don't have the resources to do so."
IADLEST has both created a methodology and a process for evaluating training before granting its seal of approval.
The certification process begins when training providers submit their course material to IADLEST for review, including the lesson plans, presentations, and instructor credentials. Materials are then sent for review to subject matter experts who are members or associates of IADLEST. The subject matter experts evaluate the training on 70 to 80 different criteria, Becar says. If the training is approved it is added to the NCP catalog at IADLEST-NCP.org. If it's not approved, the provider can make revisions and resubmit. "We have had a lot of training providers submit their training and when it was turned down for certification, they revised it," Becar says. "So we are definitely raising the bar on training."
Becar says the NCP process helps the students, the training providers, and the POST directors. Before, NCP training providers had to submit their courses to each state's or territory's POST. Now all they have to do is submit the material to IADLEST for certification. "If we certify it, then every participating POST in the country will accept it," Becar explains. "And we've also had three POST [bodies] who have notified training vendors they will not accept any out-of-state training that isn't nationally certified."
Student evaluations are also considered in the certification process. Becar says IADLEST is fully aware that even if a training program looks good on paper, it can be a negative experience for students. So students can evaluate each course they take in the NCP catalog and prospective students can see how the class scored with other officers before taking it.
If the evaluations are bad enough to raise alarms, IADLEST can have one of its subject matter experts take the course. After the subject matter expert submits a review the instructor of the course may be asked to make some minor improvements, IADLEST could request a more substantial revision, and this could be taken into consideration for recertification.
The student evaluations, the vendor certification process, the National Certification Program, and a number of services for students in IADLEST-certified courses are enabled by an online training network called FirstForward, which is a product of Bloomington, IN-based Envisage Technologies. "We have been a member of IADLEST for years," says Chris Borland, National Certification Program technology manager for Envisage Technologies. "Building this system for them was a way we could help bring quality training to officers across the nation."
If you are interested in taking a nationally certified training program through IADLEST, you can go to the organization's website at www.IADLEST-NCP.org and register for a free FirstForward account. You can then use FirstForward to register for in-person courses or take online courses.
Once a course is completed, you can use FirstForward to download and print your certificate. You can also evaluate the course.
Another benefit of the FirstForward platform is that it will maintain a history of your training, which can easily be shared with any law enforcement organization in the United States and its territories. This portable training record manages employment history, certifications, and training records. "The training record created by FirstForward will follow the students wherever they go," says Becar.
And that's just scratching the surface of what FirstForward can do, according to Borland. "FirstForward is a professional network for first responders," Borland says. He explains that FirstForward helps officers maintain their professional credentials and share information in a first responder-only forum.
"Everybody in our system is vetted," Borland says. "We call their agencies and make sure they are who they say are and they are sworn officers. We take this very seriously because we want officers to be able to network and share best practices on FirstForward."
"This is about improving law enforcement training and making every officer safer," Borland says.
The combination of NCP and FirstForward is a powerful tool for the law enforcement profession, allowing training coordinators to choose and assign the safest, most effective training for their officers, and allowing individual officers to track their training and certifications and manage their careers. The high national training standards created by the NCP allow officers to be united as one to protect citizens, themselves, and each other.
For more information, visit http://iadlest-ncp.org/.