Law enforcement officers bear the responsibility of swiftly responding to crisis incidents, fostering community trust and ensuring the safety of those they serve. This feat is accomplished by rigorously training ordinary people to make split-second decisions and perform tasks under pressure, all while remaining attuned to community needs and taking care of their physical and mental health.
This training must be an ongoing commitment to develop and adopt better policing practices in a world of ever evolving challenges. But what once was only the job of the academy has become a career-long commitment to officers’ professional development, according to Harvey Hedden, executive director of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA).
“The challenge that many police trainers experience is they must be subject matter experts in an ever-widening array of subjects,” he says. “Many are also working street officers with limits on their time, and limited agency resources to send them to single subject instructor training courses.”
ILEETA is a complete resource for trainers founded by the late Ed Nowicki in 2003 to address trainers' needs. Its mission is to enhance the skills and safety of criminal justice practitioners while fostering stronger and safer communities.
One of the ways ILEETA meets these goals is the annual conference that brings trainers together to train and learn from each other. The 2024 conference is slated for March 18-23 at the Union Station Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri. “The annual conference promises to bring fresh content and engaging classes to help trainers teach the skills today’s law enforcement officers need,” Hedden says.
What to Expect
Law enforcement trainers from around the world come together to share knowledge, discover the latest training trends, and learn about advancements in information product technology. The conference delivers more than 140 trainer-oriented courses designed to give members actionable tools they can apply to their training. Course tracks include defensive tactics, officer safety, use of force, leadership, community relations, instructor development, firearms training, health and wellness, armorer, active shooter response and other cutting-edge subjects.
Over the five-and-a-half days of the conference, trainers are able to choose instruction based on their individual needs including instructor certifications in a variety of fields. According to Hedden, the conference curriculum is always exceptional because it undergoes regular evaluation and updates with the goal of always providing the better resources for ILEETA members.
“The conference instructors come from a wide variety of countries, backgrounds and experience and represent all generations”, says Ray Merlin, advisory board member/executive director designee. “All the training is instructor oriented, there are no ranks or hierarchy, and everyone is encouraged to leave their egos’ at the door.”
Networking Opportunities Abound
Just as important as the formal instruction is the opportunity to network and problem solve with other ILEETA members at the conference, according to Hedden. “Attendees develop relationships that carry on beyond the conference because ILEETA members all want to help each other,” he adds.
Trainer and advisory board member Todd Fletcher says the conference “always recharges his spirit” in his role as a trainer.
The conference also includes the ILEETA Expo featuring more than 120 vendors, showcasing the latest law enforcement technology, products and services that can assist trainers and their agencies. Many of the vendors also provide training and the conference allows them to learn about the needs of law enforcement from conference attendees.
The support of vendors and conference sponsors also helps lower costs for trainers attending the conference. “While many vendors also support their products with training, there are no ‘infomercial’ courses at ILEETA,” Hedden says. “All instruction is intended to provide attendees with knowledge and skills they can bring back to their agencies.”
Because ILEETA’s leadership understands the budgetary limitations of law enforcement agencies, they strive to keep conference expenses affordable for attendees, many of whom pay to attend out of their own pockets. According to Hedden, the combination of the ILEETA Conference's reasonable cost and quality training keeps participants coming back year after year.
Merlin agrees with the sentiment, describing the ILEETA Conference as a “win-win for the trainer, agency and the communities they serve.