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How to buy police books and training materials

By Tim Dees

There are thousands of books, DVDs, posters and every other kind of instructional aid produced for the law enforcement market. Most of them aren’t very good. How do you cull out the losers from the keepers?

A book or DVD cannot replace a stand-up trainer, but it can help prepare a student for class, or serve as a refresher. If you have confidence in your trainer, seek his recommendation. If you don’t have confidence in him, or if the material is produced by him personally, it may just be his cash cow. No one has the market on good ideas cornered.

Does the material address something that your officers are doing, or should be? Will it be valuable for everyone, or just the one or two people with an interest in that topic?

In this context, “durability” isn’t whether the book or DVD will fall apart after a few viewings, but rather how long the information contained there will be useful. Handcuffing and building search techniques don’t change much over time, but technologies and legal guidelines do. Your training guides should reflect the current state of the art.

Pay attention to the person or organization that authors or produces the materials. Are they respected in their field? Have you checked their pedigree? There are more than a few police “trainers” with diploma mill doctorates and experience that is curiously non-specific. One doesn’t have to have police experience or a Ph.D. to train cops, but ask for particulars on any credentials. I was once a presenter at a small training conference in Toronto, but I don’t advertise myself as an international trainer. I know people who would not be the least bothered to hold themselves out as such, with even less reason to say it.

Some prestigious organizations of long standing created a line of training materials way back when, and they might have been state-of-the-art then, but this is now. They’ll sell you their volumes of accumulated wisdom at a premium price, believing that their imprimatur will overcome the dated information in the materials. Before you invest in a large volume set of anything, look at some representative samples, no matter how good the Hallowed and Noble Order of Old Guys says it is.

Respect the copyright
Incredibly, there are law enforcement organizations that buy a single copy of a training aid, then copy it for everyone in their unit. This is not only morally wrong, it’s illegal. Some authors and publishers aggressively defend their copyrights by filing civil and criminal actions against abusers. Many authors will grant limited permission to make copies, and you owe it to them to ask.

The Police1 Buying Guide column features how-to-buy guides for top police products and articles from our columnists as well as industry analysts, educators, and other noted specialists in their fields. Send product suggestions and feedback to

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