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Why we don’t need oversight groups to evaluate private police training

The question of who can or should censor law enforcement trainers leads us down a dangerous path


Unlike agency training, private trainers have to strive to put on great training if they want return customers and to increase their customer base…it’s a business.


After reading the recent Police1 article titled “The private police training universe and public money” authored by Chief Joel Shultz, which discussed the controversy arising from a “Street Cop Training” conference in New Jersey, I felt the need to respond from a private trainer’s perspective.

I am aware of the training that was provided by Street Cop Training in New Jersey and the controversy that surrounds that training event and company. (You can read more about that here.) I largely agree with the author’s position. However, the question of who can or should censor law enforcement trainers leads us down a dangerous path.

During my 22-year law enforcement career (1994-2017), if an officer attended training from a private company and the training was awful, that officer would put the word out to other officers within their agency. As an officer who was always seeking outside training, I often asked around to see if other people had attended the training and to get their opinion because I didn’t want to waste my time (and oftentimes my own money) on bad training. So, for the most part, training from private companies has always been unofficially regulated by the attendees.

How should we determine the value of police training?

There are two parts to training an attendee has to consider:

  1. The content
  2. How it is presented.

If the information is good, but the presentation is bad (unprofessional), then is it good training or not? If the information is bad (outdated, contrary to policy), but the presentation is good, then is it good training or not? Does the information and the presentation both have to be good for the training to be good? I have been to a few private training courses where the information was good, but the instructor was bad. The content was good, so I would consider attending again if it was presented by a different instructor.

It appears that with the Street Cop Training case, most of the complaints are about instructor presentation. Some content involving the warrior concept was also criticized. (I hate to break it to the academies and agencies out there that have banned the warrior concept, but the warrior concept will never be banned nationwide. As a trainer who travels across the nation, I can say that the warrior concept is alive and well in many parts of the nation.)

Evaluating private police training organizations

There are two reasons to attend training from a private organization:

  1. To learn something new
  2. To validate that what you and your agency are currently doing is better.

Most, if not all, officers should know that whatever you learn in training from a private organization, you can only use what falls within agency policy and state/federal laws. Anything outside of that has to be discarded from consideration of use. Many officers receive training from military special operations veterans. Some of the things they teach may not fall within agency policy or state/federal laws because their concepts and/or tactics may be designed for foreign battlefield operations. Officers have to recognize that.

The problem with having some form of oversight for private trainers is that the oversight personnel may consist of people who have never been in law enforcement or have been in law enforcement for many years and hold some administrative or executive position; they have been “out of the game” for some time. Many private companies are presenting training that may be a paradigm shift, or “outside the box” concepts that an oversight group may find unacceptable because it does not fall within training as they know it. The progression of new concepts, tactics, techniques, etc. won’t happen if an oversight group denies the training because it’s different than what they know.

If an agency wants to improve training, then they should be sending their instructors to private training organizations to learn new things. Training programs do not write/revise themselves. They are written/revised by instructors and conducted by instructors.

I agree with the author that private training companies should be vetted…especially if agency funds are being used to train officers. The author lists four considerations for vetting private training companies or training programs. I agree with two of them: Vet the training in advance and ask for the course description, syllabus (not outline), and instructor(s) bio(s). After the training event, get reviews from your agency’s attendees, but, the reviews should be from instructors who attended. Officers (non-instructors) attend training to improve themselves. They may not look at the training from an agency perspective. Instructors attend training to improve themselves AND their agency’s training programs. Instructors are the ones who develop, revise and shape training programs within the agency. They are the ones who will be able to tell if the training is good for the agency or not.

Unlike agency training, private trainers have to strive to put on great training if they want return customers and to increase their customer base…it’s a business. So, if the word gets out that their training is substandard, they have to change their training program and/or instructors or they fade away from lack of future customers. For that reason alone there is no need to create an oversight group to evaluate training provided by private training companies.

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Jason Wuestenberg is the executive director for the National Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association (NLEFIA). Jason retired from the Phoenix (Arizona) Police Department as a sergeant in 2017 after 22 years of service. Jason spent over half of his career as a full-time firearms and tactics instructor and ended his career as a training sergeant/rangemaster in charge of the agency’s patrol rifle program. Jason has conducted firearms training and instructor development at the state, national, and international levels. Contact him at