At Law Officer, we've emphasized training from the get-go. Trainers are essential to our profession, and all of us have distinct memories of our early efforts to learn the extremely challenging task of policing. Few jobs on earth require such a wide array of skill sets, any one of which may be called upon at any time.
The stakes can be incredibly high: I've lost count of the times during an interview with an officer where, when relating the details of a critical incident, they said, "My training just kicked in." Or: "I heard my FTO's words in my head."
Unfortunately, trainers are sometimes taken for granted. We often expect them to do the near-impossible, especially in this era of slashed budgets. Cops save lives; trainers help save the lives of cops. What could be a higher calling than saving the lives of those who save others?
For the last two years, I've been deeply involved in Below 100, an initiative begun by Law Officer to drive down line-of-duty deaths to fewer than 100 per year—a level not seen since 1944. This effort has taught me a lot about trainers and the importance of training in officer safety.
Very few trainers ever get rich in the monetary sense, but the satisfaction of making a difference in officer safety is tremendous. Below 100 trainers have a saying: "There is no pay but the returns are priceless." And do you know what? It's working. Last year's LODD total was the lowest seen in more than 50 years. We're on track for 2013 to come in even lower. The Below 100 initiative has been one of the most personally rewarding things I've ever done, and it's allowed me to share the stage with some of the finest trainers in the country. Trust me: It's been challenging and humbling at the same time.
Many of you have heard me say, "What gets recognized gets repeated." This is definitely true for trainers. That's why we place such a great emphasis on the Trainer of the Year (TOY) award. In 2007, Law Officer presented the first TOY award to Ed Nowicki, a training icon who's done as much as anyone to advance and professionalize law enforcement training than any other person in this country.
Since that original presentation to Ed Nowicki, we've presented the TOY award annually at the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainer's ILEETA conference. Past winners include Jeff Chudwin, Travis Yates, Dave Spaulding, Brian Willis, John Bostain and Bob "Coach" Lindsay. Some of these winners have become contributors to our magazine and some have become key players in the Below 100 effort. All have made a difference in their own way. We'll never know the number of lives that have been saved as a result of their efforts and I'm honored to have learned from all of them.
So, let's use this column as the opening call for nominations for the 2014 Trainer of the Year. The criteria:
- Training ability: Must be outstanding in their field, innovative and demonstrate a commitment to staying current on their subject and their training skill; should exhibit a commitment to continually "sharpen the saw."
- Leadership: Proven ability to lead by example, inspiration and dedication.
- Safety: Known for including adequate safeguards that minimize the chance of injury and generally promoting a safety mindset while training.
- Interpersonal communication: Regularly demonstrates strong interpersonal communication and engages the training audience.
- Long-term commitment: Demonstrated history of providing or facilitating quality training; known for regularly going the extra mile on behalf of the law enforcement community. Service beyond assigned duties is noteworthy and will be strongly considered.
To nominate a deserving trainer, go to www.lawofficer.com/traineroftheyear and make your case. Using the posted criteria, we will narrow the list down to finalists and consult with the ILEETA board. The winner will be announced at the ILEETA conference in March 2014.
—Dale Stockton, Editor in Chief
For more information on ILEETA, go to www.ILEETA.org.
For more information on Below 100, go to www.Below100.com
To read about past trainers of the year, go to www.LawOfficer.com and enter the key words "Trainer of the Year."