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Thread: Big Fish in Small Ponds; Insularity in LE Firearms Instruction

  1. #11
    Member SoCalDep's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Les Pepperoni View Post
    http://instagram.com/reel/CdGsMseJCFZ/


    The voiceover is my friend from CHP...
    This was unexpected. I saw this thread last night and have a lot I want to say but figured I should let thoughts roll around for a day before I ramble endlessly. Then I look just now and see this post… with a picture of a piece of cardboard with my writing on it… It’s had that writing on it for several years and was just used Tuesday for this week’s Firearm Instructor School (It has a bit more writing on it now including the letters “EDIP” as has been mentioned). It’s sitting behind my desk now. Then I recognize Ray’s voice in the video and then I see the Instagram post is from someone I know as well. I had no idea he and Ray knew each other or that Ray knew you. Man it’s a small world!

    Still not ready to post relevant thoughts… Lots to arrange in my head.

  2. #12
    I like to think I know what an LE firearms instructor looks like, and sad to say many current firearms instructors don't fit my picture.

    We've already heard about and discuss that many firearms instructors are line runners and shooter watchers rather than coaches/instructors, so I'm not going to beat that horse.

    I think if I had to, I could narrow it down to key things that many instructors make mistakes in thinking and doing:

    1) The mindset that they are primarily firearms instructors rather than survival instructors.

    2) They are satisfied with the status quo, unwilling to make changes if it: 1) causes them additional work and 2) potential conflict with admin.

    Of course, a firearms instructor has to be fundamentally sound in technique as well as able to recognize mistakes in technique. They should be able at a glance to see the big things that a shooter is doing incorrectly. Thats the job. But it goes beyond that. A good instructor is familiar with patterns of officer deaths and police gunfights in order to deliver relevant training. They also need to be cerebral enough to figure a way to do the training safely as well as not get lost in the weeds doing all training for the most likely scenario, neglecting the 30% scenarios.

    Too many folks judge their programs on qualification percentages. I know when I was doing remedials for our basic students probably 75% of the time I was praying they would fail so that they would have to return for another entire block of firearms training. My thoughts were that maybe we could turn them into a solid 85% shooter with more training rather than a 'wow, lucked out there' 70% shooter.

    IMO, at the agency the qual should be the basic driver's license, a gateway to more advanced training. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, many programs focus their attention on the qual and not on follow-on drills.

    I once heard it said that continual change gives the illusion of progress. Change for change itself is bad, but not changing the things we do or the way we do them because of slothfulness, going along to get along, or lack of vision disqualifies one from instructional duties, IMO.

    JMO, I can give examples from my career but don't want to write an epistle.

    ETA: Instructors should demo at three speeds - walk through, slow and deliberate, and acceptable. They should also have to maintain a higher standard on quals and standards drills.
    Adding nothing to the conversation since 2015....

  3. #13
    Agency of 80 +/- with seven instructors, all of which are "part time" collateral assignments. One other guy and I are the only ones attending outside training or pushing the program. The department has sent people to two outside classes in the decade I've been here: one guy to a no-name "low light instructor" class that he said was terrible and two of us to Modern Samurai Project last year (which was great). Nobody else wants to spend their own money and just lives under the antiquated umbrella of the state's instructor course.

    I have been able to kind of take over our program over the last few years, basically by the benevolence of a couple of lieutenants that know they are getting a quality program, but there is nothing pushing the other instructors to learn or to teach. I try to provide a block of instructor development the two times we are all together each year, but that's not enough time to get comfortable enough to do something well, let alone teach it.

    I have fought to not replace several retiring instructors. So far, it has worked. Replacing dead weight with dead weight is counter-productive. I think we should be running a selection process for interested officers which includes coming up to the range and working for a day or two. There is a lot of behind the scenes work that has to get done that isn't sexy or interesting. You have to be willing to do that stuff.

    We also fight supervision and management, who will often let people (mostly supervisors and detectives) "qualify and leave" and receive no training. We moved to doing all department-wide range sessions on evening hours to force more low light training, but all it has done is increase the number of people that are too important to receive the training.

  4. #14
    Site Supporter Erick Gelhaus's Avatar
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    I spent 26 of my 29 years in our program, as an instructor and as the supervisor.

    In late ’01 we had a couple of issues with some of our recruits in the regional academy. This wasn’t the only time, but it was the most obvious in the eight years’ worth of trainees I’d seen at that point. I’d gotten the Thursday evening call about a couple of them in danger of failing firearms. Got them on the range over the weekend. All were in different squads, all had very different ways of doing everything, and nothing was standardized – which meant that either there was no standardized material, or they were all really buggered up.

    The recruits got fixed enough to pass the academy quals, with handguns & shotguns. Whew.

    Then we took on the academy over that issue, our arrest/control instructors and the FTO program did as well. We met with the academy staff and essentially the response was “what gives you all the right to claim we’re buggered up, what’s your background & experience?”

    That resulted in me having to pull the training records of all twenty-something instructors (all part-time). We ended up with data that looked something like this:
    POST approved firearms instructor class only – 7
    POST approved firearms instructor class & 1-2 other classes - 12
    POST approved firearms instructor class & lots of classes (dept or personally paid for) – 5

    Broad disparity. The POST-approved firearms instructor classes were not all from the same entity. We had FBI, NRA-LE, local academy, far away academy, in-between agency etc.

    After writing all of that up, I wrote up a proposal to bring in an outside instructor to do an update for all the instructional staff with the goal being everyone on the same page. Shockingly, the admin bought off on it.

    The first year, we brought in Bill Jeans for a 5-day block that covered handgun (2 days), shotgun (2 days), and patrol rifle (1 day).

    We skipped a year and then brought in Scotty Reitz for patrol rifle one year and shotgun the next.

    After a year’s break, we had Louis Awerbuck for pistol. Another year later, Pat Rogers for patrol rifle. And then Bill Jeans again for shotgun.

    These weren’t open enrollment or dept wide, it was just for the instructors.

    Then the ’09, and ’10 budget crises hit and hit hard. We were able to bring Reitz back once more in ’14. We continued to do a yearly, every other year instructor update but they were internal. Instructors on SWAT were able to get additional schools through their team, but it was difficult to find basic firearms instructor classes.

    Some guys, myself included, kept going to training on their own and brought info, and material back. But it was not the same as bringing in an outsider to get everyone on the same page. SWAT hosted Jedlinski right around the time I retired.

    I don’t know what the program is doing now. Covid stupidity really buggered up the use of force training program there, like a lot of other places.

    You’ll always have a cycle. The next guy/guys coming in will make changes. I always tried to explain why we’d made the decisions we made & took the directions we did, so the next batch would have that as a foundation.

    Going strictly to the OP … you & those you work with must do their best to stay current and keep each other in the loop on that. It would be nice if everyone took it seriously enough to invest in their skills; sadly, not many do. And that can lead to the one, two, handful who do ruling the roost so to speak.

    ETA: During all of the above, we fielded patrol rifles (93), allowed personally owned shotguns (96), tested new semi-autos (97), fielded them (98), issued 14" SBSs (04), dealt with Gen 3 & 4 Glock .40 issues ('10-11, '14) and fielded 9mm pistols ('14). Plus we had significant range issues several times. Just teaching was so much easier
    Last edited by Erick Gelhaus; 05-05-2022 at 10:14 PM.

  5. #15
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    An issue that Erick brought up is a huge factor I believe: continuous professional training for instructors. This can make or break a program. If your instructors are not themselves students constantly striving to improve, the program stagnates. And I do agree that training should occur as a group, to ensure same-page instructional leadership. The one positive thing I was able to accomplish Staff wise was to get them outside training together. It was the first time almost all of them had received training since firearms instructor school. The level of 'skill expectation' was surprising to them. A couple of us had tried to explain that we should be aiming higher in our standards for officers, but they considered our goals to be "Instructor level" performance. Seeing what the private sector considered "Instructor level" was eye opening to them, and it helped. Some still resisted, because change means work at in reality they were more lazy than anything else. Constant excuses for lack of effort and performance.....the whole "Well, tactically speaking..." canard. Just had one of my "instructors" yell at another former instructor in a rifle class that he was "moving too fast" between cover positions, and that his rifle wasn't shouldered when he moved. This former instructor is a 3 Gun competitor, which the first guy knows. Heard him yelling at the competitor "I've told you that competition John Wick shit doesn't translate to Law Enforcement! You need to move slowly and tactically!" Always an excuse as to why the dedicated shooters outperform them in every way.

    I had high hopes when California POST re-opened Regulation 1070, to redefine qualifications for firearms instructors to require regular refresher training. I had given my input to the conference last summer when a bunch of Lead instructors around the state were contacted. They recently released their draft recommendation.....which was for 4 hours every 4 years. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Why even bother at that point? That's a meaningless requirement. And without a meaningful mandate for training, agencies like mine will continue their practice of "You've already been to firearms instructor school....you're an expert now!" And a lot of instructors will hide behind the same thing.

    It made a huge difference when we adopted and put into practice EDIP for our instructors. And they saw the effect it had on student performance. But the last few weeks, as some crazy changes have taken place in policy, as our staffing literally collapses, as outright insubordination by a member of the staff goes not only unpunished but repeatedly enabled by command level personnel, I see my guys giving up. Going back to the old ways. No explanation. No demonstration. No active coaching on the line.

    Agency culture and policies either make or break a program. When the right people are there good things can happen. But absent real meaningful standards for instructor training established by POST....some places will be a disaster.

  6. #16
    Alabama has instituted a re-cert requirement for firearms instructors, but it appears most are just going back through the same courses they took to get certified.
    I had an ER nurse in a class. I noticed she kept taking all head shots. Her response when asked why, "'I've seen too many people who have been shot in the chest putting up a fight in the ER." Point taken.

  7. #17
    Site Supporter Erick Gelhaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AMC View Post
    I had high hopes when California POST re-opened Regulation 1070, to redefine qualifications for firearms instructors to require regular refresher training. I had given my input to the conference last summer when a bunch of Lead instructors around the state were contacted. They recently released their draft recommendation.....which was for 4 hours every 4 years. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Why even bother at that point? That's a meaningless requirement. And without a meaningful mandate for training, agencies like mine will continue their practice of "You've already been to firearms instructor school....you're an expert now!" And a lot of instructors will hide behind the same thing.
    4 hours every 4 years? Hayzus Christo. I had not heard that but I'm not surprised. Just think about all of the people who pay their own money to attend TacCon every year for 24 hours of additional training.

    When we were the in-service updates, except for the Reitz & Jeans classes, we were not seeking POST cert. Years later I had a POST rep lecturing me about the need for recurrent training & liability issues. And they up mandating four hours. FML.

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erick Gelhaus View Post
    4 hours every 4 years? Hayzus Christo. I had not heard that but I'm not surprised. Just think about all of the people who pay their own money to attend TacCon every year for 24 hours of additional training.

    When we were the in-service updates, except for the Reitz & Jeans classes, we were not seeking POST cert. Years later I had a POST rep lecturing me about the need for recurrent training & liability issues. And they up mandating four hours. FML.
    Getting our training division folks to understand that POST certification is not rhe magic ticket they thought it was took some work. But the leadership has changed, so the process starts all over again. I attended one of the better POST Firearms Instructor courses in Northern California, when their standard for the FBI Bullseye course was 260. But every POST class I've attended has been basically a preschool fingerprinting session compared to the private sector training I've attended. It's generally there that your going to find innovation, and people pushing the edge of performance.

    Something I see as a potential positive influence is that Pannone has brought aboard a group of LEOs to his company, especially guys involved in training in SoCal. They are getting many of their courses, including their Instructor courses, POST certified. That should simplify approval, and push modern training concepts into the pool. Anything better than nothing at this point.

    The current Firearms Coordinator for POST is a good dude. He is trying to push a very ossified group suffering from severe Dunning Krueger in the right direction. He's been successful with some reforms, but they clearly didn't listen to the feedback from the field on the 1070 revisions.

  9. #19
    Site Supporter Erick Gelhaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AMC View Post
    Getting our training division folks to understand that POST certification is not rhe magic ticket they thought it was took some work. But the leadership has changed, so the process starts all over again.

    ...

    The current Firearms Coordinator for POST is a good dude. He is trying to push a very ossified group suffering from severe Dunning Krueger in the right direction. He's been successful with some reforms, but they clearly didn't listen to the feedback from the field on the 1070 revisions.
    Given that Cal POST no longer reimburses much, if anything, POST cert is not a Be All, End All. Unfortunately, as you note, too many are convinced it is. It didn't hurt the attendance, but I had a couple of questions about my Low Light Instructor course being POST certified. After letting them know it was not yet certified in CA, even though it's been POST approved elsewhere, I never heard back from them.

    Who is the firearms coordinator there?

  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erick Gelhaus View Post
    Given that Cal POST no longer reimburses much, if anything, POST cert is not a Be All, End All. Unfortunately, as you note, too many are convinced it is. It didn't hurt the attendance, but I had a couple of questions about my Low Light Instructor course being POST certified. After letting them know it was not yet certified in CA, even though it's been POST approved elsewhere, I never heard back from them.

    Who is the firearms coordinator there?
    Steve Harding is the current coordinator. Former Rangemaster with Sacramento Sheriffs. Good dude. You'd like him. He's fighting the good fight but.....it's POST.

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