In the world of consultants and trainers, it is often said that the further one has traveled, the smarter he must be. That may be true.
Sometimes, I feel inadequate and incapable when I am on my home turf. Overwhelmed is a good fit at times, too.
Last week was different. I spent the week at the national conference of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) in Chicago. Drinking from a distant pond can be good for the mind, body and soul. These kinds of gatherings provide a graphic reminder of the core strength of The Brotherhood.
The point of this article is to encourage those who have not attended a law enforcement function away from their home territory in a while to give it some serious consideration.
Police work provides many opportunities each year to gather with other like-minded individuals. This was my first experience at the ILEETA conference, but it will not be my last. I went to learn. I had also been invited to teach, and I instructed two classes.
With great frequency, I receive email messages inviting me to attend classes that cover a whole range of topics. I can learn about firearms, tactics, computers, terrorism and so forth. With limited budgets and time, one must prioritize.
I have often written about my annual pilgrimage to Washington D.C. for Police Week. The ILEETA conference had some distinct similarities to the Police Week experience. There were lots of opportunities for traditional teacher/student classes where we listened to a lecture of some sort. But there was more. This group of people all had one thing in common: all are trainers of law enforcement officers.
NON SOLEUS (Never Alone)
This gathering was different. There was ample time during many classes for attendees to bring their specific situation to the group and seek collective thoughts from their peers. These sessions were anything but boring.
One officer, I'll call Ralph (not his real name), shared that he had been in an OIS (shooting) a few months ago. In the aftermath, his agency has ostracized him. He feels isolated and very much out of the loop. It has left him doubting himself and feeling pretty negatively about life, in general.
The matter has dragged on for about 3 months and remains open. He has been dangling from that string for what feels like an eternity. His account was truly touching. It was easy to imagine that any one of us could find ourselves in his position. Many of the folks in that room expressed their support, concern and understanding. Ralph knew then and there that he is not alone.
Another class dealt with the stress of the job. A female officer, named Agnes (not real either), talked about her two failed marriages. She finds dating to be difficult and that she judges that she is to blame for her relationship problems. The class was led by a law enforcement peer counselor. He encouraged all of us to talk openly.
Talk we did. Cop work has affected the cop and the spouse. It has noticeably changed attitudes and some behaviors. By its nature, cop work stresses folks deeply and it is very difficult, if not impossible to leave it at work, i.e. to turn it off at home. Some of other attendees talked about what the job had done to their home lives. Ideas and experiences for coping were offered. While there was no magic pill that would quickly fix the problem, Agnes gained some ideas about how other officers were dealing with the same kinds of problems that she faces. Agnes also knew then that she is not alone.
One of the most remarkable classes came as a complete surprise. I sat down next to a new friend that I had just met over lunch. With the others, we waited for the class to begin, but there was no instructor. It seems that he had been unexpectedly delayed and could not be there.