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Snake Oil Salesman Abound

I just finished editing and posting an article titled “Vet Instructor Credentials” written by one of our monthly columnists, Kevin Davis.  No, it’s not an article about the instructor credentials of veterans; it’s an article about the need to vet the credentials of instructors before your agency hires them… or before you take training from them. I appreciate Kevin writing this article and feel it brings up an important issue: honesty & integrity.

As a police instructor myself, with over 23 years of instructional experience now, I can use myself as the example.  How I write my resume can make all the difference in whether or not I get contracted to deliver training and how much I can get away with charging.  Let’s be realistic: there are some instructors out there who have never been certified by any agency or organization as an instructor at all, and plenty who claim operational or instructional experience that’s pure BS.

Using me as the example I can write my resume to reflect:

  • Over 30 years as a police officer in a major metropolitan area
  • Over 20 years as a police instructor
  • Status as a nationally recognized expert on counter-terrorism
  • Status as a nationally recognized instructor on Active Shooter Response
  • Author of hundreds of published articles
  • Author of eight published books (so far)
  • Instructor at FLETC
  • SWAT veteran
  • SWAT instructor veteran
  • Instructor for DoD
  • War time military veteran
  • Contracted consultant to US Army on training methodology
  • Blackwater contractor

All of that is true.  Damn I sound impressive.  Now let’s rewrite that without any sales spin – and let’s be realistic here: If an instructor is so carefully crafting his resume so as to gain more contracts or increase his fee, it’s sales spin.  He (or she) is a snake oil salesman.


  • Over 30 years as a municipal police officer working near Washington DC
  • Over 20 years as a police instructor
  • Certified anti-terrorism specialist
  • Invited to speak around the country about active shooter response
  • Author of hundreds of published equipment reviews
  • Author of eight published books (so far – only two have anything to do with law enforcement)
  • Delivered low light training classes to various agencies using a FLETC facility
  • SWAT veteran
  • Delivered low light training to various SWAT team members
  • Delivered low light training to classes with some DoD participants
  • War time military veteran – but not deployed to war zone
  • Subcontractor to Army, consulting on shared training facility practicality
  • Worked security after Hurricane Katrina on Blackwater’s payroll

Hmmm… that doesn’t sound quite so bad ass.  In fact, it sounds like a lot of guys I know who have been a cop all their adult life and were even remotely motivated.  But with a resume like that, I don’t have a lot of hope of becoming in huge demand as a speaker/instructor.  Nothing there makes my experience or instruction sound like your agency just HAVE to have it.  Good thing I don’t really want to travel all around the country getting rich by peddling a false background, huh?

Kevin is absolutely right.  It’s imperative to vet the credentials and experience of the instructors your agency brings in.  I know exactly who he is talking about based on the descriptions of the folks in his article.  I can list off a few people that, like many others, I initially started out very impressed with.  Then, as it inevitably does, the reality of their backgrounds came to light.  Now there are a bunch of well known “experts” who I wouldn’t pay to speak at a conference, or teach my agency officers, or even contribute an article here on

So, as I said near the beginning, Kevin is absolutely right.  Unless you want your officers, or yourself, trained by some slick salesman who actually doesn’t know, first hand, anything about what he’s teaching, check them out carefully.  Yes, it does really matter.