I Teach Cadets and Write Training Articles for Selfish Reasons
I have selfish reasons for wanting our police instructors to get better and improve the safety of our law enforcers and the society they serve. With frequent visits to the Cleveland Clinic, I have come to the realization that I will not live to a ripe old age. I have a vested interest in the next generation of police officers who will become the guardians that protect my wife and kids (maybe grandkids) after I am gone. We do not hesitate to invest in life insurance to protect our families – should we not also invest in our law enforcers who will provide a lifetime of vital service for them? The Police Instructor handbook and PhalanxLE.com are my investments in the development and training of worthy protectors to watch over my family and yours.
I want the best possible men and women wearing the badge when my loved ones need their help, and I want input on how they are trained. I want to make sure standards are kept high and that only the most qualified cadets with large quantities of integrity and humility are accepted. My family has been blessed by our profession, but they have also suffered through fear and pain because of it. Spending time writing the book, designing the website, and creating resources to help instructors could never repay their sacrifice, but I hope it will create a better world for them to live in when I am gone.
“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
I Am a Jealous Instructor
I am jealous of every cop and cadet I teach. I loved being a police officer and was not ready to retire when my career ended; I still find myself wanting to take their place each time I talk about the unique profession we serve. Recently, while giving a speech during a graduation ceremony, I admitted my jealousy to the recruits and their families. I hope it served as a reminder of just how addictive this profession can be and what an honor it is to serve others as one of God’s guardians of justice.
If you are still serving as a law enforcer, you should know that there are people that long to fill your shoes. In my two decades of policing, I served on the road patrol, as a crime scene investigator, as a criminal investigator, and as a school resource officer. I was blessed with a multitude of experiences while serving with three great organizations, and I overlooked how fortunate I had been until it was gone. And it was gone without warning.
Like many of you, I did more to help others in one week than some people will do in a lifetime. That is the blessing of law enforcement, but it also comes with an addiction and its own form of withdrawals. By helping to develop the next generation of guardians, I find the symptoms are more bearable.
I Am Stingy as Well
Years ago, while attending my first train-the-trainer course, I met several new instructors from all over Ohio. A few of them had no idea where to start; the course simply provided them with a lesson plan but not much more. By this time in my career, I had accumulated a wealth of resources and information that could help them get started, but I found myself reluctant to share anything with them. I now try to encourage everyone – including those we might consider to be slouches - to become a better trainer, but I still find it hard at times.
When I used to worry about giving away my stuff and how it might affect my persona as an instructor, I was focusing on me and only me. Instead of concerning myself with our cadets, our officers, and our society, I worried about my ego, my pride, and my vanity. I encountered all of these obstacles again while writing the book Police Instructor and developing the web sites, but this time I overcame them – I have a new mission. It can only improve our profession if we are willing to share our wisdom and show others how to train worthy protectors for society.
“Nothing you have not given away will ever really be yours.” ~C.S. Lewis
I Gave Up in the Most Uninspiring Way
The doctor walked into my hospital room and said, “Mr. Neil, I cannot figure out how to stop your pain, and you cannot go on like this much longer. I am going to send you home on some strong narcotics that should sedate you and help with the pain.” I was completely speechless (a rare occasion), but my wife Gloria asked “Who should we see next?” The doctor looked offended as if an accusation was made against her intellect. She responded “Well I do not know what anyone else could do, but you can call whomever you like.” I went home and tried to hide my self-pity while I thought of ways to die with dignity. I simply gave up and was completely defeated in body and spirit. Fortunately for me, my family went along for the ride and they did not give up so easily.
I do not want anyone to think I am without my faults, or that I never give up. The fact is I did. I felt like a burden to my wife and kids, and I wondered what kind of father and husband I could be in a drug induced stupor. That is a glimpse of what my family has endured, and I had to apologize to them for the way I let them down.
Our friends and family would tell you that I am the noisy and overprotective city cop, and that Gloria is the devout Christian mother, wife, and friend. But fortunately for me, she also grew up Pentecostal and knew how to raise her voice when it mattered most. She was not about to let me get away with dying and leaving her alone to raise two teenagers.
I Feel Sorry for Myself
It’s embarrassing to admit, but I feel sorry for myself – daily sometimes. My nerve damage is catastrophic and the debilitating pain caused by my injury is constant. I have 4 Neurostimulator implants in my spinal cord powered by two battery packs in my lower back. I am dependent upon several narcotics and one of them causes me to suffer short-term memory loss. I must take an amphetamine to make my body function every morning, and I wear Lidoderm (a form of Novocain) patches on my legs and back to help with the pain when I stand to teach.
I only tell you this to share a very important lesson, and one that seemed to take me a while to accept as true. I can assure you of one thing – self-pity has never helped me accomplish anything. Never. It does me no good to feel sorry for myself or have others feeling sympathy for me – it is nothing but a waste of precious time.
It also does no good to feel sorry for ourselves when we have to teach a topic that we do not enjoy. Complaining and disdain will not help our law enforcers learn how to survive. Take it from a master of self-pity – when you find yourself in that state of mind, look for the nearest exit.
It really is true: You learn what is important in your life when you are about to lose it. I wish I would have had my current perspective on life twenty-five years ago. My priorities would have included hope, faith, and serving others much sooner, and I would have ensured that my God and my family would have never taken a back seat to anything.
“Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.” ~Helen Keller
Not the Last Word
Police Instructor and PhalanxLE.com are not my attempts to speak the last word on law enforcement education and training. One person can never offer more than a glimpse into what is needed to become a great instructor. The techniques, methods, suggestions, and tips are NOT absolutes for educators and trainers to follow. They are resources for you to use, change, or adapt however you see fit. I hope they stimulate ideas, stories, discussions, and positive action by law enforcement instructors, criminal justice educators, field training officers, supervisors, school resource officers, sheriffs, and chiefs. I hope they serve you and your students well throughout your career and theirs. We should be pleased with our advancements in law enforcement training, but we should never be content.
My confessions are plentiful. I’ve had more than my fair share of embarrassments over the past few decades, but I’ve also had many triumphs. I have learned to turn all of these experiences – good and bad – into a source of wisdom that will benefit my students throughout their careers. Your own unique experiences can become the wisdom that can save lives, especially if you are willing to share your confessions with the people who can learn the most from them.
We need trainers who will passionately serve to build the guardians of tomorrow and to help them understand the importance of their commitment. The recipe for a good police instructor includes generous portions of courage, patience, and stubbornness mixed with as much wisdom and humility as you can find. These traits, along with a determination to improve our craft, will provide skilled and worthy protectors for our society. Without sacrifice there can be no justice – without justice there can be no society.
“It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.” ~W. Somerset Maugham
Richard Neil is the creator of http://www.LEO-Trainer.com, the web site dedicated to law enforcement educators and trainers. He is also the author of the book “Police Instructor: Deliver Dynamic Presentations, Create Engaging Slides, & Increase Active Learning.”