2019 ILEETA Conference: Enhancing Training and Making Connections

An Inside Look at This Nation’s Premier Law Enforcement Training Event

Todd Fletcher

The 2019 International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) Conference has wrapped up and instructors from all over the world have returned home to continue their mission of training law enforcement officers. After six solid days of instruction, everyone left exhausted, reinvigorated and ready to share new information and knowledge. The ILEETA Conference includes classes on leadership, supervision, use of force, defensive tactics, live fire firearms courses, wellness, field training, vehicle operations, and much more. If you’re a trainer, you should put the ILEETA Conference at the top of your to-do list.

The ILEETA Conference activities officially start on Monday morning; however, many people show up early to help get things set up. This year, in addition to the ILEETA staff and Board of Advisors, an energetic group of young police officers from the St. Louis Police Academy helped roll out the mats, unload boxes of T-shirts and other giveaways, and generally help get things ready for the onslaught of members who were about to invade the St. Louis Union Station Hotel.

Monday morning began with the opening ceremonies. ILEETA’s Executive Director Harvey Hedden welcomed trainers from all over the United States and Canada and as far away as Ukraine. ILEETA’s Deputy Executive Director Brian Willis spoke about how trainers see the ILEETA Conference as an opportunity to network with instructors from all over the world. However, Brian challenged us to expand this opportunity into making actual connections with people instead of simply networking.  The opening ceremony was inspiring and helped set the tone for the rest of the week.

During this year’s Conference, there were far too many (great) classes to list; however, there were a few sessions which truly stood out. Some of these were noteworthy because they were out of the ordinary and some because they were outside my comfort zone. In the “out of the ordinary” category, a presentation by Jeff Hartsoe entitled, “Thinking Outside the Badge – Team Building and Thinking Drills, challenged instructors to include physical and mental activities to improve officers’ critical thinking skills. We participated in several difficult tasks including a challenge to build a dry spaghetti and marshmallow tower (https://tinyurl.com/y7gk2crf) and another group activity required participants to determine the priority of items needed to ensure survival while lost at sea (https://tinyurl.com/y78tqj26). Feel free to download these lesson plans and give them a try with your team, shift or squad.

One of the most notable classes outside the comfort zone was “PowerPoint® Design with Cinematics” by Antonio Zarzoza (aka Instructor Z). I’ll admit that I’m not a computer guy. They’re a necessary evil in my life, but I’d rather roll around on the mats or hit the range for some ballistic therapy. That being said, I know this is an area where I can improve my knowledge and abilities. Instructor Z helped me to improve my classroom presentations by using creative techniques to enhance the adult learning experience. He shared cinematic design ideas and templates to make this as simple as possible. It’s a work in progress, but we’ll see what I can do with this newfound information.

There also were classroom sessions for firearms instructors, as well as several live fire range classes from which to choose. Heather Eckert provided an outstanding presentation entitled, “Why It’s Not Working for Her – Getting Female Officers on Target.” She presented material on a number of learning differences between male and females, as well as obvious, and not so obvious, differences between men and women and how this could affect firearms training. Even though this is a serious topic, the class was a lot of fun and maybe a little awkward, but definitely eye-opening. Michelle Cerino’s class, “Demystifying Shooting for Females (and Males),” shared some techniques and tactics for instructors to help explain and demonstrate the fundamentals of marksmanship. She focused primarily on grip, sights and trigger control and how to help shooters understand what it takes to make consistently good shots.

There are several sessions I look forward to each year, including the Emerson Hour. This is an evening presentation hosted by Joe Willis which features six speakers who answer Ralph Waldo Emerson’s question, “What has become more clear to you since last we met?” Each speaker has nine minutes to speak without the use of audio or visual props – no PowerPoint, no flipcharts and no music. It’s just nine minutes of speaking from the heart. Many of the speakers bared their souls while discussing life struggles that included alcoholism, job loss and the deaths of fellow police officers. Rather than being a pity party, each speaker shared his (or her) story and message in a way which showed how resilient we can be when we surround ourselves with strong networks of friends and family.

Another valuable session which I look forward to each year is Massod Ayoob’s “Deadly Force Panel Discussion.” Including myself, the panel was made up of many well-known firearms instructors such as Alex Embry, Mike Boyle, Don Alwes, Heather Eckert, Richard Fairburn, and John Farnam. Other panel members included use-of-force experts John Bostain, Kevin Davis, Ron Borsch, and attorney Laura Scarry. This four hour session divides the topics of conversation between the panel members and the audience. Topics included body-worn cameras, criminal and civil use-of-force litigation, leadership issues, maintaining high standards in hiring and training, and active shooter response. Each year, this panel draws a large audience and the topics of discussion are always current and relevant.

By the end of the week, everyone is exhausted and many of us are sore and bruised from time spent rolling around on mats. I left St. Louis recharged and excited to return to my role as a trainer, supervisor and mentor. If you’re a trainer, then you owe it to yourself and your students to get to the 2020 ILEETA Conference, March 23-28, 2020. Once again, the St. Louis Union Station Hotel will be ground zero for the best educational event of the year. For more information about ILEETA and how you can join, go to www.ileeta.org. I look forward to seeing you next year in St. Louis!

Classes continued through Saturday, but the final social event of the week is Friday night which features the Member Appreciation Banquet. This brings everyone back together to wrap up the Conference. Sharing good food and drink with some of the best law enforcement trainers and instructors in the world is a perfect way to close out the event. 

 Todd Fletcher is a sergeant in Central Oregon with over 23 years of law enforcement experience. He has presented firearms and instructor development training nationwide and at multiple regional, national and international conferences. He owns Combative Firearms Training, LLC which provides firearms training and instructor development classes to law enforcement, military, private security, and armed citizens. He can be contacted at todd@combativefirearms.com.