Again today, I had the privilege of being a defensive tactics instructor at a local academy. I have been associated with this academy for 13 years now. Over that span of time I have discovered the students are not the only ones who gain from the academy experience. I believe the individual instructors and their respective agencies gain just as much from basic recruit academies and advance law enforcement course as much as the students. In this three part blog I will discuss the benefits of having instructors at the local academy in respect to the instructor, the students and the law enforcement agencies.
Lets just get right past the pay incentive. We all know we didn't become law enforcement officers to get rich. Being an instructor at an academy is no different. The fact is teaching at a police academy is much more rewarding than that off duty security or traffic control detail. Beside if you have any intentions of lateral transfers or upward mobility you know you can't put standing around a retail store down as resume talking points.
It has been said "you learn it twice by teaching". I believe it to be true. You have to stay current on law and techniques in order to feel comfortable enough to teach them. The interaction with other instructors gives you the opportunity to learn new techniques, discuss best practices and gain insight into what is going on inside other local agencies and how they are dealing with it. This presents chances to talk, to network, to brainstorm and to discover new opportunities for self improvement.
I have come to believe that an instructor, who truly has a calling to teach, gains far more than the cadet or the future employing agency. As an instructor, especially if you return to the same class, you get to see the growth of the cadets and take pride in the fact that you contributed to the growth. There is something rewarding about explaining information and seeing that "Ah-Ha" moment when the student makes the connection.
I had mentioned earlier that I had been with this academy for 13 years, that wasn't a bragging point. Being with the academy that long I have seen things come full circle. One time, I was set to be a defensive tactics instructor. Two instructors came in that I had not worked with before. I walked up to introduce myself and they said we know who your are you taught at our academy class. Once they said that I could see past their aging, and see into the eyes of the new cadets I had once taught. Then it was time to see how they improved upon demonstrating the academy techniques,
As an academy instructor you gain a glimpse into what the next generation is bringing into law enforcement. You see how their past influences, their thinking, their sense of right and wrong will impact their decisions. This is invaluable as a leader, it is like getting personalized instruction on what tools you will need to be an effective leader of the next generation of peace officers. It offers a practice ground to try different techniques in a safe classroom environment.
Finally, you get to offer your values to the next generation of law enforcement officers. Lets face it, you and your family are going to live somewhere, why not have influence on the future? If you are like me you believe you are a good person, you have dedicated your life to helping people and your values serve to the good of the community. When it is your time to retire why not go knowing you did what you could to instill a good work ethic into the next generation. Teaching at the academy gives you an opportunity to expediential impact the mindset of future generations of law enforcement officers.
I would like to close with this, in 2005, I was a sergeant and teaching a lot at the academy. Toward the end of the "Day Academy" I received a call from the coordinator. I was asked to come in and take a picture with the class. Wanting to continue to get the teaching opportunities I agreed. On the day of the picture I had gotten there a little earlier and was talking to the students. I was introduced to the county's sheriff and a local a police chief. When it came time to gather for the picture I had asked the class coordinator where the other instructors were. I was told the students had asked for me and the police chief and sheriff be in the picture they were going to use for their class plaque.
Only being a sergeant at the time of the photo and not having any applicants from that class, I knew it wasn't my status they wanted for the picture. I was truly humbled by this, I am sure, in part, it is what inspired me to later became a college professor. It is why I believe instructors gain more from teaching a local police academies than students.