How to Avoid Fake Trainers

The world is full of those claiming to be something they are not. Every day innocent people are taken advantage of by those claiming to offer a service they are completely unqualified to perform. Contractors, financial experts, doctors, and lawyers are favorite occupations. So is “training expert” and a favorite target of their subterfuge are agency training officers. WARNING: hiring one of these “experts” can be bad for your career.

When I first started in law enforcement it was a real treat to have an outside trainer share their knowledge with you. It was difficult to make a living as a trainer and equally difficult to find one for hire. There was no national database or publication available – the internet had not yet become widespread. Advertising was basically word of mouth. Most training was done by former members of neighboring departments or worked for a major equipment supplier.

A recent incident, something which actually sparked my writing this article, showed just how easy it is to fake an entire community of peers. I received a friend request on social media – a sight restricted to law enforcement- from someone claiming to be a training expert. I checked his contacts and found we shared quite a few, all well-respected professionals. I checked his profile and found an extensive history in the military, law enforcement, and training. The thing is it was too good and further digging revealed none of the companies he worked for were legit. Furthermore, the training he obtained was also granted by fake companies. Everything was an invention of him and his keyboard.

What to look for to avoid the fake trainer:

1. Are they affiliated with a major program or a lone wolf? Obviously, those affiliated with major suppliers, manufacturers or training programs automatically gain some higher degree of trust. If they are truly associated with the main organization it will be very easy to confirm- and just as easy to uncover if the opposite is true. Not everyone pedaling a new idea is a fake, but it does mean you need to be twice a careful.

2. Check background and then check background’s background. Fake trainers are nothing more than con men specializing in a specific niche. As with any con man the key is to dig below the surface and find the loose thread that when pulled uncovers the truth.

3. What exactly are they trying to sell? One of the biggest signs of a con man is they spend too much time selling themselves rather than their program. They either spend a great deal of time selling how great they are or how you can trust them (often because they are one of you) without offering any specific details.

4. Are they willing to provide references? No legitimate trainer or expert would object to providing references, most will readily include them in program material. Go ahead and contact a few of those offered then, if there is still doubt, find a second layer of references, those who attend a course but were not on the provided list. Often these sources will provide the real skinny.

5. Will they allow you to audit a course? If a similar program is being offered nearby will the expert allow you or a member of your staff attend or observe prior to committing to your own program? If so this is an excellent means of seeing first-hand what you are getting. If not it should raise at least one red flag.

No modern training officer can be an expert in every aspect of the job, this is why we need outside trainers from time to time. Using outsiders also builds credibility as opposed to strictly in-house employees. But you need to ensure those you bring in and offer as experts truly are who they claim to be. Doing otherwise embarrasses you, cheats your officers and jeopardizes the future of your department’s trust.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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