I would like to personally thank Detective Janney for answering these questions about Signal 13 Training and what it is they do. I truly appreciate it and I know my readers will enjoy getting an inside look at the world of specialized officer training.
So, let’s get to it!!
Q. I have seen “signal 13” to mean “officer in trouble”, is that where the motivation to start Signal 13 Training came from?
A. Yes, we wanted to have a name that would resonate exclusively with law enforcement. Since a large component of our training is focused on officer survival and tactical lessons, the irony of the literal meaning and the fact that our primary motivation is to assist officers in survival with our training made the name a good fit.
Q. How long has Signal 13 been in business?
A. We started the company in October 2008.
Q. Do you conduct all your classes at your facility?
A. We do not have our own facility. We rely heavily on law enforcement agencies that host our training and allow us to utilize their facilities and firearms ranges. We set a minimum class size and the hosting agency helps advertise the classes to other agencies in their area. When the minimum class size is met we then offer free registration in the class to several members of the host agency. This benefits both sides as it keeps our overhead low and in exchange we are able to offer the hosting agency free training for some of their personnel.
Q. What kind of training opportunities and scenarios can you conduct?
A. We strive to make our scenario based training as realistic as possible. For instance, in our surveillance techniques course we make arrangements with local businesses who allow our role players to commit actual crimes so that the students who are conducting surveillance can witness the behaviors exhibited by offenders before, during and after they commit crimes. This may include shoplifting, drug dealing, auto theft and burglary scenarios, to name a few. We also do quite a bit of “force on force” training utilizing simunitions. Whenever possible we like to incorporate the “real world” into our scenarios.
Q. How do you achieve realism in your scenarios?
A. See the previous answer. Also, we are very selective in who we utilize as role players. We have to have people who are very serious about accomplishing the goal of our training; which is to provide officers with the closest thing to realism a training environment can provide so that they can translate that to the streets. Many of our role players are seasoned plain-clothes officers who have observed all types of crimes in progress.
Q. Your website indicates that you have trained some rather high profile organizations, how do you not let the “Red Tape” associated with having to deal with federal organizations get in the way of delivering critical information and training to the officers in the field?
A. Probably the best thing that has helped with this is that both of us (co-owners of the company) have worked extensively on major cases with just about every federal agency over the past several years. This has given us the opportunity to make great contacts within these agencies because we have “been in the trenches” with them. I think we have each developed a good reputation in the law enforcement community and the training we provide is fairly unique and of a high quality. Being active law enforcement officers who are still doing the things we teach carries a lot of credibility. It is also important to note that with many agencies experiencing severe budget restraints,a fair amount of the people who attend our training pay out of their own pockets because they are dedicated and want to be better at what they do.
Q. If you can, please tell me about one of your more satisfying success stories and what made it so memorable?
A. There are many cases I have had the opportunity to work that come to mind. It’s hard to pick one over the others. Its always satisfying to bring a complex investigation to closure by seizing large amounts of drugs, guns, and money and capturing violent career criminals. But I would have to say the most satisfaction has come from the relationships I have developed with the top notch people I have been privileged to work these cases with.
Looking at some of the courses you offer…
Q. What are the key things that students learn in the informant class?
A. Our philosophy is always safety first so one critical component is understanding who you are dealing with and what is their motivation to help you. We strive to teach our students not to let the aspiration of making a great case overshadow common sense and the ability to recognize warning signs when using informants.
Q. What are some of the challenges inherent when grooming and working with informants?
A. The biggest challenge is that the vast majority of informants are criminals. They are unreliable, manipulative,self serving people who will be assisting you one day and committing crimes again as soon as they have the opportunity.
Q. When working with a particular informant, what do you do if your leverage of charges or incarceration no longer works?
A. There are two ways to approach this. The first is that you gain their respect from the beginning. You make them feel appreciated, you hold them accountable and you let them know that you are a person of your word. This is often enough to persuade them to assist you even after you lose leverage. Besides, many of them realize they will probably be calling on you to help them again in the future. The second approach is being able to sell it to them that you do have leverage over them, whatever that might be. Sometimes its having knowledge of something they have done in the past that can come back to haunt them. Sometimes it might be offering to do them a favor like putting in a good word with a potential employer. It all comes down to being able to talk to people.
Q. Hollywood likes to portray informants as suddenly seeing the light or becoming instant converts to the concepts of law abiding citizens. In the real world do you find this to be the case?
A. On rare occasions. I wish I could say this was the case more often but it simply is not true. Many informants have substance abuse issues that they struggle mightily with. Unfortunately, cooperating with the police does not make that go away.
Q. To follow on that line, they (Hollywood) would have us think that all meets take place one on one in a dark alley. I know that’s not the case, could you” paint us a picture” of a standard meet? Is the officer every truly alone?
A. Meets take place in all kinds of places but usually not as sketchy as the movies make it seem. Locations are usually determined by safety and convenience. Meeting an informant alone is probably not a good idea but it happens sometimes, especially with one whom you have a longstanding working relationship with. Under no circumstances is it acceptable to meet an informant of the opposite sex alone.
Q. What are some of the “tools” that students walk away with from your wiretap class?
A. Wiretaps require a great deal of legal and investigative expertise. The course informs students in both these areas.
Q. How often in surveillance operations do you encounter such problems as the suspect discovering they are being listened to or going to great lengths to defeat wiretaps on the suspicion of it?
A. Any good criminal always thinks they are being listened to or followed. It is up to us to be better than them tactically. To achieve greatness as a surveillance officer is to follow someone who thinks they are being followed without knowing they are being followed by you, if that makes sense.
Q. How do you work around that?
A. I have to be coy here, I don’t think it would be wise to publicize our covert tactics on the internet.
Q. What does it take to run a surveillance operation?
A. TEAMWORK, is the number one criteria. If you can’t work in a team setting and be willing to sacrifice your own well being for the team than you should not be involved. You must be dedicated enough to spend hours upon hours sitting in the freezing cold waiting for the suspect to move; savvy enough to blend in when he does move; and physically and mentally prepared to take action when the time comes. There are many other things that lead to successful operations but these are the essentials.
Q. How do the challenges of conducting surveillance in a rural area differ from those in an urban setting?
A. It all comes down to blending in, wherever you are. Being able to adapt your tactics to meet the challenges different areas present is key. It is important to try to remain one step ahead of the target and try to anticipate their next move. It also helps to utilize whatever resources different geographies present for concealment.
Q. What are some of the “Red Flags” taught in your undercover operations class?
A. Again, I do not want to compromise officer safety by publicizing too much in this sensitive area. But generally speaking, the focus of this course is to teach undercover officers to trust their instincts. Too often officers ignore that sixth sense because they either allow the desire to “make the deal” outweigh their instincts, or they suffer from “it will never happen to me” syndrome. We want our students to constantly ask “why” the bad guy wants the meet to go a certain way. For example, “why that location?” or “Why is his price so cheap?”
Q. What is your UC/informant rescue class like?
A. It involves classroom critiques of shootings involving undercover officers as well as pretty intensive force on force scenario training. A key component of it is providing a tactical plan for rescuing a U/C that will enable a faster and more dynamic reaction, rather than everyone rushing around in a helter skelter like state.
Q. Have you ever needed that type of rescue?
A. Fortunately I have not personally needed to be rescued. I worked undercover for 12 years and made countless undercover buys of drugs and guns. Although there were a few that could have gone bad and many that made my sixth sense kick in, I never had one go really bad. I attribute this partly to good luck and partly to being diligent about my tactics and trusting my instincts. I always kept things in perspective; no amount of drugs, no arrest and certainly no amount of pride is worth getting hurt or killed over. One of our instructors was in such an incident and survived being shot twice. He displayed heroic actions in fighting for his life during the assault and that is what saved him. He gives a very informative and powerful presentation of his incident as part of our U/C survival course.
Again, I would like to say thank you to Det. Janney and Signal 13 Training for taking the time to do this interview! You guys play an important role in officer safety and giving them the tools they need to do their jobs, keep up the good work!
More information, such as class schedules and their full list of courses can be found on their website located here…