Glen Ellyn-based police training firm: It's not shoot first
Investigating the theft of an $8 bottle of vodka, Jim Glennon suddenly found himself in a gunfight.
Twelve years later, the retired Lombard police lieutenant works to prepare police officers to face similar deadly situations.
Glennon is the owner of a Glen Ellyn-based company that provides training to law enforcement professionals.
"Being a police officer is difficult," Glennon said. "The most difficult part about the job is knowing when to use force, when not to use force. We certainly want police officers to stay safe. More importantly, we want everyone to stay safe."
But the outcry after the fatal shooting in July of a black driver by a Hispanic police officer in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, brought national attention to Glennon's "Bulletproof Warrior" class, one of many training courses offered by his company, Calibre Press.
News articles revealed that Jeronimo Yanez, the St. Anthony Police Department officer who shot and killed Philando Castile during a July 6 traffic stop, had taken a Bulletproof Warrior class taught by Glennon and another instructor.
One news story said the class, which Yanez took in 2014, advised police "to shoot the second they feel they are in danger."
Glennon said the media has grossly misrepresented the teachings of the class.
He said the course -- renamed "Bulletproof" -- is intended to prevent officers from becoming so nervous that they overreact or make mistakes.
Glennon said officers learn during the two-day session about how stress affects their decision making, their ability to communicate, their ability to read people -- and, ultimately, the ability to do their job.
"If you overreact to stress," Glennon said, "you say and do things you shouldn't say and do."
Still, controversy about the program prompted a sheriff's office in California to pull its officers out of a Bulletproof seminar in August.
"Any training we sponsor must align with the values of our office to be peacemakers first and warriors second," Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said in a prepared statement. "Unfortunately, the recently canceled training class was not vetted fully to ensure that it aligned with our departmental values."
The controversy was fueled by reports that the class includes videos of cops being shot. Critics said the training could lead officers to feel threatened all the time.
But St. Paul police Cmdr. Ed Lemon, who has attended multiple Bulletproof sessions, says most critics of the class haven't taken it.
"In no way, shape or form were those classes intended to make people more paranoid," said Lemon, who used be in charge of the St. Paul Police Professional Development Institute. "The idea is the deeper your understanding about what's happening, the more you're able to deal with it because you'll recognize what it is."
Lemon said officers panic or overreact when they don't have proper training and encounter something that's foreign to them.
"Jim's courses are set up to expose you to things that are happening through video and other means so it's not a shock to your senses," Lemon said. "Because if you freeze or overreact, that's when innocent people get hurt. That's when police die."
Glennon got a taste of that danger on Sept. 2, 2004, at a Lombard condominium, when a man who stole a bottle of vodka pulled out a .38-caliber revolver and opened fire.
One of the two police officers with Glennon was shot in the left shoulder -- an injury that ended that officer's career.
After one of the officers returned fire, the man dropped his weapon. The suspect surrendered minutes later and was taken into custody uninjured.
When put in situations where they shouldn't shoot, Glennon said most police officers don't.
"We hesitate," Glennon said. "It's the exact opposite of the way we're being portrayed in the media -- that we're just ready to shoot."