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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chiefs criticize Iowa's top police trainer

September 19, 2010
CLARK KAUFFMAN, Des Moines Register

... One police chief has complained that Westfall exposed Iowa's police departments and sheriffs' offices to financial liability by using an uncertified Taser instructor ... In May, Arnolds Park Police Chief Alan Krueger complained to the governor that a Taser-instruction class led by Westfall was a "debacle" and a waste of taxpayer money. Krueger said the class was only half as long as promised and covered the same ground as a separate class officers had to attend the next day ... He wrote: "It appears the only one that benefited was the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy as they were able to charge the cities and counties an extra $100 per attendee." ... Krueger also complained that no one at the academy apologized to Iowa's police chiefs and sheriffs for exposing them to serious financial liability by allegedly using an uncertified Taser instructor ...

Krueger wasn't the only Iowa police chief to complain about Westfall's instruction in Taser usage. In May, Estherville Police Chief Eric Milburn wrote to Westfall and said the officer he sent to the class reported that it was repetitive, redundant and contradictory to accepted training methods. "Your administrative policies, decisions and administrative rules are consistently and continuingly causing conflict between the academy and the Iowa law enforcement community," Milburn wrote. Milburn copied the governor's office on his letter, and also complained to Krukow. "My confidence in the academy is pretty much at an all-time low," Milburn wrote. Culver's staff met with Westfall, who responded to Milburn with a letter assuring him she would continue to work with Iowa officers to provide the best service the academy could offer. In July, Sheriff Warren Wethington of Cedar County complained to Culver that there appeared to be a "severe lack of confidence and respect with Director Westfall."

One of Wethington's deputies, Orville Randolph, complained to the academy council that Westfall "failed to even show up for a class" in one instance, and that her instruction was "rambling and incoherent."

He added, "In my 21 years of experience at the Cedar County Sheriff's Office, I have never seen such open contempt and disrespect for the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy. I believe it is because of only Penny Westfall and it is time for new leadership at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, and it needs to be done NOW."

Westfall told the Register that some of the recent complaints are based on a misunderstanding regarding Hansen's certification as a Taser instructor.

Over the past 14 months, some Iowa officers attended Taser classes taught by Hansen at a time when Hansen was not certified by Taser International. When the company sent out a letter advising police agencies that anyone who attended the classes would not be certified by the company, some police chiefs and sheriffs felt cheated and complained they were being exposed to additional liability by the academy.

Westfall wrote to the Register that a Taser-certified instructor was present for the classes taught by Hansen and the officers who attended those classes were later able to take an online course and become certified by the company.

State records show Hansen's teaching methods were being questioned as far back as 2006.

Three years ago, Taser International faulted Hansen for failing to follow the company's approved lesson plan, and it recommended that Hansen refrain from teaching any additional classes on the Taser. According to the company's vice president of training, Rich Guilbault, Hansen was apologetic and promised to do better.

But the company concluded in 2008 that Hansen was teaching an unauthorized, abbreviated course on Taser use, and asked him to refrain from teaching any more Taser classes. According to the company, Hansen didn't respond.

Earlier this year, Guilbault wrote to Westfall and expressed his concerns.

"As I understand it, Mr. Hansen has arranged it so he is the only person who can certify Taser instructors in the state of Iowa," Guilbault wrote. "I find this information, if true, disturbing in itself as it indicates he is more concerned with his own authority than with the welfare of the officers of Iowa."

Although he declined to answer any questions from the Register, Hansen said in a statement: "I've never instructed a class I was not properly certified and trained in. I hope and pray that my legacy will be that I sincerely cared for every officer that I've ever taught."

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