The Street Survival Seminar, Part 1

A behind the scenes look, 1988 – 2000

By Dave Grossi  |   Jan 10, 2018

The Calibre Press Street Survival Seminar continues to inform and inspire American law enforcement. Under the leadership of Jim Glennon, it has been transformed to reflect the realities affecting today’s officers. I highly recommend it, especially to newer officers. It provides the platform on which to build your career.

But my personal, lived experience with Street Survival comes from a prior iteration. See, I was lead instructor from 1988 to 2000. As the lead instructor for a dozen years, it’s my intention to give a little insight into what the students who attended those seminars never got a chance to see—a peak behind the curtain, if you will. In other words, what made those three-day seminars so memorable and thought-provoking?

To simplify matters, and keep the word count down, I’m going to use Wisconsin-based trainer Bob Willis and I as examples. He was the co-instructor I worked with the longest. Also, this piece won’t deal with the seminar content. Although it’s been updated under new ownership, the aim remains true to its roots: presenting up-to-date, relevant officer survival content to American law enforcement.

Day Zero: Travel Day

For us, the day before the seminar was a travel day. The instructors and Calibre’s seminar coordinator (Liz Neary or Jim Crimmins) arrived at least one day before the program began. We’d meet in a connecting city be it Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, or Charlotte, depending on the air carrier we’d be using.  Bob would fly in from Milwaukee, our Calibre coordinator from Chicago, and me from either Rochester, N.Y. or later Ft. Myers, Fla. In a few cases, to keep ticket prices down, we had to leave two days early. Most often the three-day programs ran Tuesday through Thursday, Wednesday through Friday, or sometimes Monday through Wednesday. We’d arrive in the sponsor city the day before, in some cases on a Sunday or even Saturday.

All the advance work was handled by Liz or Jim, and it was a monumental job. Their first task, which actually began months before the seminar date, was to make contact with the individual state POST (Police Officer Standards and Training) boards to make sure our curriculum was POST certified so attendees could get reimbursed for their tuition (and sometimes hotel and meals) expenses. That required the company to send the entire 24-hour curriculum along with the 188-page workbook, and our professional resumes to the 49 individual state POST boards for approval.

Hawaii is the only state that doesn’t have a formal POST board. For those programs, Liz or Jim would send the necessary curriculum and instructor bios to our sponsor, the City of Honolulu PD, whick made it available to the neighboring island police agencies: Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii Counties. Next on their agenda would be to make our flight and hotel reservations, confirm the seminar room set up with the hotel, arrange for a professional screen from a local AV outfit to be delivered to the hotel, and handle the contacts with the sponsoring police agency, most often the department training officer.   

That afternoon, we’d meet with the hotel contact to discuss the room set-up (i.e., classroom seating for the number of attendees who had pre-registered plus potential walk-ins), room temperature, room lighting issues (dim for note-taking, slides and films; full-on for stage demonstrations), product display table, height of the stage we’d be using, visibility of the screen and podium vis-à-vis the seats, location of door security, host introductions, and etc.

Immediately thereafter, Bob and I would bring all the equipment down to the seminar room, usually a huge ballroom capable of handling upwards of 750 or more students. We’d travel with over a dozen large TV/movie-type wheeled cases for the more than 2,000 slides we’d show (contained in 30 slide trays) and more than a dozen massive film reels, a professional sound system with four speakers and stands, numerous extension cords, and rolls of duct tape, plus our own personal teaching equipment. I brought my own firearms and blank rounds in a locked FAA-approved case and Bob traveled with his own DT equipment. Little known is that we’d actually carry two 16mm film projectors and two 35mm slide projectors (both with numerous adjustable lenses) in the event the primaries failed or were broken in transit.

We’d set up the room exactly as it would appear on Day One at 8:00 a.m. Everything was tested: sound system, podium light, film, slides, audio tapes, and room lighting to ensure everything would work perfectly the next morning. All exposed wires were taped down to prevent any accidents. Then we’d break it all down, lock it away in a secure room and retire to our rooms to review any added material specific to the city we’re in.

Bob and I would travel to the Calibre Press, Inc., corporate offices at least twice a year (July and December) to work with the owners (Chuck Remsberg and Denny Anderson) on updating the seminar content. Those skull sessions (Chuck and Denny called them “strategy meetings”) would last two to three days, where decisions would be made on new content, where to insert freeze frames or stop action sequences for teaching points. We’d also discuss new workbook entries, and add new film clips and any new case law that had come down from the Supremes, and assist both owners with issues within our areas of expertise.

More to Come

All of the above just covers getting to the seminar location. In Part Two, we’ll outline the behind-the-scenes work for each of the three days we actually presented the curriculum.

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Dave Grossi
Dave Grossi is a retired police lieutenant from upstate NY now residing in southwest FL. He was the Lead Instructor for the Calibre Press, Inc. Street Survival Seminars from 1988 through 2000.