This is the fourth installment in a series inspired by Kyle Defoor’s “Paying Homage” blog posts. The idea is to look back and think about who has played the biggest role in my development as both a shooter and instructor.
This week, I’d like to recognize my long-time friend Rich Verdi. Rich is a retired police sergeant with more than twenty years on the job. During his tenure, Rich served as a patrol officer and supervisor, leader of his department’s SWAT team, as well as the department’s firearms instructor and rangemaster. I first “met” Rich via the old Beretta-L mailing list (for the kids out there, mailing lists are what we had before online discussion forums; before that there was this thing called rec.guns that was just so 80’s!) where he was always willing to offer his advice and experience with anyone who shared his enthusiasm for shooting.
In fact, it was my association with Rich through Beretta-L that led to us holding a “Beretta-L class” in Pennsylvania. Rich had years of professional firearms teaching experience, and I… didn’t. Nonetheless, he had the same generous sharing attitude toward me as a novice instructor that he had for the students. Whether through direction or just watching him demonstrate his teaching skills in front of students, I probably learned more that weekend than anyone in the class.
The next time I taught with Rich, he had invited me to work with him at an IALEFI (International Assoc. of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors) Annual Conference. That was the first time I ever did a dedicated law enforcement only class, and I was so out of my depth it was funny. Nonetheless, Rich again served as a mentor and an example of how to approach that particular type of student.
Thanks in large part to Rich, I was invited back to the next year’s IALEFI Annual Conference to teach a class. And ironically, it was during this class, teaching by myself, that Rich taught me one of the most important lessons of my teaching career. That first year, I had twenty cops in class and no net to catch me if I fell. Nineteen of the students had very positive comments in their class critiques, but one guy hit me with the “he’s never been a cop so he shouldn’t be teaching cops” bomb. I ran to Rich completely dejected, apologizing for what I was sure would become an embarrassment to him.
And Rich told me to stop being so stupid.
Rich — a career cop and widely respected law enforcement firearms training expert — is the person who really crystalized the importance of gun skills for everyone who uses a gun, and the fact that performing those skills at a high level has nothing to do with what one does for a living. There are tons of things that a cop does differently than a soldier who does things differently from a CCW holder… but when the time comes to point the gun and pull the trigger, those differences become tiny or disappear altogether.
That leads to the other thing that I learned from Rich, something you cannot help but see if you take a class from him: Rich genuinely cares about his students. Taking a class from Rich doesn’t mean you enter and exit his life over the course of a weekend, never to be thought of again. Rich understands that what he’s teaching may some day have a very real impact on your life. He puts 100% into everything he does on the range because he knows some day a student may need that 100% in the blink of an eye.
The virtue of that attitude was made very clear recently. Rich was honored earlier this year by a huge metropolitan police department for his role in training an officer who soon after prevailed in an on-duty gun battle, saving not only his own life but his wounded partner’s as well. That officer, who had been through a number of different classes with Rich, specifically credited Rich and his training for his and his partner’s survival. The email Rich sent me afterwards ended with a statement that sums up Rich’s motivation whenever he is teaching:
“Just in case we forget how important it really is.”
Rich is currently teaching classes around the country through the SIG-Sauer Academy based out of New Hampshire.
For the past decade, Rich has been my example of the very best of what an instructor can and should be. I’m honored to call him a friend, and thrilled that he has shared his experience and knowledge with pistol-training.com readers through the articles and posts he has written.
Thank you, Rich.
(next week the Looking Back series ends with my long time shooting partner SLG)
Train hard & stay safe! ToddG