The National Association of Field Training Officers has been keeping a close eye on the impact and effects that the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing has had on field training programs nation-wide.

NAFTO fields questions on a regular basis from departments asking for guidance or training in an effort to comply with the task force’s final report. This series of articles is meant to hopefully clarify some matters and share with our members how NAFTO can help support field training programs throughout the country.

The final report from the task force begins speaking about field training with the observations and recommendations below:

5.13 Recommendation: The U.S. Department of Justice should support the development and implementation of improved Field Training Officer programs.

This is critical in terms of changing officer culture. Field Training Officers impart the organizational culture to the newest members. The most com­mon current program, known as the San Jose Model, is more than 40 years old and is not based on current research knowledge of adult learning modalities. In many ways it even conflicts with innovative training strategies that encourage problem-based learning and support organiza­tional procedural justice.

The first sentence of this recommendation is crucial and couldn’t be more accurate. Field training programs have an immediate and long-lasting impact on the culture of the agency. I’m not sure if command level supervisors in hundreds of agencies really understand how true this is. It’s good to see this fact verified by the task force. With that being said, be sure your FTO program trains your FTOs in topics like leadership and ethics on a regular basis.

NAFTO is a training model neutral organization. NAFTO does not make a stand for or against either the San Jose Model or the Reno (PTO) Model. Or any other model that exists in the nation’s training programs for that matter. NAFTO schools can teach FTOs from any department working with any model how to teach, train and mentor.

NAFTO does however support the use of a valid training program that has been tested and is reliable. The San Jose model is still very relevant and useful. As with all systems, models and programs in any business, it’s less about the mechanism and more about the personnel within the system. NAFTO encourages that you incorporate contemporary learning modalities, research, information and training techniques regardless of the training model you deploy. The two most popular models in the nation are both equipped to handle modern learning/teaching philosophies. It is also important to remember that both models present their own very special benefits and their own very unique obstacles.

So what are some current adult learning modalities? The most recent and possibly most popular one is called Compartmentalization. In a nutshell, your FTO program would isolate any issue or job task from all the other challenges you are dealing with. Apply extreme focus on each issue or job task, but only for a short period of time. And then you move forward in incremental steps once you see progress. Once that job task is or compartment is closed, you begin a new one.

There are many theories in regard to a variety of learning cycles. Look up articles and books from David Kolb as well as Honey and Mumford. For a more recent model you can research a concept called ALACT.  These three different philosophies all have a common theme. They base learning off of experience and problem solving. Very much like field training.

So, regardless of whether you use the PTO or SJ model of field training, NAFTO urges you to be sure your program evolves with modern necessities in law enforcement. Consider including topics such as Critical Incident Training (CIT), community policing and emotional health or life stressors. Evolution and change is inevitable, but don’t lose sight of the tactics and techniques that have been a staple of police training for decades. Topics like officer safety, emergency driving, navigation and report writing are still as essential today as ever. Topics such as problem solving, multi-tasking and critical thinking are crucial job skills that are critical to the job and to serving the public.

We hope Part #1 of this series was insightful and helpful. NAFTO schools and classes are developed with all the concepts we spoke of above. Our basic FTO School and the FTO Management course have been developed, in part, with task force and DOJ guidelines in mind. Please contact NAFTO with any questions you may have and stay tuned for additional articles covering the rest of the final report from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Sgt. Dan Greene
Chandler Police Department, AZ
FTO & NAFTO Trainer

Daniel Greene is a Sergeant with the Chandler Police Department in Chandler, AZ.  Dan is presently the Field Training Sergeant. Chandler Police Department employs over 320 police officers.  Read more about Dan.

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