Welcome back. This is our last installation of articles on the 21st Century Field Training Officer. In March of 2016, NAFTO had the opportunity to present this information in classroom form to an audience of some of America’s best Law Enforcement instructors at the annual ILEETA conference in Chicago, Illinois.

The class was well received and I feel that we passed along a lot of valuable information. We also put a lot of nerves to rest regarding some of the very cuurent opinions and editorials being discussed in hallways, break rooms and admin offices inside police department’s nation-wide.

While at first, much of what the 21st Century Task Force has recommended seems new and daunting, the truth is……it is not. Suggestions, theories, concepts and philosophies inside the Final Report are already in practice within field training programs across the country. They may not be easily recognizable at first with new names, but, I assure you that you and your agency are likely already satisfying the task force’s suggestions. If you’re not, here’s what you need to know to get up to speed.

5.13.1 Action Item: The U.S. Department of Justice should support the development of broad Field Training Program standards and training strategies that address changing police culture and organizational procedural justice issues that agencies can adopt and customize to local needs.

A potential model for this is the Police Training Officer program developed by the COPS Office in collaboration with PERF and the Reno (Nevada) Police Department. This problem-based learning strategy used adult learning theory and problem solving tools to encourage new officers to think with a proactive mindset, enabling the identification of and solution to problems within their communities.

Let’s take a closer look at Problem-Based Learning. After reading the manual for the PTO/Reno Model of field training provided by COPS on their website I did a little more research into what Problem-Based Learning is all about. It appears PBL first surfaced within medical schools. That’s not unusual in the training world. Medical schools are often at the forefront of education.

Student doctors were challenged to solve a variety of problems regarding patient care. Medical students knew only two things about the problem. First, they knew what their problem was. Then, they knew what their desired outcome needed to be. The gap between those two points is PBL.

Answers were not directly furnished to the students. Instead, they were encouraged to gather information about both points A and B. They were allowed to collaborate with one another. They were given resources like books, internet, pertinent data, other students, and previous experience of students, doctors and medical cases. After gathering all that information, students were asked to put a plan into action for treatment. They then analyzed the results and considered the outcome. If it was a desired outcome…success! If not…back to the drawing board.

Does your field training program teach PBL methods by the name of OODA or Recognition Primed Decision Making? Does your agency practice Reality Based Training and role-play scenarios? Those are all different approaches to teaching a law enforcement student (trainee) how to problem solve.

Without a doubt, your agency has developed a Community Policing policy or strategy. This reinforces the truth that the community is at the heart of law enforcement. A strong bond between public and police is essential. In training, be sure to include community impact when it comes to critical decision making. As an FTO, when you and your trainee find yourself in the same parking lot for the 100th vehicle burglary, it’s time to deploy long-lasting problem solving ideas that will have a lasting impact on the community. Maybe even prevent the creation of a 101st report for you and your OIT? The fact that law enforcement and community are tightly intertwined is deeply rooted in the Final Report as well as the PTO field training model.

You or your agencies utilize the San Jose Model? No worries, be sure to emphasize community in your training when it comes to PBL and decision making. Article #2 discussed various core competencies that, if included in your training program, will help develop the connection between community and PBL.

I would argue that the model inside which you train is only as good as the people you employ to operate within it. The field training model is an essential tool for structure, uniformity, tracking, and liability. The FTO is essential to the success of the trainee.

When I was supervising our FTO team, one of my trainers found himself responding over-and-over again to an abandoned strip mall in his district. He and his trainees would visit that run down dump nightly for vagrants, vandalism and drug activity. Then the community policing light bulb went on. My trainer made some phone calls, wrote a few letters, and made some convincing arguments. Now, that dump is level ground, nicely landscaped and well it. This was not only a community policing/problem solving success for the department and city; it was a moment to teach PBL to multiple trainees.

NAFTO’s annual conference is up and coming. This year we are in Phoenix, Arizona. The theme for this year’s conference is predominately focused on topics and information made popular with current events in law enforcement. Our goal is to help the FTO gain knowledge and information that will make them a better trainer and better equipped to work within 21st Century expectations. Sessions on use of force considerations will help the patrol officer respond to critical situations. Classes on surviving a hostage situation as a corrections officer will help the officer survive one of the most traumatizing events in detention. This year’s leadership course is specifically designed for trainers in communications. Managing the FTO unit, generational trends, case law studies for trainers, the impact of CIT on law enforcement and classes on documentation and observation are slated to help make your job easier and you a better FTO.

Visit the Conference Page

See you there!

Stay Safe

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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