I have observed that student officers tend to get easily frazzled with tasks that most field training officers would consider to be routine.  As field training officers we should try to recognize these tasks and develop training to assist the student officers.

For many field training officers one of these simple daily tasks is operating the emergency equipment in our patrol vehicles.  Though this might seem simple enough to the veteran officer, it is not so much for the new officer fresh out of the academy.  I have noticed through the years of training new student officers that this task has not been conducted enough to become a “psycho-motor” skill.  I have seen it all too often where a student officer is driving down the road when an emergency call comes out that requires the officer to activate his or her emergency equipment.  What I’ve noticed is, inherently, the officer will look down at his toggle switches to figure out what to activate.  This is a situation where the officer gets frazzled, which caused them to become stressed.

I was speaking with the president of the national association of field training officers, Sergeant David Harris, about what I have noticed.  Sergeant Harris and I thought that perhaps one way to relieve the stress when conducting the task of simply activating your emergency equipment is to get in several repetitions prior getting out on the road.  My idea was to have the officer look at the emergency toggle switch and activate it 5-10 times.  Then have the officer activate the emergency toggle switch 5-10 times without looking at the switch.  If an officer does this every shift, eventually it will develop into a psycho-motor skill and alleviate some of the stress that comes with the simple task of activating the vehicle’s emergency equipment.

As field training officers we know that to develop a psycho-motor skill we have to complete a certain task approximately 5,000 times.  Therefore, when we are working with our student officers, it is our responsibility to create new training techniques so that the student officer can take a daily task and develop that into a psycho-motor skill.

Field training officers are tasked with taking a new officer out of the academy and making them road ready as a solo officer.  We look at 32 task elements for these new officers.  If field training officers look outside the box while training, then it will make it easier for the student officer to complete the tasks that we rate.  The difference between a good field training officer and a great one is the ability to be creative in training so that the student officer will be successful.

If you have comments or questions regarding this article, please feel free to contact me by phone or email.

Officer Chuck Freeman
Lynnwood Police Department, Washington
Phone:  425.670.5600 or email: cfreeman@ci.lynnwood.wa.us

About Chuck
Chuck has been a field training officer for 16 years. He is a master defensive tactics instructor and a a motor instructor for police motorcycle operations. Chuck’s experience in training and law enforcement provides him with a unique understanding of the importance of repetition in training.

Tags: , , , Last modified: April 5, 2020