As field training officers we have training expectations and we have training standards.  Can both of these be achieved simultaneously?

Recently, I spent some time in Salt Lake City, Utah with about 50 fantastic Field Training Supervisors. I was there for the NAFTO 2 day FTO Management class. During Day 1 we got carried away with a great conversation about the difference between meeting our training standards and meeting our training expectations.

You see, these are two very different concepts and our student officers will likely meet them both, and maybe even at the same time. Let me explain.

A new employee in the FTO program has a high standard to reach. Well, I mean they have a “minimal standard” to reach. For you, me and the FTO, those standards are rather low. However, from the student’s perception those standards are set rather high. It can be very intimidating to feel so far away from your desired goal of solo status. The standard(s) that most of us have set for our new employee to reach upon graduation is known as “First Day Solo Capable”.  In other words, they will possess the bare minimum skills sets to manage their first day alone on the street, in the corrections center or wearing the headset for communications.  No more Field Training. The newly graduated officer now looks to mentors, peers and supervisors for assistance and guidance.

However, beginning on Day 1 of training, they are usually nowhere near our standard. Our new officers will hit the streets with trainers connected at their hip. Young professionals absorbing information and experience like a sponge being filled from a fire hose. Their own personal performance will clearly be sub-standard. But this is actually encouraging. Here is where the trainer becomes motivator. You see, even though they do not meet graduation standards, they do meet our expectations. What else did we expect for Day 1 or Week 2 or Week 5 of their law enforcement career? The fact that they have struggled and stumbled and tripped should be no surprise to the educator. It should actually be a positive moment. To the Field Training Officer, every learning moment for the student is a teaching moment. This is a moment for the trainer to shine and make improvements. The gap between meeting expectation and meeting standards is where field training lives and thrives.

This can also be a calming idea for the new officer. We can tell them clearly, “No, you are not solo capable yet, but, you are right where we expected you to be.” Now, the student understands that they are not alone in the boat. Others have struggled like they currently do. They understand that the Field Training Officer is not overwhelmed or overreacting to their performance. They also know this is only their baseline. Correction, training, and improvement is on the way. There’s only one way to go from here……up.

One final word of warning to trainers. Meeting our expectations does not equal a “4” (for our San Jose trainers). The student’s performance will still likely be a sub-par rating compared to FDSC. But the longer they train and the more they improve, meeting our expectations will look more and more like meeting our standards.

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.  Dan is also a recipient of the 2017 ILEETA Trainer of the Year award. Read more about Dan…

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