Keeping records in check

Electronic field training management gives police agencies a clear view of recruits' potential


     No department can afford to be without some kind of field training program. And while a majority of departments use a type of these programs, not all of them agree on which training — the Field Training Officer (FTO) model or Police Training Officer (PTO) model — is the best fit.

     The FTO model aims at helping post-academy recruits transition to single-officer assignments in a patrol division. It is often referred to as the "San Jose Model," after the first FTO training program at San Jose (California) Police Department in the 1970s.

     Using PTO models, recruits learn skills in community-based policing and problem solving. This model, the "Reno Model," originated at the Reno Police Department in Nevada and was meant to be a replacement for the FTO program, but today operates as an alternative training program. Regardless of which field training is selected, one thing all agencies can agree on is the need to automate how training records are documented, tracked and updated.

Training types

     Typically, the training officers receive from the academy is too minimal to prepare them for real-life work in the field, which is why many agencies immediately enroll new recruits in FTO or PTO programs. These programs are often intense and rigidly structured, rendering manual documentation of completed tasks almost impossible. Fortunately, several software packages are now available to electronically manage these aspects.

     Unlike most field training software makers, Crown Pointe Technologies Inc. of Portland, Oregon, offers software packages for both field training models. According to Charles Lowry, president of Crown Pointe Technologies, even though thousands of agencies design their field training to follow the San Jose FTO model, they ultimately customize training to suit their organization's needs.

     The FTO model is comprised of training tactics, documentations and forms that evaluate a recruit's performance. By the end of the program, recruits must complete skills mastery checklists.

     The PTO model lets officers apply specific skills to their daily performance, and includes a neighborhood familiarization project to teach recruits how to deal effectively with crime and other community issues.

     Although FTO models are more widely used, the PTO model is gaining popularity due to its emphasis on self-evaluation and problem-solving skills.

Self-evaluation

     According to PTO Officer Ben Harvey, one of the intents of the problem-based PTO software is to allow for self-evaluation and reflection among trainees. "Crown Pointe's software causes the recruit to start at the first core competency and write about it. Then it kicks you to the next one."

     Crown Pointe Technologies' PTO system supports six types of PTO documents in a fully automated format, including: Coaching and Training Report, Daily Journal, Neighborhood Portfolio Exercise, Problem-Based Learning Exercises, Mid-Term Evaluation Report and Final Evaluation Report. It will soon offer a Web-based version of both its FTO and PTO systems as well.

     Corvallis (Oregon) Police Lt. Todd Bailey, PTO program manager, appreciates how the software enables him to quickly scan the status of any category of a recruit's progress.

     "I like that I can pull up [information] any time and know where that recruit's at," says Bailey. "I like that I can read recruits' comments [because] self-assessment is critical. If they can't self-evaluate, recruits are going to struggle in this career."

A holistic approach

     According to Richmond (California) Police Sgt. Roger Buhlis, it's important that PTO recruits understand their role in the community in a more holistic mode. Buhlis helped form the nationwide Police Society for Problem-Based Learning (PSPBL). In 2003 PSPBL launched the PTO model with a small band of pilot police agencies, of which the Reno PD and Richmond PD were founding members. This pilot project also included police departments in Lowell, Massachusetts; Savannah, Georgia; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina.

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