You’ve spent months in what you could call “due diligence.” Extensive testing of both knowledge and physical ability. Our oral boards are designed to get a better understating of the potential candidate. We go over the background line by line. We follow that up with psychological and medical evaluations. Then, even more interviews. Finally, you’re there. You’ve hired your next officer, deputy, trooper, and now, they’re good to go, right? You can hand them a badge, gun, and an eager “go get ’em,” no? Of course not, this new police officer’s journey has only just begun.
On Your Marks, Get Set, Go!
Your recruit will spend the next several weeks in the basic police academy. Learning the theoretical complexities of law enforcement, modern policing, community engagement, defensive tactics, and crisis intervention; buzz words that make up the bedrock of a public safety career. But, the core competencies gained by the new officers hover over the realm of hypothesis. Yes, the police academy can attempt to mimic real-world situations by devising “scenario-based” training, but that has its limitations.
Pretend vs. Real World
The gap between philosophical situations and the real world is vast. This disconnect is why the field training program exists. Through exposure to real-life events, patrol situations, and criminal investigations, the new officer can apply the classroom ideas to real-world problems.
When appropriately designed and implemented, the field training program can significantly improve the recruit’s performance in the field, and boost confidence in their abilities. Ultimately, this level of training will provide a better quality of service to the community and bolster your agency’s efficiency and effectiveness in policing.
So the question then becomes, what does it take to build a robust field training program that will undoubtedly become the foundation that sits upon the bedrock?
Developing a System
William Edwards Deming, a renowned engineer, statistician, and professor, once said, “It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.” Without a system in place, it’s challenging to know what you must do. Create a program, have standards and expectations. Create ways to measure performance, not only for the recruit but for your training officers. Developing a system will make it easier for your training officers to know what to do, and give your recruit officers clear objectives to meet.
For any training program, there needs to be a certain level of consistency; this is more true in the public safety arena. While we’re not building robots, it is important to imprint your agency’s values, methods, and culture onto your recruits. Not only does the training your program provide need to be consistent, so do your field training officers. Make sure they have a full understanding of the expectations as a coach and your results.
A significant advantage to consistency in your training is you can be sure your recruits are compliant with laws, case law, and regulations. Your recruit will understand your agency’s policy and their role within your agency. Knowing where they stand and what is expected of them will build a strong foundation as they better understand their role as a public safety professional.
Now it would be easy to say a key component to a strong training program is making sure recruits are held accountable. In fact, we are held responsible for every action we do or don’t do, so building that mindset from the beginning becomes crucial. But, there are two sides to the training of a new recruit. Holding the field training officer accountable to the expectations of your agency’s training program is equally important.
Building an effective training program is one of the most challenging things an agency faces. For those people and agencies wanting to create a solid field training program, you must have employees engaged in and excited about the process. There is no better statement of success than to have your employees say, “I run this program” and mean it. They own it, believe in it, and even encourage others to join the training cadre.
Evaluating and Adjusting
I’m not saying you have to point out everything that’s wrong with your agency’s training program. What I am saying is you should always be looking for opportunities to grow and better your agency’s training program. Create your own SWOT- examination, what are your training program’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? This type of assessment will make your training program thrive.
- Strengths: are positive qualities that give your field training program an advantage.
- Weaknesses: are critical properties that may be damaging to your field training program.
- Opportunities: are factors that can bring potential benefits to your agency’s training program.
- Threats: are elements that can make a negative contribution to what the ultimate goal of your program should be, training effective solo police officers.
Building a training program that can stand in the face of scrutiny is advantageous to the overall success of your agency’s ability to do effective public safety work. It lays the foundation of performance expectations and will keep your agency healthy throughout the years.
There’s no doubt this takes work and ongoing management, but creating a solid foundation upfront, will undoubtedly make the maintenance considerably more manageable.