Provide Clear Expectations and Goals
As a field training officer for a medium-sized agency in the United States, I have had the opportunity to train many new police recruits over the years. In today’s law enforcement environment, it can be challenging to find quality police recruits, and the last thing we want to do is compromise our hiring standards. But once we have hired the best candidates, how do we engage and challenge them to serve our communities better? Here are some thoughts:
Provide Clear Expectations and Goals
As field training officers, one of the most important things we do is provide clear expectations and goals for our recruits. These expectations can include outlining the department’s mission and values, as well as the specific duties and responsibilities of a police officer. But it can get even more granular. What are the expectations of our community, and how do we engage with them? What will the agency expect of them in the field training process, and what can they expect? By setting clear expectations and goals, you can help your recruits understand where our agency places the most value and what they need to do to succeed.
Encourage Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills
In today’s complex and rapidly changing world, police officers need strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills. As field training officers, we should encourage our recruits to develop these skills. We can Challenge them with real-life scenarios, constantly running them through combat simulations and urging them to visualize scenarios while en route to the call can foster their ability to think critically about handling each situation best; this will help them become more effective and confident in their role as police officers.
Emphasize the Importance of Communication and Community Engagement
Community engagement is one of the most important things we can do, and it helps foster trust between the community and the police. Police officers are often the first point of contact between the community and law enforcement. As a result, they must be able to communicate effectively and engage with the community in a positive and meaningful way. As a field training officer, you can emphasize the importance of communication and community engagement by providing your recruits opportunities to interact with community members and encouraging them to build positive relationships with the people they serve. This can be as simple as attending a community meeting or taking a few minutes to talk to someone outside doing yard work. Lead by example; if you see an opportunity and it’s not busy, ask the recruit to pull over.
Provide Ongoing Training and Development Opportunities
What makes an agency great is the diversity of interests and skills. Police work is constantly evolving, and police officers must receive ongoing training and development opportunities to stay up-to-date with the latest best practices, techniques, and case law. As a field training officer, you may be unable to provide them access to ongoing training and development opportunities. But, you can encourage them to explore the variety of career paths that are available to them. This can include in-house training programs, workshops, conferences, and opportunities to work with experienced police officers and learn from their expertise.
Foster a Culture of Accountability and Continuous Improvement
Finally, as a field training officer, fostering a culture of accountability and continuous improvement within your department is essential. This means encouraging your recruits to take ownership of their work and continuously seek opportunities for growth and development. By creating a culture of accountability and continuous improvement, you can help your new officers become the best police officers they can be and better serve our community.