By Beaver, Richard W.
The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin , Vol. 75, No. 9
If everybody is thinking alike, somebody isn't thinking. (1) --General George S. Patton
Field training administrators would do well to heed General Patton's advice. After all, they must fulfill many roles to ensure that the newly appointed recruits in their agencies receive the best coaching from the highest caliber law enforcement officers available. These administrators face a variety of challenges, including maintaining the integrity of the field training program, overseeing their trainers, and selecting the appropriate personnel to fill these positions. Such responsibilities require a great deal of thought, flexibility, and creativity for administrators to effectively lead such a crucial component of any law enforcement organization.
MAINTAINING PROGRAM INTEGRITY
Effective administrators have many issues to consider when implementing or revising a field training program. A strong, integral, and cohesive operation requires a solid foundation. When implementing a new program, it is worth the extra time and effort it takes to build a stable base. If an enterprise is put together too quickly, it may have too many holes that then will take a lot of time to fill. A strong foundation includes a well-designed field training manual, written objectives, standardized evaluation guidelines, motivated field training officers, and leaders willing to keep the program up-to-date and to never compromise its integrity. Such administrators prove invaluable because the worst enemy of a strong field training program is complacency, a disease that will put every area of the venture at risk. It will eat away at the foundation, making even the strongest program too weak to be effective. If the administrators become infected, everyone down to the newest recruit also will succumb to the illness.
Most agencies have a training program in place, but it may need revising. This can pose a sometimes difficult, but not impossible, task. It may involve reassigning personnel, appointing line-level officers to a committee for brainstorming, or completely dissolving the present program, which may sound like a major undertaking but may prove the best option if existing problems continually reoccur. While dealing with current complications makes revising the program a bit more difficult, the extent of these obstacles should determine which option will best suit the needs of the organization. Whichever one an agency chooses should allow the administrator the greatest flexibility in eliminating past problems and addressing future ones before they arise.
Finally, to ensure the integrity of the program, administrators should periodically review their manuals regarding changes in law, procedures, and training issues. A field training manual functions under the same principle as a standard operating procedure handbook: it needs constant updating and revising. The field manual is a working document that administrators cannot neglect if it is to remain an effective instrument. They should keep the words update and eliminate firmly in mind, updating new issues and revising those that need changing and eliminating outdated concerns or those no longer needed.
OVERSEEING FIELD TRAINING OFFICERS
Of all the roles field training administrators must fulfill, overseeing their field training officers (FTOs) ranks among the most important. Serving as an example of effective leadership and ensuring that recruits receive proper training can prove extremely challenging.
Train the Trainers
FTOs should attend an accredited field training officer course and first-line supervisor school as soon as possible. Such instruction will give them a foundation to begin building on and a working knowledge of what to apply. Administrators within their agencies will give FTOs direction on how to apply those acquired skills. This helps FTOs understand what is expected of them, which, in turn, helps them explain to recruits what they expect of these new officers. …