Field training program

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The Field Training and Evaluation Program (FTEP) also known as the Field Training Officer Program (FTOP or FTP) was first designed by the San Jose California Police Department. Over the years this program has evolved and changed as other departments adopted it.


Pre 1960 San Jose had no formal training system. In the early 1960s they participated in a P.O.S.T. (Police Officer's Standardized Training), brief academy, initially utilizing an informal checklist. Lt. Robert Allen proposed an 8-week program in 1972 using the first DOR. In 1973 the program was overhauled and a department psychologist established the one (1) to seven (7) rating scale from ten thousand (10,000) behavioral descriptions from thirty-five hundred (3,500) D.O.R.s (Daily Observation Reports). In 1974 a questionnaire from seventy (70) FTOs established the rating criteria of a one (1), four (4) and seven (7) which was the basis of the Standard Evaluation Guidelines. Since San Jose the program has been modified, most notably by the Houston Police Department in the early 1980s, the Travis County Sheriff's Office in 1992, and the Reno Police Department via a DOJ Grant in the early 2000s. The Travis County Model as developed by then Sgt. Richard Whitehead has been modified and simplified again and is now known as the Whitehead model and affectionately known by its users as the "Common Sense" model. In 2018 Whitehead introduced software for its program users.

Program Orientation[edit]

The most critical time of the FTO program is the first few days. The new job creates stress as a result of change. The FTP is another step in the overall process. The trainee is the FTP key figure. The FTO Sergeant should contact the FTO and trainee once per shift. The San Jose model is a score based model (trainee scored every day during the program) versus Houston and Travis County/Whitehead models which separate Training phases from Evaluation phases, i.e. scoring only occurs during Evaluation.

The Programs[edit]

The San Jose Program should be seventy (70) days and fifty-five (55) D.O.R.s. There are four progressive phases. The D.O.R. is completed each day and the scores are discussed between the FTO and trainee.

  • Phase I consists of five (5) working days and is recorded as limbo time for the trainee. Limbo time does not count against the trainee and allows him/her time to observe his Field Training Officer.
  • Phase II consists of five (5) working days that the trainee will be evaluated by the senior Field Training Officer.
  • Phase III consists of five (5) days of shadow time.
  • Phase IV is divided into three (3) segments consisting of seven working days of which five (5) days require a completed D.O.R.
  • Phase V is the balance of the 365-day probationary period.

Only phases two (2) and three (3) can be extended and only for twenty and five days respectively. A D.O.R. with a rating of one (1) for two (2) consecutive training days will be forwarded immediately to the FTO Commander. The program described above is a base program modeled after the San Jose FTEP. It is important to note that many departments have longer and very restrictive FTE programs. The San Jose is only a base model and many departments develop similar programs with the differences ranging from minimal to the very extensive.

The Houston Program has seven phases: Phase 1–4 are Training Phase 5 is Evaluation Phase 6 is Remedial Training in any Performance Categories FAILED in Phase 5. Phase 7 is Final Evaluation

Training is documented separately from evaluation in 16 Performance Categories. Checklist of required training topics. With lesson plan to be completed per phase. A trainee works at his/her own pace and level upon entering the program and is allowed to complete the entire program minus being a safety hazard. Heavy documentation of actual training performed to include specific strengths and weaknesses. Documentation is completed and reviewed with the trainee daily. Trainers cannot evaluate a trainee they trained. Must go through at least two evaluators for two different opinions of ability. Mandates a Termination Review Committee. Scoring is done on a scale of 1 to 5. All scores are defined. Trainers are trained in two job classifications as either instructors or evaluators.

The Travis County (Whitehead) model is similar to Houston's except scoring is Pass/Fail. Uses 14 performance categories. The documentation is sufficient yet thorough and extremely defendable. Since 1992 it has never had a court challenge.

The Whitehead model ~ Easily implementable and flexible to size of dept. (Length of Program & Phases) ~ 14 Performance Categories. ~ Checklist of required training topics and a per-phase lesson plan. ~ Trainee encouraged to do as much as capable. ~ Training documented separate from Evaluation (Ghost). No scores during training, but mechanisms in place for removal if NRT. (Focus is on training not a score.) ~ When documentation contains specific deficient behavior it must also include the specific remedial training done and the trainee’s response to that training. (Highly acclaimed by program users.) ~ Documentation tracks types of incidents trainee has been exposed to so program managers can make adjustments to call exposure as program progresses. ~ During Evaluation (Ghost) Scoring is Pass / Fail. This critical decision takes at least 2 Evaluators (FTO’s) to determine. ~ Scores are clearly defined. ~ Training Review Committee mandated as part of a Checks and Balance system.

The Whitehead model has been modified and used: New Supervisors, Corrections, Communications, Fire/EMS, SWAT, etc.

Next we will discuss why FTEP programs are valuable.

Value of the FTEP[edit]

The FTEP / FTOP is a court tested and E.E.O.C. consistent program because it is part of the selection process. (Job related tasks) It is a test with the selection process. A good test is both credible and job related.

Legal considerations[edit]

The Commission On Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA), requires that any agencies seeking accreditation must conduct formal field training, as do many state accreditation processes. A good FTOP reduces civil litigation alleging negligent hiring and retention of trainees. It is a cost-effective way of eliminating non-effective, non-productive personnel.

FTO (Field Training Officer)[edit]

The FTO is usually a senior officer within the department that has been trained in the FTP. The FTO's duties consist of training and evaluating the trainee. He is responsible for explaining policy and procedure. He provides orientation to the trainee within their jurisdiction. He encourages self-initiated activity as well as good driving habits. The FTO is responsible for testing the trainee verbally and through written test. He is required to complete, document and discuss the scores from the DOR with the trainee. The FTO must provide remedial training for the trainee if it is necessary.

D.O.R. (Daily Observation Report)[edit]

The San Jose DOR is a sheet that is completed by the FTO and then scored at the end of the shift. The report is scored on a sliding scale between the numbers of 1 and 7. A 1 is unacceptable and a 7 is exceptional. The DOR encompasses 29 grade-able task (performance categories) depending on the departments program. Some of the task include, Appearance, Attitude, Knowledge, Performance and Relationships. Each task category may have several sub-categories.

The Houston DOR's are separated Training/Evaluation. Scoring on a 1–5 scale only occurs during Evaluation Phases. Documentation of the training that is occurring is documented on both.

The Travis County/Whitehead models are similar to Houston and scoring is Pass/Fail. Houston and TCSO use 16 performance categories and Whitehead uses 14.

FTO program use by other professions[edit]

FTO programs (sometimes called FTEP, FTP, probationary program, or other names) are a relatively new concept in Emergency Medical Services (E.M.S.). Many EMS medical directors are mandating a formal orientation process that is more robust and comprehensive than the credentialing process typically seen in hospital organizations. This is particularly true of agencies that perform "High Risk/Low Frequency" skills that are subject to increased scrutiny. As a result, there are a number of EMS agencies who are adapting law enforcement FTO programs to new EMS providers.

EMS programs are unique in that they have both public safety and medical concerns and parameters, and also work dramatically different schedules than normally seen in law enforcement. EMS agencies often struggle to integrate clinical parameters into the law enforcement model of evaluation. As a result, there are significantly more variation in programs than commonly seen in Law Enforcement. That said, agencies that have successfully integrated and developed and FTO program have better retention, performance, and accountability.