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CNA’s Center for Justice Research and Innovation led an internally funded initiative from October 2020 to September 2021 and conducted case studies of six agencies’ field training officer (FTO) programs. During this assessment, CNA examined common practices and policies that law enforcement agencies use within their field training, such as the qualifications an officer must have to become an FTO, and we assessed the quality and effectiveness of communication between trainers and trainees. In this resource, an agency will learn why the pairing process is important and the different range of pairing methods an agency can implement. 

Field training is often described as the most important stage in an officer’s career. The time spent with a field training officer is vital to the trainee’s career development and helps shapes the culture of an agency. Thus, it is imperative that the trainer-trainee relationship is one which facilitates learning and growth. As stated in the Field Training Officer Impact Assessment: Field Guide, trainers are more often paired with a trainee based on their availability, and less often based on a formalized assessment to measure the compatibility of the trainer-trainee. While some agencies noted their pairing practices were based on availability due to a shortage of training officers, most agencies did complete an informal personality assessment conducted by those in the academy who had been working with the new recruits, prior to them being paired with their trainer. However, as one trainer stated, “…Different trainees need different styles. Some need to watch, some need to do things, and some need to hear things.” One way law enforcement agencies can enhance the learning process, the experience trainees have in their field training program, and eventually ensure quality officers are ending up on the streets is by formalizing the pairing process between their trainees and trainers.

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  • Document Number: IIM-2021-U-030381
  • Publication Date: 10/1/2021