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Monique JenkinsJessica DockstaderSharon OsterThomas WoodmanseeMary O’Connor
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Though effective training is an important part of all professions, it is especially crucial for those that include high levels of stress and life-or-death situations—like law enforcement. Accordingly, law enforcement agencies spend considerable time and resources on training—paying recruits to attend police academies, managing field-training programs, ensuring the resources and equipment needed to conduct in-service trainings along with sending staff or soliciting experts for external trainings. Field training is often described as the most important stage in an officer’s career; Time spent with a field training officer (FTO) is vital to a trainee’s career development and helps shapes the culture of an agency.

Recently, American policing has seen a shift in its public perception as a result of highly publicized officerinvolved use of force incidents. Some of the involved officers have been field training officers. Research shows that trainees’ behavior is directly correlated to the field training they receive, with FTOs having a statistically significant effect on subsequent allegations of misconduct brought against trainees. Further, a gap in research exists surrounding the effectiveness of field training practices, the impact of a field training officer on the recruit’s retention of academy knowledge, and the processes by which departments select and recruit FTOs. This gap has led to a lack of standardization among law enforcement agencies on these topics. Despite the importance of police officer training, a common saying that trainees hear is “forget what you learned in the academy—the real learning begins now,” signifying the disconnect between classroom lessons and the real-world setting.

CNA’s Center for Justice Research and Innovation seeks to further explore police field training programs 
around the country in an effort to highlight promising practices, identify areas for improvement, and promote information sharing. The research team recruited six agencies for a case study to answer the following questions:

  • Are participating law enforcement agencies using similar processes and procedures for their field training programs?
  • Are there common qualifications and standards across participating law enforcement agencies that an officer must meet in order to become a field training officer?
  • Are there common qualifications, experiences, performance standards, and accountability measures that officers must demonstrate in order to remain a field training officer in participating agencies?
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  • Pages: 50
  • Document Number: IIM-2021-U-030190
  • Publication Date: 10/4/2021