5 Common Police Field Training Habits that Put Your Agency at Risk

Do you recognize any of the following habits in your field training officer program?

April 24, 2023

Article highlights: 

Police field training prepares new officers to handle the challenges of the job and to uphold your agency's culture, mission, and values. 

However, getting a trainee ready to do the job safely and effectively on their own is a complicated process that relies heavily on the quality of your FTOs and your field training officer program. 

In the following article, we’ll explore five common police field training habits that can undermine the effectiveness of your program and put your agency at risk. We’ll also explore ways you can make sure to recognize these habits and take steps to eliminate them from your agency. 

1. Inefficient documentation processes

Completing police paperwork is a crucial component of police field training. But for FTOs, manual documentation processes can grow so time-consuming that they become little more than burdensome checklists that distract them from providing quality training. 

An inefficient documentation process can also frustrate FTOs by having them spend significant time looking for materials, information, or policies. Without a centralized training system that’s easy to navigate, managing police paperwork can turn into a logistical nightmare. 

Not just time-consuming, manual documentation processes are also error-prone, leaving FTOs more likely to make mistakes that can lead to inaccurate or incomplete records and put your agency at risk. If a lawsuit or IA investigation arises, inefficient documentation processes can leave agency leadership scrambling for weeks to find and gather the proper training documentation.

2. Recency bias and unfair scoring

Trainers often spend hours of overtime at the end of every shift completing reports on their trainee for that day. Completing police paperwork is a necessity, but without a standardized option to provide in-the-moment scoring, trainers can inadvertently bring unfairness into the evaluation process through recency bias. 

When a trainer has to look up what happened in their notes and try to recall details from each scenario, recency bias can kick in and lead to inconsistencies in the evaluation of trainees and the effectiveness of your FTOs. 

Inaccurate assessments of trainees' progress can affect their ability to perform their duties safely and effectively and put your agency at risk. 

3. Inconsistent training

Inconsistent training practices put your agency at risk of liability. When your police field training varies widely by the trainer, trainees end up with different levels of skill and knowledge, creating inconsistencies across your agency. 

Trainers and mentors with decades of experience may decide to teach trainees based on personal experiences rather than following the required curriculum of your FTO program. This approach can cause new standards to be easily missed and open your agency up to liability and reputational damage. 

A lack of agency-wide standardized training also makes it difficult for agency leaders to evaluate the effectiveness of their field training officer program. Without an accurate picture of where to target support, leadership can miss officers having performance issues that put the entire agency at risk. 

4. Lack of visibility and transparency

Agency leadership often don't have visibility into the progress and performance of trainees going through their FTO program. To receive more than sporadic updates, they must manually check in with trainers, who then consult a paper checklist before reporting back. 

One of the main issues with a lack of visibility into trainee performance is that leadership can't identify potential problems in their field training officer program before it's too late. 

Without early identification and intervention, issues regarding training quality or adhering to standards can escalate and put your agency at risk. Trainers may continue to operate in ways inconsistent with agency standards and not adequately prepare trainees to be effective on the job. Often, agency leadership won't hear about potential issues until a trainee exits or an incident occurs. 

Additionally, while trainers know how trainees are doing, they can’t easily measure progress over time or manage the next steps with clarity without a centralized training system in their FTO program. 

5. The program doesn’t evolve

Without access to the correct data, agency leadership can remain unaware of areas needing improvement, leaving your FTO program to repeat outdated practices year after year. This lack of progress can put the agency at risk by reinforcing ineffective training practices. 

Without data on trainer effectiveness, agency leadership can't identify trainers who need improvement until issues arise later. This reactive approach can put both the agency and trainees at risk, potentially leading to poor outcomes and costly lawsuits. 

By identifying each trainer's strengths and weaknesses, agencies can assign trainees based on their areas of expertise, providing trainees with the most effective training possible. With a commitment to ongoing improvement and data-driven decision-making, agencies can create field training programs that produce confident, skilled, and knowledgeable law enforcement officers equipped to serve their communities safely and effectively.

With agencies facing consistently changing policies, standards, and procedures, a centralized training system that gives you the ability to make data-driven improvements is a modern necessity. 

How to avoid these common field training habits at your agency

The quality of your police field training program determines the quality of the officers you produce. The right police training software can be the difference between your FTO program producing prepared and effective officers instead of officers that leave your agency at risk. 

PowerReady, formerly PowerFTO, is police training software that protects your agency by managing, tracking, and proving new role training from one centralized training system. Police paperwork is a necessity, but with PowerReady, it doesn’t have to be a headache. Shift the focus away from tedious documentation processes with easy-to-use software that helps FTOs quickly access and document training while avoiding recency bias and unfair scoring. 

PowerReady simplifies your entire field training process, allowing you to focus on what matters most. Choose your program, (we provide multiple models including San Jose, Reno, Kellams, and more), configure it to your needs, and easily track compliance, trainee progress, and program effectiveness in one centralized training system. You can quickly identify areas where trainees need improvement and provide targeted support to help them succeed. Save time and resources while producing confident, competent employees ready for their new roles.

To discover valuable tips that will help your FTO officers succeed, check out 5 Tips to Set Your Field Training Officers Up for Success.

Learn more

As you start setting up conversations with possible vendors, be sure to connect with our team of experts at PowerDMS by NEOGOV. Our police field training software – PowerReady – could be the perfect fit for your agency. 


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