Selecting a Field Training Officer

Some police departments have a standardized process for the selection of officers for every specialized unit. Often, these departments are larger agencies with collective bargaining agreements in place. However, a lot of departments, especially small to medium-sized agencies, do not have a standardized procedure for appointing field training officers.

A standardized process benefits the department in two ways:

  1. by ensuring the best candidates are selected, and
  2. by enhancing morale as every officer interested in the position can apply, and know the selection process is fair.

Each department must find the process that works for its needs. Many agencies use a process like the one described in this article.

Post the Announcement – A written announcement of the opening of a field training officer position should be posted in the common areas of the department. The use of e-mail to disseminate the announcement is good, but I suggest only supplemental to an actual printed announcement hung in the roll-call room, break rooms, etc.

The announcement should state the job description, eligibility requirements, and compensation. The announcement should require an interested officer to submit an application or letter of interest to the appropriate administrator by a specific date.

Initial Review of Applicants – An initial review of the applications should be made to ensure that every police officer making application for the position meets the minimum requirements. Additionally, information such as prior disciplinary actions against the officer should be noted.

Written Testing – Few departments require a written test for appointment to the field training program. However, a written test can be a valuable tool in identifying which officers have stayed current in case law, department policies, search and seizure, use of force etc. A well written test is also objective, and does not rely on interpretation by evaluators.

Oral Board – An oral interview of the applicants should be done in using a panel or board of evaluators. Use a standard number, and use pre-formatted questions. Each of the evaluators should have a copy of the questions, and instructions on how to score answers.

Glenn F. Kaminsky, in the book The Field Training Concept in Criminal Justice Agencies states that their are three types of questions that should be presented to the candidates during the oral board.

  • Questions to determine job knowledge.
  • Questions to determine attitude, decision making skills, and communication skills.
  • Questions to ascertain the applicant’s reactions to scenarios designed to emulate possible situations a FTO may encounter.

In his book, Kaminsky offers several excellent scenarios to use in an oral board.

Formulation of the Final List – Based on each of the prior steps, each candidate’s application should be scored. The scoring system is largely irrelevant, as long as it is standardized so everyone knows the process beforehand, and all of the applicants are evaluated based on their performance.

Once the scoring is complete, the applicants should be ranked, and the top applicants sent to the appropriate administrator for selection.

This is, of course, just a general outline. If your department does something different, let me hear about it!

Stay safe!

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Richard Johnson is a gun writer, police trainer and really bad joke teller. Check out his other writing on sites like Human Events, The Firearm Blog and Police & Security News.

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