As a trainer it is not your job to weed people out. It is your job to teach them, train them, coach them, mentor them, develop them, inspire them and be a role model for them.
Think of this as a multi phase gardening project with the goal being to grow a healthy, competent, confident, professional law enforcement officer. This is a 20 to 40 year project from pre-hire to retire.
The first phase is to work collectively to generate a pool of applicants for your agency who possess the traits and characteristics consistent with your agency’s Mission, Vision and Values and are interested in exploring a career in law enforcement.
In the next phase it is Human Resource’s job to weed through the candidates and applicants and utilizing the selection process in your agency, identify the people best suited at that time (some may need more development) to fill the needs of the agency and then plant those ‘seeds’ into the allotted spaces in the Academy.
The next phase is where Academy trainers come in. It is your job to create an environment that is most conducive for those newly planted seeds to learn, grow and develop. It is your job in this stage to apply the science and evidence on how people best learn to teach, coach and facilitate learning in a manner most conducive to learning, retention and recall. It is your job to train them for critical thinking, not just compliance. In an Academy there may be a few of the good people who were hired who discover they are not a good fit for the profession, or not a good fit for your agency and there will be people who, despite the best efforts of the training cadre, will fail to meet the required standards and will not graduate.
Field Training is the next phase where those who graduate the Academy ideally would be teamed up with someone who is there to teach, coach, mentor and serve as a positive role model. It is the job of the FTO / PTO to help the new officer learn how to apply what they learned in the Academy to the real world in the field. The job of the FTO / PTO in this phase should be to teach, train, coach and develop critical thinking and decision making skills, not to evaluate the new officer.
The next phase is the Evaluation phase where the officer who has successfully completed their FTO / PTO phase is evaluated on their ability to perform as a competent solo officer. This should take place over a series of weeks with a number of different trained evaluators.
Following successful completion of the Evaluation phase the new officer would ideally enter into a number of additional phases of learning and growth, which will continue throughout the rest of their careers. They have a responsibility in their learning, growth and development, as they do throughout all the phases. In-service trainers, supervisors and brother and sister officers also play important roles in these ongoing developmental phases.
It bothers me when I hear Academy trainers talk about using a variety of strategies to try and “weed people out” in the early stages of the Academy. That is not your job. Your job is to teach, coach, train, mentor and develop the people who have been hired. If everyone does their job in every phase of an officer’s career we will have competent, confident, healthy, professional people in our agencies, and our profession who will also be well positioned and prepared to move into the next phase of their life after their career in law enforcement ends.
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