Field Training & Evaluation Program

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This directive is for internal use only and does not enlarge an employee’s civil liability in any way. The directive should not be construed as creating a higher duty of care, in an evidentiary sense, with respect to third party civil claims against employees. Violations of this directive, if proven, can only form the basis of a complaint by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office for non-judicial administrative action in accordance with the rules and laws governing employee discipline.
DIRECTIVE TYPE: POLICY SUBJECT: Field Training & Evaluation Program NUMBER: TRNG-700.00
APPROVED BY: Sheriff Ken Christesen EFFECTIVE DATE: 5/21/2017
NMLEA STANDARDS: TRN.01.01 – TRN.01.02 LAST MODIFIED: 4/11/2017 LAST REVIEW: 4/11/2017


PURPOSE:


This policy provides personnel involved with field training the guidelines needed to maintain a successful training process that is both effective and defendable.


POLICY:


In preparing trainees to perform the essential duties of a deputy, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office maintains a Field Training and Evaluation Program (FTEP) that is consistent with the agency’s mission and values. In order to build a foundation that will serve as a basis for future success, field training personnel will make every reasonable attempt to provide an environment for trainees to succeed. The FTEP supports the concept of placing only qualified persons in positions of authority.


DEFINITIONS:


The following definitions shall apply for the purposes of this policy:


  • Daily Observation Report (DOR) – A documentation system used by field training officers to record a trainee’s performance for each day worked.


  • Field Training Officer (FTO) – Deputies holding the rank of corporal who train new or less experienced deputies. FTOs must have successfully completed an FTO course of instruction.


  • FTEP Coordinator – The administrative sergeant; responsible for the field training and evaluation program to include overseeing the performance of field training officers and trainees.


  • Trainee – An entry-level deputy who is newly out of the basic police academy or a lateral deputy whose law enforcement experience may vary.


PROCEDURE:


CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS (TRN.01.01 (A – D))


Any person hired as a deputy sheriff who is not a certified peace officer in the State of New Mexico or any other state, must successfully complete a New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy basic training program hosted by the New Mexico Department of Public Safety (NMDPS) or an accredited satellite academy prior to being placed in the FTEP.


Pursuant to 29-7-2 NMSA 1978, the NMDPS Law Enforcement Academy is responsible for the development and implementation of a planned program of basic law enforcement training for police officers. The Sheriff’s Office relies on this program to:


  • Be based on tasks of the most frequent assignments of deputies who complete the training;
  • Utilize evaluation techniques designed to measure competency in the required skills, knowledge, and abilities; and
  • Comply with all state training mandates and all applicable legal requirements relevant to law enforcement.


The Sheriff’s Office has entered into a joint powers agreement for law enforcement training through the San Juan County Criminal Justice Training Authority (SJCCJTA). The purpose of this agreement is to more effectively and efficiently provide training for law enforcement officers in San Juan County. SJCCJTA is an accredited satellite academy through the Department of Public Safety and utilizes the basic police academy curriculum developed by NMDPS.


In the event the basic academy curriculum is failing to meet the standards listed above, the Sheriff’s Office will be notified and consultation made with NMDPS.


Depending upon financial and staffing considerations, the Sheriff’s Office may assign personnel to the SJCCJTA for training or administrative purposes.


Any person hired as a deputy sheriff who meets the requirements of certification by waiver (NMAC 10.29.6.8 – 10.29.6.11), may work as a deputy for up to twelve months from their date of hire before attaining New Mexico peace officer certification (29-7-6(B) NMSA 1978) provided that they first successfully complete the Sheriff’s Office FTEP.


PRE & POST ACADEMY TRAINING


Prior to entering the basic police academy, entry level trainees will attend a formal pre-academy training session. The curriculum of this training will be established under the supervision of the administrative lieutenant and should focus on areas such as:


  • Employment considerations (time cards, sick leave, standards of conduct, etc.);
  • Sheriff’s Office orientation;
  • Equipment issue;
  • Initial policy review;
  • Academy expectations; and
  • Other classes as deemed necessary.


After successfully completing the basic police academy, entry level trainees will attend a formal post-academy training session. The curriculum of this training will be established under the supervision of the administrative lieutenant and should focus on areas such as:


  • Swearing In;
  • Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures;
  • Equipment issue;
  • Information technology training;
  • Field training expectations; and
  • Other classes as deemed necessary.


FIELD TRAINING – GENERAL (TRN.01.02 (D & F))


In pursuit of professionalism and continuous quality improvement, the Sheriff’s Office has developed a performance based training program to prepare entry level and lateral deputies to perform essential functions. All new deputies must successfully complete this program before being authorized to work independently.


While the program has integrated timeframes to set minimum standards, more emphasis is placed on trainee performance rather than time. Utilizing a performance based system ensures that each new deputy has a baseline of experience when released on their own. Performance is tracked by utilizing a set of proficiency standards.


A core component of the training program is the transition, based on trainee progress, from training to evaluation. As the trainee advances, less time is spent on training and more time spent on observation.


An important aspect of the field training program is communication between the Sheriff’s Office and the SJCCJTA. Feedback from the program to the academy regarding patterns of errors amongst trainees allows for the inspection and correction of academy curriculum and/or instructional methods.


Trainees active in field training are not eligible for overtime opportunities or secondary employment. Trainees who are enlisted in the National Guard or US Military Reserves are encouraged to make any arrangements possible to reduce interruptions to their training with the Sheriff’s Office. However, if arrangements cannot be made, leave to attend scheduled drills or annual training will not be denied. Trainees should be aware that any absence may require their training time to be extended.


FIELD TRAINING - ORGANIZATION


The FTEP is managed by the FTEP coordinator who reports to the administrative lieutenant. FTEP coordinator duties include:


  • Assignment of trainees to FTOs;
  • Provide oversight of trainee progress and notify command staff of such and/or any problems with individual trainees, FTOs, or the program in general;
  • Maintain all program documentation;
  • Review daily observation reports (DORs);
  • Coordinate meetings to discuss trainee progress and program concerns; and
  • Act as a liaison with SJCCJTA staff to keep FTOs aware of curriculum changes and specific problems with trainees during the basic academy.


For day-to-day operations, FTOs are immediately responsible to their patrol supervisor. It is the responsibility of the FTO to relay any issue regarding a trainee to the patrol supervisor and the FTEP coordinator. Patrol supervisors who have trainees assigned to an FTO on their shift are responsible for:


  • Ensuring that the FTO is completing and submitting the required documentation;
  • Reviewing and forwarding DORs to the FTEP coordinator;
  • Monitoring the FTO/trainee relationship to ensure a professional training environment is being maintained;
  • Handling any personnel or disciplinary issues in accordance with Sheriff’s Office policies; and
  • Making recommendations to the FTEP coordinator concerning the reassignment of a trainee or remedial training suggestions.


Throughout the training program, the trainee’s assigned FTO is their direct supervisor. Any patrol related issue a trainee may have should be routed through their FTO. In the event a trainee has a concern or issue regarding their training, he or she should first seek assistance from their FTO. If the FTO is not reachable and the issue is time sensitive, the trainee may contact the FTEP coordinator for guidance.


FIELD TRAINING – STRUCTURE (TRN.01.02 (A))


Field training for entry level trainees will last for a minimum of 15 weeks and may be extended by the administrative lieutenant when required.


Field training for lateral trainees will last for a minimum of 5 weeks. Typically, laterals originating from a local agency will be able to complete the program requirements within this 5 week time frame while laterals from outside the area may take up to 15 weeks or more depending on experience. Extensions of the program may be made by the administrative lieutenant. Laterals with academy-only experience should be placed in the 15 week entry level program.


The FTEP is broken down by phases with each phase being conducted by a different FTO. The general outline is as follows:


  • Entry Level Trainees
    • Phase 1 – 1 week observation only & 4 weeks training/evaluation
    • Phase 2 – 4 weeks training/evaluation (first day is observation only)
    • Phase 3 – 4 weeks training/evaluation (first day is observation only)
    • Phase 4 – 2 weeks evaluation only


  • Lateral Trainees
    • Phase 1 – 2 weeks minimum training/evaluation (first day is observation only)
    • Phase 2 – 2 weeks minimum training/evaluation (first day is observation only)
    • Phase 3 – Utilized on an as-needed basis
    • Phase 4 – 1 week minimum evaluation only


PHASE TESTING


Prior to proceeding to the next phase of training or being released from the program, trainees must complete an end-of-phase test. These are designed to test the trainee’s knowledge in areas such as procedures, search and seizure, policies, etc. Once completed, these tests are maintained by the FTEP coordinator as part of the training record.


The minimum passing score for each exam is an 80%. Trainees who fail an end-of-phase test will be extended on that phase for one week and allowed to re-test at the end of the extension. Multiple failures of the same test may be grounds for removal from the program and termination from employment.


Prior to being permitted to drive a county-owned vehicle, trainees must complete a written driving test. This test covers critical elements found in the Sheriff’s Office policies on driving, responding to calls, and pursuits. Entry level trainees may not begin driving until week 3 of phase 1 (this includes the first week of observation), and lateral trainees may not begin driving until week 2 of phase 1.


The FTEP coordinator may adjust the end-of-phase test times for a lateral trainee on an abbreviated program; e.g., completing end-of-phase 1 and 2 tests prior to being released from phase 1.


PROFICIENCY STANDARDS


A key requirement of the training program is the proficiency standards required for both entry level and lateral trainees. Use of the proficiency standards ensures that each trainee has been exposed to the core elements of patrol prior to being released on their own. FTOs may not sign off on a proficiency standard unless the trainee has shown reasonable competence with the task.


Due to the unpredictable nature of calls for service, the proficiency standards are not based on phases. It is the responsibility of each FTO to ensure that an adequate amount of proficiency standards are being addressed in each phase. It is also their responsibility to review which proficiency standards have been accomplished when receiving a new trainee to evaluate individual training needs.


To successfully complete the training program, trainees must complete all of the proficiency standards. Lateral trainees may have certain proficiency standards waived or the required frequencies adjusted by the FTEP coordinator when their experience and field performance support such. This modification is usually reserved for laterals coming from a local agency or trainees who previously worked for the Sheriff’s Office.


EVALUATION-ONLY PHASE


The evaluation-only phase will be conducted by an FTO who was not assigned to a previous phase with the trainee. This allows for an impartial evaluation of the trainee’s abilities to determine if he or she has achieved the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to work independently.


During the evaluation-only phase, FTOs will allow the trainee to perform on their own, intervening only to prevent unlawful, unsafe, or unethical acts.


FTOs assigned to an evaluation-only phase will wear conservative casual business clothing with concealed body armor, a duty firearm, at least two spare ammunition sources, handcuffs, radio, badge, and any other equipment deemed necessary to enable them to take law enforcement action if necessary.


FIELD TRAINING – DOCUMENTATION (TRN.01.02 (G & H))


To provide immediate feedback regarding performance, trainees will be rated at the end of each work day on a daily observation report (DOR). This applies to all phases, including the observation only period. FTOs should utilize the standardized evaluation guidelines provided with the DOR to determine the appropriate score. Scoring should be done in an objective manner and without bias. In the event an FTO is unable to complete a DOR by the end of the work day, the patrol supervisor will be notified and the DOR must be completed at the beginning of the next work day.


Scored DORs are not required on observation only days but should be completed to reflect that the day was observation only. Comments should be placed in the DOR regarding any positive or negative behavior, comments, attitude, etc.


Anytime a trainee is absent for a training day (e.g., illness, attending training, etc.), a DOR should be completed to maintain an accurate training log. In these cases, the DOR should be filled out as completely as possible to document any and all performance.


Once completed, the DOR must be reviewed with, and signed by, the trainee. The DOR will then be forwarded to the patrol sergeant who must review and acknowledge it by signing before being forwarded to the FTEP coordinator.


Documentation of a trainee’s performance must be specific and have factual data to support the ratings. The rating system and comment requirement utilized by the Sheriff’s Office is as follows:


  • “1” – Unacceptable: Comments Required
  • “2” – Needs Improvement: Comments Required
  • “3” – Meets Basic Requirements: Comments Optional
  • “4” – Solid Performer: Comments Optional
  • “5” – Superior: Comments Required


FTOs must have additional documentation noted on the DOR for ratings of “1” or “2” as to what remedial training was provided and the length of time remedial training was conducted.


In the event a trainee is not responding to training, the FTO should indicate this on the DOR.


DORs will be treated as sensitive personnel reports and should not be shared with anyone except the trainee and those in a position needing to know.


Once a trainee has successfully completed the field training program, the FTO assigned to the observation only phase will complete an FTEP Exit Evaluation. This evaluation mirrors the End of Shift Evaluations used by patrol sergeants and will be based on the observed work of the trainee over the time spent in observation. Ratings will be based off the expected job knowledge of a one year deputy. Once completed, this evaluation will be given to the FTEP coordinator who, after reviewing and signing, will forward it to a patrol division lieutenant.


INCIDENT REPORTS


Trainees should write “ghost reports” during the initial part of their training. The FTO will review the ghost report and provide feedback as necessary. Trainees should not write official incident reports until their ghost reports are at a satisfactory level. Once a trainee begins to write official incident reports, the FTO will carefully review the entire document and sign the bottom of each narrative.


During the evaluation only phase, FTOs will review a trainee’s reports prior to supervisor submission to enable accurate ratings on the DOR. Reports that contain errors or incomplete fields should be allowed to proceed to the sergeant for supervisory kickback. FTOs should notify a sergeant when this occurs. If a report is time sensitive, and the possibility exists that a sergeant may not be able to review it, the FTO is authorized to kick the report back for corrections before submission.


FTOs will not sign the bottom of a narrative they review during the evaluation only phase.


TRAINEE PROGRESS RECOMMENDATIONS


All progress recommendations for a trainee are made based on observed performance and the trainee’s demonstrated abilities or failures to respond to training.


Recommendations by an FTO for a trainee to progress to the next phase in the program will be made to, and approved by, the FTEP coordinator.


Training in any phase may be extended to allow trainees additional time to become proficient in necessary tasks. Trainees are not guaranteed the right to a training extension. Extensions should not be viewed as punishment, but rather as an opportunity to succeed.


Recommendations for a trainee to be extended in a phase will be reviewed by the administrative lieutenant who will decide whether or not to grant the extension based on the trainee’s performance and attitude.


If an extension is granted, an actionable plan will be created and documented. It is strongly recommended that a performance interview be conducted between the FTEP coordinator, the FTO, and the trainee to obtain a personal assessment of strengths and weaknesses, any possible obstacle that may be causing the delayed learning, and to clearly define expectations and those areas where improvement is needed. Documentation of trainee progress should be provided by the FTO to the FTEP coordinator on a weekly basis until the conclusion of the extension.


Upon successful completion of the program, the FTEP coordinator will forward a memorandum to the Sheriff and Undersheriff stating that all requirements have been met.


TERMINATION


Recommendations for termination will be carefully reviewed and confirmed by the administrative lieutenant. Once confirmed, the administrative lieutenant will forward a memorandum through the chain of command to the Sheriff. This memorandum should explain the reasons termination is recommended and contain all supporting documentation such as the trainee’s strengths, weaknesses, improvement or lack of improvement, and the remedial efforts provided. This may occur at any time during the program.


PROGRAM AND FTO CRITIQUES


At the completion of each training phase, trainees will complete an FTO critique. These critiques should be reviewed by the FTEP coordinator and the FTO. Critiques are completed to allow FTOs the opportunity to improve their teaching styles.


At the completion of the program, all trainees will complete a program critique to rate their experiences in training. These critiques will be reviewed by the FTEP coordinator and administrative lieutenant to make improvements to the overall program.


FIELD TRAINING OFFICERS (TRN.01.02 (B, C & E))


The position of FTO carries with it a heavy responsibility as their actions and mentoring directs and defines the agency’s future. For this reason, the Sheriff’s Office is committed to only placing the most qualified persons in these positions. FTOs typically hold the rank of corporal; however, the FTEP coordinator may utilize a deputy who has completed an approved field training school as an FTO to meet field training needs only. Deputies fulfilling this role will not be utilized in a supervisory capacity on shift as a corporal would.


As detailed in the Sheriff’s Office Specialized Positions Policy, an assessment will be conducted to promote deputies to the position of corporal. This process includes:


  • Written test;
  • Critical incident management exercise;
  • Interview panel/performance review; and
  • Staff review.


To be eligible for the position, a deputy must:


  • Have a minimum of three years with the Sheriff’s Office from their date of hire or a minimum of three years law enforcement experience and completed their probationary status;
  • Be current on all required training; and
  • Not have had any discipline of a suspension or greater for one year prior to the assessment deadline.


FTO TRAINING


All corporals will be required to successfully complete an approved field training school prior to actively training new deputies. Additionally, due to the supervisory nature of their position, corporals should complete a first line supervisor class within one year of their selection.


Each FTO will be required to successfully complete a biennial refresher training focusing on the field training process and supervision. This refresher may be an in-house curriculum developed by the Sheriff’s Office. Furthermore, any FTO who has had a lapse in assignment as an FTO for one year or more must complete this refresher training prior to being assigned a trainee.


FTO/TRAINEE RELATIONSHIP


The relationship between an FTO and a trainee is of a professional nature. FTOs will not fraternize with a trainee during off-duty hours while the trainee is active in the program.


CROSS REFERENCES:


  1. Academy established [29-7-2 NMSA 1978]
  2. 2011 Amended and Restated Joint Powers Agreement for Law Enforcement Training
  3. NMAC 10.29.6.8 – 10.29.6.11 “Certification by Waiver”
  4. Qualifications for certification [29-7-6 NMSA 1976]
  5. SJCSO Policy ADMN-109 “Specialized Positions”