Once a police officer graduates from the police academy and is hired on with a police department, he or she must complete a minimum of 400 hours of field training in the police department within a minimum of 10 weeks per California POST Field Training Program (FTP) guidelines. The state mandates this requirement and POST evaluates every agency field training program ensuring that key areas are met. The department's Field Training Program (FTP) is set up to expand on the training the police officer receives in the police academy. The police academy is like an apprenticeship and field training is the real life scenarios and applications. The FTP is an evaluation of the officer in training by a trained Field Training Officer (FTO) as they take on various patrol assignments.
The FTP is a structured program designed to give new police officers the skills and knowledge necessary to become effective and competent police officers in the jurisdictions they serve. Field training is advantageous for police agencies because they standardize the training process and allow for documentation of the police officer in training’s progress. FTPs can last for as little as four weeks if an officer is a lateral police officer (experienced from another police department) or as long as six months for entry level officers. This can depend on several different variables, for example, the size of the department, the job responsibilities, and enforcement powers.
For a typical FTP, there are four phases and the curriculum is selected and reviewed by the supervisors in the department and managed and overseen by a FTP sergeant and/or corporal. New police officers are assigned to a field training officer (FTO), who is an experienced police officer who has been selected to fill this position. The FTO is responsible for transitioning a new officer from the police academy or another law enforcement agency to a patrol officer. In addition, an FTO must help acclimate the new officer to the police department’s mission, values, policies, procedures and policing. Field training is considered on-the-job training where the training officer shows real life responses to what was learned in a classroom setting. The FTO monitors and evaluates a new officer in each phase of the FTP.