Transforming Field Training

How can research knowledge be incorporated into field training?

One area of policing where research knowledge can be incorporated into police practice is field training. Field training is where officers experience, observe, and apply knowledge and skills that they acquired in the academy to practical tasks. It also is the environment in which their initial impressions about good quality police work are formed, where proactive habits can be developed, and where positive attitudes towards problem-solving and assessment could be inculcated.

Toward these goals, this demonstration focuses on how principles from what we know about effective and fair policing might be incorporated into existing process, forms, and activities in a typical field training environment. Working with existing field training processes in an agency, we focus on four types of adjustments:

1. Revisions to the performance grading sheet that field training officers complete to incorporate more evidence-based principles from research knowledge. For example, grading officers on their geographic orientation (how well they know the streets and buildings in their district) might also include grading officers on how well they know the locations of crime concentrations within their beats (reflecting research on hot spots) and what contributes to those concentrations.

2. Amendments to actual tasks required of each trainee. For example, traditional “beat checks” can incorporate ideas from hot spots and problem-oriented policing research. Or, lessons on making arrests can also incorporate research knowledge on focused deterrence strategies. When addressing the community, CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) might be applied.

3. Developing new activities for trainees to provide opportunities to practice the SARA problem-solving model, or that require tangible actions related to a research finding (like foot patrol in hot spots). See the Playbook for more ideas.

4. Modifications to the overall goals, objectives, written lessons and standard operating procedures that trainees must learn during their field training. This may mean including language that reflects evidence-based policing, including proactivity, problem-solving, procedural justice, and intelligence-driven approaches, or including one-page summaries of knowledge about certain types of incidents or police interventions (domestic violence, drug market interventions, field and traffic stops, etc.).