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January 24, 2012
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Tim Dees Police Tech & Gear
with Tim Dees

Software by DesignPD automates FTO paperwork

Field Training Tracker is a web-based application that duplicates all of the paper forms involved in a properly-run field training and evaluation program (FTEP)

I spent a lot of time as a field training officer (FTO) during an era where we were just starting to use word processors to complete reports. I could write the narrative portion of my Daily Observation Reports (DORs) on the computer, but the finished product would be printed out, paper-clipped to a DOR face sheet completed by hand, and sent through the paper mill to live out its days in a file cabinet. There is a still a huge amount of detail and documentation to a properly-run field training and evaluation program (FTEP), but now there are several software products to automate and streamline the field training documentation process. I recently reviewed Field Training Tracker by DesignPD.

Field Training Tracker is a web-based application that duplicates all of the paper forms involved in an FTEP. There are numerous advantages to running an FTEP on a computer-based platform as opposed to a paper-based system. Field Training Tracker tracks details that are easy to mess up, such as what sequential training day last Thursday was, or how many hours the training team was on duty that day. The program won’t accept forms missing critical details, such as the recruit’s name or the shift assigned, assuming those details are part of the form.

One of the foundations of the San Jose Model of the FTEP is that any unusually low or high ratings must be explained by a narrative comment. It is insufficient to simply say the recruit scored a “one” (on a scale of seven) in personal appearance — the FTO has to document precisely why the score was assigned. There are examples of each score in the FTEP manual, so that ratings remain consistent between FTOs. With Field Training Tracker, an FTO who is unsure if a wrinkled uniform and bad breath merits a score of one or two can click on a help icon next to the rating, and see the examples pop up. This makes for a more consistent training experience and a greater degree of fairness to the recruits.

Creating Reporting Consistency
As with other police incident reports, the important ones aren’t concerned with situations where everything goes well. It’s the times when things go sideways that you need to have your ducks lined up. A recruit who is terminated for poor performance in the FTEP may file a discrimination claim or some other civil action that can be expensive and time-consuming. Field Training Tracker minds the statistics for you, calling up the number of hours and topics of extra training time, incidents where the recruit was documented as not responding to training, and showing whether the episodes took place with a particular FTO or were consistent between trainers.

You can compare any recruit’s performance and remedial training with any others, using tabular data or automatically-produced graphs.

Varying levels of security restrict access to data according to rules established by the program coordinator. A recruit who logs in to the system sees only the reports pertaining to him or her. An FTO can see all of the reports for his or her trainees, plus any other paperwork relating to him, such as feedback reports from recruits who have completed the program. Once a recruit signs off on a report by inputting their password, that report is locked and cannot be changed. This prevents any later accusations of “cooking the books” if a complaint is filed.

Cloud-Based Pricing
Because Field Training Tracker is web-based, the data resides on DesignPD’s servers. Agencies that want to keep copies of records in-house can download PDFs of all reports for printing or archiving on CDs or hard drives.

The program is customizable throughout to accommodate any idiosyncratic wrinkles that an agency may have for their particular program. For example, if a department wanted to add a rating category for care and maintenance of a patrol vehicle, it’s easy enough to insert that into the DOR form along with any supporting details. DesignPD can assist with this, but the software is set up to be user-friendly and not require much help from technical support.

Pricing is on a subscription basis, as the application runs on DesignPD’s servers and is accessed via the web. And whereas other vendors’ products are priced well into five digits, Field Training Tracker is well within the reach of small agencies on a budget. If you’re running your FTEP program (San Jose or other model) on paper or on outmoded software, you should give this vendor a look.

About the author

Tim Dees is a writer, editor, trainer, and former law enforcement officer. After 15 years as a police officer with the Reno Police Department and elsewhere in Northern Nevada, Tim taught criminal justice as a full-time professor and instructor at colleges in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Georgia, and Oregon.

He was also a regional training coordinator for the Oregon Dept. of Public Safety Standards & Training, providing in-service training to 65 criminal justice agencies in central and eastern Oregon.

Tim has written more than 300 articles for nearly every national law enforcement publication in the United States, and is the author of The Truth About Cops, published by Hyperink Press. In 2005, Tim became the first editor-in-chief for Officer.com, moving to the same position for LawOfficer.com at the beginning of 2008. He now writes on applications of technology in law enforcement from his home in SE Washington state.

Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science from San José State University, a master’s degree in criminal justice from The University of Alabama, and the Certified Protection Professional credential from ASIS International. He serves on the executive board of the Public Safety Writers Association.

Dees can be reached at tim.dees@policeone.com.

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