New Supervisor Field Training Programs…. Why,…. Why not! : Training NEWS
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New Supervisor Field Training Programs…. Why,…. Why not!

by Richard Whitehead on 05/12/15

How many agencies can you think of that have a Field Training Program for their new supervisors, Ten, Two, Zero?  This is an area historically overlooked since the inception of Field Training Programs.  In their absence where does the expected knowledge, experience, and confidence that should equip a supervisor come from?  I am not talking of the skills of leadership but rather the day to day understanding required to fulfill the new supervisory duties such as: answering questions, assigning personnel, scheduling, approving reports, time sheets, and call out notifications, etc.  Typically, this bestowing is assumed through the pinning of stripes that must contain everything they need and acts like a nicotine patch.   How well is this current method working?  With the scrutiny of our agencies being at an all-time high, this would be a good time to review how we train, placing a higher emphasis on our supervisory ranks.


We have had FTO programs for new hires since the 1970’s, why not for the sergeant?  Failure to Train is one of the seven links to civil liability.  Once an officer receives promotion it is normally recommended or required they attend a “new supervisor” course.  Often the focus is on leadership and neglecting the daily burdens of the position only learned through the agency.  Repeatedly, I have seen brand new supervisors show up on their first day left solely to their own devices.  With other supervisors that could, or more importantly should, have been available to mentor them being unavailable for various reasons.  Throwing a new supervisor into this pool is subjecting them to the pain and frustration found in the school of hard knocks, which is costly to the new supervisor, fails the public, troops, and the administration. 

So back to my question of; how many agencies can you think of that have a new supervisor FTP, and why not:  Too hard? Don’t know where to start? Too much work? No one to take the lead?  Any other reason that may be keeping it at bay? 


The answer is; it is not that difficult!  Programs are easily modeled from what we already know, and the department, the community, and most importantly your new supervisors reap the rewards. 

We start with a Job Task Analysis of the position which produces our Performance Categories.  Additional analysis will yield Tasks for the Checklist.  We then build our Daily Observation and subsequent forms based on what is familiar, customized to the new supervisor’s role, and what is left is creating the requisite policy and SOP. 

I have created and witnessed implementation of these programs in other agencies, divisions, and off-line positions as well, such as: Fire/EMS, Communications, Corrections, SWAT, Traffic, etc.

As of this writing, the Post Falls ID Police Department, known for staying on the cutting edge of innovation, has just adopted their “New Sergeant Field Training Program”.  The implementation received high praise from all ranks and I am personally honored to have created it. 

New Supervisor Field Training Programs can be created and implemented in just under two weeks, obtaining your agency specific: Checklist, Forms, Policy and SOP.  This safety net will under-gird the aspiring troop considering promotion, reduce risk and liability cost, and ensure all personnel are trained consistently and thoroughly.

Now is the time to address this deficit to ensure confident, secure, capable supervisors offering stability and reducing risk for our communities!

Comments (2)

1. Thom Dworak said on 5/13/15 - 04:38PM
Reading this brought me back to my first couple of days as a velcro sleeved Sergeant. Thought I killed those memories, and the shakes have subsided. I had a lot of practice as an OIC but it's different and I worked alone for the first 4 weeks after my promotion. Was given a phone, a list of phone numbers and told who to call when there was problem. That was great but nobody answered, so I figured it out on my own. My philosophy became if I screwed up, I would apologize and say I won't do that again.
2. Curtis Exley said on 7/10/15 - 01:35PM
Rick, I just got a chance to read in their entirety your two articles and I like the clarity and thought provoking way in which you projected the information along with the common sense approach to success. FTO programs as you spoke can be a great tool, however we have to be willing to reevaluate and work through our old models with insight and willingness to change. I do believe we are constantly on the cutting edge here at Post Falls and I enjoy learning as well as being part of the development team. I am a great proponent of helping our people to succeed and achieve talents or accomplishments well beyond our greatest feats. It gives me a great sense of pride to be a part of this team. Thanks again for all of your help and support! Lt. Exley Post Falls PD

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Richard Whitehead 
Professional Public Safety Services
& Associates LLC