group 1 SMALLOfficers from the Benton and Bryant police departments, along with deputies from the Saline County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO), have completed course work toward being certified Field Training Officers. The 32-hour course was held at the Benton Police Department with 15 students.

This is also the first time the sheriff’s office has implemented the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training (CLEST) Field Training program. SCSO Lt. Ron Parsons said the department has used veteran deputies to train new deputies in the past, but they weren’t state certified.

“We want to present a professional image and we are doing everything we can to provide the best training as possible,” Parsons said. “The public will be dealing with deputies who are thoroughly trained not only through a 13-week police academy, they’re also evaluated with a certified Field Training Officer before they are placed [in the field] on their own. We are excited to be a part of this program.”

Sgt. Eric Porter, with the Benton Police Department, was the main supervisor of the Field Training Officer Certification Training Course. He said after the participants complete the course, they submit a request with their certification to CLEST for the final stage of becoming a Field Training Officer. CLEST requires the FTO participants have at least 3 years of experience as a certified law enforcement officer, an adequate amount of training hours, and they must have earned a general certificate through CLEST (only attainable after receiving the basic training certificate).

“The FTO trains the new recruits out in the field,” Porter said. “[New recruits] can only do so much with the classroom training without actually getting hands on and implementing it. FTOs use the opportunity to observe the new recruit and correct any actions, if needed.”

“Someone can be an outstanding student in the classroom, but we need to see how well they work in the field. An FTO gets the chance to see how well they implement their classroom training before we send them out on their own. So this program is to train the trainer, and learn how they can best teach the new recruit.”

Porter said the FTO course included 13 main topics:

  • History of the FTO program – “It started back in 1965, but it wasn’t implemented until the 1970s; most notably by the San Jose Police Department in California. We do our training a little differently than the San Jose Police Department method.”
  • Observation and Documentation – “That’s the meat and potatoes of it, because you’ve got to observe, but you also have to document properly for their evaluations.”
  • Practical Documentations – “We give them information about how a recruit is doing, and then they have to grade them appropriately, because there is a standardization of it. There’s a guideline they have to use to grade the recruit properly.”
  • Ethical Issues in Law Enforcement/FTO – “Ethics, at a core of law enforcement, is an important deal. We discuss a variety of topics concerning ethics.”
  • Different functions of a Field Training Officer – “Not only are they a trainer, they’re also a leader, a supervisor, an evaluator – they play a lot of different roles just performing this one job.”
  • Remedial Training – “If a trainee has an issue in any area of the FTO program, we discuss ways to correct those problems, because it may just be your teaching method.”
  • Interpersonal Communications – “You can’t accomplish your goal without good communication.”
  • Adult Learning Processes – “Adults learning differently than children. Typically, children are motivated by direction and adults are typically self-motivated. We look at different ways to use communication, through visual means, and other means of teaching.”
  • Liability – “The FTOs are subject to civil liabilities, just like any other instructor or supervisor.”
  • Cultural Diversity – “Within the department and with the public.”
  • Use of Force – “We need the FTOs to know how to train and prepare new recruits for use of force – when it is justified and when it is not justified - as well as reinforcing the rules and regulations, and informing them of the Supreme Court rulings concerning use of force. Whenever it is justified, they need to know how important it is to go ahead and make that action versus waiting, because there’s officer safety issues involved.”
  • Sexual harassment – “Just like any profession, we discuss sexual harassment issues, and that’s something that needs to be covered.”
  • Emotional Survival – “We teach this because of our long hours, odd hours and days of week we work, because of overtime, and what they see on the job. They need to know how to deal with that and family life. They need to know how to not be stressed out about either one.”

Porter said the program also continuously covered officer safety as well.

“Keep in mind that the FTO is a regular officer with a lot of extra duties added on,” he said. “At a call for service, the FTO not only is making sure the people on scene are safe, he or she has to also make sure the brand new recruit’s actions are correct, and that the information they are putting out is correct.”

“The FTO has to also make observations for the training later on, and for the evaluation. They have to multitask a lot, and it’s actually one of the most dangerous positions in law enforcement,” Porter added.

The law enforcement officers who received Field Training Officer certification were:

  • Benton Police Department - Officer Chris Runnells, Officer Steven Beck, Officer Art Knab, and Officer Seth Hopkins;
  • Bryant Police Department -  Officer Pam Mays, Officer Steve Miller, and Officer Adam Vanveelen;
  • Saline County Sheriff’s Office - Corporal Eric Stricklin, Deputy Jason Ballard, Deputy Jeremy Brown, Corporal Dustin Burks, Corporal Wade Gilliam, Corporal Sam Griffin, Deputy Brian Kosteris, and Deputy Brent Bittle.