Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between the Reno/COPS Model and the PTO Program?

They are basically the same.  The PTO Program was designed for the COPS Office of the Department of Justice.  It was meant to enhance the use of community policing throughout the U.S.  After we submitted the program to the COPS Office for final approval, we took the program on the road and trained numerous police agencies.  The feedback from these agencies influenced several modifications in the program (e.g., fewer PBLE’s, enhanced performance assessment).  So the Reno Model is an improved COPS model PTO Program.

How many police agencies use the PTO program?

We estimate that hundreds of agencies, perhaps more than 1000, use the PTO program.  The reason we don’t know the exact number is that we train people to do their own training.  Many of these people have provided training for other agencies. We do know that we have had requests for well over 2000 copies of our Reno Model PTO Manual.  If you go to Google and enter ‘Police Training Officer Program’ you will see many police agencies’ websites describing their PTO programs.  We also receive inquiries weekly from training officers and administrators who tell us they are switching from FTO to PTO.  PTO has now been adopted by police, sheriffs, dispatch centers, fish and game organizations, corrections, and even the U.S. Army MPs.  The DEA is also exploring the PTO program.

What is the difference between FTO and PTO?

FTO is a strong evaluation-focused program that was developed long before most present police practices (e.g., problem-solving and community policing, diversity, etc.) were adopted.  The FTO program, originally developed by the San Jose Police Department in 1968, became a strong tool to screen out personnel unfit for the job because of its utilitarian approach to performance assessment.  Because it was adopted by many agencies throughout the U.S. at the same time women and minorities were being accepted into law enforcement at an increasing rate, the FTO program has been criticized as a tool against diversity.  Of course, this was not the objective of the program. PTO is less focused on evaluations and founded on adult-learning principles.  PTO was also designed as a community-oriented policing training program, but it is appropriate for any police agency, irrespective of policing philosophy or size.  PTO was developed by members of the Reno Police Department in conjunction with colleagues from the United States and Canada in 1999.  It came about because the Department of Justice’s COPS Office was looking for an alternative to the FTO concept and also wanted to further the adoption of community-oriented policing and problem-solving (COPPS) by law enforcement agencies.

Isn’t Problem-Based Learning too time consuming for field training?

That depends.  If you use PBL as the primary training mode, then yes.  We found that too much PBL was distracting and ineffective.  If all the trainee does is work on problems, then appropriate learning decreases.  If the number of problem-based learning exercises is reasonable, then PBL is an asset to the program.  This is why we lowered the number of  PBLE’s from four to two (one in each half of the training cycle).  If you completely ignore PBL, the trainee loses a valuable learning experience in problem-solving.

Which program is better:  FTO or PTO? 

That depends on what you are looking for.  The FTO program filled a vacuum in the police officer selection process that existed at the time of its inception.  The hiring process was not perfect and police academies rarely terminated incompetent personnel, so the FTO program was used to fulfill that need.  Unfortunately, many agencies focused too much on the evaluation side of the FTO program rather than the learning aspect. The PTO program focuses on learning and problem-solving.  It still covers all of the topics found in the FTO program plus more.  The PTO and trainee work as a team and typically have a more cohesive relationship than that found in FTO, which leads to a higher level of learning. The bottom line is this:  We have considerable experience teaching the original FTO model as well as the PTO model.  We think PTO is a much more valuable concept.

What learning philosophy is prominent in each program?

FTO is based on Skinner’s Behavior Modification approach.  This relies on modifying the behavior of the trainee through positive and negative rewards. PTO is based on Bloom’s Hierarchy of Learning and adult learning theory.  This approach focuses on the learning effort of the trainee and the concept of failing forward (learning from mistakes in a positive manner).

Is PTO a ‘touchy-feeling’ program that coddles trainees?

No.  Trainees must perform and learn the same as any training program.  Actually, trainees are required to do more work on their own than the FTO program.  Trainees receive evaluations, counseling, prescriptive (remedial) training and other types of reviews to make sure they are held accountable for their performance.

What is the attrition (termination) rate for both programs?

Both programs have the same attrition rate, typically 15%.  Some agencies are higher or lower depending upon their standards, but neither program has a significantly different outcome as far as terminations or voluntary resignations are concerned.

Is the PTO program designed for larger agencies?

No, this is a myth.  The PTO program is designed for agencies that desire their officers to be problem-solvers.  PTO is very appropriate for smaller agencies as much as for larger ones.  Both FTO and PTO need resources to be properly administered, but this does not inhibit small agencies from adopting either program.

The PTO program is new so is it untested legally?

The PTO program is more than a 15 years old, how much more time do we need to determine that it works both in learning and legal arenas?  The San Jose Model FTO concept relies on a single court case to prove its legal worthiness.  When you read the case, you can see that it would apply to just about any field training program that is founded on job relatedness and professionalism.  By the way, the San Francisco Police Department actually lost that case.  So, bottom line, the PTO Program is successful and is here to stay.

Why do you keep referring to the FTO program when talking about PTO?

Because people keep asking us to compare the two programs.  But let’s be honest, the San Jose Model was the standard for police training for 30 years prior to PTO, so PTO really is a second-generation field training program.  However, we are quite confident that the PTO concept is a good one and that it stands on its own merits.

Can we modify the PTO program to meet our agency’s needs?

Of course, and we recommend that.  Our PTO training actually includes how to do this.

Why don’t other training firms offer a Train-the-Trainer seminar?

The simple answer is:  We want the PTO concept to be adopted by as many agencies as possible.  The Hoover Group associates are all practitioners and do not rely on teaching PTO to make a living.  While it was not a great business decision to help create competition, it was a great decision to promote and spread the concept of PTO as much as possible.  Try to find a train-the-trainer course in FTO.

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