Before the 1970s, there was no official FTO program to be a police officer. New officers received little formal on-the-job training. Usually, after a two-week orientation, a new officer was assigned to a senior officer for training in the daily tasks of being a police officer. At the end of the training, the new officer was left to “sink or swim” in performing police officer duties. To exacerbate the situation, there was no effective employee evaluation system. This state of affairs culminated to a series of events that forever changed police recruit training.
In 1969, the SJPD hired a young and energetic officer. He loved police work and was well liked by his peers and officers. However, it became apparent that he was naïve, had a temperament unsuited for police work and was deficient in certain skills. Yet, due to the lack of documentation and an “improvement needed” assessment by the then-official rating system, there was insufficient justification to terminate the young officer.
The following spring, while traveling at excessive speed during a non-emergency, the young officer ran a red light at a major intersection, colliding with another vehicle and killing a young passenger. The tragedy precipitated a change in the department’s philosophy towards recruit officer training.
SJPD Lieutenant Robert L. Allen, who served in the military and had been a staff member of the California Military Academy, developed a proposal for training and evaluating recruit officers. His proposal was shelved by a deputy chief before it reached the SJPD Chief of Police.
In September 1971, an incident involving the shooting of a motorist after a traffic stop again called into question the training of SJPD officers. Then Chief of Police Robert Murphy explored ways to overcome training deficiencies. He was made aware of Lieutenant Allen’s proposal. During this period, Dr. Michael D. Roberts, Ph.D., was hired by the City of San Jose as Director of Psychological Services. Chief Murphy assigned Dr. Roberts to work with now-Captain Allen to rework and fine tune a Recruit Training and Management Program.
In 1972, the San Jose Police Department had its first group of FTO officers.
Besides the development of the “Key Elements of a Successful FTO Program,” Dr. Roberts and Captain Allen convinced Chief Murphy that responsibility and authority to evaluate had to be placed at the lowest level possible. Having police officers make employment decisions on recruit officers was a new and radical concept in the early 1970s.
By spring 1972, the FTO Program became a distinct unit in the SJPD. Lieutenant Bill Mallett became the first program administrator, assisted by two FTO sergeants. Together, they appointed twelve officers to serve as the first Field Training Officers. The FTOs discovered that professional and personal commitment as well as objectivity were absolutely necessary to fulfill the roles of trainer and evaluator.
During the first year of the FTO program, forty-two field training officers wrote 3,500 daily observation reports (DOR) for a total of 125 recruit officers. In the summer of 1973, major refinements were made to the SJPD FTO program. Officer Doug Zwemke, who had a Master’s Degree in Psychology, worked with Dr. Roberts to identify specific behavioral traits that delineated the difference between a successful and unsuccessful police officer. Officer Zwemke read each of the 3,500 DORs and extracted 10,000 behavioral descriptions. Officer Zwemke condensed these descriptions into thirty-one behavioral traits that the SJPD deemed necessary for a successful police officer to possess. DORs and weekly observation reports were updated to incorporate the thirty-one traits. For the first time, a valid job task analysis for the police officer position had been developed.
A seven point scale was introduced for evaluating the recruits in each of the thirty-one traits: 1 signifed “unacceptable” and 7 signified “superior.”) To improve the accuracy of an officer’s performance rating, Sergeant Glen Kaminsky and Sergeant Tom Perez developed guidelines for each rating catagory.
By fall 1973, the SJPD FTO program received national recognition by the International Association of Chiefs of Police for its contribution to police science and technology.
In 1974, the success of the SJPD FTO program prompted the California State Legislature to adopt the “San Jose Model” as the standard for the state’s field training program. In the ensuing years, the SJPD FTO model was adopted nationwide and then worldwide by law enforcement agencies.