Field Training Officers present a curriculum that few people ever have the privilege to learn: becoming a professional police officer. Whenever the Gallatin Police Department hires someone to become a police officer, the newly-hired person goes through an extensive training course before being allowed to patrol the streets of Gallatin on his or her own.
All officers in the State of Tennessee are required to attend an eight-week or longer training academy where they learn the basics of law enforcement. These basics include extensive study of the legal system, handgun usage and use-of-force, police vehicle driving, juvenile laws, and a large number of other topics. Gallatin Police officers receive instruction from Field Training Officers on several issues that are also taught at the training academy. These courses give the newly-hired officers an understanding of the legal system, as well as understanding of how the Gallatin Police Department operates and how it expects its officers to work within the community. Often, these newly-hired officers rank high in their training academy classes because of the "pre-academy" training received at the Gallatin Police Department.
Upon completion of the training academy, the officers return to the Gallatin Police Department for in-field training with Field Training Officers. It is at this point that the new officers have the opportunity to integrate their classroom studies with the "reality of the street" in Gallatin. For officers who have previous law enforcement experience, the Field Training Officer program will be at least eight weeks long. For new officers with no previous experience as a police officer, the Field Training Officer program is at least fourteen weeks long.
In the Field Training Officer program, new officers are paired with experienced officers who have received special instruction in teaching new officers. Each day, the Field Training Officer evaluates the new officer's actions, giving valuable advice and criticism before allowing the new officer to work on his or her own. As the new officer progresses through the Field Training Officer program, his or her responsibilities grow as the new officer becomes accustomed to the ways in which the Gallatin Police Department operates within the legal system.
For new officers with no previous law enforcement experience, the Field Training Officer program initially begins with a four-week stint with a Field Training Officer. During this time, the new officer becomes accustomed with his or her new responsibilities in the community and learns how the Field Training Officer does his or her job. At the end of the first four weeks, the new officer is assigned to a different shift and a different Field Training Officer. During the second four-week period, the new officer expands on the knowledge and practice that he or she gained during the first period. This practice is continued during the third four-week period when the new officer rotates to the next shift and a new Field Training Officer. At the end of the first twelve weeks, the new officer returns to the initial Field Training Officer that he or she had during the first four weeks. The Field Training Officer then evaluates the new officer over the last two weeks and makes recommendations regarding the new officer's ability to be work to work on his or her own. For new officers with previous law enforcement experience, the same practice is conducted over an eight-week period, with each rotation occurring every two weeks.
The Field Training Officer program has provided new officers the opportunity to learn from the experience of other officers already in the Department. Additionally, the Field Training Officer program has provided the Gallatin Police Department an opportunity to thoroughly teach new officers the way in which the Department expects its new officers to act when working within the community. In the end, the community and the Department both gain new officers with a better understanding of the fundamentals of policing before they ever work on their own.