So I promised yesterday to talk about the Field Training Officer (FTO) problem. Here’s the story. Once Police Officer Trainees complete Oakland’s police academy, they cannot immediately begin working patrol positions. Instead, they have to complete a four month long field training program, where they work with an FTO. The Council asked the police department last fall about the possibility of running concurrent academies in order to more quickly fill vacant positions in the police force, and in response, the department explained that doing so would not place more officers on the street, due to the limits of the field training program. This is what the report (PDF!) said:
In a best case scenario, OPD can maintain 50 Field Training Officers (FTO) who can accommodate 30 to 35 trainees at a time for the 15 week field training program. OPD can run three 15 week field training cycles for a total potential output of 90 to 105 officers at the maximum. If OPD were to graduate either a larger academy class or two classes simultaneously, there would be police officers who could not begin field training due to the lack of FTOs. These officers would have to be assigned desk duties under the direct supervision of a veteran police officer until such time as an FTO is available for assignment.
The report went on the explain that the department anticipates a reduced number of available FTOs once the 12 hour shifts were implemented:
The FTO Coordinator has spoken with numerous FTOs concerning the training program and the impact the proposed change to 12 hour shifts might have. The coordinator stated a significant number of FTOs have indicated they would no longer be willing to serve as FTOs and/or could not guarantee the same high quality training. Many FTOs already spend one to two hours after their regularly assigned shift to assist trainee officers complete reports and other paperwork. They would be unwilling to work any additional hours after a 12 hour shift. With the profile of OPD’s officers become younger and younger, it is harder to find enough FTOs to meet the qualification matrix requirements established in the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA). As Council is aware, OPD cannot compromise or change the NSA mandated minimum qualifications for appointment as an FTO. To do so may compromise the quality of training the officer-in-training would receive.
So you can imagine how odd I found it concurrent academies were a key component of the accelerated hiring strategy the Mayor and the police department released their only three months later, even though their report (PDF!) actually acknowledged that the FTO situation had grown even more dire:
Once POTs gradudate from the Basic Academy, these new officers then participate in a 16-week field training program, working on the street of Oakland side-by-side with Field Training Officers (FTOs). In recent years, OPD has been challenged by an insufficient number of FTOs. Without enough FTOs in place to train all the new academy graduates, OPD cannot get new officers trained and on the streets in an expeditious manner. Currently, OPD has about 30 FTOs in place.
The plan requested funding for dual academies twice this year, one beginning in May and the other in August. I raised the question of an FTO shortage on this blog before the strategy was released and after.
When the plan came before the City Council on March 4 of this year, Desley Brooks grilled Chief Tucker about the FTO problem, and Tucker acknowledged that they did not have enough FTOs to train the police they expect to hire – in fact, they would need 90 FTOs to implement their plan, and currently had only 36. He told the Council that the department’s plan was to remove officers from traffic, crime reduction teams, and investigation. He explained that this would mean the crime reduction teams would be disbanded for a period, and that the officers removed from crime reduction teams, traffic, and investigation would be absent from those positions for a period of eight months. Tucker was very clear that this was going to be the result of the proposed recruiting plan. You can watch the entire conversation below:
The “accelerated hiring strategy” proposed by Mayor Ron Dellums and Chief Tucker and the $7.7 million it cost was poorly thought out and irresponsible, and the FTO issue is a key example of that. But when people get upset next year about not having any crime reduction teams (assuming the department is able to fill those academies, something I’m skeptical of), it’s important to remember to spread the blame around fairly. Every single member of the City Council witnessed this discussion and was fully aware of the FTO problem and then voted to fund the department’s proposal anyway. They are equally culpable for any problems it creates.