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Police Training Officer (PTO) Program

In 1999, the COPS Office funded the Reno (Nevada) Police Department and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) to develop an alternative national model for field training that would incorporate community policing and problem solving principles. The result of their collaboration is a new training program called the Police Training Officer (PTO) Program. It incorporates contemporary methods of adult education and a version of the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) method of teaching adapted for police. Most importantly, it serves to ensure that academy graduates' first experience as law enforcement officers is one that reflects policing in the 21st century.

The PTO program is the first new post-academy field-training program for law enforcement agencies in more than 30 years. Its original design makes it one of the strongest training innovations in decades. This new approach to training is the foundation for life-long learning that prepares new officers for the complexities of policing today and in the future.

The program can be tailored to each agency's unique needs. Its flexibility allows future changes in policing to be easily incorporated. An important long-term benefit to the agency is the further institutionalization of community policing and problem solving. First tested in the Reno Police Department and subsequently tested by five other agencies, the PTO program has produced outstanding results. New officers enter the field with problem-solving skills that are rarely seen at that career level. New officers also display remarkable leadership and willingness to work as partners with the local community to fight crime and disorder problems. The PTO program is producing officers who have the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitude for today's law enforcement environment.

Currently, agencies can use the PTO Program outlines to develop their own in-house programs adapted to their particular training needs. And in 2005, the PTO Program will be available through local RCPIs.

The resources that support the implementation of this program include:

  1. The PTO Overview and Introduction: This document provides an introduction to the PTO program, and summarizes the valuable experiences and lessons learned from the six agencies selected to participate in the PTO pilot project
  2. The PTO Manual: This manual guides agencies implementing the program and the PTO Officers who train academy graduates
  3. A Trainee Manual: This manual is used by the academy graduate (recruit) undergoing PTO training
  4. Training Standards: This guide is for use in training PTOs.