Police Training Officer Program (PTO)

Training to Problem Solve & Develop Community Partnerships

 In 2009, the Elkhorn Police Department made a commitment to train existing and new officers using the Police Training Officer Program (PTO). The PTO program emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving.

The PTO model recognizes the importance of problem-solving skills in training a successful police officer.

The training model focuses on adult learning methods and problem based learning to create a positive experience for the trainee and trainer.

The PTO Program exists in conjunction with a Community-Oriented Policing and Problem Solving (COPPS) philosophy. While it is not mandatory for an agency to be a community-policing organization to use this model, that was the impetus for its creation.

What is Community-Oriented Policing?

There are two components to community policing: community partnership and problem-solving.

Community Partnership: Practiced in varying degrees by many law enforcement agencies in the U.S., this value-driven approach to providing police services functions at the neighborhood level and its success is tied to changes in police organizational culture. Community values must be determined and jurisdictions delineated by social boundaries rather than statistical areas. Law enforcement agencies must support their basic social institutions such as schools, recreation centers, and other groups providing valuable community services.

Problem-Solving: This component centers on a belief that crime and disorder can be analyzed as problems that are the result of underlying conditions, and that if these conditions are changed, the problems may be solved. Traditionally, police are seen as "crime fighters" as opposed to "problem solvers." Community-Oriented Policing and Problem Solving strategies try to fix the source of criminal activity rather than just try to preserve the peace
by arresting and prosecuting offenders.

This sounds like such a great concept--how come everybody doesn't do this?

Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving strategies (COPPS) require a basic shift from traditional policing methods. For one thing, supervisors and managers must change their perspective as it pertains to leadership, and give street officers more authority. The inherent flexibility of the COPPS philosophy will not work for certain agencies, which demand a military-style structure and strong documentation in their training programs.

Briefly, how does the PTO Program work?

The trainers assign "street" problems to trainees and have them learn about policing in the context of solving those problems. Trainees work through responses with the help of their Police Training Officer.

The model uses a number of tools, including a learning matrix and problem-based learning exercises. Below is a sample of a learning matrix, showing "core competencies," which are specific skills, knowledge, and abilities that have been identified as essential for good policing.

  Phase A
Non-Emergency Incident Response
Phase B
Emergency Incident Response
Phase C
Patrol Activities
Phase D
Criminal Investigation
Police Vehicle Operations A1 B1 C1 D1
Conflict Resolution A2 B2 C2 D2
Use of Force A3 B3 C3 D3
Local Procedures, Policies, Laws, Philosophies A4 B4 C4 D4
Report Writing A5 B5 C5 D5
Leadership A6 B6 C6 D6
Problem-Solving Sills A7 B7 C7 D7
Community Specific Problems A8 B8 C8 D8
Cultural Diversity & Special Needs Groups A9 B9 C9 D9
Legal Authority A10 B10 C10 D10
Individual Rights A11 B11 C11 D11
Officer Safety A12 B12 C12 D12
Communication Skills A13 B13 C13 D13
Ethics A14 B14 C14 D14
Lifestyle Stressors / Self-Awareness / Self-Regulation A15 B15 C15 D15
Learning Activities Introduction of Neighborhood Portfolio Exercise
Problem Based Learning Exercise
Continuation of Neighborhood Portfolio Exercise
Problem Based Learning Exercise
Continuation of Neighborhood Portfolio Exercise
Problem Based Learning Exercise
Final Neighborhood Portfolio Presentation
Problem Based Learning Exercise
Evaluation Activities Weekly Coaching and Training Reports Weekly Coaching and Training Reports Weekly Coaching and Training Reports Weekly Coaching and Training Reports

For instance, Phase A refers to Non-Emergency Incident Responses, and Cell A8 next to the Core Competency for "Community-Specific Problems" lists the following skills:

Trainee will identify different community-specific problems. Trainee will demonstrate proficiency in creating partnership and solving problems specific to the community or their geographic assignment. Each cell (A1 through D15) has a corresponding list of skills required to achieve competency in the areas listed. Additionally, there are a series of learning activities tied to each phase of study.