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“We truly didn’t know what we didn’t know at the beginning of the PBL and PTO training.  Now we know there is a superior method of training recruits.  It has been an energizing experience to break free from our old training practices and to begin the progressive training of our future police officers.” Cheryl Rolland – Duluth Minnesota Police Department

The History

Developed in 2001 through a collaborative effort between the Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), and the Reno Police Department, the Police Training Officer (PTO) Program was designed to be a community oriented, problem-based alternative to the traditional Field Training Officer (FTO) Model.  A committee comprised of police researchers, including PSPBL Co-Chairs Gregory Saville and Gerard Cleveland developed the PTO model in response to concerns of police executives that recruit training was not changing with the times.

A nationwide survey of police agencies helped determine key areas (competencies) required in a contemporary training program.  Six agencies of various sizes from across the country were chosen to help field-test the model.  The resulting feedback was instrumental in shaping the content of the new model.  Numerous police agencies throughout the United States and Canada have since implemented the model in their agencies with great results.

Our Focus

The PTO program is primarily focused on trainee learning.  It incorporates adult learning styles, Community Oriented Policing and Problem-Based Learning philosophies, and contemporary evaluation techniques.  This provides a foundation for life-long learning and prepares the trainee for the complexities of policing today and in the future.

The 4 Phases of the Course

The program structure consists of 15 weeks of training broken into 4 phases of training in which trainees apply an agency-specific Learning Matrix, complete daily journal entries to develop self-reflection and self-awareness skill, complete Coaching and Training Reports to evaluate their learning and performance, conduct learning through a Problem-Based Learning Exercise using ill-structured problems in a real life context requiring the trainee to form partnerships to solve the problem, and a Neighborhood Portfolio Exercise in which the trainee develops a detailed geographical, social and cultural understanding of his or her patrol area; everything a well- trained officer should know and do.

Features of the PTO Program

Among the many important features of this program the separation of training and evaluation, the flexibility of the program for adaptation to individual agencies, and the use of Problem-Based Learning as its primary educational device are considered dramatic improvements over the decades old and relatively unchanged FTO program.

PTO 2.0 is Here!

In February 2013 Gerard Cleveland and Gregory Saville completed work on an update to the PTO program with dramatic improvements and innovations based upon lessons learned in the past 12 years.  The PTO 2.0 manual is complete and is posted on the PSPBL site in the Member’s area.  We anticipate significant improvements to post-academy training and tremendous excitement surrounding the PTO 2.0 manual.

How we can help you

The Police Society for Problem-Based Learning supports agencies interested in and using the PTO model of training. We provide assistance with implementation, training, and resources needed to assist in successfully transitioning to and sustaining the PTO program in your department.  PSPBL offers memberships with access to on-line resources from PTO and PBL practitioners, an e-newsletter, an annual conference for PTO and PBL practitioners, notice of upcoming trainings and on-line research libraries of PTO materials.

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Contact Us

The Police Society for Problem Based Learning
PO Box 362  Oakley, California, USA  94561
Email us: info@pspbl.org