A recent question came to NAFTO in regards about lateral hires and the length of the FTO Period. The question was should the lateral hires complete the full FTO program for your agency or can their FTO training be abbreviated?
I work for an agency of 2800 and we have discussed this issue in some length, as well as, for many years with NAFTO. Bringing in lateral hires is a very cost-effective measure for agencies to meet hiring requirements because they don’t have to spend the money on academy level training. In most cases, once the accreditation for peace officers’ requirements are met through an abbreviated academy setting, most agencies feel they should be able to just kick them loose on the street. Shortening the lateral hires FTO training is a slippery slope in that just because the lateral hire has a grasp on the fundamentals of law enforcement, the agency specific details, and the overall ability on the street for that lateral hire must still be evaluated.
In my many years of training lateral hires, the one thing that I have observed, is that whichever agency the lateral hire came from, their previous law enforcement training comes with them. Then you must ask yourself, does that training fit within your agency’s policies and procedures? How can a lateral hire learn your agency’s policies such as impounding evidence, investigating a crime, or comprehending your city codes or state laws without reverting back to their former state laws or procedures while working for you? Through the discussions I have had with NAFTO members nationwide, I have found the consensus is the lateral hire should complete your FTO program objectives in order to ensure that the lateral hire will perform under your expectations. If your agency develops a program where the lateral hires are given a 6 week FTO program that covers your state laws and agency requirements, with an option of completing the full 15 week FTO program you will have a very defensible program. If you only have a full 15 week FTO program and shorten it for lateral hires without specifications of what the program will entail, it may leave your agency open for liability.
I have known lateral hires to fail the FTO program of the new agencies because of an inability to convert to the new agency policies, procedures, and state laws. Although the lateral hire is expected to complete your FTO program with little or no issues, my suggestion would be to have them complete the entire FTO program to ensure everyone in your agency begins with the same training. Another option would be to design a lateral hire program in order to cover your daily observation report requirements that are important to your agency and covers the high liability area. This program will provide a documented way of verifying that the lateral hire can operate affectively within your agency’s policies and procedures as any other new hire is expected to perform. Remember, just because they are a lateral hire from another jurisdiction or state, doesn’t mean they were a properly trained and functioning police officer. For liability reasons alone, having the policy of completing the full or designed lateral hire FTO process, will help not only protect your agency, but will also help ensure that the lateral hire will have a successful completion of your FTO program and a healthy transition into a successful career with your agency.
Executive Director, NAFTO