This evaluation of the Reno Model PTO program was conducted by John Bowden,
Director of Applied Police Training And Certification (APTAC).  This is a report based on
over 30 years experience in law enforcement and law enforcement training.  The opinions
expressed are those of the author, John Bowden.

I have had the opportunity to review the report on the “Reno Model, Police Training
Officer” program, as published by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.
S. Department of Justice.  As a person that has training and experience with the older
field training models that predate the San Jose Model and experience with the San Jose
Model  as a Field Training Officer, Field Training Officer Trainer and the author of a
training program that features the San Jose Model, I have studied and compared the two
programs.  I approached the Reno Model with an open mind.  I find that, in the law
enforcement business,  we are sometimes reluctant to accept new ideas that depart from
the traditional methods of doing business.   I looked at the Reno Model with the idea that it
might hold new and innovative ideas in training.  The following is my evaluation based on
the published report on the Reno Model PTO program.

In my review of the Reno Model I found that many parts of the program are the same or
similar to San Jose Model.  For Example: Orientation phase, support from the top,
meetings, one officer unit, selection and training of trainers and supervisors in the
program and so on.  The Reno model has changed the schedule of training and
evaluation.  The  Reno Model has 13 weeks of training and the traditional FTO program
has 14 weeks, which is now recommended to be 16 weeks long.  However, many
departments have lengthened or shortened the San Jose Model according to local

The Reno Model has separated the training by the trainer (PTO) and the evaluation by
the evaluator (PTE) into separate people.  They have also separated the evaluation
periods by having a one week mid-term evaluation and a one week final evaluation.  This
is opposed to the San Jose Model which has a two week final evaluation conducted by
one of the previous FTOs (preferably the 1st FTO).  Some FTO programs have been
modified to have separate FTO evaluators, similar to the Reno Model.  

On the training side, the PTO program advocates Problem Based Learning (PBL) as a
teaching technique.  The trainer allows the trainee to identify and solve a problem
following a problem solving formula.  This is not a new training concept and is emphasized
in the San Jose Model on the training side of the program.  Additionally, in the Reno
Model, the trainee is given mock problems to solve by following the problem solving
model.  This is a training project designed to teach the trainee by doing.  This method of
training is also advocated by the San Jose Model and is a cornerstone of good adult
training methodology.  The Reno Model recommends and provides 4 projects in the
published report.  However, the training organization can modify or add to the projects
according to need.  The San Jose Model allows for the same process and in fact most
San Jose Model programs contain a list of suggested training projects to answer specific
training needs.  

The Reno Model stresses the Community Oriented Policing (COP) concept.  It is stressed
as the foundation of the model and COP training is incorporated into the program with the
Problem Based Learning techniques.  COP is a law enforcement technique designed to  
incorporate involvement of the community in the over all policing of the community.  This
is a law enforcement strategy that is promulgated from the top level of the department, the
chief’s office or higher.  The chief of a department sets the standards and establishes the
methods used to police the community.  The FTO program should train the recruit in all of
the departments policies, procedures and philosophies as they relate to the day to day
law enforcement operations.  The list of polices,  procedures and departmental
philosophies is included in the Training Activity Guide (TAG) that describes, in detail, all of
the information that the trainee should learned and demonstrated by the end of the
program.  The application of COP training within the community is important , but, only
one of many things that must be taught to a new officer.  

On the evaluation side of the Reno Model, the proponents of the model state:

There have been very few court cases to justify a focus on documentation and
evaluation.  An emphasis on effective training reaps more benefits and provides the
protection against liability that agencies continue to seek.  (3rd page of the preface, PTO

The Reno Model is correct in stating that an emphasis should be placed on training,
However, the San Jose Model was developed because of a liability law suit where a citizen
was killed by a police officer and the city was held liable.  The fault fell on the city due to
the lack of training.  Additionally, the Nancy Fadel case in San Francisco is another case
where the city lost on the lack of poor training and documentation.  In fact, the judge in
the case stated, “If you do not write it down, it did not occur”  making it an important issue
to document all of the training provided as well as the failure of the trainee to perform up
to an acceptable standard.  In cases involving liability against an agency one of the first
places the attorneys look are the personnel files of the people involved to include the
training files.  The files will document what was trained and to what level.  The lack of
thorough documentation is a window of opportunity for the attorneys to enter and
postulate alternate theories of how the mishap could have occurred.  Usually their
theories will lead to the agency being liable with the agency coffers opening and paying
out the settlement.  It appears that the Reno Model is trying to get away from the intense
documentation effort that is the hallmark of the San Jose Model, claiming there is no need
and the training conducted will offset any liability.  We may want to consider the point that
the San Jose Model became successful and prevalent across the country due to it’s
success in both areas of concern, liability and training.  The first concern is the protection
from liability by documentation.  The second concern is the training that follows a
standardized program for all trainees, regardless of who they are.  Remember,  law suits
have originated from trainees that failed the training program as well as citizens that claim
we failed to protect them through the proper training of officers.  The fact the San Jose
Model has been in place and functioning for over 30 years may be the reason there have
been fewer liability suits against agencies and is a tribute to the program.  

The biggest difference between the Reno Model and the San Jose Model is in the
evaluation process.  The Reno Model is commendable in that the primary focus is on
training and the effort is made to deliver the training in an environment that is most
conducive to the trainee and the trainer.  It is correct that the daily observation reports
are a burdensome task on the trainer and the fear of failing is always an issue for the
trainee.  In fact, the Reno Model has coined the term “Failing forward” in an effort to
emphasize the fact that no one is perfect, you will make mistakes and you can learn from
them.  The San Jose Model also deals with this issue and uses the statement, “There are
no mistakes, only learning opportunities” to emphasize to the student that they will make
mistakes and can learn from them.  However, the training program is a bifurcated system
that must take into account, not only the training of the recruit but how well they are
performing as measured against a person qualified to do the job.  The Reno Model
contains a suitable learning system that delivers the training.  Unfortunately, it lacks the
teeth that are need to defend the department when liability issues raise their ugly heads.

Training and feedback is the essence of a training environment.  However, a training
program must state what is to be taught and to what level the student must perform to be
released on their own to perform the duties of a police officer.  The Reno Model has a list
of subjects to be covered and the evaluator must check off that the trainee has performed
or learned these tasks at an acceptable level.  Unfortunately there are no standards
defined to guide the trainers and evaluators.  This leaves each trainer and evaluator to
interpret the standards on their own and evaluate based on their own best estimation.  In
an ideal learning world with no litigation and everyone striving for perfection, this would
not be a problem.  However, departments will employ individuals that cannot perform the
job of a police officer for any number of reasons.  When this person is terminated for
failing to measure up or simply to pass the program,  they may move on to other
opportunities that await them.  Or, they may feel wronged and sue to recover the job they
cannot perform, or seek monetary compensation.  Inadequate documentation within your
program will give them the leverage they need to win the job or the compensation.  The
flip side of the coin is the failure to terminate the person that should not be a law
enforcement officer and that person then injuries a third party.  The lack of documentation
will give the attorneys that window of opportunity they need to put forth their own theories,
fill in the blanks and win the suit.  In the ideal world we would all be striving to do the best
job, trainees that don’t measure up would move on and no one would complain.  In the
perfect world we would not need an impartial referee, judge or umpire on the sports field.  
Everyone would admit when they were wrong and concede when they loose.  This is not a
perfect world.

As painful, stressful and arduous as it is, we need an evaluation system with standards to
measure the performance of the trainee.  It may not particularly matter if the system is the
7 point Lichert scale, the 5 point modified Lichert scale, a 3 point “fail, pass, exceptional”
scale or just a pass fail scale. As long as we have a passing standard and a way to grade
against the standard.

I prefer the daily evaluation system as opposed to the weekly evaluation system.  It gives
the trainee immediate feedback, on paper, so they can work to improve.  A weekly system
makes it more difficult to rate passing and failing behavior.  A person can have a good
day and a bad day.  It is much more devastating to have a bad week and puts more
pressure on the trainee to make the next week successful.

In conclusion,  I feel that the San Jose Model is still the best training and evaluation
system when it is properly executed.  The issues raised by the Reno Model to incorporate
the COP programs is simply addressed by including them and any other programs used
by the department in the training program.  The San Jose Model is a vehicle to deliver
training and evaluate performance.  The department decides what material must be
learned and to what level.  The teaching methodology addressed by the Reno Model is
not a new concept and has been a cornerstone of adult learning for many years.  It is
incumbent on the department to choose the best trainers as FTOs and then train them to
use the best adult training techniques.  The San Jose Model, when properly presented,
delivers all of these elements.  The final and most important issue is the documentation of
training, performance and evaluation.  The San Jose Model delivers the best process that
documents all activity in the program.   I feel that the Reno Model, with journal entries
made by trainees and trainers, makes a timid effort at documentation. That effort lacks
the rigorous review and approval of the department.  A review that will pay off in the event
of future legal action.  The final argument for the San Jose Model is its tenure in police
training and its hardy resilience in our litigious society. The San Jose Model has enabled
the law enforcement community to prevail against legal action that could have taken its toll
had it not been for the San Jose Model and its profuse documentation.  My choice for
training is a system based on the San Jose Model.
Evaluation Of The Reno PTO Model
by John Bowden