Monday, November 16, 2009


Great. You graduated from the police academy. You're a cop now. Ready to hit the streets and run the town, right?

Hold on a minute there sparky.

So far, your learning is primarily book learning. You have done a few scenarios and some hands-on training. Now the rubber meets the road and you get to put it all into practice.

One thing you will soon discover during your field training period, is that not all Field Training Officers are alike. One will want things done one way, while the next may want things done completely differently. It's not that one is right and the other is wrong, it's just that there is more than one way to perform most tasks.

My suggestion is to do it however your current FTO tells you to. Don't say "Well, Sergeant Johnson said I should do it this way." Just say "yes sir" and do it. You will learn from doing the same thing different ways, and you might even find the results turn out differently. In the end, you are going to take the things you like about each FTO and combine them into your own patrol style. So, don't discount anything. Besides, you're here to learn, not to tell your FTO he's wrong.

During FTO, your trainer will volunteer you for details that are not on your beat. You will take every dead body, every rape, every major collision. You will get tired of hearing "we'll take that for training." But, your FTO is not picking on you. Your FTO is not trying to overload you with paper. Your FTO is not trying to gross you out. Your FTO is just making sure you can deal with all types of calls for service, write the appropriate reports, and still cover your beat at the same time. There will be days during your career when your day will seem like a repeat of FTO because you are running from one end of town to the other.

FTO will seem like the academy all over again. You'll likely start out riding quietly in the passenger seat. You will hear some semblance of "Wherever I go you'd best be right on my heels." After a while, once you've had an opportunity to see and hear some real people, you'll get to actually talk to them. Eventually you'll feel like you've got it all under control. You'll feel like you know it all and can handle anything they throw at you. Then something will come at you from deep left field, and you won't have any clue what to do.

Don't worry, it happens to all of us.

Don't try to shine on FTO. Don't try to half ass everything so it will turn out right. Experiment. Try new tactics. Try dealing with people in different ways. FTO is a chance for you to make mistakes without endangering anyone. Your FTO would rather see you make mistakes and learn from them while you're on FTO, than kick you out on your own and have you make some HUGE mistake that will result in damage control for the next two months.

Try not to get used to relying on your FTO to tell you what to do. Once you get comfortable with having a partner around, you'll get tossed into the last phase of FTO. Some call it semi-solo. Some call it shadow. There are many names for the final phase. You will still have an FTO in the car with you, but they will not help you in any way. You will be expected to handle your details on your own, as they watch to make sure you are capable.

If you can successfully pass FTO, which is by no means guaranteed, you will finally be a solo officer.

But the game ain't over yet...


Meadowlark said...

Probation at Husband's department was 18 months. Is that fairly normal? Just curious.

Me said...

And then...there's nothing in the world like that feeling when you come into roll call and see your name listed as a solo officer for the first time, and your sergeant tosses you that set of cruiser keys.

I can recall a couple of nights those first few weeks when dispatch had to call me on the radio and tell me to bring the car back so the next shift could use it...I was having so much fun.

the observer said...

This is a great series! Keep up the good work.

Like my own profession, nursing, you do not fall out of school fully formed and ready. You have to do that hard time progressing from a novice to an expert.

I'm not a novice anymore, but just about every time I go to work, I learn something!

Beat And Release said...

I introduced myself to my FTO on the first day. He looked me up and down, ignoring the handshake I proffered. After squad brief he brusquely told me to do the vehicle inspection and fill out the sheet. Then he pulled up the fuel pumps.

Before I got out of the car to pump the gas he said, "I've got one thing to say to you. If I go 10-10 (fight) there had better be two sets of hands on that mother******."

Apparently they had recently had a rookie lock herself in the cruiser while her FTO took on three suspects. She didn't last long.

rjmlakota said...

Right on!! It's nice to see you giving individuals the idea of what to expect. Keep up the good work both here and on the streets!


rjmlakota said...

Right on!! It's nice to see you giving individuals the idea of what to expect. Keep up the good work both here and on the streets!


Officer "Smith" said...


Thank God she didn't last long. There are agencies out there that would try to hang on to her just so they'd have their token female employee.

Beat And Release said...

That was back before the 'politically correct' days. We now have a few worthless officers they keep around to fill the EEO slots. Some of the idiots have even been promoted to positions of authority.

Gia's Spot said...

What a great post and so accurate! I'm going to push the "follow" button!

Roy in Calif said...


At my old agency Probation was 12 months and FTO was about 4 weeks (depending on prior experience). We felt constantly undermanned (small agency) and the push was to get new folk on the street by themselves. We also rarely hired totally green personnel (almost all were laterals, prior reserves and even former cadets/explorers from our agency).