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FTO's, enlighten me:

Discussion in 'Cop Talk' started by Fernman, Aug 29, 2011.

  1. Fernman

    Fernman Zombie Jeebus! CLM

    Feb 14, 2005
    A proud day, and yet a scary one at the massive incursion of liability I've accepted. I got official word that my Sergeant put me in for FTO and the Captain accepted. I got a nice little feel-good speech about it (from a Sergeant I truly respect and admire, thus meaningful) and promises of getting to the next FTO class out there.

    So, after years of trying to maintain a positive attitude and performance I get a shot to try and instill some of those values in a few newbies. We have had a serious morale problem, and I want to get good, well-rounded, intelligent hard workers out there.

    Alright hive-mind, illuminate me. And burst my bubble to boot. :wavey:

    But seriously, any of the tips and tricks for being a good FTO are appreciated. I've watched many others screw off and play on the internet while their rookies sit behind them bored or on their phone, learning nothing--enough to never be that guy.
  2. msu_grad_121

    msu_grad_121 BOOSH

    Sep 16, 2009
    NW Burbs
    One request: Don't set your noobs up for failure. The point of a FTO or instructor is to teach, not to show how much more they know than the rook. Setting up impossible tasks doesn't do anyone any good and breeds a bad attitude/morale in the rookie.

    FWIW, you don't sound like you'll be that guy, but for my money, this kind of thing can't be said enough.

  3. fastbolt


    Jun 9, 2002
    CA Central Coast
    Well, I also once had a sergeant slip me into line for being a FTO ... and he did it without my knowledge while I was off on vacation. I'd thought he sorta liked me, but apparently I was too happy with my regular beat. :whistling:

    I stalled it off as long as I could, asking (nicely) him to skip me and taking the rest of the guys off the list before pulling me ... and I agreed to act as a FTO for Reserves in the meantime (what was I thinking?!?) ... but the day came when I got moved to one of the busy training beats, got issued a trainee, and away we went ...

    FTO school (which ought to be at least a week) will probably bring you up to date on the increased exposure to liability issues, so listen up when you go to it. You're going to face the potential to "own" some mistakes made by trainees, both during the program and for some time afterward.

    Working as a FTO will knock any minor rust off your skills and help make you a better cop (teaching can do that, if you're doing it right ;) ).

    You're going to see another slice of the political pie.

    Documentation works to protect you (what you own, and hope to own).

    Good trainees are easy. Trainees which aren't (and shouldn't be) retained can take a lot out of you.

    If the trainee isn't having some fun, one of you isn't doing something right (and it might not be the trainee).

    Luck to you. Try to have some fun. That ought to be part of the training experience.

    Oh yeah, and when some of your trainees eventually promote up to management or command, just remember who started them on that ladder, and your share of the responsibility. :rofl:
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2011
  4. SpoiledBySig

    SpoiledBySig Millennium Member

    May 6, 1999
    Port St. Lucie, FL
    Strange thing to be an FTO. It's the first Supervisory position and can lead to great things.

    You do whatever you possibly can to get them ready (do as much "hands on" training as possible). Try to believe in whoever you train that they will succeed. You don't want to ever fail anybody, but eventually you will have to fail someone (especially if they demonstrate no officer safety after being corrected many times).

    Like everywhere else, you also have to go by your department's training manual. There's so much more to tell you. Mainly, you're going to be a nervous wreck when they (if they) get cut loose because you feel responsible for all of their mistakes, don't let this get to you. Some do better than others and most eventually learn.

    But, if there is an obvious problem with the Officer in Training, don't hesitate to confront him or her about it and document everything (in your D.O.R.'s).

    Good luck and congrats. Good FTO's are hard to come by these days.
  5. pal2511


    Sep 15, 2002
    I went to FTO class about a year ago. I have only had two "trainees" since then. I have yet to hear how long each training regiment is supposed to last and the "training officer" has provided nothing to me regarding information. I have no inclination to do the FTO job and I didn't want to go. Sad thing is I took up the spot in the class for someone from another agency that may have wanted to be in it. I liked the liability side of the class but it just made me realize how backwards my agency was ran.
  6. SAR


    Apr 17, 2004
    LA LA Land
    Resist the temptation to do everything yourself if the boot is slow or having difficulty. The only way they can learn is if you allow them to try and accomplish a task. The only time you should intervene is if there is going to be on officer safety issue or serious policy transgression. Do not micromanage. Let them get their feet wet. Your job is to train, not to criticize at every turn. Don't equate your boot to a veteran officer. They are not experienced so do not expect them to perform at the level of a seasoned partner. I see so many FTOs become impatient because the boot is not performing fast enough or well enough. Again-- they are learning and should be expected to make mistakes.
  7. Sam Spade

    Sam Spade Staff Member Lifetime Member

    May 4, 2003
    You're there to make independent cops, not little clones of you. There are a lot of right ways to do this job. If the rock is getting the job done, but isn't efficient or doing it how you would, that's not an automatic ding.

    There are some things that are non-negotiable, and you can't let the trainee slide when he cuts a corner in those areas. When you don't enforce those standards, you've effectively set a new, lower standard.

    Grading must be consistent. A Phase I "4" is the same thing as a Phase IV "4". That means that Junior is going to see a bunch of 1's and 2's early on. He needs to understand that, and you need to be ruthless in handing out those low numbers. He also needs to understand that the real killer is the "NRT".

    Quiz him constantly. Where are you? Where did 1A12 just check out? Did you see that? You have 5 minutes to find a traffic violation. You have 10 minutes to find a suspicious person. Take me to 123 Main by the shortest route. Done right, this becomes a game and becomes great fun--partially because you mix in softballs that let him score for real and do police work, and you hit him with real challenges that expand his skills.

    Don't be afraid to take real clusters of calls for the training value. Don't be afraid to teach or take calls from later portions of his workbook.
  8. dano1427


    Jan 3, 2001
    Generally speaking, the current generation of 22-26 year olds (or there abouts) are going to be a real challenge to train. They don't like criticism, have little respect for authority, are cocky and arrogant, and have discipline problems.

    I came in in '95. It was yes Sir, no Sir. With this current group, it's "Why" and "I don't agree..." etc.

    You need patience, and a willingness to adapt your style into a teaching/learning style. They need to do it all, for the most part, from day one, that's the only was they'll learn.
  9. For the most part, yep.
  10. k9medic


    Sep 16, 2000
    at an LZ near you
    You have to remind the trainee that you are not their friend. There are those that will latch onto you, especially if they are fresh out of the academy and are still wet behind the ears. You are there to guide them and to keep them from getting you fired.

    As has been mentioned, you will hone your skills with your trainee and might even learn a thing or two (I have that's for sure.) Eventually you will get a guy in training that has more experience than you do - don't change the way that you do things though. He may know how to be the police, but not how to be the police at your department.

    There are 4 increasing levels of learning - rote, understanding, application and correlation. Watching a trainee go from rote to correlation is an awesome sight.
  11. thinkfast


    Aug 24, 2003
    Set some ground rules. Mine are:
    -no drinking in public during my phase.
    -no cell phone in the car. My dialogues about the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments can't possibly compete with an iPhone.
    -no Facebooking about the process or the department at all. They will show me their account every day before you head out. Wanna blab about your job on Facebook? Go work somewhere else.
    -no discussion about how their old PD did things, or how their neighbor who is a county sheriff does is your agency's way or the highway.

    Document the skill sets used after each call. If you wait til the end of a shift you'll never catch up. The recruit can sit there and be bored for 2-3 minutes while you type/scribble.

    Get a new set of uniforms. The recruit will be in brand-new duds. No matter now neat you are, you can't compete with brand-new.

    Demand a semi-private area where you can recap the day with the recruit. You won't get anything accomplished in a squad room full of officers laughing about someone's wicked fart or talking about how much cooler the new Chargers are than the old Vics and Impalas.

    Make sure you re-familiarize yourself with your PD's rules/regs/etc. You'll have to be the Expert during your phase.

    After your 3 week phase the recruit should be able to quote, verbatim, your state's battery, fraud, harassment, theft, burglary, disorderly conduct, and public intox codes. So should you.

    If VA's Academy has an FTO school, make sure your PD will send you to it before you take anyone on. If they're not willing to give you the accreditation, gracefully bow out.

    If someone's clearly not going to work out, and cause the dept grief for 20-30 years, SPEAK NOW while they're on probation. In most states, once a dead-weight officer is in the merit system...

    Bring a lunch, or go somewhere where you don't get a discount while on FTO. I'm sure your agency has a "no gifts" type of ethics rule somewhere--the recruit can get all the free Dunkin's coffees they want when they're on their own. How can you come down on the recruit for something if your taking coffees and free golden arches every day?

    It's not a lot of fun. And usually the compensation isn't great. But you'll be better off for the process. And, in the future, when specialized equipment and training classes come up, FTO's should get first dibs every time if your agency truly respects their FTO's.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2011
  12. Fernman

    Fernman Zombie Jeebus! CLM

    Feb 14, 2005
    Every generation believes itself to be smarter than the one that preceeded it and wiser than the one that comes after it.
  13. CJStudent

    CJStudent Fenced In

    Nov 3, 2005
    Very true, but people my age (25) and younger tend to have entitlement issues more than most right now.
  14. merlynusn


    Nov 16, 2007
    My biggest thing is get your rookie exposure to enough calls. When I am on a robbery scene and there is a rookie there, I should not be taking the report. When I'm on a death investigation and there is a rookie there, I should not be taking the report. If I am the PTO and I have a rookie, then I should be taking the robbery, deaths, etc.

    When I went through the PTO tried to get us backlogged with paper. The reason was to see how we could handle the stress of having multiple reports to do, still paying attention to the radio, jumping calls to get that exposure. It was tiring at times, but once I went to 2nd shift and ran call to call all day most every day I understood why they did it.
  15. siblueg

    siblueg Gray Area

    Feb 11, 2008
    Good stuff guys, I will be getting my first recruit in a month and this thread has alot of good advice.
  16. Broke Hoss

    Broke Hoss

    Sep 21, 2008
    Abilene, Texas
    Reread every post in this thread; there is some very good advice here. Remember that every rook is an individual. You're gonna have to find out how each learns & try to use a teaching method that reaches them.

    What I've found over the years is that academy tests/problems were cut & dry, black/white, right/wrong. They have to be for grading purposes. We all know the real world aint always so. I actually have tests written up from real life situations where sometimes there is no clear cut answer. I like to see the rooks problem solving process & make them articulate their reasoning & defend their decisions.
  17. cash


    Dec 6, 2006
    front range
    Go slow with your recruit. Even if they seem to be getting it, take it slow. I'm on my 9th trainee, and with each one I've slowed down the process. There's no rush and teaching right is much better than teaching fast, which may be a fatal plan.

    Remember that your goal should be to keep them alive so that they are good enough when they complete field training to begin learning this job for real.
  18. shootindave


    Feb 15, 2007
    I dont know if what I think will help..... because PD's are so different with technology and what not but here we go.......

    1) Dont use the in car computer (or GPS if your PD is up to that speed) BOOT should know the call notes, how to get there, ETC ETC without a CPU
    2) Handle each type of call once (2 times if its a busy shift/patrol area) after that the BOOT will handle the call as if you arent there. Good or bad decisions, just let it happen.
    3) I like having the last day of the work week being an "off day" FTO drives but the BOOT still handles calls. But driving and geography isnt an issue.
    4) The uniform should be top notch. If the boots/leather isnt shined that is not going to work. This is a a failing tradition in our line of work.

    I have other things. But thats what I have to offer in short.

    Last edited: Sep 1, 2011
  19. OXCOPS


    Dec 31, 2000
    As an FTO, I also think it is important to remember learning is a two way street. While your job is to do most of the teaching, you should always be on the lookout for things you might learn from the rook.

    Help them through each decision. One thing I found very beneficial as an FTO was to discuss each call afterwards. I mean EVERY call....dead bodies to cat in a tree. have them explain why they made a particular decision. No matter if they were right or wrong, help them explain through their thought processes. Make them think, then defend. Its the same skill set they will be forced to use in the court room.

    Also, when I had a rook on the night shift, and it was REALLY slow in the early morning hours, we would take a break from the car. I had a DVD of traffic stops and other calls. MY traffic stops. We would watch each one, then have the rook identify mistakes *I* made. This shows we should all be able to own our mistakes AND allows him to hopefully learn from the ones I showed him on film.
  20. k9medic


    Sep 16, 2000
    at an LZ near you
    forgot to add - If you have take home cars... the new guy does NOT get to drive until he gets his own. No sense him wrecking your car.