It is your first day on the job. You are going to be scrutinized by everyone. Your superiors are going to inspect you. You know this, but do you actually know what the first inspection is really going to be like?
Before you hit the streets, your FTO or another superior is going to inspect you, your equipment, and anything in your briefcase and/or equipment bag.
This will be a critical inspection for you and one that will set the tone for the rest of your patrol life.
The department has taught you its expectations for grooming and uniform appearance. You may think this stuff is BS, but you are expected to follow it. Your FTO will give you a once over and make sure that you look sharp.
The department should have also given you a list of guidelines covering what equipment and gear you need. This will have saved you some money, time, and lots of frustration. You should have paid attention to this! Your FTO will check everything you are carrying on your body and in your bag or case.
Let’s talk a minute about that bag. You need something practical, not something fancy. When I was an FTO, one of my recruits showed up on the first day with an expensive leather attaché case that his mother had presented him for academy graduation. He was so proud of it. And he should have been; it was a beautiful case, well-suited to the work of a lawyer or business professional. But it was totally wrong for cop duty.
You could barely get a clipboard in it. By the time I had given him the wheelbarrow load of forms we had to carry then—this was before departments put laptop computers in their cars.)—he realized that it wasn’t going to work. He went out and purchased something else that afternoon. The attaché went in his car to go home.
It’s amazing how much stuff a new recruit accumulates. The academy gives you books, manuals, directories, and some books that I, a guy who used to run an academy, still can’t figure out what they are for. Replace them with cheat sheets and reference sheets that your department has developed through the years. That should help you jettison about 20 pounds.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Don’t buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need just because you think it’s cool. As a recruit in the academy you cannot help being excited about all of the gear and equipment available to police officers. You peruse all of the latest cop magazines and cop catalogs; you go to cop shops; you go to gun shops; and you go to gun shows.
I understand. Cops are always looking for “needful things.” I’ll let you in on a little secret; I still can’t help drooling over all of the cool stuff myself (so don’t feel bad).
Just remember that your department may issue this equipment or it could be prohibited by your department. Make sure you need it before you buy it. Money is real tight when you first put on a badge, and you do not need to be spending it needlessly.
Before you report for your first day on the job, make sure that you are not carrying any prohibited items. If you are carrying any secondary weapons of any kind, make sure they are within policy. I have seen it all: martial arts weapons, edged weapons, specialty ammunition (non-departmental issued), and even gloves that delivered electrical shocks. Don’t bring this stuff to your first day on the job.
And don’t think this is your last inspection. You are now under a microscope, and that’s a good thing for you and your department.
Inspections in the FTO/FTR process are constant and ongoing. Like my Command Sergeant Major told me when I made sergeant in the Army: “Leadership is 90 percent checking and 10 percent telling.” Your FTO is going to be doing an awful lot of checking. Get used to it.