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William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.

Remember Where You Came From

Break the cycle of rookie mistreatment.

December 01, 2008  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

In all of my writings about police recruits and FTO programs, I have mentioned that there are two types of FTOs. The first you will ride with as a recruit; they are the FTO Type 1 (Field Training Officer). The other is the one (or several) you will deal with on the streets, who are the FTO Type 2 (Fat, Tired, and Old officer). Sometimes they are far apart and sometimes very similar.

Yes, you get tired of being treated like rookies by them. So do what you can to stop the cycle.

Not What You Do

From my rookie days (yes I recall them, and no jokes about ancient history), I have this remembrance. I was out on my own and sent to assist at a traffic accident. In my past I had been a military police sergeant (Hooah!) and had worked my share of traffic accidents. Once on the scene, there was a real FTO Type 2 (fat, tired, and old guy) that was the primary officer and I was to assist this crotchety old cop. I reported to him and offered to do this and that. Nope, he was about to measure some skid marks and all I was good for was holding the "smart end of the tape"; in other words, the end of it. A nail in the asphalt could have replaced me. It made my blood boil, but he was a corporal and I was a nail to him, I guess.

Here's a hint for both sides of the equation. If you are a recruit and what the FTO is doing is not a violation of law, you just have to take it at times. For all you FTOs (both types), watch what you say; you never know who your next supervisor will be in life. For this particular guy in question, he later worked for me when I made sergeant and later lieutenant.  

Not to Whom But in Front of Whom

Unwarranted mistreatment of new officers is probably occurring right now somewhere in Policeland, which makes me cringe. I know we will never change the fraternity-type traditions that occur in this profession. However, I have some advice for the FTOs-mainly the FTO Type 2s-who are the biggest violators of this sin against rookiehood. We know that we may never change this action, for it is learned behavior. The FTO will rationalize that he was talked down to and treated like a lesser human while a rookie. It was good enough for him and now it is good enough for the new kid, he'll think. But that's not the way it should be or has to be.

For you new recruits, once you get some seniority and forget what it was like to be humiliated, you may do it to the next generation, and the cycle continues. But here's an idea for both FTOs and recruits. If you feel possessed to say something humiliating in front of the public, how about don't do it at all? Spouting off will lower public confidence in the department and its staff.

Citizens call for the police and expect professionals. They don't want to get a stand-up routine from some old guy trying to humiliate the younger one. If you were the citizen here, you would question the level of professional service and competence that you were receiving as a customer. So if you must do this departmental humor, keep it in the confines of the station, not in public earshot.

Cycles of Life

This is to the "rookies" (aka recruits) looking for a way to cope. First of all, we have all had to endure the rites of rookiehood. It is up to each and every one of you to change it for the future. Break the cycle of rookie mistreatment. The best way to start is to hold your tongue, be professional, and learn from others. Even if someone does something you detest, you can learn from it by not emulating it later.

Learn from others and start the profession over with you!

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