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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



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.
Careers

Recruit Life As a Single Parent

Two of life's toughest jobs can break the strongest among us.

December 07, 2011  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

This blog often focuses on tactics, off-duty survival, surviving the FTO program, or making it though the academy. However, what can often get overlooked is making it through those first few years as a parent. A single-parent recruit has been given the most difficult assignment of all.

Beginning a police career is often a major lifestyle changer. Some experience near euphoria, because they've obtained a lifelong dream. For some, it's a good job with benefits in a tough economic climate. All of us must survive, slug through, and toil to get out of the program and pass probation. Adding family dynamics to this can create a mountain of an obstacle.

Major lifestyle changes come swirling at you—shift work, court appearances on days off, carrying a weapon off duty while providing care to a child. There are many officers, both male and female, who have done this. Many do this as a single parent. The lives of many young officers are a constant juggling act of sitters, schedules, and missed sleep. Most don't want an award; they accept police work and parenting in stride.

If you're a Field Training Officer (FTO) you have to know and understand what makes your recruit tick. What motivates her? What's important to her? Additionally, you must know what causes an adverse effect on his training. If the kid is sick or he's having problems lining up child care, then your training will be a wash.

It's imperative that FTOs know their recruits. There are questions we can't ask or infer. If you don't know these by now, contact your human resources department or civil service commission for direction. Yes, there are privacy issues here, and each state or agency has its own spin on these. Consult your field training supervisor about this.

Often these nuggets of information will surface one way or another. If she's frazzled today and admits that her baby has the colic or a sitter was late, the door is partially open. Your understanding and advice may be the most important element in the conversation. No, being a parent does not get you points or a passing grade on a marginal performance test. It does help indicate your personal stress level.

These are teaching points for the FTO. Sick kids equate to lost sleep and poor decision-making due to sleep deprivation. Experienced FTOs and trainers understand this. No, we're not offering a pass; we're gaining insight.

Personally, once I found out the name of a recruit's little one, I used it as a reminder: "If you violate sound tactics and something bad happens, who will care for little Billy?" Use this sparingly. You don't want to create drama or stress. Instead, you want to cue your recruit toward success.

Being a recruit and parent can drain you physically and mentally. I know this as an FTO and parent. Be smart and train hard. Use this to enhance your skills so you can go home and give little Billy a hug at the end of the shift. 

Tags: FTOs, Off-Duty Life, Passing Probation


Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Tony @ 12/13/2011 7:15 PM

Single parents SHOULD NOT be police officers unless they have someone to watch their kids. The Military makes single parents have family care plans that spells out who has the children when the parent is working. Days Off & Shift assignment comes with putting your time in and earning Seniority. I've seen several female officers, that were single parents, come to my dept and cry about the hardship of the job and get assigned to Day Shift and full weekends off teams to accomodate their life.
If a single parent cannot work a job that requires shift work, they need to find another career.

Christina @ 10/6/2012 3:10 PM

I am single mother of 2 boys, I am going through college to become a police officer, yes being a single parent means making sure you always have someone there to watch your kids, its hard but once you get the hang of working for the police you will do fine, Don't let anyone make that decision difficult for you

Theresa @ 5/26/2014 2:49 PM

I'm extremely interested in a career as an officer. I am 27 year old single mother. I need some advice. Positive preferably lol

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