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.