When you look at another officer’s uniform and see an FTO pin, what thoughts come into your mind? Sure you know that FTO is an abbreviation for “field training officer.” But just what does that mean?
First, it means this officer has attended and more than likely been certified in an FTO school. He or she is now the department’s connection between the academy’s training and the department’s training.
FTOs have the unheralded and often thankless job of training you to survive and flourish in the real world.
Academy training is held in daylight, not the fog of a dark city street on the midnight shift. In the academy setting, you get do-overs and practice runs, and you don’t get injured, killed, or sued for your mistakes. You also get to wear padded protective suits, “tap out” when the bad guy gets the best of you, and use training rounds in your weapons. Academy gyms have padded floors so you don’t get hurt when you fall, and it never rains or snows inside them.
The real world ain’t like that, and you need a guide to show you the ropes.
Field training is where your academy experience and the lessons that you have learned are applied with real-world applications and they become real for you. In the academy, you learned concepts and theories that you had not yet personally tested. In the field training program, you will test under stress and see if they really work.
Don’t expect everything to go exactly as you were taught in the academy. Your FTO’s style and your individual style will help you tweak what you’ve been taught and develop the techniques that work for you on the street.
The academy also presents lessons in building blocks or phases. On the streets, lessons are taught by calls that come to you as they are dispatched in a random fashion. This makes you think; it makes you dig deep into your knowledge base, and learn how to apply what you’ve been taught.
Your FTO will help you find your way. Don’t discard what you learned in the academy. Let your FTO guide you on how to build upon it. If you do, you’ll become a valuable member of your department who can succeed under even the most stressful conditions.