Let me preface this column with one statement: The FTO program is where you experience real-life application of academy training, and with this comes consequences.
This we all will agree on, but there are some chances left for a "do over." Yes, in the FTO program you can get hurt, killed, sued, and all of the nasty things of a cop's life up to and including termination. Do not get faint of heart. Just know that this is still a learning program and you will make mistakes!
Grades, Happy Faces, and Not so Happy Faces
It's human nature during the learning process to only do as much as you have to do to get by. This is how I handled algebra in college. But then, I knew that I was never going to be a scientist nor a mathematician, so I wasn't too worried about my strategy. The FTO program is not a college math class.
The situation you find yourself in now is a new phenomenon; nearly everything that you are to be taught in the FTO program is a real-life vocational life-long skill. Therefore, you must perform at a higher level of expectations than "just enough to get by." Now, for the first time, you have to be an over-achiever. Why? Because the butt you save now is yours, and others' lives are depending on you.
Not all of your grades are going to be "happy faces." You are just beginning to work a very demanding job—in the public eye on real cases—with very real consequences. You are not role playing now. So don't become disheartened when your FTO clamps down on you because your scores for today are not acceptable. You may need remediation training or just a good stern talking to from your training officer. Constructive criticism is like medicine: it's good for you, but it leaves an unpleasant taste in your mouth.
Nobody in the history of law enforcement has ever gone through the FTO program unscathed, so don't get your feelings hurt. You will have virtually everything explained to you, then demonstrated to you, but soon you will have to perform. What you have to remember is that most of the time you will be allowed some practice before you actually perform any task under real-life circumstances. If you do not feel comfortable, verbalize this to the FTO. Don't get out there and just bumble through a call.
Some people go to an art museum or watch skilled craftsmen perform their magic, but not me. Watching a police officer handle a call with flair is pure art to me. I'd rather watch a call be handled masterfully than look at art. You as a recruit will come to recognize this as well.
You observe the FTO and say to yourself, "There's nothing to this." Wrong.
And here is the warning statement. The great gods of law enforcement have a unique sense of humor, and it will be just your luck that when it is your call it will be the one that the FTO and two sergeants will have to muddle through.
So, when you tell your FTO that you are confident, you better have gotten your "do overs" done in practice. I might just visit your city and watch you ride this call; I want to see the artistry that I know you are capable of.
Train with a purpose and train intelligently.