FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!
Brian Willis

Brian Willis

Brian Willis is a retired officer, trainer and author who now serves as deputy executive director for the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA).

Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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.

FTO for Life

Field Training Officers are like parents; they don't stop worrying about you just because you leave their nest.

August 17, 2007  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

There is an age old question that surfaces in this column of mine: How long will the FTO be my FTO? The first answer to this is that it depends on which phase of the training process you are in, but that is the incorrect answer. The real answer is, for life.

The Name Goes on for Life

FTOs tend to refer to everyone as a ____-trained officer, with the name of the officer's FTO in the blank. That is a label of quality I would hope, for nobody wants to have his name associated with an inferior product. But, if you think the affiliation ends at the field training process, you are wrong. No, I am not talking about legal issues but life itself.

Your FTO, if you have a good one, will offer you more than "the job." I was blessed back in the day with a grand one indeed. Steve Hood, may he rest in the hand of God, was the guy who showed me not only how to be a cop, but also how to thrive and survive in the police world. No matter what the question was he would give me an honest answer. It may have not been the answer that I wanted, but I knew it was the right thing to do. He even gave me advice as a chief.

I do not know how many FTOs have later ended up working for some of their trainees; life is strange that way. But, more real FTOs will still watch out for you. A phone call, a whisper or reassurance now and then to their old recruits is very normal. It is just in their blood to make sure that their legacy continues.

The Worst Thing

The biggest fear that most FTOs harbor is the loss of a former recruit in the line of duty. This was my greatest fear as a trainer. Yes, FTOs hold an affinity for their students but the nightmare is all the questions. Did I teach him this or that? Was I totally dedicated to the process? And on and on.

If you are in the academy or in the training process, know this: Your FTO will be hard on you to make sure you go home every night in one piece—not just on their watch, but for life. FTOs do not want to face the self-questions of whether they gave you the best training they knew how.

Making the Legacy Last

Some of the greatest rewards I have ever received in life were when I had former students call to tell me of their successes built on principles that I instilled in them. To me, being told that I made a difference in an officer's safety means the most.

Additionally, I enjoy the calls I get from former trainees letting me know they have been promoted or received other laudatory rewards. It just makes all of that effort worthwhile. The biggest reward you can offer to your FTO is, someday in the future, enrolling in FTO School to carry on the legacy. Believe me, they will be very proud, for it means their teaching legacy will live on. 

Train like your life depends on it; it just could some day!

Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

SERGEANT JJD @ 9/9/2007 11:52 AM

I have been what we call a UTO (Unit Training Officer) for most of my career and I can't think of a more rewarding endevor. I love it when officers that I have trained earn commendations, get promoted, and excel on the job. I do feel like a proud parent. Like a parent, I train with a firm, but guiding hand. I let them try on their own, but watch them like a hawk. I believe in praise, but admonish when necessary. I would rate this article as excellent. Thank you.

lawman1293 @ 9/11/2007 5:01 AM

I have been a Training Officer for most of my careern and I too take pleasure in training. I love it when someone I have trained receive commendations and so on. I must say, 90% of the Officers I have trained have gone to specialize units and/or have been promoted, even to the point where they have become my supervisor, and still come to me with questions. It's like I am their parent or big brother. I love what I do and continue as long as I am in Law Enforcement. This article was right on time and I would give it five stars. Thanks for the recognition for all FTO's.

era12 @ 10/28/2007 7:08 AM

This is so true. In my old agency, I was the FTO for a new graduate. Not only did this help create a friendship between us, but after I left the agency to work elsewhere, I still (over 5 years later) get calls for advice on situations. We have joked before about being an FTO for life, but at the same time it is true. He has also since been the FTO for others under him, and tells them they are indirectly being trained by me also. Anyhow, thanks for the great article.

Join the Discussion

POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Blog Posts

Politics Trumping Tactics: [Don't] Sit Down… You're Rocking the Boat
Elected officials have one underlying goal that informs and influences all their other...
Foot and Hoof Patrol: Meaningfully Connecting Cops and Citizens
Foot patrol is the essence of community policing—officers on foot create opportunities for...

Police Magazine