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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).

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.

Who Picked My FTO?

Balancing an FTO's skills and an FTO's needs can be difficult.

April 18, 2008  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

One reader recently posed a question that surfaces every FTO cycle: "Who picked my FTO? This guy makes me work!"

To me, FTO stands for "Fine Tuning Officer," not "Fun Time Officer." The Field Training Officer (FTO) program is one where there must be a balance and learning must be accomplished. If you are a recruit who thinks this is a chance for a good time, go to the local amusement park instead. FTO work is hard work; get used to it now.

The role of the FTO program supervisor is to pair up recruits with FTOs that will complement their learning process. If a recruit's primary and secondary FTOs are both strong in traffic enforcement, the end result could be a traffic monster. But what about learning to handle a domestic dispute? You can't use a radar gun and ticket book in that situation now can you? It is all about balance.

When I was the FTO Sergeant it was a complex operation. First I would contact the academy and check out my prospective recruits' scores, strengths, and weaknesses. I would even spend some time chatting with the youngsters to get a handle on what made them tick. Then back to the precinct to start the match-up process. Often it is like finding a blind date for a pal, but not that bad.

I want my first FTO (primary) to set a recruit's learning foundation and work ethic. One comes to mind who was very good in all topics. However, his strength was talking with citizens and work ethic. After the suitable amount of time with the primary FTO comes the secondary FTO.

From the Daily Observation Records (DOR) I would have to glean each recruit's weak areas. Lacking traffic enforcement skills? Team him up with one of those FTO traffic gurus. Maybe a tad weak in the report writing area? Then bring out the articulate one. Get the idea here? Appropriate pairings require balance, matching skills to specific needs.

One thing that your FTO Supervisor will have to watch is the ratio of learning to the amount of fun. Now, learning can and should have some fun in it, but this is secondary. Learning critical life-saving skills is far more important. Should you two seem to be buddying up instead of learning, I will put asunder what I had earlier put together.

Now some FTOs and recruits have become lifelong friends, but there is time for that later. No, I am not trying to take all of the fun out of life, but there is a time for it. You will forget the latest little joke you were told today. However, there are some things I still do to this day that my FTO Steve Hood taught me back then.

Learning police skills and tactics means the difference in survival. I would rather have you hate me for making you work than to have to visit you in the hospital or attend your funeral. Yes, it is that serious. Train like your life depends on it!

Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

spoc711 @ 5/11/2008 7:19 PM

Great story and right on point, at my agency the issue with the FTO manager and the FTO program is lack of experience and the failure to accept it.....we have FTO's that don't have a clear understanding of what is the job descrition of an FTO.....and they also wing it, no set standards for the FTO's or training.....and as for the fun aspect they will only teach what they like and the trainee's are left out in the cold when it comes to overall police work...the traffic guys will only teach traffic, the dope guys only teach dope ECT...everyone wants to be evryone's friend, the FTO's want to all cost! it a love fest....we are in the generation even in police work of "everyone gets a trophy"
there are no FTO guideliness for recruiting FTO's and no criteria to becoming one....

Maybe I'm old school, but the job of an FTO is to insure the tranee has a clear understanding of all his task, and prepare them to function as a police officer on their own, teach them all the right ways to be a true professional...and carry the torch...

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