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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).

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.

Ask Questions

The question you don't ask could get you hurt, literally.

May 09, 2008  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

You are a rookie and sometimes you think it is best to stay quiet. You may have been told or maybe it was implied that you should sit down, shut up, and don't touch anything. This could be the worst advice of all. Sometimes it is best to speak up.

You sit there in wonderment, pondering, What if I don't ask a question? If you don't ask, you won't get hollered at for not paying attention, which may be comforting for now. But remember that the FTO program consists of progressive learning with future application of applied knowledge.

If you are in the early phases of your FTO program, you best ask now! If you don't understand what you are doing now, what are you going to do later?

When your FTO directs you to handle an advanced task tomorrow that requires the use of the skill you find troublesome today, you may regret your silence. Ask yourself, Do I want a frown today or to get dinged on my evaluation next week? Even more importantly, do you want to risk getting injured because you don't understand a tactic?

The FTO program is best understood as a building block process. Each and every day you have greater expectation placed on you. Each day requires you to apply a previously learned skill. If you don't have this skill mastered, you are destined to fail. The key here is being sure you know what you are doing before the FTO moves you to a higher level of difficulty.

If your FTO considers your asking questions evidence of his failure to teach, he is off target. Granted, he should have been interjecting questions to you all throughout the process to make sure you understood. Proper questions and correct answers can ensure that the learning process has been achieved.

In my FTO experience, there is always one recruit that asks one thousand questions a day. These recruits will test the best trainers. Some of these types use questions to put off their learning or testing. You can't delay the inevitable; you must perform to pass. One way of limiting questions is the proper teaching process with verbalization. For the FTO and recruit, you are not there to dazzle one another with speed. It takes some time to teach and learn any new task.

The proper demonstration process should cover your questions. Start with the explanation step where the FTO verbalizes the process and performs. This moves to the demonstration step where the FTO verbalizes the process and the recruit performs under the FTO's guidance. The final, or performance, step is where the recruit actually verbalizes and performs under the FTO's scrutiny. By this point you should have had plenty of opportunities to seek answers for any unsolved mysteries.

One of the things that will drive your FTO insane will be an air of inability or whining. There is no whining in FTO programs! Instead, state the issue of where or when you are having difficulty. You can say, "No more for today," "I can't do this," or "this is too hard for me." But be sure to explain where you are confident and at what point there is uncertainty. Remember, there is no room for whiners!

Train hard, train smart, and train with the goal of survival.

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