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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.

Don't Expect Perfect Scores Off the Bat

Life is not always a happy face.

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

I can't tell you how many times I've heard a recruit exclaim, "I deserve a higher number on my ratings!" Well, first of all, life is not all happy faces and gold stars. My usual reply to this statement is a question:

"The second you walk across the stage from academy graduation…could you handle a call right then and there? I mean, know how to charge, fill out all of the forms, better yet find all the forms, and know how to successfully prosecute the case, then do all of this in a timely manner?" The answer is always a two-letter word: no.

"Then how do you expect to know all of the answers, all of the time? This is a training program, which means you have to improve on pre-existing knowledge and apply new learned skills. You did not get a perfect score the first time your father let go of the bicycle, did you? There is not much difference here."

Learn as You Go

If a recruit shows progressive learning in topics there are a few points to discuss. It would be rare indeed for any one recruit to know all of the nuances of how to handle a particular call. Yes, you may know the law, its proper application, and how to fill out the forms, but…there are some things that are not taught in the academy.

Each department has its own departmental culture in how it does business. It could be in the way the report is written or how the perpetrator is processed. Then within your department are mini-cultures. One sergeant may want to have a something handled a particular way that differs slightly from another sergeant. Are you getting this now? This is not a clear-cut process. Therefore, you must learn the little things that mean success. It is often the little things that make you or break you.

Try Harder

If you get a less than stellar rating today, you and your FTO are required to review the daily observation report and discuss the victories and weak numbers. Your FTO may recommend additional work on a particular area; this remediation is important. The FTO program is one of progressive learning. Often, one skill builds another, then another. If you stumble now, your academic climb will be difficult. Be sure to address this low number now before it begins to affect other areas.


There is a certain human factor that presents itself also. Just as one umpire may call it a strike because it was on the corner, it depends if you are the batter or the pitcher.

One FTO may call your report a hit while another one calls it foul. Once you are with an FTO for a shift or so, you will get the feel of his or her grading scheme. Some may be gracious and some are stringent. Don't take this personally either; it is not the end of the world if you have a remediation.

We all have bad days, or days when you're not in your zone. A little dip can be addressed and overcome.

However, if you really don't like the grading, discuss it with your FTO first before it clouds your vision toward learning. Who knows? When you become an FTO you might be as stringent yourself, wanting your recruits to push themselves to become better.

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