This column is directed to the FTO or the future FTO. You are the most critical link between academy training and education and real world application. You alone will have probably the greatest influence on tomorrow's cops. You are the critical link to success and failure. So, let's not waste such an opportunity.
Young officers are like young puppies; they yip and yap and want to chase cars. They are not our pets and we do not yell at and kick at our puppies, so why do this to recruits? One golden rule I follow that you should also abide by is that if I raise my voice at you, you'd better seek cover. That's because such a reaction is reserved only for a critical life threatening moment. As a rule, you do not yell at recruits as an FTO.
Recruits love praise and do not want to be scolded. Therefore, praise in public and chastise in private. You want the recruit to excel? Then praise him or her in front of fellow recruits. Praise will keep them excelling when most would stop. After all, you like to be appreciated as well. Never, ever chastise a recruit in public unless it is a life critical moment. Some of the worst tail chewings I ever received were at a low voice, and the disappointment of my supervisor was in every word. You do not have to yell to be heard.
Reminders need to be realistic. For example, "If you do this you will lose the case or the evidence will be tossed out in court." Far too many FTOs use the ever familiar "if you do this you will get killed" phrase. This to me is overused and lost its punch years ago. Not everything we do or don't do will get you killed. Back in my academy, everything we did was getting us killed; we did not expect to live to graduation. Give realistic offerings of what could happen, not the same doomsday chronicles.
Oftentimes the FTO must be more than a trainer. I recall one recruit I had that was new in town. He did not yet have a bank in the area and didn't know where to find something as simple as the nearest grocery store. I had to be a mentor in this situation and guide him in the right direction. This did not make me his buddy.
Giving good sound advice on real world issues that have great meaning to a recruit goes a long way. Recall, I have said many times, you must offer insights into living the other 16 hours a day, not the mere eight on duty. Additionally, it is a 24/7 plan; if your off time is worrying you, then you will not perform well while working. It's true for you, it's true for recruits.
Be the mentor, the ambassador to success in Copland. You do not have to befriend recruits, but you can be cordial and not their nemesis. Let's go back to the young pup analogy. They want to please you with good performance. Give them a win-win methodology to do so. Good trainers want their students to succeed, not fail. Do not give no-win scenarios; give them a way to challenge themselves and to prove their increased skills. Demand excellence and not the mediocre. Do not forget to praise them and they will make you proud.
The Honor of Being an FTO
FTO for Life
The FTO’s Role in Your Training
Recruit Training: Prepare Your Recruits with an FTO Class