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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.

Your Best FTO

Life's best instructors are skilled trainers, not action movie stars.

February 11, 2010  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

Stop and think who would be the best FTO or instructor for you and your fellow recruits. Got it? Now drop your stereotypical, preconceived notions and rethink it.

I was having lunch with a fellow trainer and he noted that some students have ideas that the best instructors will have the real-life equivalent of the experiences of most action movie stars. This is often far from the reality of life. If you are expecting some superhero, he or she may not arrive. What you will get is a person who is trained to maximize your performance, not wow you with past feats.

I know several officers who have earned valor medals and most of them are not FTOs or instructors, but men and women who are top-shelf cops and performed extraordinarily under pressure. Most are not and will not become the trainer type. They will share their experience, but not in the classroom.

On the other hand, I personally know some of the best firearms instructors and they have not been in blazing shoot-outs with a host of blood curdling terrorists. However, they are excellent at presenting psycho-motor skills to a student and bringing that student's skill level to exemplary levels in a limited time. So who is the best qualified to train you?

Reality check: Probably the most fearful action that police engage in is public speaking. Getting a smart cop to become an instructor or FTO and then excel at it is an exception to the norm. These few exceptional law enforcement trainers are the ones I want teaching me.

I know there are some impressive cops out there who've proven their mettle in tough situations, but they may not have the talent to present their stories or transfer the knowledge that led to a successful outcome; we all have different gifts. Yes, there are several who have done both well and they are the prizes in life. When you go to sign up for their class, sign me up as well.

What I am trying to tell you is that if you have an instructor or FTO who is not a decorated combat hero from the wars in Omygodistan who's done numerous combat jumps with a knife between his teeth and can slay the enemy with reckless abandon and outdrive a NASCAR driver, life is not shortchanging you. Not all can meet these high expectations. In fact, probably no one can.

What you will get in the academy and in your FTO program are officers who have been recognized for their knowledge, skills, and abilities; plus they are capable of transferring these traits to you. Having been a trainer, I always attend several training conferences a year. Although I am a chief and probably should hang around more chiefs, trainers are my life blood. These are the people who will teach you, not some mythical hero types that should be on pay per view. These are real officers that you can trust. You see, they are the ones shaping the officers who are going to carry their legacy, train their backups, and - who knows - maybe even train the FTOs of the future.

If you want a super cop hero in your life, go rent a movie. If you want a real cop in your life, your academy cadre and FTOs are there to teach you today and for the rest of your career.

Train for tomorrow, for you never know what it will bring to the fight.

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