This blog post is dedicated to one of my former officers, whom I consider a student and nearly a son to me. He has now progressed in his career and is attending Field Training Officer certification school.
I sat back in my chair and thought of what advice I could offer him. But I'd also like to share my wisdom with you, for this is advice that all future FTOs need at this phase of their career.
First of all, be yourself.
You were selected to be an FTO for what you are and can do, not for something you are not. If you act like a super cop when you are FTO'ing and return to your usual ways afterward, your trainees will find out.
They'll think you were a fake and all the training was make-believe. You set your work ethic to get this job. Maintain it and don't become something you're not.
Serving as an FTO is like eating liver; you either hate it or love it - no in-betweens. If you work hard one day and the next day you want to play, your recruit will receive mixed messages. Set the learning and work standards and stick to them. None of the "good enough for government work" crap. Teach your recruits to work, train, and earn their keep.
Do not get behind.
There will be times when call load, court appearances, and special assignments start to inhibit the recruit's learning progress in a certain area. Do not skip it or try to come back to it later. Make a concerted effort to get back and complete the learning elements at hand.
I pray one of your recruits is never injured or killed in the line of duty. If it does happen, and you've knowingly skipped any element in that person's training, you will be the one looking at the coffin and at the recruit's children at the funeral knowing that you didn't do your job. Do not place yourself in this position; drive hard to complete the learning.
Teach the truth.
One thing no one needs is a cop you can't trust. This holds true not only in reports, evidence, and testimony, but in life. I guess this goes back to what I was told as a young lad: If you always tell the truth then you don't have to remember what you said. Integrity and ethics are caught, not taught. You need to be the living example.
Make the cake.
My favorite analogy for FTO training is that of making a cake. We all like dessert.
What your recruit brings to the table - knowledge, skills, and abilities - is the flour or the base. What he likes about you, the other FTOs, or other officers he admires make up the special tasty parts. What he sees and doesn't like in other officers accounts for the nasty bits that you and your recruit won't put in your cake.
What you are making is something that you are proud of and want your name on. If you like, you can even add a little Harvey to the mix.
Praise in public and chastise in private.
There's no greater leadership lesson here. Young recruits love praise. If they do a splendid job, praise them in front of the sergeant, their contemporaries, and on their reports. If they have not met the standards, chastise them in private, counsel them and give them a method to succeed. But never tear them down in front of others. Following this method of teaching will pay dividends.
Finally, enjoy the ride as an FTO. I look back and often laugh when reminiscing about this time in my professional life, for it included some of the best days of my career.
By the way, FTO school usually leads to bigger and better things. I look forward to writing my former pupil when he makes sergeant.