As a field training officer (FTO), you're placed in the role of one-on-one trainer, conduit to reality and other roles. Go ahead and pull your job description and read how your department describes you, because I have a new role.
This may sound like a buzzword from a motivational speaker's pep talk, but you're a change agent. Face it, look around and accept it. You'll shape your department's future. The command staff should know, and if they have overlooked the FTO in a department's transitional process, then they're blissfully ignorant of the power of the training process.
Many years ago, when my former department started off into community policing land, several decisions were made. One of the first groups indoctrinated in the ways of COP were our FTOs. What better way to ramp in the future by training the recruits from day one of this process. The learning point here is not to unlearn a principle taught to fresh young minds. The added bonus was no wasted training time (as if there's a lot of that to go around).
The FTO is the bridge from academy theory and preconceived ideas or reactions brought to the table. They set the workplace compass, offer problem-solving scenarios and prepare the recruit for the career. So, you're a change agent, taking the raw and polishing it up.
A message for the chief and sheriff — for departmental success, make your FTOs part of the change team. The usual drill for departmental change is to ramp in your command staff and supervisors, and then the troops. Your FTOs are one-on-one supervisors and trainers; they may only train one or two recruits a year but they make long term impressions. They are the informal trainers at roll call and their students will come back to them as mentors throughout their career. Invest heavily in your FTOs as part of the change team; they are the threshold to the department's future.
How do I become a change agent, you ask? It's simple. Walk the walk. I think back in my career about how many changes have come about — semiautos, OC, mobile data terminals, and other technology. I think about how it was rolled out. If the FTO wasn't on board, then the next cycle of new hires also wasn't onboard. I've always believed that the FTO should be the first one registered for training.
If they are to pass on the knowledge, they have to be the sharpest. They need to be the ones leading way to embrace and implement change for the good. I can only imagine what a kind of department we would have if the FTO was technologically phobic and performed everything the good old fashioned way.
You're a change agent, provided that you're rewarded and allowed to do your job. When you face your next recruit, know that what you instruct them in today could have repercussions for 20 to 30 years in the department. You hold a lot in your hands, make it worthwhile. Train for tomorrow's problems today.