During the field training program, there will be countless moments where the FTO and recruit wait patiently for a radio call, some street creep to appear, or something else to do. If you're an FTO, what can you do during these moments to enhance training? Here are a few games to participate in:
A license-plate recognition contest is great for building observation skills. Most states now have vanity plates or special-cause plates, so trying to establish what state issued the plate can be a challenge. One night, you can look for a vehicle with a plate from another state. Or look for your state's plate with a Royal Order of Water Buffalos tag. True, this is a traveling game we've all done while trapped on endless miles of interstate. Keep in mind that you're trying to train the observant eye.
Tag recall: Quick, what was the tag by letter and numbers? Then have the new officer recite them with the proper phonetic radio alphabet for the correct answer. This game reinforces proper radio verbiage and enhances recall.
Lookout of the Night: If you don't have any active vehicle lookouts posted, make up one. I used to use a green Volkswagen beetle for starters. The field training officer (FTO) can make this as simple or difficult as he or she wishes.
Lost Tourist Drill: Ask the recruit a series of "lost tourist" questions. Where is the nearest 24-hour pharmacy, diner, or emergency room? How do I get to a local point of interest? How do I find access back to the interstate? A tourist or lost motorist will still stop a cop, even with the GPS craze. This is a good one, because it's a service.
Radio Jeopardy: A radio call goes out to another unit. If that unit calls for assistance, how would you get there? Now we're teaching listening, orientation, geographical recall, and tactics for the bonus points. Normal traffic conditions may dictate one route. However, to get there expeditiously (with lights and sirens) may require an all-together different route. What if the call needed someone to cover the rear of a building? What are the possible escape routes? This is the high-points game for the recruit with lots of the elements of the job coming into play.
There are countless other games or training scenarios that any FTO can conjure up. It's not my point here to make them up but prompt you, the FTO, to not waste time. Always think of ways to sharpen the recruit's edge.
A recruit may wonder if he or she will ever get some down time. My job is to drive you to develop a fine knowledgeable officer, rather than someone wanting an easy pass. Training is hard work, even if it's a game.