It was my first day on patrol since graduating from the reserve police academy. I was excited and anxious. As the sergeant called roll, he called my name and another officer's name. We both answered and he gave us our beat assignment for the day. After briefing, my FTO and I walked out to our patrol unit. When he got in, he started the car and said, "Before we get started--I'm not used to having a partner. I don't like having a partner. Especially a reserve."
I was speechless.
He went on. "I don't get paid to be an FTO, so if you learn something today, great. I am not going to go out of my way to teach you anything. Your job is to sit there, keep your mouth shut, and observe."
I was scared and didn't know if I should just get out and go ask for a different partner, or if that would be worse. I decided that I only needed to survive 10 hours with this guy, and next time, I would ask for a different partner. We drove away from the station and he proceeded to give me a quick tour of the city to get me oriented to my new environment. This wasn't so bad after all. Whether he knew it or not ,he was teaching me something. But I wasn't about to tell him.
Then came the call. "One-boy-sixty-seven, handle a 211 (robbery) that just occurred. Suspects are three males with a shotgun." My partner and I looked at each other with big eyes, because we were literally around the corner from the location of the robbery. We sped off to the scene. When we arrived, the victim, who was still on the phone with our dispatch, pointed down the street to show us which way the robbers fled. We took off and my partner made a few turns along the way to anticipate the suspects' movement.
As we were rounding the corner, we saw three males walking down the street. One was carrying something in his hand that was wrapped up in a black jacket. My partner yelled, "He's got a shotgun!" He then threw the car in park and bailed out the driver's side of the unit. He ran to get cover behind a car, parked on the opposite side of the street.
My recent academy training took over. I ducked down, and bailed out my side of the car. I took cover behind a car in a nearby driveway. I had a clear view of one of the suspects, who was hiding behind a car. I shouted orders at him to put his hands up and took him into custody, while my partner called on the radio for help. The cavalry came and we captured all three suspects.
After it was all over, my partner came to me and told me that during the confusion, he had completely forgotten about me. When he had remembered that he had a partner, he looked over just in time to see me handcuffing my suspect.
The next week, I went into the sergeant's office before briefing and requested a different training officer. During briefing, the sergeant called my name and another officer's name. We both answered and he gave us our beat assignment. My original partner, from the week before, stopped the sergeant and told him that there was some mistake. He said, "That's my reserve and he rides with me." The sergeant reassigned me and I spent the next few months training with my original partner. He taught me a lot about the streets and everything that he knew about being a cop.
It is now years later and I have left that large department and moved to a smaller one. Every once in awhile, my FTO calls me to see how I'm doing and ask me when I'm coming back.
Reserve officers really want to be the best that they can be, but we can only be as good as the training that we are given. Because we don't do this job everyday, we need full-time officers to take the time to teach us to be better.
I now patrol in a single-man unit. I still make mistakes--often--and ask the officers I work with to tell me when they see me making mistakes. Most of them are willing to take the extra time to teach me the right way to do things so that I can make a better contribution to the community and help keep us safe on the streets.
John M. Bair is a reserve police officer for the Brea (Calif.) P.D.