There is an age old question that surfaces in this column of mine: How long will the FTO be my FTO? The first answer to this is that it depends on which phase of the training process you are in, but that is the incorrect answer. The real answer is, for life.

The Name Goes on for Life

FTOs tend to refer to everyone as a ____-trained officer, with the name of the officer's FTO in the blank. That is a label of quality I would hope, for nobody wants to have his name associated with an inferior product. But, if you think the affiliation ends at the field training process, you are wrong. No, I am not talking about legal issues but life itself.

Your FTO, if you have a good one, will offer you more than "the job." I was blessed back in the day with a grand one indeed. Steve Hood, may he rest in the hand of God, was the guy who showed me not only how to be a cop, but also how to thrive and survive in the police world. No matter what the question was he would give me an honest answer. It may have not been the answer that I wanted, but I knew it was the right thing to do. He even gave me advice as a chief.

I do not know how many FTOs have later ended up working for some of their trainees; life is strange that way. But, more real FTOs will still watch out for you. A phone call, a whisper or reassurance now and then to their old recruits is very normal. It is just in their blood to make sure that their legacy continues.

The Worst Thing

The biggest fear that most FTOs harbor is the loss of a former recruit in the line of duty. This was my greatest fear as a trainer. Yes, FTOs hold an affinity for their students but the nightmare is all the questions. Did I teach him this or that? Was I totally dedicated to the process? And on and on.

If you are in the academy or in the training process, know this: Your FTO will be hard on you to make sure you go home every night in one piece—not just on their watch, but for life. FTOs do not want to face the self-questions of whether they gave you the best training they knew how.

Making the Legacy Last

Some of the greatest rewards I have ever received in life were when I had former students call to tell me of their successes built on principles that I instilled in them. To me, being told that I made a difference in an officer's safety means the most.

Additionally, I enjoy the calls I get from former trainees letting me know they have been promoted or received other laudatory rewards. It just makes all of that effort worthwhile. The biggest reward you can offer to your FTO is, someday in the future, enrolling in FTO School to carry on the legacy. Believe me, they will be very proud, for it means their teaching legacy will live on. 

Train like your life depends on it; it just could some day!

Author

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.

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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.

View Bio
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