Top 10 tribulations of being a Field Training Officer

Names have been changed and/or omitted entirely, and in some cases some embellishment may be present, but this collection of humorous observations speak straight to every FTO


There are many rewards that are part of being a Field Training Officer. You know that you alone will mold an unproven individual into a professional police officer. Maybe there is also the added reward of getting a hero bar to wear, or corporal stripes to display. Let’s not forget the small amount of added cash that some departments pay for your expertise.

However, there are also days that it just doesn’t seem to be worth being an FTO. Sometimes things just don’t seem to be going your way no matter how good an FTO you are.

Here’s the top 10 tribulations of being an FTO.

1.) You are about to embark on your career as an FTO. You have been trained and are about to teach your rookies how to make the world safe for democracy. Then you find you were picked to be an FTO not because of your intelligence and your dedication, but because everyone else refused.

2.) You come to work for an 8-to-4 after spending the preceding night helping your partner celebrate the fact that he lost 200 pounds (his divorce was finalized). You’ve already slashed your throat shaving and you spilled a cup of hot coffee in your lap on the way to work. Now the sergeant gives you the news: you are about to train a rookie who just graduated from the academy.

3.) When you show up to work on a midnight, the sergeant introduces you to your new rookie and she is gorgeous! You think the rumbling you hear is your heart skipping a beat, but it’s your stomach reminding you that your wife served Kielbasa and baked beans for dinner.

4.)  When you pull up to your relief point, and there is a rookie waiting for you and he is older and in worse shape than you are.

5.) When you see a little boy three feet tall standing next to your patrol car looking forlorn. You ask him, “Did you miss your school bus kid?” and the munchkin says, “No sir, I’m assigned to ride with you.” The day really goes downhill when you go into the diner with your rookie, and the lunch-hour waitress says, “That’s a cute costume, is your little boy in a school play?”

In order to avoid being embarrassed again, you tell your rookie, “Tomorrow bring your lunch to work.”

The next day when you stop for lunch in the park, he sits next to you at the picnic table and opens his Lone Ranger lunch box.

6.) While you are telling your rookie about how rough the job was when you started years ago, you tell him how you had to walk a foot post for two years and every day you had a school crossing at an elementary school. The rookie tells you he attended kindergarten at that school and remembers how you used to holler at him to hurry up and cross the street.

7.) You want to test the rookie’s powers of observation. You’re driving through a secluded area. Suddenly, in a field on the side of the road you see something out of the corner of your eye. You tell the rookie to pull over. You ask him if he saw anything unusual.

He says, “No.”

You tell him to look to his left and right. There on the left side of the road is a large safe with the door wide open. Being a good training officer, you ask the rookie what does he think this means. The rookie looks at you and asks, “Where’s the building that used to be around the safe?”

8.) It’s finally the rookie’s turn to drive. Not because he needs the practice, but because you need a nap. As you practice clandestine observation techniques through closed eye lids, you suddenly hear the rookie utter the two words you told him you never wanted to hear: “Uh, Oh.”

When you’re filling out the reports in the sergeant’s office, you state that you were preoccupied — checking the sheet for stolen cars — and those were the only words of warning you heard prior to the crash.

9.) The sun is shining, it’s a beautiful day, you couldn’t ask for more. You tell the rookie to check the car before you start on patrol. As he works his way around the cab of the car, you hear a deafening roar from within and smoke coming out the open doors.

Well, at least he knows there’s no longer a live round in the chamber of the shotgun.

Through your expertise gained in Creative Writing 101, you help the rookie explain to the sergeant how he mortally wounded the transmission in your brand new patrol car with only 300 hundred miles on the odometer.

10.) When you pull up for work one morning and another new rookie is standing there in his neatly-pressed uniform. He has spit-shined shoes, an expensive pen in his pocket, and has a badge number that’s higher than the reading on your bathroom scale.

After you introduce yourself, you realize the two of you have something in common. You both know the same person. His mother was your date to the senior prom. She’s also the person who never returned your phone calls after that evening.

About the author

Keith Bettinger is a retired Suffolk County (N.Y.) Police Officer. He’s been writing for law enforcement publications for more than 25 years and has received 18 awards for his articles, stories, poems, and books. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Relations with a major in Clinical Counseling. During his career he received the department’s Bravery Medal, Silver Shield Award, Meritorious Police Service Award, Special Service Award, Professionalization Award, Department Recognition Award, five Headquarters commendations and six Precinct commendations. He also was a field training officer and an instructor on Post Shooting Trauma and Critical Incidents.

Keith has written two books, Fighting Crime With “Some” Day and Lenny, and End of Watch. He has also contributed stories to the following anthologies: Cop Tales 2000, Charity, True Blue, To Protect and Serve, and Dad’s Bow Tie. He also shares with Jack Miller, the screenplay Master Cheat. Keith lives in Las Vegas with his wife Lynn.

Contact Keith Bettinger

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