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10 tribulations of being a Field Training Officer

There are many rewards to being an FTO, but there are just as many tribulations; humor is one way to avoid FTO burnout


This article was updated on July 10, 2017.

There are many rewards that are part of being a Field Training Officer. You know that you 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 extra cash some departments pay for your expertise.

However, there are those days when it doesn’t seem worth being an FTO. Sometimes things don’t go your way no matter how good an FTO you are.

The day goes downhill when you grab dinner with your rookie and the waitress says, “Cute costume! Is your kid in a school play?” (Photo/Olaf Gradin via Flickr)
The day goes downhill when you grab dinner with your rookie and the waitress says, “Cute costume! Is your kid in a school play?” (Photo/Olaf Gradin via Flickr)

Here are the top 10 tribulations of being an FTO:

1. Becoming an FTO by default

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

2. No notice of new officer assignment

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 to train a rookie who just graduated from the police academy.

3. It might be a long night

When you show up to work on a midnight, the sergeant introduces you to your new rookie as your stomach gurgles, reminding you that your wife served Kielbasa and baked beans for dinner.

4.  When your rookie has been around the block

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

5. Back-to-school night

When you see a little boy standing next to your patrol car looking forlorn. You ask him, “Did you miss your school bus?” 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?”

6. Feeling your age

While you are telling your rookie how rough the job was when you started years ago, you relate 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. Missing the clues

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 he think this means. The rookie looks at you and asks, “Where’s the building that used to be around the safe?”

8. When your rookie gets the car keys

It is 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 your police report 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. When your rookie finds the shotgun

The sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day. You couldn’t ask for more. You tell the rookie to check the squad 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 new patrol car with only 300 hundred miles on the odometer.

10. A blast from the past

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 a badge number 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.

 

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