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A Rookie’s Guide to Failing Field Training

A Rookie’s Guide to Failing Field Training

Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith

“Forget everything you learned in the academy”

At least one veteran officer is going to say this to you as you begin your FTO program. And you know what? They’re probably right! All those weeks you spent in your criminal justice degree program learning about tactics, law, procedure, ethics, human behavior, report writing, firearms and traffic stop procedures from that dedicated cadre of police trainers? Forget it all! Those guys are working at the academy for gosh sakes; what can they possibly know about “real” police work. If they are “real” cops, why aren’t they working the street? You’ve completed the academy and you’re now a fully commissioned officer, its time to move into the real world and forget all that recruit nonsense.

Assume you know much more than your trainer

After all, you just got out of the academy. Your brain is full of the latest tactical updates, current case law, new crime trends, and officer survival statistics. Your FTO? Probably one of those old, out of touch guys or gals who aren’t up on all the latest knowledge like you are. No doubt they will appreciate you correcting them and interrupting them, especially in front of their peers or the supervisors. After all, you’re just trying to help them out. You’re the new generation, you know it all; your FTO can barely tap out a text, won’t play “Grand Theft Auto IV,” has no idea what Twitter is and doesn’t even have a MySpace page.

Be impressed with yourself and your new authority

And make sure everyone else is too. It’s a phenomenon we call “badge heavy.” You now have the legal authority (not to mention the means) to take a life. You look awesome in your uniform, and you can tell that wherever you go, people are watching you because lets face it, they’re impressed. That elderly woman whose car got burglarized? Tell her “just the facts, ma’am” and take the report; you certainly don’t have the time or the inclination to reassure her about the safety of her neighborhood or listen to stories about her grandson in the Marines. And that little kid in the coffee shop who is trying to get your attention? You’re a criminal justice rule enforcer, not a PR guy; it’s embarrassing when your FTO chats with old people and kids and hands out those stupid little “junior officer” stickers. You’re not here to be nice to people, you’re here to protect them or arrest them, but that’s as far as it goes. Show a little attitude, a little hubris; your FTO will appreciate that, and so will the community.

Be a rebel, FTO’s and supervisors really admire that

Learn your general orders and local ordinances only so you can argue their validity with your trainer and the brass. Roll your eyes when your FTO corrects you about something you don’t think is important, and all that studying he wants you to do on your own time? Blow that off unless you’re promised some overtime pay. Tell jokes in roll call and make sure you engage in witty banter with all the senior officers. And don’t get too excited about following the chain of command. I’m sure the chief or the sheriff will appreciate it if you take the time to stop in uninvited and give him some pointers on how to improve operations at the agency. No doubt your experience as the assistant night manager of the “Pizza Pit” when you were in college has given you valuable business insight that should be shared.

Take every shortcut you can

Some of the senior officers on your new department appear to have a way to circumvent almost every procedure. If they can get away with it, why can’t you? Why should you have to study and memorize general orders just because your FTO tells you to? You can just figure out how to look them up when you need to once you’re out on solo patrol. Why should you learn the geography of your jurisdiction and how to read a map, isn’t that what GPS and navigation systems are for? Why should you bother to write long, involved police reports like your FTO is insisting on? It’s not like you’re going to forget the details of these calls you’re going on and the arrests you’re making. And why clean your gun after every session in the range? After all, it’s just going to get dirty again the next time you fire it. Figuring out how to do things the easy way is one of best ways to get noticed around the agency; go for it!

Assume that no one will ever really want to hurt you

All that talk about officer safety and survival doesn’t really apply to you. You work in a decent area and no one on your agency has even been involved in a shooting since you were in high school! Why should you read those Chuck Remsburg books, attend a Dave Smith class, or practice your repetitions in front of the mirror? It’s not like you’re in a big urban area where there’s any real danger, and if you are, that’s what back up is for, right? All that officer survival stuff is for the truly paranoid; your job is to look good, drive fast, collect a paycheck, push people around and impress the opposite sex, isn’t it? If you’re not sure, just ask your FTO, he or she’ll will be happy to set you straight.

  • 2013_police_academy_graduation_beverage_pitcher-rfbcce87685664b4aad274d761cee8c6d_2wnov_8byvr_324_max50


    over 1 year ago


    Thank you for this! I needed a chuckle.

  • White_shirt_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    The "Badge Heavy" syndrome is so common. I recall as a rookie looking at myself in uniform in anything that would reflect myself. We have to mature sometime however.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    Great tips that should be taught at the academy.

  • File0106_max50


    over 4 years ago


    guarddog45:"This was extremely funny, but so believable. Have yet to make it to the "rookie" stage but have seen some of this in Security and can be absolutely unbelievable what some guys will boggles the mind what some people can come up with to do/to say. Guess I'm old fashioned, but if I'm the newbie, I want the experienced person to be teaching me how to get home to my loved ones after every shift. Seems like that is the most important thing I'd be making sure of. " I completely agree. I have seen it when the rookies are out on calls in my neighborhood with their FTO's. I am not even a cop and I would want the person with the most experience to teach me everything that I would need to know. I would want to go home to my family so I would listen to my FTO.

  • Me2_max50


    over 4 years ago


    yes. a great article!

  • Img00015-20101105-1530_max50


    over 4 years ago


    expert guide

  • 20141003_065807-1_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    MASONLEE89 i love sarcasm

    Yea I do too brother.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago

    great article

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago

    Boy am I sure glad I read this article. =)
    Thanks SGT. B

  • Dscn0139_max50


    about 5 years ago


    I take it that the anonymous rookie didn't get the sarcasm and thought that you really meant to forget everything taught in the academy. ROOKIES!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago

    haha, that was great

  • Masonb2_max50


    about 5 years ago


    i love sarcasm

  • Photo_user_banned_big


    about 5 years ago


    Haven't been there yet, but when I make it there I will keep these things in mind when I get out... Had to go back up to make sure it said how to "fail" the field training...LOL... cute and fun to read.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago


    This was extremely funny, but so believable. Have yet to make it to the "rookie" stage but have seen some of this in Security and can be absolutely unbelievable what some guys will boggles the mind what some people can come up with to do/to say. Guess I'm old fashioned, but if I'm the newbie, I want the experienced person to be teaching me how to get home to my loved ones after every shift. Seems like that is the most important thing I'd be making sure of.

  • Online-photo-sharing-gallery-animal-cat-cougar-artct45_max160_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Oh, Sarge, Whenever I need a good laugh I come back and reread all of this. I've seen this type come and go and sometimes wake up and realized what they need to do to stay with us !!!!

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