Print

Education >> Browse Articles >> From the Experts

+63

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.


+63
  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    almost 5 years ago

    Wow...nicely put! I'm a recruit myself, but also know the academy cannot trach you what a seasoned Officer can...kind of explains the reason they were appointed an FTO position in the first place.

  • Photo_user_banned_big

    fate300m

    almost 5 years ago

    114 Comments

    *raises hand* I am wanting to know more about "Dave Smith class"? I am in the pursuit of becoming a LEO and would like to learn more.

  • Camndad_max50

    Motorcop_213

    almost 5 years ago

    22714 Comments

    Nice one!

  • N1176270160_30124669_6040_max50

    taknudown

    over 5 years ago

    18 Comments

    very straight forward article !! will be useful .. good job !

  • Jthork-4847_71_max50

    chucky

    over 5 years ago

    514 Comments

    Dang, you must of visited San Diego PD's academy because that sound like 95% of our rookies...great article, thanks SGT

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 5 years ago

    Great to hear and keep in mind

  • Thi_seal_max50

    mpd_943

    over 5 years ago

    2486 Comments

    My only question is can I steal it to show this to all the future academy classes I teach? I'll make sure to give you credit for it Sarge!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 5 years ago

    great article. I've heard the saying way too often, "if you do everything you learn in the academy, you will end up dead."

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 5 years ago

    This is such an awesome article and me being the FNG knows that I gotta make sure that I don't do any of these things!

  • Delicate_arch_max50

    ryanhatch

    over 5 years ago

    1372 Comments

    Way to set it straight Herodomus. I liked your response to the article more than the article. I agree we all can learn from anyone. Great analysis!!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 5 years ago

    Way to go Sgt. Betsy...........

  • 577398_3318232707512_1866631077_n_max50

    Rangerfng

    over 5 years ago

    1050 Comments

    As have I. my last trainee was eger to empty everyones pocket with stupid tickets. So I let him pull all those people over pased on a tail/ or head lamp and would not allow him to write the ticket. The part about talking to old timers and handing out stickers. Did you guys interview me and I didnt know it. I do that all the time!!!!!

  • Us_max50

    gbirely

    over 5 years ago

    8 Comments

    Wow!! I have now copied this article and put it in the Field Training Books we provide to our trainees.

  • Lr_silv1-238x302_max50

    aspradlin

    over 5 years ago

    8 Comments

    How true, how true! Good Stuff!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    whyallthecorruption

    over 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    whats worse is when a dectective lets a rookie tell him what lies to say in court.

PoliceLink School Finder

Save time in your search for a criminal justice degree program. Use PoliceLink's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

Get Info

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.