National Association of Field Training
Officers serving Municipal, County,
State, and Federal Criminal Justice
N.A.F.T.O. is an educational and
professional association concerned with
apprenticeship and advance ongoing
training (commonly known to as the Field
Training Officer concept) for Law
Enforcement, Communications, and
Corrections personnel. Educators,
Administrators and other Criminal Justice
practitioners are also encouraged to
The beginning of your police career is
going to be difficult, because you're
going to experience situations and
circumstances that classroom scenarios
can only touch upon.  Since every real life
experience can go in any direction,
scenarios are limited in their ability to
prepare you for the real deal.
"Most departments don't like to
terminate probationary officers,
simply because you represent a
significant financial investment."
~ Barry M. Baker
Field Training
Officer (FTO)

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Enter the Field Training Officer -- more
commonly referred to as the FTO.  Police
departments across the country are
creating their own FTO programs to train
their new police officers either during
their academy classroom training or post
classroom training.

In the past, every new police officer
experienced the assistance of
experienced officers on an informal basis,
but new officers were rarely closely
supervised on a continuous basis for any
length of time.  FTO programs were
created for the express purpose of
providing the brand new officer with the
continuous supervision, training and
assistance to acclimate the new officer
during those first weeks or months on
the street.

An FTO program also gives a police
department, or training academy, a
better insight on the new officer's
suitability for a police career.  In this
regard, the FTO is expected to honestly
rate the new officer's abilities to perform
as a police officer under real life
interaction with the public; criminals; the
criminal justice system, and his or her
performance in crisis situations.
When you become a police officer, you'll
be on a period of probation.  Most police
departments require a minimum
probation period of one year.  During
your probation, your employment can be
terminated, theoretically, for just about
anything.  Most departments don't like to
terminate probationary officers, simply
because you represent a significant
financial investment.  So, when a
probationary officer is terminated, it
usually is the result of a significant
violation.  A good FTO program should
do two things:  First, it should provide
you with the training to prevent you from
committing any significant violation...
whether through ignorance or simple
inexperience.  Secondly, the FTO should
be prepared to make the hard decision of
honestly rating a new officer who is
clearly unsuitable for police work.

For any program to perform successfully,
the people running it must themselves be
up to the task.  While most experienced
police officers don't mind offering
guidance and assistance to a new officer,
most don't want to do it on a full time
basis.  Therefore, police officers entering
an FTO program have to want to be Field
Training Officers.  The problem is that
every officer who wants to be an FTO
may not be suitable for the assignment.  
Choosing an FTO candidate is not a
problem in a police department which
experiences little turnover; however, in
larger departments where new hires are
frequent and numerous, the selections of
FTO's become more problematic.
Becoming a Police Officer
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