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
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.
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
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
"Most departments don't like to terminate
probationary officers, simply because you
represent a significant financial investment."
~ Barry M. Baker
|Copyright © 2019 Barry M. Baker