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  • Officer Safety Question

    Quick bit of background...

    I recently moved from a large sheriff's department (about 2000 sworn) to a small sheriff's department (about 200 sworn). I'm going through another FTO program which I'm glad of since I only did about 6 months on patrol in my previous department. I'm about 2 months into the training and so far things are going very well. My first training officer and the others on the shift have all been great helping me transition from one agency to another with a very very different style.

    My new FTO, only a 2 week filler, is brand new. His first day back from FTO school was his first day with me as a trainee.

    We conducted a traffic stop and in the middle of the stop he walked behind me and stood in front of the violator's vehicle to observe my stop. This made me very uncomfortable for various reasons, not the least of which is the obvious safety hazard for both of us.

    While conducting records checks of the two people in the car over the radio, my FTO came back to my patrol car, turned it off, took the keys and locked the doors. I completed my stop and we continued our day.

    As we drove away he told me he wants me to turn off my car and lock it anytime I am out of it, including traffic stops. I was shocked because I was always trained to leave the car on and unlocked in order to keep it accessible.
    I told him I would do my best to try his method and was unable to feel comfortable with it because of the safety risk.

    The next day I brought it up to him and explained why I felt uncomfortable with his technique and respectfully told him I was uncomfortable doing it and asked for an explanation of why he wanted me to turn off and lock the car on stops. He explained he did not want our vehicle to get damaged on the stop. I explained that in my mind my safety was more important than the vehicle and that if my cover officer and I do our jobs properly nobody should get near our car during the stop.

    I was trained in both jail and on patrol by a very old school training program and group of FTO's. I take the trainee and trainer role very seriously and do not like to question my training officer but in this situation I saw it as a major safety risk and just could not feel comfortable with his method.

    I have never seen or heard of turning off the car and locking it during a traffic stop and I am concerned that this new FTO is going to teach unsafe practices to people who may not have even the limited patrol experience I have had prior to training with him.

    So I guess my questions are:

    -Is this a common practice anywhere else?

    -What are your thoughts on it?

    -Do you think I handled the situation appropriately?

    -Do you have recommendations about talking to a Sgt or somebody about this FTO to keep somebody from getting hurt?

    Thanks for your time.

  • #2
    The FTO is always right...

    If you keep that attitude as a probationary deputy- you won't be at this Sheriff's Office long either!

    Word of advice- one that kept me out of trouble going through FTO as an experienced officer and one that I pass on to those I am training now.

    You don't have to like or agree with how I do things as an FTO- but while you ride in my car you will do this job my way. When you get out on your own, have some street experience and gain confidence in your job then you can develop your own style. Butting heads with your FTO will only get you written up and earn you a reputation for insubordination with your supervisors- remember, during FTO he is the boss!

    As to locking the patrol car during traffic stops- no, I don't do this as a practice, but I know other officers who do it religiously and respect their way of working. Their point on officer safety is valid, and I have locked my car on some stops while in areas were there are numerous people around.

    I remember one embarrasing traffic stop scenario in the academy when I walked up to talk to someone working under the hood of their car- and soon after my patrol car drove off without me... Lesson learned!
    ---Cut the red wire---


    • #3
      The way the cars are wired where I am from with the car turned off you have no lights. Also if it hits the fan how do you get in the car quickly? I do not like the concept.

      With that being said...listern to the FTO as he's running the show for a few weeks. Hope if anything does go wrong that having 2 of everything on the site will negate any unsafe things.


      • #4
        I agree 100% with your thoughts and feelings. If your stay with this FTO is short then I would try and avoid the traffic stops and not cause waves. If you are with him for a few months then you can not avoid the traffic stops so I would have a serious chat with the FTO, your a trainee not a rookie, and outline your personal concerns why turning off the car and locking doors is bad, eg. it's used for cover, you have additional weapons inside you may need, if your HT battery dies you need the car radio, the list go's on and on. Of course you must always show the most respect possible and not ruffle his feathers. If all fails then have that unit key as ready as possible to unlock the car. Your life and safety is more important than his feelings, I am sure your family would agree.


        • #5
          Since it's for a couple weeks only I'd go with his way, and when you're off FTO and you have gained his respect then talk to him about it. I don't turn my car off (my lights would go off too, and I want my car radio on if I need it in a pinch), but I do lock my doors on most traffic stops.


          • #6
            Heres the truth about FTO programs, at least where I work, most become FTOs for the extra pay. I wouldn't want to do it because I don't want to be doubled up all the time. That new FTO sounds like a clown.
            The liberal politician has the only job where they go to the office to work for everyone but those who pay their salary.


            • #7
              Originally posted by tony.o View Post
              Heres the truth about FTO programs, at least where I work, most become FTOs for the extra pay. I wouldn't want to do it because I don't want to be doubled up all the time. That new FTO sounds like a clown.
              I second that.

              But around here it's not the pay (about $40 a month, don't spend it all in one place), it's to get a take home car.

              To the O.P. (and you probably already know this) just put up with it while you have to. There's so many reasons why he's wrong it's not worth the time to write them.

              The key to any law enforcement career is to get off probation. After that do what you think is right.
              "Why is common sense so rare?" - Me

              By the way.. They aren't "Clients" or "Customers" they're CRIMINALS... sheesh


              • #8
                Sounds stupid to me, but do what you're told. When you get a regular FTO back, ask him/her about it.


                • #9
                  I have never heard of locking a patrol car on a traffic stop. What if the poop hits the fan. What if you suddenly need the shotgun or rifle in the car, you have to take the precious time to unlock the car. Your safety and that of your FTO is far more important than a big piece of metal.

                  Do all the other officers lock their cars on traffic stops?
                  Retired LASD


                  • #10

                    You are not a boot spring chicken "rook" for one thing. Having said that and being an FTO i totally understand your position on "going along with the program" so not to make waves then just getting off FTO and doing things the way you think you should. If you were my recruit I would welcome your input and respect the fact that you are not a true rookie, it doesn't mean I would change what I wanted you to do it just means I wouldn't hold it against you in the least. Having said that, I do not think locking your unit on a traffic stop is the right approach at all. Especially if you do not have a remote keyless entry to include not only the recruit but the FTO as well, then maybe it would be acceptable but not practical or safe. You might have to get back into the unit quickly or reposition your vehicle quickly or get into a pursuit and unlocking the unit without keyless entry takes time when the caca hits the fan and gross motor skills go out the window. I also never get in front of a one or two ton weapon like a vehicle that is running after I just stopped said operator who probably isn't very happy I stopped them and if i do it's with the car off and the keys out of the ignition and it would be to check lights or inspection stickers. You have to choose your battles though, what kind of FTO do you have? Is this moronic practice of always locking the doors even on a stop worth you going over his head weighed on officer safety issue's or can you deal with it and move on until you are released. Only you can decide that issue and If it was me I'd tell him in a respectful manner that he was wrong on the issue and cite your reasons then tell him you have every intention of doing as he says but "respectfully dissagree" then let it go. He should respect your input and not hold it against you if you dont break the chain of command and have a valid point and you do. FTO's are only human and are not always right and the best one's know this and are willing to explain their decisions and either back it up with work experiences related to the concern or policy and procedure and general orders. I'm an FTO and I deal with these types of issue's all the time because I train both rookies and pre-certs and usually enjoy the pre-certs better because I do not mind input at times at ways in doing things even if I do not always agree.
                    "Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. The MARINES don't have that problem." ....Ronald Reagan


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Retired96 View Post
                      I have never heard of locking a patrol car on a traffic stop. What if the poop hits the fan. What if you suddenly need the shotgun or rifle in the car, you have to take the precious time to unlock the car. Your safety and that of your FTO is far more important than a big piece of metal.

                      Do all the other officers lock their cars on traffic stops?

                      I dont know of anyone that locks their radio car on traffic stops......some will while they are out on a radio call, but never on traffic stops.....
                      The posts on this forum by this poster are of his personal opinion, and his personal opinion alone

                      "Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed often and for the same reason"

                      "We fight not for glory; nor for wealth; nor honor, but only and alone we fight for freedom, which no good man surrenders but with his life"


                      • #12
                        Never seen it done, in 30 years of big city police work. Looked cock-eyed at a partner who turned the engine off on a T-stop. Asked him why he did it. He said motors do it.

                        This FTO will stop doing it the day he's completing a call and some DUI or speeder blows by him at mach 5 and he fumbles with the keys trying to open the door and/or get them into the ignition.

                        As other have said, bide your FTO time. It will pss.
                        "You're never fully dressed without a smile."

                        Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

                        Three things I know for sure: (1) No bad deed goes unrewarded, (2) No good deed goes unpunished, and (3) It is entirely possible to push the most devoted, loyal and caring person beyond the point where they no longer give a 5h!t.


                        • #13
                          I would say deal with while you are assigned to him. Once you are done with him, I would have a talk with him, respectfully of course, and further explain your position. My concern here is new rookies that have no experience. If they have an FTO tell them to do it a certain way, that can stick, and next thing you know half the department locks up the car on a traffic stop. I have seen some FNG's doing some strange things lately and when I ask them why, I get "so and so trained me to do it this way". I am not seeing the FTO's train unsafe at all, the small things I have observed were admin and paperwork type issues. I don't lock my car on traffic stops at all. If I need my dog, it's quicker and easier to pop the door by remote if the door is not locked. I do lock my car on most radio calls where I am not very close to my car, or am inside any building.


                          • #14
                            Look at him and politely say,

                            "dude you're an idiot."

                            1. If the light bar keeps going while your car is off your going to be calling for a tow on any extended stop cuz that thing is a battery killer.

                            2. If the light bar turns off ,then you are on a stop with no warning flashers to the rear? I don't think so.

                            3. As you walk up to the car, the suspect does the famous stunt of taking off and now you have to mess with the car keys?

                            4 The great likelihood that you are accidentally going to lock your keys in the car because for some strange reason your attention is focused on the violator.

                            Maybe you should tell him how much you respect his experience and point of view and, with a warm smile, say,

                            "Look Barney, put your bullet in your gun and watch as I show you how to really do police work, OK? Try not to be scared."
                            Last edited by Garbage Man; 08-14-2008, 03:28 PM.
                            Originally posted by FJDave
                            GM, you have just set the bar that much higher for the rest of us in our witty, sarcastic responses. I yield to you! Good job, kind Sir!

                            District B13
                            "We are not cops nor Feds." yet he still poses as an officer Hmmmm

                            Grant us grace, fearlessly, to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression.--WWII memorial

                            "I have loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile."

                            Pope Gregory V II


                            • #15
                              FTOs have the responsibility of teaching you all of the aspects of field work and the policies and procedures of the agency you are working for, it is a simple as that! They should not be teaching you anything that is not directed by policy or procedure. If the agency says that it wants its officers to turn off and lock the unit, then that should be the practice. However, if it is just a whim and that FTO likes to operate in that manner, then he is in the wrong.

                              Now, that being said, it is your responsibility to listen to your FTO and operate under his work ethics as long as they do not jeopardize your personal safety. Do as he directs, if you don't feel comfortable, keep it in the back of your mind and modify it once you are off of field training and on your own.

                              FTOs straight out of FTO school are not unlike brand new sergeants. It takes a little while for that frontal lobotomy to take effect.
                              Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence!

                              [George Washington (1732 - 1799)]


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