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  • FTO advice

    After a lot of work and applying, I'm finally on the path to become law enforcement. Right now I passed the polygraph and drug screen and currently waiting for the review board to approve my application, run a background and call me back to take the physical exam. By the looks of things, I'm well on my way to getting hired.

    So now​ my only concern is passing FTO. From what I've able to research, as long as I listen to my training officer and apply myself, I should be fine. Is there more to it than that and what can I do to prepare myself for it?

  • #2
    How about finishing the academy first...IF you get hired.
    Now go home and get your shine box!

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    • #3
      Originally posted by CCCSD View Post
      How about finishing the academy first...IF you get hired.
      I'm already graduated. I paid my way through the academy and have been putting in applications.

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      • #4
        You need to more than listen and apply yourself, you need to effectively process and do.

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        • #5
          One thing a lot of recruits struggle with is geography. Not sure the size jurisdiction you anticipate going to, or if you're from the area, but driving the streets will help you a ton. If you can, get a district/beat/area map and learn streets and district boundaries. Sucks when you're driving around with your FTO for a while only for them to finally ask, "So, you going to our area today?"

          A lot of jurisdictions allow the use of GPS, which is helpful, but I think you should be able to get there based on area knowledge or a physical map. Technology can and does fail. As a new officer, there's a lot to process. If you can take the stress of trying to get to the right place out of the equation, you can start thinking ahead to what to do when you arrive.

          Also, mouth shut, eyes and ears open. FTO is a time to learn. Different FTOs have different styles. You don't have to like them all, but you'll likely take bits of each style to make your own. While your with a specific FTO, do it their way. Then when you go to your next phase and another FTO wants it done exactly opposite, do that. It will be frustrating, but there is a method to the madness.

          Like Just Joe said, there's a lot more to it than just listening and applying yourself, but that's a good start. Expect to be challenged, stressed, and pushed outside your comfort zone. Stick with it. Good luck!
          Last edited by ThinBlue404; 03-06-2020, 12:12 PM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Maccabee2A View Post
            After a lot of work and applying, I'm finally on the path to become law enforcement. Right now I passed the polygraph and drug screen and currently waiting for the review board to approve my application, run a background and call me back to take the physical exam. By the looks of things, I'm well on my way to getting hired.

            So now​ my only concern is passing FTO. From what I've able to research, as long as I listen to my training officer and apply myself, I should be fine. Is there more to it than that and what can I do to prepare myself for it?
            Be humble. You'll get all the **** paper reports and calls that no one wants and you'll have to eat it up with a spoon and a smile. Learn your area and the people, get a map and drive around. Find out how to get from one end of town to the other in a hurry.

            Be able to talk to people. It's almost becoming a lost art... in person communication, a lot of new recruits coming on can't seem to put two sentences together. Your victim/suspect/witness won't be able to communicate via text message or Instagram.

            You'll be frustrated and tired. Just stick with it.

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            • #7
              All of the above information is good.

              It is also important for you to realize that officer safety is the most important thing- everything else is just details.

              So in no particular order:

              You'll make mistakes, and that's okay. Nobody expects you to be perfect, and nobody expects you to know everything. To that end, it's never too soon to start networking- everyone is an expert in something. People normally like to talk about stuff that they're good at, so it shouldn't be hard for you to figure this part out. As soon as they are willing to trust you with their phone numbers, start collecting them and programming them into your phone. As a coach, I want for you to demonstrate to me that you are capable of effectively utilizing your available resources.

              Work on your weaknesses- capitalizing on your strengths will not be enough to get you there, because it is your weak areas that could cause you to not pass FTO. For me, this was beat geography- I know that most guys are good at this, but it doesn't come naturally to me, and I did not get hired in a place that I was from. You cannot be asked to do work-related stuff for free when you're off duty, but if you fail, you fail, so it is in your best interests to do whatever it takes to not fail. In my case, this involved me taking my issued map book out on my days off with my wife in our car, driving the beats that I needed to know, correcting the map where it needed correcting, and making notes and cheat-sheets to help me out. With my trainees, I wanted for them to demonstrate to me that they could read a map and navigate using a map, but once they proved that to me, I had no problem with them using electronic resources (GPS, MDT, cell phone) to navigate- after all, this is the year 2020.

              As mentioned above, you will experience different FTOs, that all do things differently. The standard San Jose FTO model uses three FTOs for the four phases, but if you get recycled, you could have up to seven FTOs, and that doesn't even include coaches that you ride with when your regular coaches aren't available. Stuff that you did that was fine with one coach, may be completely unacceptable to another coach, and this is actually pretty representative of what you're going to experience for the rest of your career- during FTO, your coach functions as your immediate supervisor, much like a Sergeant functions as the immediate supervisor of officers who have graduated FTO. Take all of these differences as a "buffet"- you get to decide which elements from each coach you will incorporate into your own personal way of doing law enforcement.

              Keep in mind that trainees occasionally have legitimate personality conflicts with coaches- people are people. This can be a major pain in the ascend for both the trainee and the coach, but it is not representative of the performance of either.

              If you ever have a coach that claims that they only way to do something is the way that they choose to do it, then you probably have a bad coach. When I coach someone, I am not training them to be me- I am training them to do the job. If they do something that is completely different than what I would have done, but it's not wrong...then it's not wrong.

              Another coaching problem is the "old school" way that some coaches "coach"- the idea that coaches should yell, curse, belittle, arbitrarily punish, and just generally bully the trainee. They will use the excuse that they do it because that's how they were treated when they were new. I think that's a bunch of crap. They may also attempt to justify it by claiming that they need to create artificial stress "to see how you respond". I think that's a bunch of crap too. Doing police work is stressful. Learning a new job is stressful. Being a probationary employee is stressful. Having your every word and action put under a microscope is stressful. We don't need to "create" any "artificial" stress. I am comfortable in my position- I don't need to go out of my way to prove to you that you are subordinate to me. I view trainees as a valuable asset, that has already been vetted and trained at significant expense to my employer. I want to be a good steward of that investment- if you fail, it won't be because I didn't help you enough. If some day fown the road, I'm rolling around on the ground with some felon that's trying to take my gun to make my wife a widow, and you're my nearest cover, I don't want for you to have in the back of your mind how many pushups I made you do in front of other officers while I laughed at you. I think you can do the math there...

              If you get recycled in phases 1,2, or 3, try not to sweat it- different people learn at different rates, and you may do better with a different coach when you get recycled. I had a spectacular personality conflict with my primary (phase 1 and phase 4) coach, but did great with all the others. The only time that getting recycled is not good, is phase 4. During phase 4, the coach merely evaluates and documents your performance, without any active coaching. If you encounter something you've never done before, they can coach you then, but for 99% of the rest of the time, they're just evaluating and documenting. So if you got passed through phases 1,2, and 3 when you should have been recycled, and you get to phase 4 and can't do the job, recycling you at that point is simply going to be you failing to do the job again. I've seen it happen.

              Further, it is important to understand that in phase 1, you are expected to do 25% (or more) of the work- that part most trainees understand. In phase 2, you are expected to do 50% (or more) of the work. In phase 3, you are expected to do 75% (or more) of the work. And in phase 4, you are expected to do 100% of the work. The place where I have seen problems, is the transition from phase 3 to phase 4- some trainees think that just because they can do 75% of the work by the end of phase 3, that they will be good to go for phase 4. But if you can only do 75% of the work at the end of phase 3, that means that you're only able to do 75% of the work at the beginning of phase 4...which is failing. And since there is no coaching during phase 4, there is not much chance of you being able to pull it out at that point. So what I'm getting at, is that you really need to be able to do 100% of the work BEFORE you are allowed to start phase 4.
              Last edited by Aidokea; 03-07-2020, 09:56 AM.

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              • #8
                Not just during training but for your entire career. Know and admit to yourself and others that you can be wrong. Be honest about your mistakes and most of the time you can go back and fix stuff. Or you just accept it and move on. Don't let it overwhelm you. Someone once said, don't run to your own death, so take your time to do something right the first time when you can. I know some FTOs can have a grumpy attitude about having someone ride with them, I really enjoy it. I have conversations with my guy all the time, always bouncing questions off each other. He will be my replacement in this job one day, so I'm glad when he asks questions and shows interest in things. There's a lot of what if/it depends, but always have a thirst for knowledge. As someone else said also, learn your roads. We use GPS but it can fail and if someone is getting stabbed over and over, old lady falls out from a stroke, etc every second counts and you fumbling with the GPS can cost a life. Know geographical features also, and stuff that's not in the map, like what's in those woods behind the elementary school, the entrances for the old K-Mart (RIP my friend), which roads don't have as many stop signs or red lights in case you gotta get somewhere quick, and where your magistrates live in case you gotta get a blood draw warrant after a crash. Use the bathroom every chance you get.

                You don't have to arrest everyone, and you don't have to write a ticket to everyone. Quality over quantity. Bragging about the number of tickets you write doesn't make you look cool, and everyone else will have a negative opinion of you to put it mildly. I know people say "I don't make the law, I just enforce it" which is a horrible mindset...be merciful where you can, have compassion for people. Remember that equipment ticket is a huge portion of someone's income.

                Tell you a story. We once had this corporal (our supervisors answered calls, worked traffic, even made arrests, just didn't transport). He stopped a girl with a tail light out, a waitress which is usually low income. Wrote her a ticket. The tail light was one of those with multiple LED bulbs in it so it was about $150 to fix. She can't afford the ticket ($165), so the court puts her on probation. So now she has to not only pay the ticket, pay monthly probation fees of $25 until she can pay the ticket, but also she of course has to fix the light. How was justice done and the community protected? While occasionally we are out there kicking Satan in the nuts, not everyone is the devil and most people, even those we arrest, are alright. So when you go to write, or cuff someone, just be sure you're doing the right thing.

                If you're in a place that allows, with policy and call volume, work your cases. Care about it and care about what you're doing. You might drive an old piece of crap car that you wanna just push into the river and get a new one; but someone else, if their old junk got keyed up, or dented or something. That might be all they have, who knows, that old busted up pickup truck could be the only thing that kid has left from his grandpa who died. I know we get calls over a lot of dumb and unimportant crap, but sometimes we get called for things that may not be important objectively, but it's important to the victim. People will love you as long as you do your best, even if you can't fix everything.

                And don't run out and buy a bunch of crap. Just some little things you need that will make your job easier, like that big handcuff key with the flag on it (way easier to manipulate than the tiny one that comes with cuffs).

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