by Ian D Scofield
Law enforcement has its in and outs just like every job. For a new officer, getting through their FTO program can be draining. Do you want to be a step ahead of some officers who have gone through various FTO programs? Today we are going to give you some of the best tips to get through the program and impress your FTO.
Keep in mind that you will mess up and you will have moments you don’t know what you are doing. That is normal when you start any job. Just because you are out of the academy doesn’t mean that you have stopped learning. But you can be an exceptional trainee.
The first impression that your FTO or any officer is going to get of you is day one when you show up with your uniform ready to go. Unless your department is lucky enough to have its own academy, you might not have gone through the specifics if how to prepare and care for your uniform. For example, some uniforms need to have creases and others are worn flat.
If something is not in the uniform guide, don’t wear it until you are sure that it will be allowed. That means definitely don’t wear it the first day.
Not wearing your uniform properly on the first day can set you up for failure. Someone’s opinion of you is formed within their first few moments of seeing you. It will take you a while to work off this rookie mistake but if you do make it, just make the best of it and correct the issue quickly.
One of the first rules of the law enforcement world is that lunch happens when it happens. Unlike many other careers you aren’t able to schedule your lunch break and too many things can interrupt your lunch. Bringing your lunch from home is often a more convenient option. You can eat as you need to. Asking when lunch is going to happen can be a curse but it can also be a sign that you aren’t interested in actually learning.
FTO is a program designed not only to test what you have learned but to help you educate yourself. Be ready to ask questions of your FTO when you have them. Especially if it is something that could help you in the future. Any good FTO knows that you will have questions.
Just make sure that you aren’t full of questions all the time. Some of your learning comes from watching your FTO and engaging in calls. Use your academy training, there was a reason that you spent time there. But remember that some of the things that you learn in the academy may vary depending on what jurisdiction you are working in. A lot of them are also foundations upon which you need to build.
Along with this, you need to be ready to accept criticism. Your FTO will have comments about your performance and will give you feedback. That feedback might not always make you happy but it will be something that will help you grow. How you handle feedback will show your FTO your willingness to learn.
Plenty of jokes happen in law enforcement, it helps to break up some of the stress that you incur while on duty. The new person will often be the brunt of the joke, that is how it is in any group. You will have to roll with each joke and you can even laugh. It is best to only laugh when the joke is targeting you though.
As with any group, it will take you time to become on the inside enough to laugh when other people are the focus of a joke. The same goes for making jokes. Feel free to tell a joke but don’t joke about other officers. You will learn about the department culture as you learn about being a LEO.
As you enter the FTO program, you aren’t on a ride along. You are a certified police officer on probationary status. Should something not feel right, your job is to protect your FTO. Just like their job is to protect you. Unless you are standing in the exact same spot as each other, you might be able to see something that your FTO can’t.
Again, you are a certified police officer as soon as you leave the academy and enter the FTO program. There is no reason that you shouldn’t be confident in yourself. If you are always second guessing yourself, your FTO will notice and think that you might be a weak officer. It is okay to still learn but you need to be confident. Instead of answering questions with a questioning tone, give a solid answer. Also, don’t be afraid to confidently state you don’t know an answer.
There is also a different between being confident and cocky. You don’t want to be known as the cocky rookie, that will set you up for failure in the department. People take a know-it-all in a bad view because it feels like the rookie thinks they are better than people who have been doing the job for years.
Both fear and stress are two obstacles that you will have to combat once you start working in the field. Fear can paralyze you and stress can cause you to burn out. Neither of these things are good. You will experience both in the field despite the fact that you received training to counter both. To get the most out of the FTO program, you will have to find ways to cope with both issues.
The academy can only teach you so much and every person is different. Stress and fear management techniques that work for one person might not work for you.
Taking notes on things that you might need to remember can be helpful. You can review you notes at the end of every shift. There are two rules to note taking though. Don’t take notes while you are on a call. Non-essential note taking could distract you and distractions in the field can cost lives.
Second, you don’t want to write everything down. If you spend all of your time writing everything down, you won’t spend any time actually learning anything. The number of things that your FTO can say will also be limited because you will be spending so much time writing.
Respect is one of the number one things that you want to focus on when being around other officers. It isn’t because these people are higher ranking, it isn’t because they are the grand poobah, it is because these people have been on the street for longer than you have. Every one of them probably has something that they can teach you. You also want to spend the time earning their trust. That is what will help you to fit in at your agency.
A yes sir/yes ma’am will go a long way. You might get told to use their name but that is something you should let every officer tell you.
Your FTO and you will be riding in a car together for a while, they are also the person who will be rating your performance, as such, you should work hard to develop a positive relationship with them. You don’t have to become best friends, or even friends, but you do want to have a working relationship. Learning to understand each other for example. Instead of arguing, debate with your FTO but only when appropriate.
Keeping you FTO happy will go a long way towards getting out of the FTO program. You don’t have to get them coffee every morning (coffee can be nice though) but you should learn what they like and don’t like. Ask them what they like to do during their shift.
Starting out in an FTO program can be nerve racking. You are the new person in the department, one that everyone is going to be evaluating. Take confidence in the fact that you have made it through the academy and use these tips to succeed. Most importantly, stay safe out there.
About The Author:
Ian is a staff writer at APTI and hospital security officer at a major medical center who has a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice. He has held multiple positions in the security industry from patrol supervisor to auxiliary public safety officer. At APTI he brings his writing skills to help further the careers of others and provide quality content. Feel free to visit his freelancing site or his creative writing site.
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