Last week I had the privilege of spending a couple of days at the NAFTO National Conference in Chandler, Arizona. I had the opportunity to share some thoughts on Dare to Be Great during the opening keynote and Excellence in Training during my two breakout sessions.
FTOs are the critical ink in the training and preparation of new officers. They are given the responsibility of guiding new officers during the transition from the Academy to the field. Some of the discussions in the classroom and during the breaks reinforced my belief that we need FTOs (Field Training Officers) and FEOs (Field Evaluation Officers).
The primary function of the FTO should be to train the new officer. As the bridge between the Academy and the street the mission of the FTO is to connect the dots for the new officer and teach them how to apply what he or she learned in the Academy to the street, the jail or the public safety communications center. A recruit coming out of basic training has the foundational skills, tactics and knowledge to do the job but, needs a coach / mentor / partner / FTO to help them understand how to utilize those skills, tactics and knowledge in the real world.
The Academy is always an artificial environment. Great trainers make their training as realistic as possible, but it is always an artificial environment. It is therefore inappropriate to evaluate a recruit on Day 1 of field training and rate them based on where they should be at the end of the FTO phase of training. It would be like rating a recruit on Day 1 of the Academy based on where they need to be at the end of training. The FTO phase should be just that - a phase of training. That time with the FTO is an extension of the academy training and part of preparing the officer to be able to work on their own with the understanding that their growth and development will continue over their entire career.
Following the FTO phase the new officer would work with an FEO. The job of the FEO is to evaluate the officer’s readiness to move on to the next phase in their development and work on their own.
The problem I see is that we are mixing these two roles and in some cases the focus of the FTO is on evaluating the new officer, rather than training the new officer.
What about your agency? Have you forgotten the ‘T’ in FTO?
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