FTO Burnout – Article

Being a Field Training Officer is one of the most important assignments in each and every agency. Field Training Officers volunteer their services to their departments in order to share their knowledge and skills with the youth of law enforcement.

The Field Training Officer has first crack at developing the culture, attitude and work ethic of a young police officer.  A role that must not be taken lightly!  And most FTOs do not take it lightly.  In fact, most FTOs take their responsibilities very seriously.  In the year 2000 the National Institute of Ethics completed what was at the time the nation’s largest study of ethical standards inside law enforcement.  They found that the Field Training Officer was the most frustrated officer in the department.

Frustrated, angry and burned out FTOs can be damaging.  But they can also be repaired.  Here are three things your FTO managers can do to help avoid or fix FTO burnout.

1)     According to the August 2013 edition of Police Chief Magazine, almost 55% of FTOs surveyed described their preparation and training as a newly appointed FTO as marginal or non-existent.  That’s a big FAIL for their agencies.  We all want the FTO to be highly trained and equipped to handle their new role as Trainers, Mentors, Coaches and Role Models.  We have to give them the resources necessary to be successful.  Never assume that they are natural born leaders.  None of us are.  Enroll your new FTO into a basic Field Training Officer School.  Find a school that covers topics like adult learning, generation studies, ethics and liability.  The long-term success of the FTO can very well depend on the training they receive as rookie trainers.

2)     Same article out of Police Chief Magazine cites the number #1 most frustrating challenge to the FTO is “lack of administrative support”.  It’s been my experience that lack of support from your chain of command usually sounds something like this, “We just don’t have the documentation to……”  If you’ve heard that before you’ve likely been disappointed and felt let down by your command staff.  My best piece of advice on conquering this challenge is to eliminate that excuse.  Beef up your documentation and strengthen your Daily Observation Reports.  Be sure that your performance evaluations include details on the trainee’s deficiencies, details on the training tips and techniques you’ve offered the OIT (Officer in Training) as we as any kind of extended remedial training they have received.  Don’t forget to include examples of positive reinforcement, coaching and the fact that your program’s number #1 goal is the trainee’s success.

3)     “When people of action cease to believe in a cause, they then begin to believe only in the action.”  An unknown French philosopher was given credit for that quote.  It rings very true with me.  Having a purpose and mission to accomplish at work makes my job fulfilling.  Hard work does not wear us down, lack of purpose does.  If you are an FTO or if you manage your agency’s FTO program pay close attention to what drives you.  What motivates you and your training officers?  Is it a sense of accomplishment? Maybe appreciation for a job well done?

During WWII, General Motors Company lost a great deal of male employees to go fight in the war.  Women began working in the plants and in the offices.  GMC also transformed a number of their car making facilities into war machine making facilities.  Military vehicles of all shapes and sizes were now assembled inside their plants.  GMC noticed that during this period of time their productivity and efficiency increased.  After the war, when their male employees returned to GMC found that there production numbers fell back down to the levels they were before the war.  GMC hired a man by the name of Peter Drucker to investigate this phenomenon. He found that the reason the female employees worked so hard and produced so well was the purpose behind their mission.  You see, they had a very noble cause that motivated them.  The vehicles they were producing were the very same vehicles their husbands and sons were driving while fighting in the war.

Law Enforcement is a noble cause. Field training is a noble cause.  Always work to reignite the passion that brought you into this wonderful profession and the keep your commitment to training the future of law enforcement.

Sgt. Daniel Greene #S70
Chandler Police Department