Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient Interview

As one might guess, you can’t earn a lifetime achievement award for field training without dedicating a significant portion of your career towards the cause. This year, NAFTO bestowed Joyce McCoy with such an honor, and her path began over 30 years ago. 

Joyce began training new hire officers in 1987. Between 1987 and 1991, she developed and managed the new Field Training Program for the jail. In 1991, she became certified as a Field Training Officer. In 1996, she became certified as a Field Training Instructor with the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Center (WSCJTC) and continues to instruct classes. In 2009, she was certified as a Master Field Training Officer with NAFTO. She has held a variety of potions at the Lewis County Jail since being hired in 1985, working as an officer, Custody Sergeant, Administrative Sergeant, Program Sergeant and Lieutenant. After being promoted to Lieutenant, she became the FTO Coordinator for both Corrections as well as the Patrol Divisions for her agency.

Joyce is currently the Lieutenant for the Lewis County Corrections/Jail. She is also the Field Training Manager for the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, which includes Corrections, Operations and Service Bureau. Joyce is the Southwest Regional Director for the Washington Chapter of NAFTO and served on the national board of NAFTO for a short time. She continues to be active with Field Training throughout the state.

Justin Elliott is also a Regional Director with WANAFTO and had a chance to get Joyce’s thoughts on her career, the award, and field training.  

Justin Elliott: Working in our profession for 30 years gives you a unique perspective as you’ve lived through a great deal of change, some of which you were directly responsible for. In your opinion, how has the FTO’s role changed in your agency, and in the law enforcement community since you first became a FTO?

Joyce McCoy: When I first became an FTO, I was the only FTO for the jail. I was continuously training one and sometimes two students. As an FTO, I was required to work the same amount of job tasks and train the student as fast as possible to get them to solo duty. The focus was on the facility needs and not on the student deputy/officer.

Now, the FTO is focused on training the student to be the best deputy possible. Safety and security have to be considered most important. FTO’s are better trained to teach and mentor student deputies. FTO’s are also used to train or re-train senior staff when a need is found

In the law enforcement community, the biggest change I have seen is how students in an FTO class are receptive to the information being taught. When I first started teaching there would be a lot of push back to the material. Now most student FTO’s have gone through a similar program when they were first hired and know what to expect.

JE: Considering how you describe the atmosphere and attitude towards field training, what or who influenced you most to become involved in field training and FTO instruction?

JM: When I was first hired, our agency didn’t have a training program. I was told to ask questions when I had them. The problem with this, I didn’t know what I was supposed to question. I enjoyed teaching and when I experience a couple incidents which were very dangerous and shouldn’t have happened, I began researching training. San Jose was bringing their training method to Washington State and it was being taught. I gained permission to attend and the rest is history. I will say the biggest influence for me and FTO was simply knowing we had a need.

As to FTO instruction, I was not able to get other staff to attend FTO classes due to cost. I found a class scheduled for those who wanted to become an FTO instructor. I was given permission to attend the class so I could begin training our new FTO’s. After attending the class, I had the great fortune to teach with, in my belief, some of the best instructors in Washington State. Gregg Knapp, Dave Leibman, Dave Harris and Virgil McDonald were the individuals who gave me a chance to learn WSCJTC‘s lesson plans and to critique me each and every time I taught a class. Without those mentors, I would not have continued teaching outside my area, and I would never have experienced meeting all the FTO’s I have had the pleasure of teaching and mentoring. I consider each of these men to be very dear friends.

JE: What are you known for? How would your trainees/peers/supervisors describe you? 

JM: This is truly a loaded question. First I will say I am known as “Mama Joyce”. I believe I am part of the best Corrections and Law Enforcement family. I am passionate about keeping all staff safe while on duty and while at home with loved ones.

I asked different staff members how they would answer this question. I was described as determined, confident, problem solver, persistent, dedicated, and passionate about our jobs. It is important for me to keep up with the latest legal aspects of our job and training matters. I am not afraid to push back when trying to get a point across or trying to gain understanding regarding a change or project. I was told I am a good listener. This allows for me to take information from many people and bring it together to make a decision.

Some of the traits above can be positive when dealing with me and I guess sometimes it can also be a pain. I can honestly say I do it for the best reasons.

JE: What’s the most challenging aspect of being a successful FTO Manager

JM: I need to keep up on all aspects of Field Training. When Sheriff Snaza appointed me to the FTO Manager role for the Sheriff’s Office, he did so with the understanding, I had the knowledge and ability to strengthen the three programs, keep the Field Training Officers up to date with expectations and to keep us legally sound. I believe this is the responsibility of all FTO Managers. At times, this is a very daunting task and one I take very serious.

JE: What should a new FTO Supervisor or Train the Trainer consider when transitioning to that role?

JM: I would suggest the person would need to enjoy the role of teacher. You are always instructing new methods, changes to program, Instructor Development and so on. You need to understand the amount of time necessary to keep a program running effectively. If you are a person who is not able to multi task or complete projects, I would suggest you look at another type of specialty. Make sure you continually update your knowledge and don’t be afraid to ask questions or be persistent with changes you believe to be necessary.

In my mind, this is one of the best and most rewarding jobs within our agencies.

JE: Tell us about how you were most successful in gaining support from administration and/or the troops when implementing change to the FTO program in your agency

JM: In 1987 it was more difficult to gain the support. I needed to write up a proposal and to sell it as a positive for the bureau. I only had two years on the job and I wasn’t the most politically correct individual so I did many things the wrong way. Once I stopped trying to go “through the brick wall”, and found a way around it, I was successful.

I was able to prove I was dedicated to the Field Training Program and I gave many hours to writing the program and contacting many people. The San Jose model wasn’t available to us for Corrections, so we wrote one and had it checked out. As the program proved itself over and over again, the support grew. I believe the biggest positive was bringing forward the legal aspects of the program to the Training Manager at the time. His strength was legal issues and the legal strength of the program was totally understood by him

When I was given the responsibility of the Sheriff’s Office three bureaus, the support was already there. Sheriff Snaza had knowledge of the Corrections FTO program and wanted the same throughout the Sheriff’s Office. I worked with a Deputy Sergeant and we put together the expectations for the Operations Bureau. For the Services Bureau I worked with the Bureau Chief and put expectations into their program. All three follow the San Jose model and FTO’s are trained and certified. Expectations are high for all three programs and I am fortunate to have buy in throughout. We have meetings with the FTO’s and they have a voice to what is working and what is not. They also understand if one of the FTO’s is not doing the job correctly, they are not kept. They now monitor themselves very well.

JE: What is the most significant attribute you believe a successful FTO must have?

JM: Patience, Patience, Patience.

As an FTO, you must understand the student is going to be with you throughout the shift. You are going to communicate with them the entire time. You need to take time to write out your documentation and take time to explain what you have written. Without patience, an FTO will burn out very quickly and the student will not receive the best training available.

Justin Elliott is a Patrol Sergeant at the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office with 20 years of law enforcement experience in California & Washington. Sgt. Elliott has served in many patrol and detective units including SWAT, major narcotics, criminal interdiction, domestic violence, major crimes and supervisor of the air support unit. He is currently assigned to the Spokane Valley Police Department where he supervises the Sheriff’s Office’s Field Training Unit. Justin holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Management, Master FTO certification and Force Science Certification. He has been a state certified general instructor for the FTO Academy since 2009, served as lead instructor of patrol procedures, criminal procedures instructor and is the WA-NAFTO Regional Director for Southeast Washington.