FTO: The Most Important Job In American Policing Today


Everything else is second

A lot of cops, and those who support cops, are always asking me what jobs and assignments I have had in my career.

In several of my articles these questions are answered.

To be honest, it would be hard for me to write about my experiences as a road officer or detective if I had not actually done them.

For at least a few years anyway.

Just two days ago I hit my 24 year mark as a cop. All with the same department. I have held several titles and have worked several jobs inside those 24 years.

Okay, before you read the next paragraph, please know that this will be the last time I EVER list my job titles or assignments like some blowhard.

I have worked and have held the following assignments;

Patrol officer, patrol corporal (think of a road corporal as a sergeant lite or a sergeants bitch), patrol sergeant, property crimes detective, violent crime/homicide detective, violent crimes sergeant and property and evidence supervisor (thank god that only lasted one year).

There is one job that I have done but not included in this list. To me it is by far the best and most important.

Field Training Officer.

See Also: “3 Leadership Traits to Avoid With Street Cops”

And in my opinion it’s not even close.

It’s the one that sets not only the technical knowledge and skills for a brand new officer, but also their attitude and overall view of the agency.

It is also shapes the officer’s attitude and larger vision of why he or she is doing the job in the first place.

Everyone remembers

Like having sex for the first time, every cop remembers their Field Training Officer’s (or instructor).

Depending on the size of your agency, most rookies have between 1 and 3 FTO’s they will train with before getting released on their own.

I became a Field Training Officer around the 4 year mark with my agency.

I wasn’t all together excited about becoming a FTO at first.

The added responsibility of taking a green rookie under my wing and essentially teaching them how to be a cop was daunting.

And lets not forget having an extra body in your car for 8 to 12 hours.

What if they were weird?

Or dumb?

Or smelled bad?

After my first few trainees I eventually came to realize the importance of the position and actually came to enjoy it. I also quickly found out if a trainee was cut out for the job or how long he would make it as a cop.

Some were high-speed and caught on fast.

Others not so much.

I didn’t dawn on me until several years after I had trained my last rookie just how meaningful and important being a FTO was.

The backbone of your agency

The police academy is where the basic fundamentals of policing are taught and learned.

It covers a myriad of topics to include criminal law, defensive tactics, firearms, driving, and basic patrol tactics.

I know that many FTO’s back in the day would tell their rookie to forget about everything they learned in the academy. These cops were usually, in hushed whispers, the village idiot who somehow slipped through the cracks to become a FTO.

If you are reading this and you say this to your trainees, stop.

I know that it makes you sound like one of the cool kids and a rebel, or even a tiny bit salty (even though you’ve probably only been on for 3 years yourself).

Just don’t say it.

See Related Article: “6 Strange and Weird Character Traits of Cops”

It makes the trainee think that everything he or she just accomplished was a waste of time.

And really, it just makes you sound like an asshole.

For me, getting released from my FTO training was just as, if not more, exciting than graduating from the police academy.

Each of my FTO’s were different. One was a hard ass (female). One was a burn-out, just counting his days until he could leave.

One an anal, by the book company man.

But I learned so much from each.

And I have never forgotten them.


As mentioned, I recently just reached my 24 year mark in law enforcement. It has been a long and winding road up to this point.

(Douche alert coming up)

I have been involved in many high-profile incidents and have investigated multiple murders.

I have received many awards for my work.

My personnel file resembles a phone book I have been written up so many times..

It’s a miracle that I have lasted this long. There is one thing however, and it’s not a plaque or an old newspaper clipping, that brings me the most pride.

It is that moment, when I walk past a group of officers, and I hear them speaking of their early days.

The stories, which could be from any cop from Anytown USA, usually end up with the re-telling of some stupid thing they did as a rookie.

These stories are usually followed by a bellow of laughter from the other cops listening in.

As I walk by, pretending not to listen, more times than not I can hear at least one cop in the group reference a story involving he and his FTO.

The respect and endearment bestowed upon the FTO during the telling of the story always brings a smile to my face.

It is in this moment my hope is for the rookies and trainees that came through me during my time as a FTO will be re-told in a similar fashion.

With respect and reverence.

A legacy and a torch of wisdom passed along to those who carry on doing the job I love.

And I will always be remembered.

You can find other ORIGINAL articles like this one and more at The Salty Sarge Facebook Page.


  1. You’re correct Sarge. It is one of the most important jobs in any PD except Chicago. They treat FTOs’ like dog s__t. They can’t keep the rank filled. It truly is a different place.

  2. In my thirty seven years as a police officer, only ten of those were not in patrol. We were repeatedly told that patrol was the backbone of the department. Sometimes I felt that it was actually a few inches lower on the anatomy.

  3. As an FTO I once had a trainee who seemed unable to communicate with people. He was always saying the wrong thing, sounding as if he did not care. I would take him aside each time and tell him what he was saying and offer something better. He was a fast learner, but developed a poor image of himself, wondering if he could actually do the job. I encouraged him saying he was not stupid, he just had a lot to learn. I worked for a large agency, and after he left me to go to another FTO I never saw him again. However, some time later I saw another Officer I know who told me that he had recently spoken to the Officer in question. That trainee had told my friend that he had learned more about how to speak to and deal with people from me than anyone else in his life. It was rare to hear anything like that and i was blessed to hear it. That shows how important the FTO is to the department.

    I carried a badge for 28 years serving in both a small and large Department. I was a detective at the smaller agency, but stayed on the street in the large one. Most of my 28 years I worked street narcotics, prostitution and street crimes, and loved every minute of that assignment.

  4. I was the FTO supervisor for a few years, not my choice I assure you, the good ones you treated like gold because they were often few and far between. The not so good ones usually bailed as soon as they could. Sometimes it was like a revolving door.

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