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Have you thanked your FTO lately?

A good training officer will provide the tools needed to a new officer so they can build a successful career

By Joshua School, C1 Contributor

What group of people are the most influential in shaping officers at a correctional facility? Who works with new officers on a daily basis? Who do veteran officers turn to for professional advice?

I believe the best answer to this question is a field training officer. A good FTO is worth their weight in gold. Training officers are tasked with training new officers in the art and science of inmate management. Training officers take what took them years to learn and share it with a trainee over the course of a few short weeks.

Looking at the incredible amount of responsibility a training officer assumes, and the little tangible reward for doing so, it may seem absurd to expect anyone to do the job of an FTO. Yet most training officers will tell you their real reward comes from the intangibles. The intangibles are often related to positively impacting new officers and molding a better run facility. What these training officers are really saying is their true reward for being and FTO is the leadership that accompanies the job.

Training officers often have the best knowledge of department policy and procedure. Their constant exposure to policy and procedure stems from teaching new officers. Due to this exposure, training officers are often asked by other officers for advice in how to tackle problems. They are often asked by management for suggestions on how to improve the daily operations of a housing unit or entire facility. They often understand the importance of security staff working cooperatively with medical staff and social workers to provide for the safest living environment for inmates, and working environment for staff.

As departments evaluate their recruitment efforts they would be wise to take advantage of their training officers. Veteran field training officers have likely identified traits in new officers that are desirable and contribute to a better training experience. If your department has its own academy, the training officer can also identify how the training received from the academy is put to use in the facility.

Field training officers also tend to have a better rapport with inmates. A training officer has two responsibilities: Training new officers and taking care of their own tasks. Due to this double duty, most training officers have mastered balancing safety with efficiency. The training officer needs to do everything possible to ensure the learning environment is conducive to the trainee making minor mistakes and learning on their own without jeopardizing the safety of the institution. In order to maintain this environment, the FTO will undoubtedly take advantage of the good rapport he or she has built with inmates.

A good training officer will provide the tools needed to a new officer so they can build a successful career. A good training officer will improve the safety of their institution one officer at a time. As these officer mature they will begin to find where they fit in the department. The time spent with the FTO will factor into how trainees see their career progressing. Time well spent with a FTO who is valued by management and whose value by management is known to the FTO; will help to create officers with a similar passion for excellence as the training officer.

Josh School has been with the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Department since 2005. During this time, he has served exclusively in the Corrections Division. Josh has served in several capacities including field training officer, use of force instructor and security threat groups officer. In 2014 Josh started teaching in the Wisconsin Jail Academy at Fox Valley Technical College. In June 2017 he was promoted to S/Sgt and continues to work diligently to provide relevant and high-quality training to the corrections division. Josh is experienced in policy writing and procedure review. Educationally, Josh earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Quality from Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.