In 1980 the police department brought a new training program in along with a new training center. This training center used to be a building used by the welfare department and before then it was a satellite fire station. The training center was on the outskirts of the City Cemetery.
The new Field Training Officer Program was to have trainers that were senior officers that were exceptional in their investigative abilities, knowledge of the traffic codes, penal code (criminal laws of Texas) and had exceptional knowledge of department policies and procedures. With this criteria officers applied for the position and were quizzed by a board to fill positions available.
I was one of the applicants and was appointed a Field Training Officer. To distinguish an F.T.O. from the other officers we worn blue and yellow epaulets on our shoulders.
We began our new responsibility by completing background checks of new applicants. We'd actually go out and interview references on all those that wanted to be police officers. It was an amazing experience and I found it quite rewarding. Some would make it to the interview board. There were high hopes for those that made it to the Field Training Officer Program.
There were 5 training phases. By the end of the third phase if a probationary officer was having a particular problem with any task their training officer could request they be sent for a week of 'remedial training'. One of the alternate trainers would have the responsibility to re-train the probationary officer for 1 week. Upon the return to his/her assigned F.T.O. they would determine if he/she was proficient enough to continue in the training program. If the probationary officer was unable to perform the re-trained tasks the F.T.O. would document all observations and present them to a board of all the trainers for further training or termination.
During the final phase of training the F.T.O. would wear plainclothes.This way the public would address the uniformed officer who should be able to handle the issues presented. The F.T.O. would only get involved if it was a life or death situation. This phase lasted for 2 weeks and the officer would be released to be on his/her own. This training program was much more extensive than what I had experienced 3 years earlier.
The police department was mandated to hire minorities. I was the only female so having me as a training officer for others was a benefit for the program.
As luck would have it my first trainee was a female. I will call her Officer MW. I was assigned Officer MW during her Phase 3 training. This would be a 6 week period for us as a team. During our patrol time we learned about each other. She was a local girl that had grown up in town. Her parents owned a home in the southwest section. During this phase of training I drove during the first week to acclimate my trainee to what was expected of them when they were given the responsibility to drive. As the driver that officer would be in charge of the team. This first week went well. We weren't real busy and so we were able to cover a lot of area in town and meet some citizens in our area. It was important that she be exposed to who belonged in the area so she'd recognize someone who was out of ordinary.
The following week was Officer M.W.'s turn to drive. She was given the keys and she was to prepare the patrol unit for our shift while I prepared forms I would need to complete while observing her during our shift.
She would pick me up at the backdoor when she was ready to go. This preparation usually took no more than 15 minutes, but after 30 minutes she still had not driven to the back door so I walked up to the east lot, where the patrol cars are parked, and found her standing outside our assigned vehicle. She had locked the ignition keys in the trunk of the vehicle when she put her briefcase inside and she didn't know what to do. She never thought to get a hold of her Sergeant or me for help so she just stood in the parking lot. I attributed this to nerves and encouraged her to shake it off. All our units operated with universal keys so we always had access to a spare. We finally made our way to our area of town that I was assigned to work. This area was specific to her residence area so I felt this may be too easy for her to navigate. We were at the city limits on the very southwest corner of town. Officer MW received a call from the dispatcher to respond to a major accident on a major road known as Jasper Drive. She acknowledged the call. She then was to proceed to this traffic accident Code 3 which was as an emergency vehicle. Instead she simply took her time.I was very surprised at her response or lack of it. After a minute I asked her where we were going? She told me the right location but she did not seem to understand that it was an emergency response. I directed her to turn on the siren and the overhead lights so people would get out of our way. She did this BUT she still drove the speed limit. We eventually got to the scene. Our backup unit had been there for 5 minutes before we arrived so he was in charge of the scene. He had to tell her where to go and what specifically to do. She was able to complete these tasks. They were menial tasks as I assisted the injured and the damaged vehicle towing from the scene.
After the scene was cleared we moved our unit to a nearby parking lot to complete our portion of the report.
Officer MW would complete the report. She did not ask any questions and actually completed the report as was expected.
At the halfway point in this training phase Officer MW was found to have great report writing ability. She failed to make any traffic stops for citation or warning purposes. So I thought perhaps it was due to the area we were patrolling. Maybe it was too close to home, so I requested we be assigned to another area on the northeast side of town. Hopefully, she'd respond differently.
Upon our reassignment I explained that she needed to be more assertive in her daily tasks. She verbalized that she understood.
When prompted for questions she never had any. This was very unusual. In the middle of the week I drove and had Officer MW put on a blindfold. I drove the unit out to a back road and I parked the car with the headlights off. I then had Officer MW remove her blindfold. I told her to figure out where she was then relate to me that information as if I were the dispatcher. She looked around, got out of the car and walked around. She then got back in to the car and sat down in the driver's seat. "What did you see outside?", I asked. She was unable to answer because she was crying so hard. This reaction startled me. So I told her she needed to start the car and drive until she realized where she was. Then I wanted her to stop and tell me where she'd been. After driving out of the area to the main roadway she finally stopped at a local mall. By then she was physically ill and unable to complete our shift of duty. I drove us back to the police department and talked with the Sergeant. I requested he allow her to go home. He agreed and she was relieved to go home for the night.
This was a turning point in Officer MW's training. I went over all the incidents with her I had observed and documented. It was then very clear to me that she was just plain scared to do her job. After an in-depth conversation with the Sergeant and Lieutenant on my shift it was determined that Officer MW would ride with them for the next 2 days for further evaluation. I was given those 2 days off so they could see if it was different with me not there. I agreed.
At the beginning of the fourth week's training I was brought in for a conference about Officer MW's performance the previous week with the Supervisors. According to them she has no sense of direction and she cannot read a city map. She could not tell east from west or north from south. She knows the area of her residence ONLY. She is afraid of the dark. The one thing they found out truly frightened me!
Officer MW carried the bullets to her duty weapon in her shirt pocket. Her gun was never loaded. She hasn't loaded it since she started her training period. Oh, my goodness!
Now, I am concerned. Instead of continuing her training I immediately petitioned for a review and I requested for her to be terminated from the program. This was very difficult for me as I felt it was a reflection on my training ability. The review board agreed with my findings and subsequently Officer MW was terminated as a probationary officer.
I would later find that it was my training tactics as a female officer that was truly appropriate. I knew what was needed to be a patrol unit alone. She felt protected by her male trainers and they were able to pass her through the first two phases. It wasn't until she realized that I represented where she would eventually be, which was basically alone.
Her falling apart in the dark police unit was a form of salvation for not only her but myself and all the other officers in the police department. She may have made it through the training program and eventually hurt herself or one of us. Now, I see that the Lord does work in mysterious ways.
Thank You, Jesus.