F.T.O.

GUMSHOE-DANNY-PITOCCO

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]W[/su_dropcap]ELCOME BACK dear readers for some more “cop” stuff from the Gumshoe.

Let no man’s ghost ever haunt me by saying, “If you would have trained me better!”[su_spacer]

This mantra is attributed to the U.S. Marine Corps Drill Instructors regarding their personal responsibility to the Marine Recruits in their charge.

I took this same “mantra” to heart when I became a F.T.O. (Field Training Officer) for newly minted police recruits fresh from the police academy. I did modify this “mantra” to include all of my assigned “trainees” men and women.

First of all, in order for me to become a “FTO”, I had to have had several years on the “streets” as well as I to meet and exceed with other qualifications: (excellent personnel evaluations; demonstrated leadership; good report writing skills; other “specialty” such as SWAT, Drug Recognition Expert (DRE); investigations). The FTO assignment came with a boost in my paycheck and it looked pretty good on my resume’ if and when I would put in for a police supervisory position.

Now the real reason I wanted this position is that I loved to train and instruct other officers who would someday (if they made it through the department’s Field Training Program and their one year probationary period) be my “back-up” officers. My goal was to teach them not get me or another officer injured or killed.

GoodHousekeeping_logoNote: The best compliment I could ever receive from any of my trainees was that they attributed their survival to some of my street survivor tips and tricks. It was always great to hear from the other veteran officers that such and such was “Pitocco-trained” – sort of like the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval”.

Early on in my career I had established myself as an officer who was well versed of in the area of officer safety. You see, I could always teach a probationer how to write a report but if they could not develop a good sense of officer safety, I had no choice but to recommend to them to look at another career choice! Like I explained early, I took that U.S. Marine Drill Instructor’s mantra to heart – no ghosts were ever going to haunt me by heaven!

The police department’s training program was normally 12 weeks long with the trainee rotating a new FTO every 4 weeks. I was the last FTO for them to ride with. By that period of time, I would have reviewed their progress reports from the other previous FTO’s so that I could concentrate on any of the areas where the trainee was not making the established standard. Being the last FTO in their training program also gave me the moniker as “The Ax Man”.

Now dear readers keep in mind that I was an FTO back in the early mid-1970’s when it was still pretty uncommon to see a uniform police officer who was a female. There was definitely an “institutional bias” against females driving around in a patrol car. Of course there were female police officers but they were mostly assigned to plain-clothes assignments in juvenile just to keep the affirmative action crowd satisfied. The “good old boys” club basically considered any female who wanted to work the streets a wee bit too “butch” if you get my drift.

Well, in my own personal as well as my own professional opinion, I considered anyone (male, female, regardless of their sexual orientation, etc.) who wanted to strap on a gun everyday to face the “unknown” and police a society who normally don’t want to be “policed” deserved to be the best trained officer they could be.

The first question I normally asked my assigned trainee was if they ever had been in a fight? If they said “no”, I made sure that they would have that opportunity several times. Nothing illegal or morally corrupt though, we would make late night (before closing bar checks) and I would direct them to arrest the biggest and loudest drunk. Voila! The trainee would get their mettle tested pretty damn quickly.

A few of my trainees soon realized that police work is sometimes very down and dirty when they tried to use the least amount of physical force to effect an arrest while the suspect was using their maximum amount of force against them!

On none of these occasions, mind you, did I ever allow a trainee to get injured or overwhelmed. I would instruct them that they get paid to win each and every time in a violent physical street encounter no matter what. I also told them that they should expect to get punched, taste their own blood, feel pain and fear, but these things would never cause them to stop or hesitate but to survive and go home every night.

Now I did not turn out “street monsters” or badge heavy knuckleheads; my goal was to make my trainees aware of the “dark side” of police work that the public never sees but are really quick to criticize.   The best fight is the one that is over very quickly and violently if words don’t seem to have any affect on the suspect arrestee.

I would also give my trainees one other bit of wisdom that I learned a long time ago from my “Sensei” in my martial arts training;

“You only have so many victories in life, so you must use them wisely”. [su_spacer]

No – my “Sensei” did not call me “grasshopper” and I did not practice “wax on, wax off”! In other words, it is always better to talk a suspect into the handcuffs (less paperwork) than to have to use force (more paperwork).

Okay now folks, you got a good “overview” of my FTO protocols.

I was always assigned female trainees simply because I had no bias against them and that I had no designs on them of a sexual nature. Trainees can easily become “attached” to their respective FTO’s for a lot of reasons.

I had one female trainee who I will call “Smith” who was a very attractive blond female (by any standard) who was a very smart and a quick learner. She was very motivated and she asked a lot of questions and she never complained.

I advised Smith that a women cop has quite a few advantages over the male cops;

  • First, suspects will always underestimate her. (You can never defend against a weapon you don’t see).
  • Second, our society still does not accept a male striking a female or using offensive language in front of them (remember now this was the 70’s not now). I always thought since I wore glasses that I would never be hit in the face, but this proved to be wrong in a few cases I sadly learned).
  • Third, women listen better than men, so Smith would be an asset in ascertaining the facts during an investigation, especially involving minors and sexual assaults. I call it the “mother instinct” that God gave to all women. Even male suspects like to tell mommy what they did.
  • Fourth, women write and spell better than most “knuckle-dragging” men. I could go on, but I never wanted Smith to ever feel intimidated by the other “veteran” cops (not to mention the largely mail suspects).

I am happy to say that “Smith” grasped all of these concepts.

Keep in mind my friends; I never cut any of my trainees any slack regardless of their sex. I would make damn sure that my assigned female trainee/s would out perform any of the males because they were always going to be judged (unfairly) by their actions.

Probationer Smith had to change a flat tire in the rain; dump out her coffee out of the window on a hot call; handle her police baton with either hand as well as her fire arm; take down a male suspect (regardless of his size); handle dead bodies – suicides (yuck), accidental, accidents, auto-erotic (yuck, yuck); learn to think “out of the box” on crimes in progress to car stops; and any other call that she would experience when and if she would be “cut loose” on the night shift (where all new cops go).

I would also make sure everyone of her hand written reports (we did not use typewriters or computers yet) were completed before Smith could go home. Being my trainee meant that I would volunteer Smith for any type of report or investigation that she had not had the chance to handle yet during her field training program – so that meant that she routinely had a stack of reports to finish well after our shift was over.

Smith was one of my best trainees who went on to have a very successful 20 plus year career in law enforcement. She earned her way to acceptance by most of the “good old boys” – something that a male officer never had to experience.

Someday, I may once again, God willing, have contact with “Smith” and tell her that she could be my “partner” anytime and in any situation because she was “Pitocco-trained”. (A wee bit of my ego and pride showing folks, but I was proud of her!).

Till next time folks, remember to love the ones who love you.

Danny Pitocco
Danny Pitocco
RETIRED (as a Detective with the Snohomish County Sherriff’s Department, Washington State), Danny has over forty years of law enforcement experience across city, county, state and federal levels of government, including service as a Special Agent for the DEA, US Department of Justice. He’s a decorated law enforcement veteran, and recipient of the "Detective of the Year" award for Snohomish County, Danny is a certified composite artist and has testified as an expert witness in the field of narcotics and modus operandi of particular crimes in state and federal courts in California, and has given testimony before federal grand juries. Danny served four years of active duty in the US Marine Corps and loves Jesus as his personal savior.
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Lynn Forrester-Pitocco

Danny, I can certainly relate to this trainee, almost as though I was there. Thanks to the training of my FTO, I was able to proceed in a career I loved and survived in. I have no doubt all those you trained could honestly say you were one of the best.

Ken Vincent
Ken Vincent

Danny: I think one of the marks of good leadership is being proud of those you have trained, vs being proud of one’s self.

Our media has done a deplorable job (as has most law enforcement agencies) of educating the public as to how much training goes into making a law enforcement officer. Few jobs have such intensive training, then OJT, then one year of probation, then on going mandatory training. The main stream media delights in showing any situation where it could be interpreted that one or more cops have been heavy handed and abusive. (Even some of those scenes are later proven to be “edited” to show the cop (s) in the wrong. ) Never do they air any of the millions of cases where the cops do as you trained…use minimal force against maximum force to secure a situation. Never do they even hint at the hundreds of millions of cases where a well trained officer has avoided a potential violent scene by “talking the perp into handcuffs”.

Jane Anderson

I have to get this in here – love the philosophy. “In other words, it is always better to talk a suspect into the handcuffs (less paperwork) than to have to use force (more paperwork).” It’s awesome that you didn’t have limiting beliefs about women cops but still held them with highest respect. One of my favorite quotes from your article. “she could be my “partner” anytime and in any situation because she was “Pitocco-trained”. (A wee bit of my ego and pride showing folks, but I was proud of her!).” It would be my goal to be Smith if I trained with you.

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