December 21, 2004 > Call Signs '2-X-2'; '2-O-11; '1-A-10' Go '10-8'
Call Signs '2-X-2'; '2-O-11; '1-A-10' Go '10-8'
Rookie Officers Successfully Complete Fremont FTO Program
TCV has been following the careers of three rookies of the Fremont Police Department for several months since their graduation from Police Academy in Sacramento. During these months, Matthew Bocage, Ramin Mahboobi and Matthew Snelson have been training in an FTO (Field Training Officer) program that exposes them to different shifts and specialties and evaluates their progress under the guidance of veteran officers.
All three rookies have now successfully completed this training and will operate as solo officers during the remainder of their probationary period that will end December 2005. TCV plans another interview with the three rookies in about six months (July, 2005) to publish comments after a significant amount of time spent as "10-8" solo officers.
TCV: Each of you has now completed the final two weeks of the FTO program. Was it a tough two weeks?
Snelson: It was nerve-wracking to some degree. You are trying to put everything together and do things well; to give confidence to your primary FTO. You want to come back and show that you really know what you are doing; that you are competent. You don't want to make mistakes. I think that at this point we know what we should be doing and now it is just putting it all together.
It was kind of cool to come back to the same group that saw me when I started - the early day shift on "A" side. I am sure I looked like the scared little rookie the first few weeks. Coming back, getting razzed a little bit, joking around and going out and getting business done. It was fun to come back and feel like a competent member of the team.
Mahboobi: I echo much of what Snelson just said. What made it nerve-wracking was that this was the shift that saw you at your "vulnerable" time. Now you are supposedly trained and you want to come back and show them what you have learned. The other thing that adds to this is that I am coming from being a solo vehicle in the third phase and then back to having a training officer in the car again. During the first couple of days, I wanted to show my primary FTO that I know what I am doing.
Once the work week got started, time just flew by. We were so busy that I didn't think about the training program because once my FTO spent two shifts with me to see what had been delivered back to him, I was solo for the rest of that week and the last week. There were days that I didn't see him except at briefings and at the end of the day. I was extremely busy in the last week and because of that, I almost forgot I was in "Shadow" phase. It was as if that was already done; everyone around me was treating me as if I was past the FTO training. We are just getting the job done.
It is amazing to see a different side of it since when you are in the FTO program, everyone steps back and makes you work your way through all phases of the entire scene. Now you see the other side where everyone just jumps in to get the job done.
Bocage: My Shadow phase was a bit different since it was split in half - half on mid-shift with Officer Tony Tassano and half on day shift with my primary who had been on vacation, Officer Gregg Crandall. Initially there is a lot of anxiety. I am driving around and calling out every single street that I get on - just talking to myself. I am saying this so just in case I go on the air, I know my location. Once you get into it things are okay.
My FTO's gave me a lot of confidence. They cut the leash. They said maybe I will show up and maybe I won't. I didn't even feel like I was in training anymore because like Raman said, when you show up on these calls, no one is looking at you to handle everything from start to finish anymore. It is more of a collaborative effort. You are working as a team. You just have to be sure that you are not a cog that is going to collapse the machine.
I had a fantastic two weeks - everyone was great. We started getting congratulatory emails and comments before we were done and I thought, 'look, no one has shook my hand yet - we are not through - there are 36 hours left!' I think all of us had a good time. You just hope that nothing really explodes and you are presented with a situation that you are not sure how to handle. You want things to be within your level of competency and for me that is how it went down.
TCV: What happens when you finish the FTO program?
Snelson: On my last day, it was a normal day of patrol. I was out on my own and my FTO was writing my final evaluation. This is a packet that summarizes where you are as an officer and their recommendation for you. On that last day, Officer [Norberto] Quimson finally allowed me to take him out to lunch as a traditional thank you for his efforts.
In the morning he started going through his evaluation with me on some "down time," letting me know about my strengths and weaknesses and some classes he recommended for me in the future. Some that he recommended were interrogation classes, drug enforcement classes, evaluation classes - basically deepening my understanding. We talked a lot about that. Then I signed off on the written evaluation - signing on each page. This was pretty much like we have done every day through FTO on our evaluations.
There was also a sergeant evaluation that I also signed off. He then presented his final evaluation to the sergeant who then presented it to the lieutenant - it went up the chain of command that way. In the end, I believe it is the captain who makes the decision of whether we go "10-8" out on our own.
Mahboobi: My last day was very different because I had a heavy caseload coming into that day. I was under a lot of stress - I had one pretty high profile case of child molestation that I was trying to hammer through. It could have gone to the detectives but I wanted to keep it and my sergeant said that I could have the time necessary to work on it for the experience. This is one where I showed up solo and talked with the victim. I thought that 'they really must trust me if they are letting me handle it.' Coming into my last day, I had that case which had taken a lot of time over the last two days. I had three or four other cases too where I knew that through investigation I could get an arrest. I knew that these cases were good to have because I knew that if I did the job right, we could put bad people in jail.
Any time I would go "10-8" in service for regular calls, I would end up at a cluster from another case that would take a side track to another investigation. By the time my "Friday" came up, I looked at my primary FTO and told him how busy I was and said that whatever we have to do, let's get it done. He had the same feeling. So he said we would meet throughout the day and have talks about the next phase of what you have to do from here.
I had no doubt that at the end of the shift I would make it through the program. I felt that for the entire week so there were no secrets about giving the blessing. My primary FTO, Jim Koepf, is a guy unbelievably filled with knowledge; I don't think there is a single directive or policy or law in the world that he doesn't know. He said, 'It's not just about getting out of FTO, you still have another year of probation. The FTO program is about getting you to be a competent officer who continues and makes it through the probationary period without a hitch. The real goal is to get you through probation.' He reminded me that if I ever get jammed up, there is always help available. If you find yourself in a situation where you are unsure of what to do, you have to know who to contact and what resources you have.
We met several times during the day and he gave me advice about what to do from this point. He congratulated me and told me that it [finishing FTO] was a big accomplishment but it doesn't mean it is over. Don't ever stop learning. We had a really good talk but it was unfortunate that it was broken up during the day between trying to handle all these different cases and running around town. I read a final evaluation, signed off on it and my sergeant also presented me with a final evaluation that I read and signed off. There were handshakes and congratulations - it was a great feeling.
Bocage: I think my experience was a combination of the others. I didn't have nearly the caseload that Raman had but I did have a few things I was working this week. My primary FTO, Gregg Crandall and I put the finishing touches on the rookie book. We all take a written final in the last week or two.
TCV: Are the academics more practically oriented or do they center on rules and regulations?
Bocage: I would say they are more practically oriented. They are shaped around how the Fremont Police Department does things. A lot of it is directive driven. They want you to be competent in California procedures but finely honed in how Fremont does business.
TCV: Is there much about specific regulations.
Bocage: There is a lot of that and also scenario questions.
The orders of our permanent assignments were handed down via email throughout the department on our Tuesday. We knew they were pretty anxious to get us out there.
Mahboobi: It was interesting because we still had two days to go and an email goes out saying, 'The following recruits have successfully passed the FTO program' and gave us orders to take two days off and then return to our permanent assignment. Bocage and I looked at each other and said, 'I guess we are golden, what do you think?' My FTO looked at it and said, 'Now I feel like a lame duck!'
Bocage: We were assigned our permanent call signs, so I am now "2Xray2." I am staying in the same place I am now. I will be under my primary FTO on day shift, on "B" side for the next six months. So there wasn't a dramatic ending of my relationship with Officer Crandall. We are going to be in the same zone, working together on the same cases. That is very exciting for me.
Mahboobi: My call sign is 2Ocean11. I will be on the "A" side where Matt [Snelson] was working. I will be leaving the entire team I was working with so it is a bit sad. It is going to be interesting; I will be working with officers that I haven't worked with ever in my career. It will be a drastic shift. I don't doubt for a minute that it will be just as welcoming as on the "B" side.
I have heard nothing but good things about the personnel on that side. Matt has been on that side and all we have heard through the interviews is how helpful everyone has been. I am looking forward to the change, but it is also sad since I just got used to working with the "B" team knowing each person's style. However, I do get to meet more people throughout the department. I have always said that I am not concerned with what shift I get or who I work with; I am just happy to be here! I will be on swing shift.
Snelson: I am on the midnight shift. My official call sign is "1Adam10." I have been working a lot of Zone 3 because the shift that I am on is light on south Fremont units, so I have actually been working as "3-A-2" for the last few days. Same as Ramin, I did my training on "A" side so I have built a lot of relationships there. Going to "B" I don't know anyone at all, so there is some apprehension.
It is a great thing, however, to meet the other half of the department. So, while I was somewhat disappointed that I didn't continue the relationships that I started on the "A" side, now I have an opportunity to build relationships on the "B" side. Some of the FTO's that trained Matt and Ramin are on my shift and almost everyone has come up given me their phone number and let me know they are available if I need anything. They are extremely helpful. I have not had any feeling of 'Okay rookie, you're here now, pull your weight.' It's a feeling of 'We are all her together; It's a team effort.' That is an awesome feeling. You get this impression that 'We have confidence in you, let's get it done. Now you are one of us.'
TCV: What will your relationship be with the rookies just entering the FTO program?
Mahboobi: We met with them just after our graduation from Sacramento academy and spent one week training together with the new rookies on their way to their academy giving them the benefit of our experiences. We are looking forward to help the guys who are just about to enter the FTO program.
Bocage: At the department Christmas party, we had the opportunity to see the junior officers there with their wives and girlfriends...
Snelson: Some of us had to work!
Bocage: We had a chance to talk with them. They were asking a lot of questions already. It will be neat to share our experiences with them. I know some of them will be coming to our shift and seeing some of the same FTOs we did.
TCV: Do you have any part in their training?
Snelson: On an emotional and experience level, we are closer to where they are, so we can probably relate to some of the things they are going through, but as far as educating them to how to be a police officer, we are still trying to figure things out for ourselves. We still need to think through everything we do in the car and at some point with veteran officers, they reach a point where they can do things because they "feel" correct. I still feel very mechanical in my thought processes.
I think we may try to get together with them over the holidays where we can talk and joke about what it was like at the academy and then share some of our experiences in the FTO program.
Mahboobi: The new officers just graduated, so we would like to get together to congratulate them.
TCV: Ramin had a heavy caseload during his last few weeks. How was your last week during "shadow" phase? Any big cases?
Bocage: My week was routine but I am still learning and trying to absorb as much as possible from each call.
Snelson: Last week I had a big burglary case. By the time we were on scene, the suspects had left but they were stopped a few blocks away. One gave a confession. There was a lot going on - a few warrants I was allowed to write. One of the property detectives, [Paul] McCormick came out and on scene while we were investigating and offered a lot of help.
Officer [Donald] Martinez stopped a suspect - made a great stop - and did an amazing job of interrogating the suspect to the point where the person tells everything that happened. I have seen Officer Martinez do this twice and I don't think that would have happened if I had been the interrogating officer. It's a pleasure to see that work. I was on the other side with Officer Quimson and Sergeant [Robert] Lanci and Lieutenant [David] Lanier was back and forth between the two suspects. Seeing that whole scene - it was very intricate, very involved - trying to get things processed, getting fingerprints with a CSI trying to pull really good prints. That was a pretty involved case that took me all week.
What ends up happening when you get a big case is that cannot just drop your zone partners - hide off the map in a corner somewhere. There are still cases and calls going on that generate reports. Some of them are not 'in progress' and can be held off for a bit, but at the same time you need to be diligent with those cases as well. The pressure builds up. I felt that but was able to deal with some of that on my first two days on my own. I think that is a constant process.
TCV: Speaking of paperwork, do you feel that you are getting a handle on it?
Bocage: Time management is the most critical thing. You have cases that can wait a little bit and then high priority cases. I am absorbing things better and definitely balancing things better but it is still a challenge for me. It is definitely something I have to get better at just so I don't feel this overbearing weight on my shoulders every time I go out there. It's a great feeling to be completely in the clear; when everything is taken care of.
Mahboobi: Just this last week, there was a residential burglary that was interrupted by the victim coming home. The suspect just walked right out of the front door, made some comments and left. The victim was able to put out a pretty good description. We put out a vehicle description and a lot of good teamwork was in play right off the bat. A suspicious vehicle report had been taken earlier in the day by Officer Ken Lawrence. When he heard the 'in progress' report, Officer Lawrence jumped on the air and said that it sounded like his suspects from his case. He had a plate number whereas in my case, there was no plate number.
The teamwork was amazing. The crime analysis group was working up everything they could - any associated persons, etc. The channels were just flying. I am on the scene and there was a lot of evidence to be collected. I requested a CSI. My goal was to get this suspect. Time goes on and we got a photo of the primary suspect and we were trying to locate the suspect. The same day, I contacted detectives to ask what they knew about this person. They began to stake out houses to see if they can locate the suspect. The next morning the detectives were all over the Bay Area looking for the suspect. We were unable to locate the suspect. We didn't have a good address. I was trying to keep things a little bit clear that afternoon so if we did get an address, I would be free to write a warrant.
An hour later, I am working on the child molestation case and now I have that running too. On top of that, I had several other cases that also required investigation. I would go back an honor my zone responsibilities too. It seemed like every call I got to was something I could pick up and run with. I began to feel a lot of stress. I knew I could not handle everything at once. Currently, I am hammering them out. I went to my sergeant and told him of all the things that were going on and I was being buried in paperwork. He authorized some time off the street.
I spent my Friday from 6 a.m. - noon in the department to hammer out cases, trying to catch up. In that time, I took my final exam for the FTO program. I wasn't able to study for it since I had all these cases going on. My FTO wanted to review a bit before the exam, but we never got a chance to do it. This was my last day on FTO, unless I blew it having all these cases. I took the exam and passed it. I figured that I must know this stuff since I passed it. I got back out on the street and was dispatched to a hit-and-run with suspect information. The second I showed up there, there is call of a fight in progress. I had just made contact with the victim of the hit-and-run and I have a suspect but I have to go because I have a kid bleeding in the middle of the street somewhere. I gotta go so I told the victim that we would get another unit to them as soon as possible. We had a property crime and a crime against a person, so we have to respond to a threat of someone's life.
Now I end up with two juveniles arrested and booked, waiting for the parents. The whole time I am thinking that I will never get to finish my other cases. This took me until 4:30 p.m. and at 5 p.m. I am off duty, so I sat down at that point - it was my Friday and the last day of FTO - I finished my final evaluations and the formalities of the FTO program. Then I sat down to finish up the other cases since I couldn't put them on hold until I came back on duty. I finished about 12:30 a.m. I am off for today and then start my new shift tomorrow on swing shift. Hopefully, I will relax some time. So, time management is the most important thing. I am learning a big lesson in time management right now.
TCV: What happens to the cases that you are currently working on now that some of you are being assigned to another shift?
Snelson: You keep running with them. I have a reported grand theft case. There were eight people reported to be in the house at the time of the theft. I have to interview all eight people for the case. Then I got the burglary case that I am wrapped up with too. Now I am going to midnight shift and who is up at 3 a.m. for an interview? Although this case was cleared up, I would probably have talked to a sergeant and asked for overtime to interview during the day. I would have worked my shift from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. and then set up interviews for daytime and hammer them out. What you take, you finish. Part of the gratification of the job is to take these things to conclusion and bring them to prosecution and closure.
I had another burglary that was on a Friday and one of the things that had to be done was a photo lineup. A victim said he could possibly ID a suspect, so I put together a photo lineup and another officer working the next day volunteered to conduct the lineup. That's where teamwork comes in.
TCV: Is the typical backlog manageable?
Bocage: It is usually manageable. Zone integrity is a huge part of what we do. We may have 3 or 4 officers, rarely 5 in a zone at any one time. You need to make sure you get done what you need to get done and still be available to help in the zone. I have two cases I am working on now.
Mahboobi: I honestly don't know. I have a few that I want to follow up on that have been holding for a few weeks. With older cases, it may still be active, but you may not necessarily make all contacts. One of my cases has a witness who is now in Washington State. The police there are contacting that witness for me.
Snelson: Sometimes, due to a lack of investigative leads the case is suspended. The officer has the discretion to put the case in that disposition. A lot of times it will be discussed with other officers and sergeants to see if something has been overlooked. If you are able to dispose of a case then you will say if a crime did or did not occur. You will either forward the crime to the D.A. and ask for charging and file a complaint or close the case as 'unfounded' if proven that there was no crime.
Mahboobi: If you suspend a case and something comes about down the road, it may not come back to you. Another officer might get it and run with it using your report as a reference.
TCV: Is there a database of these files?
Snelson: Yes, a great example of this is a residential burglary that occurred a month before I got the call. A Contra Costa County Sheriff in Danville stopped a guy and found some of our victim's property on him and called an assist from our department. Some of the items had not been reported as lost. I was able to pull up the report from the original officer and then re-contacted the victim, wrote a supplemental report to the officer's suspended report that included additional items. It was all tied together in that way.
TCV: You have all successfully completed your FTO training and we will meet again in about six months after you have experienced a significant amount of time on your own in the field. Any further comments?
Bocage: I would like to thank my FTOs for a fantastic job, very encouraging, disciplined and tempered training. It has been a great experience for me. Starting from the top, I want to thank Officers Gregg Crandall, Miliano Marcelino, Tony Tassano,Roger Kellmann, Jill Wilkinson, Steve Solaro, Javier Marquez. I appreciate everything they have done for me and I want to thank everyone else in the department who helped me during this time. I am sure they will all be there for us in the future too. There are so many people in the department who have helped me; it is hard to name them all.
Mahboobi: As a whole, I can't say enough about the support of the department. This has to be the best training program, bar none. I don't know how they can improve this. Any more and it would drive you crazy and any less and you wouldn't have the confidence necessary to do the job. You have to go through a lot to become an FTO. These are veteran, experienced officers. There wasn't one FTO that as I sat in their car with them, I wasn't envious and impressed with their knowledge and ability to handle whatever comes their way. Every call I come away impressed with the fine qualities of the officers we have in our department.
I was fortunate to be trained by my primary FTO Officer Jim Koepf. Others included Officer Chris Hummel and the detectives I worked with, Detective [Fred] Bobbitt, [Frank] Noey, [Brian] Ancona, Sgt. [Dean] Cobet. In the Traffic Unit, I learned so much from Officer [Daniel] Harvey. In my third phase, I rode with Officer Gregg Pipp, Officer [Roger] Kellmann and Officer Dennis Alfonso (I want to congratulate Officer Alfonso is retiring on December 29 after 29 plus years with the agency - he is a legend!). Sergeants [Jon] Lopes, [Chris] Mazzone, [William] Ernser; I also want mention Captain Bob Nelson for his support. I would like to add Sergeant [Kimberly] Petersen and in investigations, where I spent many, many hours, Detective [Mark] Dang as well as recovery with Detective [Donald] George and Officer [Paul] McCormick. The list goes on and on for all of us! I hope, someday, to stand beside these people and be half as good as they are at what we do.
Snelson: I echo everything that has been said by the others. This has been a well done and thought out program from the academic and intellectual side and the practical side. It is what I needed for the past six months. My list of FTO's; Officer [Norberto] Quimson was my primary. Also in my primary phase, I rode with Officers Glenn Miller and Caroline Montalbo. My secondary FTO was Officer [Kevin] Gott. My Traffic Officer was Officer Dennis Madsen; my tertiary was with Officer Joe Geibig and I also rode with Officer John Anderson. In detective division, I worked with Detective [James] Larkin and Detective [Mark] Dang and Detective [Jeremy] Miskella. I got a ton of information from every person I worked with. Every single officer had positive and encouraging things to say even when I screwed up. The comments were to learn from it to do a better job. It couldn't have been a better program or learning environment. A lot of it had to do with everyone, not just our FTOs. My sergeants were supportive; Sergeants [Robert] Lanci, [Patrick] Epps, [Antonio] Delgado.
Tri-City Voice would like to thank Chief Craig Steckler and the Fremont Police Department for the opportunity to interview Officers Bocage, Mahboobi and Snelson during their FTO training program. The department has been generous to allow access to the officers and permit this newspaper to publish their thoughts without external editing by the department. We would also like to thank Sergeant Clarise Lew for her assistance to begin the interview series.