Julian Omidi is an advocate for the health and well being of people and animals. He also promotes causes that involve civic duty. In today’s blog, Julian examines police ride-along programs.
If you really want to see your city’s police department from the inside, consider signing up for a ride-along. Most municipal police forces offer a program whereby any law-abiding citizen can do a bit of paperwork and get on the ride-along roster. You might have to wait as much as a month or longer in larger cities, but the wait is worth it.
Is it dangerous?
The very first thing most people want to know about this intriguing form of civic duty is, “Will I be in danger during the ride?” The honest answer to that question is, “Maybe.” It all depends what happens while you are accompanying the officer. Keep in mind what it is you are doing! When you request to join a working police officer, you should know the risks involved. These programs are not for everyone, but they can be an invaluable way to learn about the side of police work that most of us never see. Forget everything you “learned” by watching crime shows on television. This is the real thing. Often, short periods of intense stress are separated by long stretches of boring patrol work.
How to behave during a ride-along
If you choose to go on a police ride-along, acquaint yourself with a few basic rules of etiquette so you don’t get in the officer’s way during the shift. Here are a few of the key points to remember:
- Fill out the appropriate paperwork at the police station or on the city website.
- Don’t be a chatter-box. Try to listen more than talk. Remember, you are a guest in someone else’s “office,” so try not to initiate too much conversation.
- Hands off: Though the officer will probably give you a complete tour of the car and its contents, including sirens and radios, it does not mean you should fiddle around with the equipment during the ride-along.
- Dress appropriately: In very cold places, police officers tend to not run their vehicle heaters as much as you would if you were in a regular car. That’s because police wear lots of extra gear and don’t require a heater as much as civilians do. So on cold winter days, bring some extra layers to keep warm. Same thing goes for summer time. Police can be hot while wearing vests and extra gear, so they usually crank the AC up to the max. You might need to bring a sweatshirt or sweater, even if you go for a summer ride-along.
- Don’t eat food or play with your electronic devices or phones during the ride. Have a decent meal before you go. If the officer stops to eat, you can always have a snack with them, but don’t ask for a meal stop.
Police department ride-alongs are a great way to get to know your local law enforcement personnel, and see first-hand what their jobs are like. If you think this is something you’d enjoy, contact your local police department and see what the requirements are for your locality.
Be good to each other,