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10 Tips for Ride-Alongs

Dr. Richard Weinblatt

Popular among law enforcers, aspiring officers, spouses of officers, dispatchers, community activists, journalists, and scholars, ride-alongs with on-duty police officers and deputy sheriffs have long been a fun-filled way to get a view from the other side of the windshield. 

Whether you are exploring the idea of a career in law enforcement, wanting a closer look at your local constabulary, or seeking quality time with your fellow law enforcer or significant other, ride-alongs can be a positive learning experience that strengthens bonds—but they can also be fraught with pitfalls.

Not all law enforcement agencies have ride-along programs; those that do view it as a powerful bridge to the community.  Those that don’t usually believe the liability issues in having civilians present in dangerous situations are too high.  Some agencies do permit the practice, but may restrict who is eligible. 

Examples of the people that may be allowed to participate include dispatchers, police officer job applicants, enrolled police academy cadets, criminal justice college students, college interns, or spouses of officers.

While riding along with a law enforcement agency can be fun, make no mistake about it.  Ride-alongs are a dangerous activity.  There have been instances of ride-alongs being present when officers are attacked and they witness other harsh realities of policing in America.  This is not the sanitized TV version of COPS.

By the way, sworn officers sometimes participate in ride-along programs.  They may want to ride with a friend in another agency in order to bond further or they may be interested in learning different police practices and operations.  It is important that officers follow the department and host agency’s policies as far as carrying weaponry and taking action to assist the on-duty officer.  There are jurisdictional differences in laws and protocols that greatly affect how the guest officer conducts him or herself on the ride-along.  Make sure you know your boundaries.

Having managed ride-along programs, had ride-alongs with me as a full-timer, and ridden along with officers in other agencies in the United States and overseas, I have picked up a few tips to help make your ride-along a more productive and enjoyable experience.

10 Things To Remember >>>

  • New_avatar_4_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    When I first moved to San Antonio, I took a ride along with an SAPD officer who had eighteen years experience on the force.He was working day shift, so we didn't see a lot of excitement.It was fun and I learned a lot.My agency recently discontinued the practice of allowing ride alongs due to the liability.

  • Av-109_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Great information, though its a shame many agencies fail to realize the usefulness of the ride long program. I would also say ask relevant questions. I mean sure small talk is nice, but often times some questions are well, just plain stupid to ask if they aren't relevant to the field or the situation.

  • 12_week_old_brindle_male_pm_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Awesome !!!!!! Thank you so much!!

  • 13739_1324712157564_1223686236_972375_5153671_a_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Lol my first ride along sucked, I rode with my old man, he cuffed me and threw me in the back seat. Lol He thought it was funny...

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    Mostly a good article. I disagree about the meal though. As an officer, it would be rude of me to take a rider to a place that will be costly for them without a discount. I would never expect or accept a rider paying for my meal either. In fact, I pretty routinely buy dinner for my ride-a-longs. I have been where they are. I know what it's like looking for a job. Plus it's a good opportunity to show off your agency.

  • Wind_therapy-_angel_max50


    about 4 years ago


    informative, Regular citizens can request a ride along, you have to fill out the request form and await your background results.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    They should expand this to include most regular citizens too. Most of them are completely unaware of how most of the interaction is driven by their behavior and response to the officers more than what the officers need to do. Just remember as a citizen you should be - truthful helpful pleasant respectful and appreciative - and you will double your warnings versus citations for driving mistakes or whatever.

  • Maa_class_badge_max50


    over 4 years ago


    When I was a Police Explorer, we got to go on ride alongs. They were definately fun and intense. I have been on traffic stops, loud parties, dead body call, grave yard surveilance, etc. these definately are some good tips to hold on to.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    I can't wait to be involved in one of these. :)

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    Very helpful! Thanks!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    About to go on a ride along soon thanks for the tips ... and DALLASCRANE good add in

  • Pug_max600_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Number 11... Bring a small, powerful flashlight. In an emergency or wreck it may come in very handy.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    Ok, I get that a ride-along can be dangerous, but my town put on (3) of these and I enjoyed each and every one! They were a great bird's eye view into LE, and I still am a CJ student & active member of my community. I feel that a lot more communities would benefit from better Police/Community relations if all Police depts. were able to enact these. If anything, esp. in communities where "racial profiling" occurs, so that these citizens can see what the Cop sees. And let me tell you, there is no way in Hell that if I was on a ride-along & the officer I was with got attacked that I would do Jack Shit Nothing! Yeah, somewhere in the back of my head would be little nagging thoughts about the "trouble" I'd be in, but really, I would deal with that later. I mean, I'm on a ride-along...Our PD did a fantastic job of showing us how to use the radio during re-enactments, so at the very least I would use the radio. Who knows, maybe I would be a good distraction(hahahaha), maybe I could even get some Black & Blues to brag about later(if I had any teeth left). Seriously though, the ride-alongs were the frosting on the cake...they came after(my PD did it along with a Citizens Police Academy that lasted 3 months each)we had classes on basic laws & regulations, scenarios that officers face in which we commoners, the little townies got to play the "Cops" and the officers [that had volunteered to be a part of this Citizen Academy]got to turn around and be us jerky "Townies" instead. It was great fun & very informative on both sides of the fence. I wish they'd do it again, as there are more officers on our PD and I don't know them all now.

  • Cimg4853hero_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    This is a great article! Being a police explorer I have been on my fair share of ride-alongs. All of the officers I know would strongly agree with these key topics. Remember you are a guest in their "office" so you need to treat the car and officer with respect.

  • Jack-sparrow-pirates-of-the-caribbean_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    I have had 3 ride-alongs so far and they were all great!! I am currently setting a second one up with the Des Moines IA police dept. My other 2 were with the Polk County Sheriff and those were awesome!! It was kind of interesting how both of my sheriff ride-alongs were mostly quiet the whole time, than at the last minute of their shift, something major happened, which made my most recent ride-along last 16 hours lol. Both of the departments have very good officers and they all have a really interesting but funny sense of humor. I can't wait to go on my next one!!

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