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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 >>>

  • Photo_user_banned_big


    over 4 years ago


    What about pocket knives? I carry mine everywhere I go. Since I sometimes need to cut up my lunch or do things people do with scissors. Then I carry my mag light in case something happens or to avoid stepping in dog mess and so I can see where to put my key. As for difficult or dangerous situation I've been in more of those than I want to think about. I'd say visit the bathroom every chance you get it hurts when things get crazy and you need to you know what. I'd agree to leave the mag in the trunk and leave my pocket knife in there if it was a problem. I don't want to be doing that with a person who is deliberately trying to scare me. I'm hoping it will be routine if I do that. I've seen enough really horrible things in my life. 115 mph that'd certainly spook me. Going that fast something goes wrong and you've had it.

  • Pug_max600_max50


    over 4 years ago


    A FEW EXTRA POINTS: Most of the time the drive is fairly routine. I always suggest you carry a small pocket flashlight. Be aware of how the radio functions. Body armor is always an option. If you have body armor check the expiration date and condition. Rain wear is appropriate in some situations simply leave it in the trunk till needed. Please fasten your seat belt before you are asked! Have a good ride!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    Eilene: "They couldn't scare me, didn't work, I knew i wasn't in any danger, traveling on the highway at 115 mph." wow, the overconfident ridealong... i hope you would hold your composure that well when all heck breaks loose.

  • 375956_401447159923274_1109023972_n_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Great Article, I have been on several ride a longs, too many to count. Although, I did all of my paperwork before I went and was totally prepared. Some things you are not prepared for, I knew the deputies I was riding along with and it seemed their only task for the evening was to try to see if they could scare me. Didn't work, I knew I wasn't in any danger, traveling on the highway at 115 miles per hour. In fact, one call we had that night the deputy I was riding with locked me in the cruiser. I rode with a deputy and we went on a child abuse call, he handed me a flashlight and said "you know what to do with this" if you need to. Another ride-along I had to go into a house with an Officer for a drug search. Everything depends on who you ride with, but knowing your boundaries is an excellent point. I wish I had read your article before those ride alongs. Thank you

  • Hard_rock_3-20-11_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Thanks for the tips. I plan on scheduling a ride along soon and hope that I get paired up with someone that has volunteered!

  • Aug_sept_2007_098_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Good article! Wish we had this system in Sweden too.....

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    This was really good information. I have to say though, I really didnt think that people who had warrants would honestly try to go on a ride a long! That is hilarious.. I thave went on a couple with Pierce County and King County Sherffs dept. Both agencies were great...and I have to say that I was surprised/disappointed that there wasnt more "action" going on the nites I chose(Fri and Sat) but looking back at it now.. I know that was a good thing!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    Great information! Thank you, for quality and suggestive tips. I plan to go on a Ride-Along soon and I can't wait. Hopefully the Officer appointed to me was the one that VOLUNTEERED :)

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    Good article.

  • Gun_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Great article Doc! As a reserve officer I always want to ridealong with other agencies. Just to observe and see the differences between larger cities/departments and smaller ones.

  • 9_11_01_max600_max50


    over 4 years ago


    thank you for posting this article

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    I found out the hard way make sure that the lieutenant or other officer in charge had chosen a patrol officer who welcomed a ride along..if they don't it will not be pleasant venture, When the patrol officer was ok with a ride along it was always a fascinating few hours, quickly leanred that most just love their jobs. Thins can escalate in a hurry. Do not carry hot coffee into the cruiser! I did and it spilled!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    To me this seems like stuff people should know going into this situation. If they don't, or act stupid they have no place being in the car.

    Only thing is about the food and eating out. At my local PD they would never let me pay for even myself lol. They are really a good group of guys, and when you are around enough and they like you especially with small departments everyone is family.

  • Pro_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I've been a Sheriff's Explorer for 4 years, and have 1000+ hours logged just in ridealongs. My biggest advice to those riding with a Peace Officer would be "USE COMMON SENSE". If you don't, you can get yourself or the officer killed.

  • Picture_013_max50


    over 4 years ago


    A very useful article. When someone talks to me about doing a ride-along I let them know the following.
    1) Fill out the ride along application and get you background check early. We are going to check your background, and yes we’ve seen worst.
    2) Our officers are requires to check-on 15 minutes prior to their shift so they can respond to calls. Be early and ready to go.
    3) Remember that our shift revolves around the publics needs. You may not get off on time, so be prepared for an extended ride-along.
    4) It’s not our fault if nothing exciting happens during your ride-along. We don’t control the universe, we only respond to it. With that being said, understand that sometimes it’s quiet and we look forward to a nice shift. Other times we pray too for the world to explode.

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