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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 >>>

  • Number_3_max50


    about 5 years ago


    This reminds me of the ride-alongs I did with my local agency. They were all good, but they were also with officers I knew personally for years. I have spent time in ride-alongs and interning at a jail and I know it was a privilege and a huge liability that I really appreciate. It is true you will see your neighbors at their worst, but what happens in a ride-along or internship stays there, which consequently has led to me not having any enemies of people I have seen arrested or jailed. Silence is golden. You are also right about it being dangerous. In one of my ride-alongs one minute were were setting by the road talking to each other and the next he was stopping a car with a license plate that belonged to a man who pulled a gun on cops and ran off a few days prior. That is where the "stay in the car" command is said with powerful force. It is also true what you said about some people not wanting you there. In my time interning I have met officers who had the attitude that since I wasn't in uniform I wasn't worth a ****.

  • Wind_therapy-_angel_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Great article, As a National Citizens Academy alumni and long time Loss Prevention Manager I have had the privelidge of going on alot of Ride alongs with known officers in my area. I have had great experiences on most, I understood the minute I was scheduled with an officer that did not approve of Ride alongs, It made for a long night for both of us. With all do respect it's his space, and the Officer may feel imposed upon.
    Understand some officers volunteer for ride alongs, Some are volunteered.
    It does change the course of their shift, and us as Civilans need to understand that.
    Have thick skin and look forward to the next ride along.
    I was lucky enough to get Officers I knew and that knew me well enough to know I would not do Stupid!
    .1 Ride along application/ background check your Local PD front desk or your local online Police site.
    .2 Pre- shift Briefing, Listen you will hear alerts for the officers including Bolo's they may be seeking.
    .3 Understand and sign your waiver of Liability.
    .3a Listen and Watch. (Be a good witness) You may be called to court.
    .3b Get fit for a vest, know their is not enough fabreeze around to make it smell better, I knew immediately why the officers always pull down on the front of the vest UGHH!
    .4 My officer gave their call sign, shift and general area of duty in the event I needed it. Take a note....
    .5 I was advised on use of the radio in the event I was needed to call for Help! If things go South...
    .6 I was advised on location and use of the shotgun, asked if comfortable, In the event things go South...
    .7 HINT; bring a snack or sack lunch that will be ok riding around on the floor by your feet, It could be a long night without break time, Understand that if you get time to stop for a burger you may not get time to eat it, So wrap it tight cause it will ride around in the floor by your feet.
    Bring a water bottle, not a lot of time for drink stops.
    OH yeah! Don't drink to much liquids not to much time for bathroom stops.

    Alaska is currently on hold until further notice for ride alongs due to the Officer shooting and Officer safety.
    All in All I have had great experiences on my ride alongs and can't wait for the next opportunity.

    I would encourage any Citizen to apply for and committ to a Citizens Police Academy in your State if available.
    You will learn valuable information and training to build a needed bridge with your local Law enforcement.

    The more education you have on why Officers do what they do will help you to educate others.
    You can become an advocate for your Local Law enforcement as well as Nation wide.

    Have Fun! Stay Safe!

  • Bikelegs_max50


    about 5 years ago


    This was very informative! Thanks

  • Sheriff_logo_max50


    about 5 years ago


    I would encourage the public to participate in ride along programs, it has always be enjoyable for myself. It is an excellent way to learn first hand about law enforcement. Great information!

  • Picture_191_max50


    about 5 years ago


    very good information. I have had some riders that would have learned alot from this article

  • Photogc_max50


    about 5 years ago


    I am definitely going to look into ride-alongs. Most of it is common sense, while some was great to learn after reading this article. Thanks! :)

  • 432nd_tfw_patch_max50


    about 5 years ago


    I would definitely enjoy a ride along. I commanded the console for command post at two locations. I dealt with LE and emergency response on a daily basis. I wish they had ride alongs for the officers and enlisted. I directed a few LE on handling responses and wrote many action reports. It would have been nice to live the experience first hand to get a better feel and to anticipate situations for them.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago


    As an Intern with a sheriffs office and having completed many ride-alongs my advice to people is this:
    #1. It's ok to ask questions but don't overload the officer with them
    #2. Try and talk about normal life instead of police work... these guys do this job day after day and its nice for them to talk about the home/personal life for a change.
    #3. Stay in the car unless he tells you to get out.
    #4. And finally HE is the officer, don't tell him "run this car" "go over here" "do this" he is in charge and you are there to OBSERVE.

  • 100_0039_max50


    about 5 years ago


    I have been on a few ride alongs and I have always followed these instructions. I have no clue why anyone would mess with the items in an officer's car. If somebody came in my office and started messing with stuff I know I would be upset!!

  • 2010-10-03_17


    about 5 years ago


    All good points! One good piece of communication would be to speak with the Officer and find out if he wants you to back him up during a call or just sit back for any particular call. I remember some of my first ride alongs doing traffic stops and no one ever told me how to approach a vehicle. That could have been a hot mess!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago


    It is a bit difficult for me to imagine someone messing around with a law enforcement officer's piece while traveling along with he/she in a law enforcement vehicle in a ride-along, and behave in such a manner...

    It kind of sort of appears, from #9, that such an incident may have actually transpired in the past, and maybe even more than once?

    Eee gads. Good grief, I hope not.

    You guys and gals/gals and guys... are "the bees' knees" for all of "us" civilians when the going gets rough and we need help.

    All the best to all of you,

    Michael Alan Taylor

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago


    I have been an active Police Explorer for about 6 years now and will soon be attending the academy, while being at 2 different departments in different states in this time I have seen many different aspects of Police work. Ride-A-Longs can be great! These tips are great too another thing to remember is to stay very attentive at all times especially if you are on a call mostly for Explorers, but when your with an officer CRIMINALS don't care who they hurt or what uniform your wearing all they know is your on the other side of the badge so even though you are merely an Explorer a non-law abiding citizen most likely doesn't know or care that your not a Police Officer so keep your eyes open and listen to EVERYTHING the officer tells you.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago

    Good stuff, thanks.

  • Untitled_max50


    about 5 years ago


    as an active explorer, ride a longs can be fun but they are also dangerous, always know where you are

  • Advance_seal_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Good advice, thanks!

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