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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_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago


    How do u find out how to get a ride along and see i am intrested in being a police officer and would like the experiance please email me some information

  • Purple_rose_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Thanks for the advice.. I'd would add don't wear any heavily scented perfume or cologne.. You don't want to knock the police officer out.

  • Trot_copy_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Thanks for the advice. :o)

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago


    Ride aongs are a great opportunity for a law enforcement agency to maintain transparency in their communities but have very little value in building police/community relationships. We can't hope to show anybody what it is we do in a few hours, days or even weeks. So for most participants a ride along is little more than entertainment.
    The exception are the people who work in social agencies, United Way, shelters, mental health workers and others upon whom we depend. Law Enforcement Explorers make good riders as long as their program establishes requirement for eligibility. And finally, community leaders from groups like the Chamber of Commerce always take something away froma ride along that comes back to the police department.
    Everybody else should, in my opinion, stay home and try to catch a rerun of The Rockford Files.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago


    I have done several ride-alongs w/my local PD & they are a lot of fun. I also learnt so much & how dangerous their jobs can be. It is through these ride-along officer's that I have come to gain the respect I have for this PD,as they are the one's you spend the time with.I have come to see that the officer's of this department arent as bad as people make them out to be.I recommend that everyone does a ride-along or the Citizen's academy if your local PD offers it.

  • Weinblattmsnbc_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    "Fire Hand" Experience should be "First Hand" Experience. Sorry, but that was a typo that was not caught.
    -- Dr. Richard Weinblatt

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago


    What is fire hand experience with handcuffs because I want to be a police officer.

  • Shields_police_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    I've taken a few people on ride alongs and it has always been enjoyable for me and my riders. This article is great and full of great advise. Just to add something, I always tell a rider that they should be prepared to be dropped off at a local gas station or restaurant in the event of a call that is too dangerous for them to go on.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago


    I often host riders. My department has a very strict policy regarding who can ride along, including current members of our Citizen's Police Academy, Township Trustees and Police Explorers. As a Police Explorer Advisor, I host riders almost every week. This has mostly been a great experience. It is fun to see the excitement of someone riding for the first time. These are some very good tips for riders. Civilians that enjoy the experience should look into the possibility of attending a Citizen's Police Academy for an even more in-depth experience.

  • Christmas_picture_1_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    I've did a few ride alongs with the local PD. It was fun, and I learned a lot. The reality of it is it can be dangerous, but different departments have different SOP's for ride alongs for safety.
    And, yes I saw some things you won't see on T.V.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago


    I have to add a comment, I only spoke when spoken to, and kept my hands to my self in the car, as far as touching the computer screen, etc. I had been given rules to what to do in my civilian police academy class.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago


    I had the ride along wtih my local PD, and I had thetime of my life. I filled out the pre-ride paperwork and fun watching the officer work as well as talk to him and was his extra pair of eyes catching red light runners.

  • Justice-400_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    I really hope that most of this wasn't new for people wanting to do ride alongs, because its a lot of common sense stuff you should have figured out to begin with.

  • Hpim0502_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    I am currently in school, majoring in Criminal Justice, and was pleased to see that I am eligible for a ride-along. I was really excited about the fact until I read resortcop's post. I'm glad I read it, it gave me the understanding that ride-alongs can sometimes be dangerous as well. Thanks for the heads up.

  • 12958_1082276396114_1802488220_171131_8375933_n_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Anothr good thing to remember is that ride-alongs can be in the line of fire. A few years ago here in East Tennessee, a county deputy and his ride-along were ambushed and shot to death by a murderous set of brothers as they were pulling up in front of the house. It was a really sad day. Especially since they got away with it in the court system. I sometimes have ride-alongs, and I always spend time instructing them in what to do if things go bad. But, sometimes, all the instruction in the world is not enough to prevent a tragic event.

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