Training >> Browse Articles >> Patrol


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 >>>

PoliceLink School Finder

Save time in your search for a degree program. Use PoliceLink's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.