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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 >>>


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    firefox630

    over 4 years ago

    2 Comments

    I was once a civilian police academy student.......now I'm a part-time police dispatcher.....and let me tell you first hand not only is it an awsome experience, it gives you a first hand look at what an officer goes through in a days work and it helps me to be able to know how to help my officer when called upon to do so. If I'm in the cruiser.....I still take my job seriously because god forbid we ever have a call "Officer Down" I'll know how to get my officer help if I need to. And trust me, you'll have more RESPECT for an officer after you go with them to see what they do to keep you safe!!

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    ldmooney

    over 4 years ago

    4 Comments

    Great article! As a civilian/activist, it has been my pleasure to do many ride-alongs. I always ask for their call sign in case they get in trouble, but thankfully, have never needed it. Another thing to keep in mind is that the language that LEO's use can get foul at times, so if you are easily offended, best to stay home. Several times, suspects tried to engage me in conversation (one even thought I was the LEO's supervisor), but I have enough common sense to know not to respond to them--especially since they were drunk every time! Most important is to keep quiet and engage in conversation that will help develop trust between you and the LEO. The highest compliment is for them to tell you that you can ride with them whenever you'd like to....that comes with trust and confidence that you as a rider aren't going to do or say anything stupid.

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    beachgirl

    over 4 years ago

    2422 Comments

    Wow, such a great article! I went on a ride-along with my local PD when I was in high school and it was a very enjoyable experience. The three basic rules that byecruzer listed pretty much cover all the bases, and this article covers it more extensively. Either way, if the ride-along follows these rules, he/she is sure to have a good time. And now that I'm the officer and have had ride-alongs, I can certainly respect one who respects my space, doesn't talk too much, and dresses appropriately.

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    jthayer

    over 4 years ago

    22 Comments

    This is really great advice, especially for those of us who are applying to law enforcement. Thanks.

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    byecruzer

    over 4 years ago

    12 Comments

    The Department that I went on ride-alongs with had three basic rules: 1. Don't touch anything inside the car. 2. Stay in the car unless the officer directly tells you to get out. 3. Don't talk to the suspects or arrestees (or "monkeys" as they affectionately called them). These rules are just kind of the basic, "rule of thumb" tips that'll keep you out of trouble on a ride-along. It was an excellent experience and I encourage you to try it if you already haven't.

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    Gunner777

    over 4 years ago

    124 Comments

    If you do a ride along remember this is the real deal so pay attention to the officers instructions in the event things do go south.
    Don't participate in confrontations with suspects keep your eyes open and mouth shut. You can escalate a situation even with the best intentions. If the officer needs your help with a suspect it would be unusual but wait until asked.

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    keepyourpower

    over 4 years ago

    70 Comments

    I am a 10 year vet in police work. But have not been a police officer since 1986. I rode with my local police a couple of times in the past 6 months. I truly enjoy getting back on the street. I did run my mouth a lot though..haha!
    I look forward to riding again..when time permits. You would not believe how much better it is for the police officer than it was so many years ago. So much more equipment to keep them safe and make work more efficient! I loved the lights on the sides of the vehicles that would light up the alleys! We only had our headlights and one spotlight in my day! They had just come out with the vests when I left. The cars are still the same..in poor repair. In the car with which I rode, the brakes screamed at each stop! How in heaven's name can an officer sneak up on anyone or slowly ride an area with all that noise. Sometimes...saving money for a department seems to be more important than keeping the officer safe. This needs to change!

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    snowrider

    over 4 years ago

    30 Comments

    I recently went on a ride-a-long with an officer who is a friend of mine. It was a great experience, and I felt comfortable asking questions because I knew the officer. He said he was glad to have me because it helped make the day go by faster having someone to talk to.

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    Lighthouse23

    over 4 years ago

    174 Comments

    Good Article. I go on Ride-A-Longs as a civilian and also help with our police explorer program, I realy enjoy going out and lerarning. i will admit, I have lerarned alot just sitting in the passenger seat. It realy opens ones eyes and give a complete new perspective. I have learned important info if I were pulled over as to why it is so imprortant to see my hands, and why it takes so long for the officer to come up to my door, or why the officer may go to the passenger door, As well as many other items. Most of the population has no clue as to what really goes on out there.

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    vaccaroja

    over 4 years ago

    654 Comments

    Ive done some in other states, its a lot of fun specially when you already have gone through an academy. Its interesting to see how other departments do things.

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    Eric5

    over 4 years ago

    38 Comments

    This is very good and useful information. Everything mentioned is how a Ride-Along goes. I've done numerous ride-alongs while involved in a citizens academy and criminal justice classes. All the officer/deputies were really friendly and provided some good information about every call we went on. It would be wise to not drink to much water,etc before or while on a ride-along.

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    Saralynn44

    over 4 years ago

    34 Comments

    Very good information. I will be checking with the agencies in my area to see if the permit ride alongs.

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