10 Tips for Ride-Alongs
Dr. Richard Weinblatt
Law enforcement officers see quite a bit of interesting stuff in their line of work. Even Hollywood can’t make up what officers see in real-life. As a participant in a ride-along, you may see neighbors and other people from your community at their worst moment. Specifics and identifiers from the call are not for public consumption unless otherwise agreed upon. Some agencies may allow you to attend the pre-shift briefings. Again, information being discussed is not public in nature and you need to use discretion in discussing what you have seen and heard.
Notable exceptions pertain to the presence of credentialed media and news journalists who are approved for the ride-along with the full knowledge of their objective. Famous examples include the TV show “COPS.”
On the local level, having a news crew onboard is a win-win situation. The department gets to showcase officers engaged in good policing and reach out to the community via the viewing audience. The TV station, in turn, gets captivating programming.
As a police chief, I approved local network affiliates’ news cameras to ride-along with patrol personnel in marked Ford Crown Victorias. We thoroughly discussed the rules and boundaries beforehand and each time it proved to be a rewarding experience for everyone involved. These are folks who will reveal information publicly and have been approved to do so in advance by the nature of their mission.