As a citizen, I’ve been in ride alongs with 10 different departments. A lot depends on the officer, the department, and what is going on. I’ve got out of the vehicle on some traffic stops and walked up behind the officer. I’ve been in the house for cardiac arrest (let me say, that it’s not a “rush” seeing a dead body, and to see a grieving wife of 50 years fall apart when a husband’s heart won’t restart is heartbreaking). I’ve helped clarify what offence the driver committed. But I’ve been in a car for a few hours before a cop trusts me enough to open up.
Here are a few tips that seem to help me out. If you are a member of a police department and would like to use these for prospective riders, feel free.
1. Before you ride, ask about how the department wants you to dress. (Jeans or slacks, etc)
2. Don’t drink a lot of fluids before you go.
3. Ask questions, but don’t appear to be nosy.
4. Ask non-threatening questions to gauge their state of mind (How long you been with this dept, etc).
5. Some cops will tell you what they’ve seen, but as a rule I DON’T ask about worst calls, etc (some may be trying to forget).
6. When you stop at a gas station, restaurant, etc, go to the restroom. You may be on a call soon and not have an opportunity.
7. If you are not on an active call and you need to go, just ask. Cops are human too.
8. Keep your eyes open. A missing plate may seem minor, but it may lead to anything.
9. Know what to do if it goes wrong. This is a piece of advice one of my officers gave me. (Here are the lights, here is the radio, and our call # is….and pay attention to the protocol used when talking to dispatch)
10. Along the previous lines, if you don’t know ASK. It seems to let the officer know that you’re not in a bubble and that you are concerned that THEY go home safe too.
11. Always know where you are. If something goes wrong, YOU could be the difference between life and death.
12. Some have a meal routine, some do not. If they do, flow with it. Some only get 30 minutes, so keep that in mind.
13. While you are riding, you represent that officer, and that department. Don’t get into debates with anyone; be polite, courteous even if others are not.
14. While riding with one officer I was given an officer discount. If you are offered one, make sure they understand you are not an officer. DON’T ASK FOR ONE.