Police ride-along tips: Preparing YOU for a ride-along with the police. [A 1697 word Ultimate guide]

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This is the most complete guide for a police ride-along you’ll find online.

So, if you are a future ride-along participant and are looking for:

Awesome tips.

Great information.

Do’s and don’ts.

Then I assure you that you’ll love this comprehensive guide about police ride-along:

What is a police ride-along?

The short answer is that you’ll get to join a police officer at work doing a patrol.

A good ridealong definition could be:

An arrangement for a civilian to spend a shift with a police officer in the passenger seat of a police vehicle.

Why do a ride along with the police?

A ride along is typically done by someone interested in a career in law enforcement.

Do you want to become a police officer? Check out this guide on becoming one.

Many of the participants are curious. They have an urge to learn more about the job and what a typical day might be in the career of law enforcement.

There are many reasons for one to participate in a ride-along program. You get to know a little about how it is to work as a police officer.

Do you think it sounds exciting?

You will better understand why police officers do what they do. You will also discover things you didn’t know about your local community.

Emergencies happen all the time. You might get sent to one, and honestly, that is often EXTREMELY exciting.

You need to have a good reason to apply for a ride-along. I encourage you to contact your local police and send a ride-along application.

As I previously mentioned, you will better understand how the police work. Police officers are often misunderstood by the public.

The media, for one, loves to highlight the negative aspects of situations involving the police.

A ride-along is a great way to observe and educate yourself more about police work.

With a ride-along program, police officers also get a chance to get to know their communities.

What to know before a ride-along

You will usually find details about the ride-along in the application. You can find these on their website, for example.

There are many do’s and don’ts. Mostly don’ts.

Suppose they do a background check on you. The result will determine whether or not you can go on a ride-along.

What to expect on a police ride-along?

This is both easy and hard to answer.

You can expect to see how a normal shift might be.

However, there is no such thing as a «normal shift…»

Traffic accident on a police ride-along
Responding to a traffic accident during a police ride-along

In this line of work, there is a thin line between heaven and hell. The shift might start with a car accident where two people die and later find yourself playing a basketball match with kids in a neighborhood nearby.

Perhaps you help the police officer save a life?                                                                

You might have a shift where nothing special occurs. You will talk with a police officer about the profession and learn what it takes to become and work as a police officer.

The shift might be busy driving from emergency to emergency.

There is no standard on how long a ride-along will take. You might spend from a few hours to a whole shift with an officer. A shift often lasts for 8 hours on a typical day.

The ride-along might involve; traffic stops, complaints about noise, patrols of a street in town, or a welfare check.                                                                                                

A welfare check is when the police officers are make sure a person is okay. This can be requested by neighbors, family, or friends when a person doesn’t answer his phone or does not get in touch with others.

Of course, there are examples of ride-along where you will meet serious crimes.

I once read somewhere that an officer and his ride-along met a group of people twirling and dancing with fire sticks.

The officer and the ride-along stepped out of the car and walked over to the group. In the middle of the group, they found a guy bleeding out. He was stabbed with a knife and died after a while.

So, answering what happens during a police ride-along isn’t necessarily straightforward. Anything or nothing can happen…

It’s a excellent chance for people to learn about the police force. A police officer is just an average person like everyone else!

A common question is if it is dangerous to do a ride-along. It’s usually not that dangerous. But there have been occasions where ride-along participants have been attacked and injured. Even died, unfortunately. BUT THESE ARE RARE CASES!

So, the chances that something dangerous will to happen to you are very low!

If you observe an incident or event, you might have to appear in court as a witness.

There is always a chance you may not make it back home on time. Things like this often happen in this job, so you need to plan accordingly.

As a police officer, you need a particular set of skills. I’ve compiled a list of the most important police officer skills here. Remember to check it out before going on a ride-along!

Who can participate in a police ride-along program?

This varies in different police departments.

Some only accept official guests, like councilmen and women. Other departments welcome everyone as long as you’re not a criminal.

In some places, foreigners are also allowed to join. I’ve heard about the European police officers that were allowed to participate in a ride-along. Away from Europe.

The age limit varies also. There is no general rule on how old you must be to do a ride-along with a police officer.

In some departments, you have to be at least 18 years of age. You can also find departments allowing applicants that are high school students.

 Many cities have something called a police explorer program. These programs are for youths and young adults interested in a law enforcement career.

You have to ask your local police department about their criteria on who is eligible enough to go on a ride-along.

Disqualifiers for participating in a ride-along program

This varies between each police department or sheriff’s office. But many of the same rules apply everywhere.

In some places, you are not allowed to participate in a ride-along if you have a misdemeanor. Other places, you will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. So having a misdemeanor will not necessarily disqualify you from doing a police ride-along.

If you are convicted of a felony, you can’t participate.

You might also be rejected if you are under investigation by any law enforcement agency.

Persons with unpaid fines or citations.

You have to be in good health. If you are sick or have any illnesses or disabilities that might endanger you or the officer, you can’t come.

How to get a ride-along with the police? Where do you schedule?

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How to schedule a Ride-along with the police

Contact the police department you want to go on a ride-along with. Not every police department has a ride-along program.

You can call them, check their website or Facebook page.

Or you can show up and just ask if they accept ride-along. But remember to dress appropriately to make a good first impression.

Use Google and search the police department + ride-along in the search field. Often a ride-along application can be found on the department’s website.

What to wear and what to bring to a police ride-along?

Inquire about the appropriate outfit to wear when applying for a ride-along.

You are typically expected to dress conservatively and wear casual business attire. Some might expect something more formal. There is no general dress code.

Avoid looking like a bum

Avoid looking like a bum. Wearing the wrong outfit might get you sent back home.

Here’s a little list of what not to wear in a police ride-along:

  • Shorts of any length
  • Dresses or skirts
  • T-shirts, tank tops sleeveless shirt
  • Clothing that displays graphics, pictures, or slogans
  • High-heeled shoes
  • Sandals
  • Tennis shoes

You should bring something to drink (water) and maybe some snack or something to eat. At least bring your wallet so you can buy something!

The officer you are riding with is not responsible for buying you anything to eat or drink.


Top tips, dos and dont’s for a police ride-along

The following tips are general rules found in many ride-along programs. Some tips are simply about not being stupid.

  • Don’t leave the car on a scene without permission.
  • Don’t talk to suspects, prisoners, detainees, witnesses, or victims without permission to do so from the supervising officer.
  • Don’t interfere with the police officer’s activities at any time. You are encouraged to ask questions about the procedures and activities. But only at the appropriate time initiated.
  • Don’t take any pictures.
  • No alcoholic beverages.
  • Do as you are told. Some situations might be dangerous, and you will be instructed to go to a safer place.
  • Everything you see and hear is confidential. You cannot discuss your observations with anyone.
  • Confirm with the supervisor before eating or drinking in the car.
  • Don’t try to drive the patrol car.
  • Don’t touch anything without permission.
  • Don’t argue with the officer about the officer’s decisions.
  • Arrive on time or at the time stated. Don’t be late.
  • If you need to cancel your ride-along, please inform the police department.
  • Always be ready to assist an officer upon request, for example, under extreme emergency circumstances.
  • Pay attention to street signs, and know where you are. You might be in a situation where YOU need to call for help. Assuming the police officer is unable to call for help on the radio. Maintain maximum silence when there is traffic on the radio. Police officers need to hear what’s being said at all times.

Police ride-along questions. What to ask?

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What questions should you ask during a police ride-along?

You are encouraged to ask questions. But wait for an appropriate time to ask these questions.

After responding to a call, ask about what the police officer does and why they do it. This can give rise to an engaging discussion. And that’s an opportunity for you to learn a lot about how police work is done.

You will get a deeper insight into how the police officers are thinking. This might give you a much better understanding of what problems and issues a police officer may encounter.

Other examples of questions you can ask the police officer during the ride-along are:

  • What’s your favorite thing about this job?
  • What’s the worst thing about this job?
  • Why did you become a police officer?
  • How is it to work in the local community you’re a part of yourself? (This is interesting, especially in small towns and communities.)

Important questions to ask:

  • What should I do if there is trouble?
  • If needed, how do I call for assistance? What should I do?

Please stay away from questions like, “Have you ever shot anybody?” or something like that. It’s personal. However, if this information comes voluntarily from the officer, it’s okay to ask about it.

Let’s wrap it up:

I hope you have found this guide about police ride-along useful.

I would love to hear from you: Did these tips help?

If you’ve already done a ride-along, how was it?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.

Police ride-along information sources:

Quora.com – I checked quora.com about what questions people ask about police ride-along. And the answers that were given.

Several home pages for different police departments – Here are a few examples:

If you’re still curious about becoming a police officer, check out our article: Should I Become a Cop? [An In-Depth Guide Helping YOU to Decide]

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