One of the most exciting and rewarding experiences that I’ve had as a crime fiction writer was the opportunity to participate in a police ride-along. I have observed patrol, K9, and detective investigative duties for various police agencies throughout the state of California.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with a police ride-along, it’s a program through city and county law enforcement agencies that allow adult citizens to accompany and observe police officers out on patrol.
The main purpose of a Ride-Along Program is to improve police and public relations by familiarizing citizens with the complex and unpredictable nature of police work. It can also be a great introduction to daily life on the police force and it will enlighten most participants on local crime activity. Most people who participate in the program are generally interested in becoming a law enforcement officer, concerned local citizens, students, and of course writers. It you have viewed the popular television show “Cops”, it’s quite similar to that in regard to the type of calls police handle on a daily basis.
I feel that this program is important to help bridge the gap between citizens and the police. It helps to dispel the typical stereotypes that are sometimes taken as fact. I can honestly say it was a great experience for me. I felt very honored to be able talk and ride with some of our finest. My appreciation goes out to these men and women of law enforcement. They do a great job.
I just have a few important points that I want to convey if you do decide to go on a police ride-along. It will ensure the best possible experience for you.
1. Be professional and reserved.
2. Wear appropriate clothing.
3. Be respectful of your host police officer and your surrounding situations.
4. Take plenty of notes.
5. Bring a bottle of water and some type of energy bar just in case.
6. Be observant, relax, and have a great time!
The police ride-along has been an invaluable tool for me in my writing experience. It has helped me to give realism to my novels by being able to observe police procedures, listen to actual radio codes, and experience all types calls for service. Check out Compulsion, Dead Game, and Silent Partner to see how I’ve incorporated my experiences into the story.
If you’re interested in participating in a Ride-Along Program contact your local police agency and find out the details. Every police department varies slightly on the requirements, procedures, days available, and length of ride.
Award Winning Author & Criminologist