Just went on my first police ride along last night. It was so exciting! The officer had a million stories - what more could I want? Almost caught some shoplifters, ate pizza, shooed away dumpster divers, responded to a false 911 call, and counseled (or tried to) a dysfunctional family with a troubled teen. Anyone else done a ridealong? Loved it? Hated it? Came home at 2am and promptly signed up for Crimespace - something I've been meaning to do for quite a while.

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Wow, sounds like your ride-along involved much more adrenaline and excitement than mine. But I think it's much easier (at least for me) to write about something that I've experienced. Then I can imagine or branch off from there.
I went on many ridealongs as a police cadet (high school and college - part of the Explorer program). Later when I became a freelancer specializing in public safety, I did a few more. Then I got pregnant and that was the end of that. LOL

You were lucky - I've ridden with some real reticent cops! Most are great though, I have to say. I do miss it. All of the adrenaline with none of the responsibility. ;) Nowadays my only contact with cops is through interviews in their offices, or even more boring, on the phone at home!
Yeah I was lucky I had a real chatty officer. I was worried he'd be annoyed I was riding along but he was happy I didn't have blue hair and a walker. I'm ready for LAPD Gang Unit!
I think they ask for volunteers, or at least if they assign someone, they try to find someone who might be a good fit. As a freelancer I rode with semi-chatty state troopers and one sheriff's deputy and none of them seemed annoyed. I did ride with one city PD where I was bounced around all the officers on one shift (wait... that sounds bad...) and the only negative experience I had was with this cop who stopped at a FD to chat with the firefighters for two HOURS. But I don't think it was me - I think it was him!

In my experience, most see it as a PR effort and will put their best foot forward. If you really "clicked" with this guy, you should request another ridealong with him. The more comfortable they get with you, the more you'll hear.
On my first one, the cop was very polite and more formal, but that didn't last long with me. By the end of shift, he was using some pretty colorful phrases that got me laughing.

We had a few hairy moments--a goofy death threat (at end of shift which was NOT good because of paperwork), a terrorist arrest attempt (the guy wasn't home but I sat in the cruiser in a dark alley with my imagination running wild), and rousting two people in a very dark truck in a shadowy park (I was looking for the shotgun, hoping I wouldn't have to use it to defend myself). My cop had to walk up to the vehicle and get them to roll down the window so he could talk to them. It made me real tense and I appreciated what cops do each day. Sometimes traffic stops can be more teacherous and unpredictable than a tactical team maneuver.

All in all, it was a great experience to jumpstart my research for crime fiction. I loved it.
I rode along with a county deputy ten years ago and hope to get another chance at our citizen police academy that starts next month. With the county-mounty I expereinced winter on the county by ways. We helped stranded motorists, followed up on a "left the scene of an accident" investigation, and wrote a few speeding tickets. The saddest part was when the deputy had to put down a deer that had been injured by a car. The deputy left the squad car with a grim look and returned in tears. It took multiple shots because the animal was still thrashing about. I felt so bad for the guy.

A lot has happened to our county since then. It seems more dangerous for law enforcement at all levels. Meth labs, domestic abusers, violent youth, drug/gun runners, Two months ago, a local police officer pulled over a man for expired license plate tags and the man came out of his vehicle firing a rifle. It seems he was on his way to make his girl friend understand the consequences of trying to break up with him. The policeman had only been on the force 19 months. It was a miracle that no one was killed. The officer returned fire and managed to wing the guy who was caught at his mom's house 48 hours later. Ummm maybe I should re-think this new drive-along opportunity!
Yes, I did several years ago as a part of my research for a police procedural that I am still not finished with. It was very exciting and scary too. My officer showed me how to read gang signs, and which neighborhoods were the crime sectors. Great way to spend a day!!
Kim Smith, author of Avenging Angel, a Shannon Wallace Mystery coming soon from Enspiren Press
Most departments are very accomodating to citizen ridealongs because it gives the public an inside look at what police work is really about, not what you see on television. It's win-win for both the department in terms of public relations, and for the citizens to make a valuable connection.

In my department, officers are generally asked if they'd mind taking a ridealong for part of their shift on a voluntary basis. There are some officers who really welcome that and make the experience valuable. If you're planning on asking for a ridealong, trust the person you make arrangements with to suggest the best officer to go out with. Officers are always glad to show they're real people who serve with pride.

Felicia Donovan
THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY
www.feliciadonovan.com
Im the crime reporter in my town and have been on to many ride alongs. Sometimes fun and exciting, like the time we caught the escaped inmate and sometimes sad like the time we arrested a man after he beat his wife to death.
But never boring.
In Nelson, B.C. which is the real life inspiration for my fictional town of Trafalgar, B.C. the police can't take people on ride alongs. But I have been on a couple of walk-alongs and really enjoyed it. Nelson is a small town, and very peaceful. The officers kept apologizing for not showing me any excitement. I said that if I wanted to see what they did that was exciting, I'd watch TV. What I want from them is just the feel of a constable on the beat.
I have been toying with the idea of setting a novel in Crescent Beach, B.C. (or a similar fictional town). I visited my cousin who lives there a couple years ago and fell in love with Crescent Beach and White Rock. I was hoping to visit her again soon and ask the local PD if they'd agree to a ride-along. I'm wondering if it would be a similar experience as what you had in Nelson. Not that I would mind a walk-along! That sounds fantastic. A whole different experience. I was born in New Westminster and all my relatives live in B.C. By the way, I work at a bookstore in Los Angeles that is promoting your latest novel "In the Shadow of a Glacier" as its Delicate But Deadly selection of the month.
That's great! What's the bookstore? I was in L.A. last month doing some booksignings. About your Crescent Beach idea - Just one word of warning: although it's not nearly as bad as it used to be, there are still some obstacles in getting a book set in Canada accepted in the U>S>

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