(February 17, 2017) - Hello, and welcome to Week 6 of "Ask CCPD." This week has both Brice and Glenn via our website asking similar questions:
"What is your ride-along policy?"
"Why do you have to wait six months between ride-alongs? I love doing them!"
Ever watch "COPS" or "Wildest Police Videos" and wish you could see it firsthand? That's what ride-alongs are for! OK, you might not (probably won't) see anything too crazy like on TV, but you never know. The Cape Coral Police Department does have a policy for ride-alongs with an officer, or what's called a "sit-beside" if you'd like to sit with Dispatch and see what goes on within Communications. Ride-alongs bring the police and the community closer together, fosters greater community interest and support, and allows citizens to see and understand exactly what their police department does every day.
To get started, you need a Ride-Along Request form, which can be found at the police station or on our website here. The form must be completed and submitted no less than 5 business days before the day you want to ride. A required Waiver of Liability also comes with the form. Once the form is turned in, a background check and criminal history for you is run through Dispatch (so no "bad guys" wanting to see what the front seat looks like rather than the back.) If you are under 18 years of age you need a parent to sign off on you; anyone riding at a minimum must have completed the 8th grade AND be at least 14 years old.
Once all checks are completed and your form goes up through the ranks for approval and back down again, it's ride-along time! The rider has responsibilities and conditions that come with riding with an officer. You must OBSERVE only and not participate in police actions (no "playing cop.") If any safety issues arise or police operations are hampered because of the rider, the officer can end the ride-along immediately (this almost never happens.) If a potentially dangerous call comes up, you're going to wind up being dropped off in a safe and public place before the officer goes to that call. The officer will call dispatch and have the next available officer pick you up.
While not actually within the policy, riders are encouraged to look presentable. Business casual works. You are representing the department while you're riding just as the officer is, and his/her uniform needs to be sharp for work each day. Dress nice, and don't let the officer show you up fashion-wise!
A sit-beside with Dispatch follows basically all of these same rules, with a few exceptions. Phones, computers or cameras are not allowed, and there is a confidentiality agreement because of the large amount of sensitive and personal information that may come across those dispatch computer screens or phone lines.
As to the six-month limit question (sorry that took so long, Glenn!), the specific reasoning isn't in our policy. The limit can be waived by a Bureau Commander. In the past I have heard (so not sure if this is 100% correct), the six-month limit prevents someone from riding excessively, e.g. every shift. This would likely hinder operations and increase the risk to both rider and officer.
On an informal level, ask the officer or dispatcher questions when you ride. We want people to know what we do and why we do it, and we don't want to ride in awkward silence any more than you do, so get to know each other a little! (Without getting in the way of work, of course.) Make sure to listen to everything the officer says. You and your safety are their responsibility, so they may tell you to remain in the car or stand in a certain place depending on the circumstances.
We hope this illustrated ride-alongs and how to sign up for one, and maybe we will see you out on the road or up in Dispatch! Keep submitting your questions on our website at the "Ask CCPD" page, or through one of our many social media channels. See you again next week!
About the Author:
Corporal Philip Mullen is a nine year law enforcement veteran assigned to the Office of the Chief of Police and serves as Assistant Public Affairs Officer for the Cape Coral Police Department.
For the last 9 years, Corporal Mullen served as a Patrol Officer in our Patrol Bureau, and as a Field Training Officer, preparing new recruits for the rigors of police work over the past 5 years. Corporal Mullen is a member of the Cape Coral Police Department Honor Guard and has represented the Cape Coral Police Department across the United States. He is a recipient of two Lifesaving Awards and the department's highest honor, the Medal of Honor. Phil holds a Bachelor's Degree in Public Safety Administration from Edison State College.
CAPE CORAL POLICE DEPARTMENT | Public Affairs Office | 1100 Cultural Park Boulevard | Cape Coral, FL 33990 | (239) 242-3341