However, only just 12 percent of these officers are female!
A ride along is one of the best ways to experience what it’s like to become a qualified law enforcement officer in the United States. Join a police officer and learn what it’s like policing your local town or city. Perhaps you aren’t quite sure what a career as a law enforcement officer involves and would like some real-life insight.
A police ride along gives you the unique opportunity to experience what it’s like working as a police officer in the United States. Many police departments throughout the country work arrange ride-alongs with enthusiastic candidates who are either preparing to sit their police test or plan to in the coming months or years. A ride along gives the candidate a first-hand look at what happens on an hour-by-hour basis as a police officer.
You will be invited to observe what it’s like to be a police officer – joining one or more officers during one of their daily shifts. If you wish to go on a ride along, you must first contact your local police department and verify whether they will allow you to join any of their officers. Depending on the police agency, you may be required to undergo one or more background checks.
For example – it’s not uncommon for candidates to be age-screened. Some applicants can join a ride along at 14-years of age, whereas others require the applicant to be at least 16-years or older. Contact your local police department to learn more about their specific age requirements.
If you are under 18, please note that parental consent will be required before the police department accepts you to join a ride along. This is not only for the safety of the applicant, but also because consent is required by the police department to ensure that you have permission to join the ride along which, in some rare cases, can endanger the applicant as the ride along encounters an unexpectedly dangerous situation.
Before you can join police officers in your local department, a criminal background check is typically made. Again, this is done to ensure that police officers are protected against any possible risk. If you have a clean criminal record and would like to apply to join a ride along with an officer, take a few moments to contact the department directly either. They will be able to confirm whether you are eligible and, if so, will be able to provide a confirmatory email that you have been accepted. You will be required to bring this printed document with you in order to be accepted on the day of your pre-arranged ride along.
In some cases, your application will be denied. If this happens, applicants are typically provided with reasons as to why this happened. It may be due to issues of consent or it may be due to background checks the department conducted. In a small minority of cases, no reason will be supplied. Successful applicants will be required to sign an accident waiver. As we alluded to above, there are substantial risks by bringing an applicant on a ride along. It carries with it extreme risks of harm – particularly from unexpected criminal events. To protect the police department, applicants (and where necessary, their parents), will be required to sign this waiver to absorb any responsibility of harm that may occur to the applicant.
Once approved, you will be given a time and date of when your police ride along is set to take place.
It’s now the day of your police ride along. Some applicants are nervous – not knowing what to expect, or whether it will not live up to their expectations of what it’s like to be a law enforcement officer in the United States. For some, the day can even trash their hopes and desires to join the career.
No matter how you feel, it’s important you make the best impression. Always dress in your best and most appropriate attire. This may be stated by the police department in the days and weeks prior to your appointment. If you are unsure, contact your department direct and discuss how best you should be dressed. The last thing you want is to look forward to this day, only to be rejected based on what you’re wearing!
During the ride along, you will witness, first-hand, what it’s like to be a police officer. You will witness the decisions they have to make; the communications they have with other officers and departments; and the mental and physical demands this job carries with it. For some, it’s an exhilarating experience that makes them want to join the police force with even greater enthusiasm. For others, it quenches any thirst to join the workforce. It’s an extraordinary experience in more ways than one – and this alone it worth exploring.
Let’s not forget one thing – that one of the central parts of the police officer exam is the need to face the oral board panel. During that exam, you will be tested – quite aggressively – on why you are the most suitable applicant for the role. Citing your experience during a police ride along is one of the best pieces of evidence you can place on the table. It tells the oral board interview panel that you’ve seen what the career is like; you know what’s involved and, more importantly; that it has accelerated your interest to join the profession. Little else can compete with this experience and this enthusiasm.
Take advantage of every minute and hour during the police ride along. You may be in the presence of police officers you know. Perhaps you do not know the team you are observing. No matter which scenario, you need to maximize the learning opportunity. You only have a couple of hours and it’s worth taking a moment to learn more about what you need to do to take home as much experience and knowledge as possible.
First, learn more about the squad car. Squad cars are not like ordinary vehicles and this experience gives you a unique opportunity to learn more about the car, the equipment it has on board, and the technology that officers are using. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – the officers are often more than happy any questions you may have. In fact, they may even prefer that you are curious about what they do daily.
Don’t just focus on the technology, though. One of the great things about a police ride along is that you can also analyse, consider, and digest the professional rapport that exists between and among police officers. Becoming a police officer is more than just implementing the law. It’s also about conflict resolution, psychology, and how to manage people – at their best as well as at their worst. Learn how officers behave, react, communicate – and think about how you can learn from these approaches and absorb that experience for your own personal growth.
One of the great advantages of a police ride along is the ability to discern fact from reality. If we’re all completely honest, most of us do not know what it’s like to live as a police officer in the United States. We are bombarded with fictionalized versions on television and from movies, and it can often be difficult to separate truth from falsehood. A ride along gives you the best impression – a stamp of reality.
Furthermore, try not to learn about what police officers do based on what your friends have said or told you. This, too, can be misleading. The whole point about taking a ride along is to learn about what the career is like in its rawest form. There are no filters and no place to hide behind; it’s a complete and utter exposure to what the career involves and whether it’s something you are prepared to join.
Some of this can be distressing. Imagine joining a ride along at a time when innocent people have been killed, or when other members of the public are in a visibly distressing situation. This is not an easy situation for anyone, even for experience police officers. You need to take these experiences into consideration and conclude whether this is something you are willing to endure not on an annual or monthly basis – but on daily, hourly basis.
If you have not yet joined a ride along, now is the time to consider doing so. At Police Test Study Guide, we encourage all applicants to take at least one ride along before they sit down and take the police officer exam. It’s the most opportune moment to experience what it’s like working and living as a police officer and it maximizes your opportunity during the police interview test.
Stay safe, keep studying, and build your future career.