Sunday, September 19, 2010


I had the privilege of going on a ride-along last Friday night through the Citizen's Police Academy I'm attending on Tuesday nights. If you write in any sub-genre of mystery, I encourage you to contact your local police or sheriff's department and ask about any classes they offer civilians.

I'd requested District 1 for the action it promised. It covers the northwest part of town which tends to have the highest number of calls for the . . . um . . . most interesting crimes. Turns out my guy's sector was the southern part of District 1. I'm thinking it's not quite as interesting.

There was no blood on my ride-along. One DK (drunk) domestic and a few other routine and rather boring calls. A young kid is hopefully getting a wake-up call by being cited for assault and battery, a man in the ER asked what made the cop check for warrants on him and was told it was because he was mouthy, a woman is receiving creepy but legally non-threatening messages from an ex but needs to wait until Monday to request a Restraining Order, another cop asked for help because the domestic violence suspect she had handcuffed in the back of her cruiser was saying he'd slip the cuffs, so we followed them to the jail. I'd never seen such a swivel head on a live person before. He kept spinning around to see if we were following.

What struck me as totally weird is that no one, not one person, questioned why I was standing with the cops while their screwed up evenings (and lives) were playing out in front of me, a total stranger, without a uniform, who said nothing. Just stood there and watched.

The value, as a writer, was in the details: how the shift begins; what equipment is checked; what (if any) radio code is used; where cops tend to stop when they need a bathroom break (my guy will only use restrooms at police or fire stations); their approach to suspects and civilians. Those kinds of things are invaluable.

Two years ago, I "tagged" along with detectives. I wrote a few posts about that experience beginning with this one, if you're interested.

CR: The Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan in hardcover.

It's all better with friends.


  1. How fascinating, Peg! I'd love to do that. In fact I really should, but I'm too chicken. No, not chicken . . . it's not that I'm scared . . . it's because I'm so introverted I'd probably melt into a puddle of wax if I even so much as approached the idea far enough to contact anyone. Maybe I'll look into it. Maybe . . .

  2. Peggy, take the chicken's way out—check their website. If there's nothing there specifically noting a Citizen's Police Academy, email them. Somehow email takes the angst out of having to actually converse with someone. *girn*

  3. I had the same experience when I went on a ride along. The night was quiet and we mostly cruised. I was surprised when the cop I was with said come along with him whenever he left the car. I had a similar domestic disturbance call where I followed the cops (the cop I was riding with was a shift supervisor) inside the house and even upstairs to talk to the violent daughter. It was interesting to see that most of the police were more interested in talking to people to calm them down. They were none confrontational.

    I highly recommend that anyone who puts cops in their stories to check out their local police and see if they do ride-alongs or Citizen's Academies. Well worth it.

  4. I was told I could get out on any call unless he told me to stay in the car. The only caution he gave me was with Swivel Head. He didn't think there'd be a probelm when we got to the jail, but he did say to keep a car between me and the suspect just in case. I'm very please I know how to take direction.

  5. How interesting. I'd love to do it. I'll have to check and see if they do it here (Greenville, SC).

  6. A quick look through the Greenville, SC PD website, in the Community section, indicates that maybe they might benefit with a Citizen's Police Academy. There is, however, a tour availabe of the Law Enforcement Center for groups. I'm thinking it's at least an entry for you.