Last Friday I spent the night in a police car and jail.
I was on a ride along! You thought I got arrested didn’t you… I actually hope you didn’t. It was incredible and something I would recommend to every civic minded (and those even not civic minded) because it taught me so much. Even I, who works with police officers and police reports every day, had my mind opened. While prepping for trial I remember thinking “why didn’t the police officer just do this or just ask this?!” Well, now I know.
Besides the teaching experience it was incredibly FUN! I saw people get arrested for DWI, Possession of Marijuana, Theft, and Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon. I saw 13-18 year-olds get citations for possession of drug paraphernalia and public intoxication/ underage drinking. I got locked in the police car when there was a suspect hopped up on PCP (that freaked me out a little…)
Yall, it was AH-mazing! Check with your local police department’s website and see if they offer a ride-along program. It’s usually free and if you can, try and go on a Friday or Saturday night because that’s usually when you’ll get the most “action”
When you DO go on your ride-along, because I know that you’ll take my advice and do this asap, you need to do these five things:
1. Wear layers: I went from being super warm to freezing cold, think a t-shirt add sweater add scarf
2. Listen to the officers and follow every direction. If they say stay in X spot and do not move then your feet better plant and stay there. They need to know exactly where you are at all times so they can protect you because you are their responsibility. I was told multiple times that I could get out the car but to stay right by the curb then halfway through the investigation the officer would say, while looking in a different direction, “katherine please go stand by the vehicle”. They just want to keep you safe so they need to know where you are.
3. Ask questions when you ride and shut your mouth when there is an active investigation. The officers want people to know about their job so when you are riding in the vehicle with them ask them questions. Ask they why, ask them how, ask their reasoning, just ask! On the flip side when are questioning a subject just shut your mouth and listen, you’ll pick up more and a prosecutor won’t have to subpoena you to come testify in court…
4. Bring a snack. I skipped dinner because my “shift” started at 6:30pm and by 9pm my tummy was making jungle cat noises. The officer I was with stopped for his “lunch break” at 2AM but I had to ask him very politely if we could stop at a gas station so I could use the bathroom and grab something at like 10pm. He was completely okay with that but it would have been better if I could have snacked on a granola bar and waited for “police lunch.”
5. Don’t touch. There were tons of buttons on the dash and shotguns in the sargent’s vehicle. There is evidence at every scene. Keep your hands off.
I snapchatted my experience with other prosecutors, family, and friends. You can see my experience in snapchats below!
SFSTs = standardized field sobriety tests
These were all the officers I got to ride along with last week! I was fortunate enough to experience different well done investigations with three professional and outstanding officers! I am so thankful to each of them for teaching me how difficult it is to be a cop and how intense a job can be!