A Ride-Along is a department program that allows individuals to ride a shift with an officer on patrol. The program's original purpose was to permit community members to observe the police department's day-to-day activities. Even if you have yet to apply for an agency and are merely contemplating a career, you should ask your local agency if they have a Ride-Along program.
Each agency will have specific eligibility requirements, such as age restrictions and passing a brief background investigation. Age requirements could be at least 14, 16, or 18, or 21 years old, and many require you to be a student or an applicant who has passed the Physical Agility Test and written test for their agency. So check to make sure you meet the minimum requirements before applying. You will typically find these on their website, but call the agency's recruiter when in doubt.
Even if you had been on Ride-Alongs with other agencies, you need to go on one with the agency where you applied. Responding to a wide variety of calls with an active officer is the closest you will get to actually understanding the type of work you will encounter as an officer. The fact you went on the Ride-Along will demonstrate you are serious about the process, and you may be able to weave the experience into at least one answer during the interview.
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00:37 Why Go on a Ride-Along?
02:30 Ride Along Minimum Requirements
04:21 Are Ride Alongs Dangerous?
06:27 Ride Along Do's and Don'ts
09:00 Your Opportunity to Ask Questions