Imagine my surprise when the officer acting as my Ride Along host did not adhere to the "get away quickly" school of thought. He very calmly, and with a completely straight face, showed me how to access the shotgun and explained why it would be better for him for me to be helpful if he got into some sort of situation. I'm like, dude, I'm running so fast you're only going to see sneaker tracks! This was a serious shotgun, too. This isn't the shotgun your dad hands you when you're messing about in the country and shooting cans, bricks, etc.... but I digress.
My Ride Along was a good time. I even got to ride with my cop stereotype. He (there is only one female patrol officer in my town) was young, fit, good-looking and had a young family. Stop raising your eyebrows, that is my cop stereotype! For better or worse that's what's in my head. Strangely, even though most cops are male, I don't really have a gender stereotype. My mental picture goes either way.
Anyway, cool stuff about my ride:
My town has 4 beats (don't laugh, it's a small town) and I was with a cop whose beat covers the police station. Because of that he was responsible for all desk calls. This was pretty interesting as I got an idea of the types of calls the station gets. Sadly, though, it was not the beat that includes my neighborhood and that would have been a fun beat to do for me. But! We went to the Jamba Juice in my beat and while we were paying for our tasty snacks a call came in across the parking lot so we responded (as did the other beat officer).
My Ride Along got cut short due to a missing persons report so in the ~2hrs I spent in the car we participated in 5 stops and 1 cover. None of our stops resulted in a ticket but the cover call resulted in several tickets (fines going over 2500) with the driver walking home and the vehicle getting towed. I bailed after the missing persons call because the officer explained that it would be a minimum of 2 hrs desk work. I had brought a book along but it seemed silly to hang out reading in the police station when I could go home and do the same on my couch. (note: cop covering this beat will usually get all the missing persons reports as they are called in to the station)
What I enjoyed most, and the reason for requesting the Ride Along, was seeing what the routine was for a patrol officer. Just what are they doing as they drive around all day? The officer was really generous with information and told me lots of stuff and explained everything he was doing. So on top of the actual policing duties (side note: i've decided cops would probably make good scientists - they are way more observant than I am) there was also the funny IMs the officers sent to each other and occasional calls from home. Really, the car is a heavily armed, mobile office. Also, the officer used to be a sheriff's deputy in Alameda County (includes Oakland) and he answered all my questions regarding the differences between the jobs and what he liked about each one.
It was endlessly amusing to me that the officer kept apologizing for the boring aspect of the Ride Along. (I pointed out that in an ideal world he would work himself out of a job... and that I always come prepared with a book.) It really doesn't bother me that much that I live in a safe, small town. He took the time to detail the most common crimes committed in town and how to avoid them. I had almost purposely chosen a day I thought would be slow because you've got to work even when nothing is going on and that interested me, as well. I won't lie, though, I'm thinking of doing another request and seeing how the job changes on a weekend night.
A parting thought: I could so be a cop! I make illegal U-turns and drive with my knee while eating. Little did you know these are essential cop skills. I've been practicing both since I was 16. Now, if I can just guarantee they won't actually make me use a gun...