Criminal Justice question

Do you believe prison conditions are too harsh, or too lenient? What one universal change would you make in order to make prisons more effective?





Field Interview:

Police Ride-Along


Course title and number

Date of submission

Police Ride-Along

Police officers play an important role in society. They are tasked with the role of ensuring that the society is safe. They are in charge of keeping law and order in society. They ensure that every single person in the community maintains and abides by the law. It is because of their hard work that the society can enjoy their life without fear of being victimized or harassed by anyone. They are the link between the society and the criminal justice system. Every country in the world has police officers to uphold peace in their state. In the United States, every state has a police department. The departments are further divided into precincts which manage a smaller area. The precincts ensure that no area is left unmanned. This is done through the police officers in the precincts being divided even further to protect the different segments in the precinct. At least two policemen are allocated an area to serve and protect. This gives the citizens a feeling of safety as they know that the police ensure that no area is left unguarded. There is always police presence everywhere to help ensure that people’s safety is upheld.

The police are able to serve citizens better when they work together. It is usually through the help of law abiding citizens that make it possible for the police to work better. This makes them even more efficient as they are able to be given first hand information how what happens on the round. It is the responsibility of any peace loving individual to work with the police. Most of the times, this is not the case. Policemen face many challenges because citizens do not work with them. Police officers are often seen as deterrence by the community as opposed to people that are there to offer a helping hand. This makes their work very difficult. They might be able to make arrests for crimes but witnesses might not come out to testify against the criminals. To help me understand better what police officers go through on a daily basis, I volunteered to patrol with my local police to see what they do on a daily basis. My ride-along helped highlight and understand the challenges that this department is faced with on a daily basis.

I was assigned to two police officers to observe their work for a day. They were Officer Brown and Officer Kent. Both of them had been on the police force for seven years. They told me that they enjoyed being patrol officers as it made them interact with the public on a daily basis. Officer Kent said that it is police officers like them that represent the image of the police department. Therefore, they had to be very careful on how they carry themselves so that they do not offend anyone. The police ride-along would consist of walking the beat as the police put it and patrolling with a car. Walking the beat is patrolling the streets on foot which is the more important of the two. This is because one is able to observe more while on foot than when in the car. While on foot they are also able to develop a better relationship with the people living in that area. They interact with them better and are able to help them out faster. A car patrol is also important as it enables them to move faster from one place to another (Winters, 2001).

The day started after the police officers had been debriefed. The debriefing consisted of the officers being told of what had happened in the previous shift. They are also told of any potential threats that they should be on the lookout for. They are also told of any successful arrests that have been made or any development in any ongoing cases. I was not allowed into the debriefing room since I was a civilian but all these were explained to me. After a word of prayer the day starts. This is tradition in their precinct for them to honour God. We left by car to patrol the area allocated to these two officers. It was slow at first as there was nothing much to be seen. Officer Kent explained to me that this was normal and that most of the time the sight of a police car made people very cautious. During that time of the morning there is nothing going on during most time. It is also hard for them to notice anything at that time as they are in the car. He went on to further explain that one hindrance that they face in their work is that criminals use lookouts to warn them of any police that are in the area. Therefore, before they are able to reach a place where a crime might be taking place the criminals have already been warned.

I got to witness this first hand I was shown a look out. The officers stopped to question a group of young men. These men as Officer Brown explained were notorious for this. Officer Kent spoke to them and asked them to disperse as their group was not allowed. Though the boys looked like they would resist at first to me, they woke up and went their way. We parked the car there for a while as the police officers cleared the place where the boys had sat. As they cleared the place, a store owner came out to talk to the officers. He thanked them for telling the boys to disperse as it had made him uneasy when they were there. He also told the officers that the presence of the boys there made his customers uneasy. Even if they were not doing anything there, a group of idlers were not welcome in that area. After staying there for a while longer we left to continue with the car patrol.

In the car, Officer Brown explained further to me why they dispersed the boys. It was against the law for any gathering without a permit. It was termed as unlawful for the boys to stand there and yet they were not doing anything. He also told me that one of the boys was a lookout for the local criminals. He however did not specify for my safety sake and because such information is sensitive and shared only among the police. I was also told more about the crimes that happen in that area. Fortunately, there are no gangs in the area. Most of the crimes that happen are petty theft. The police hope that they will be able to control it so that it does not go out of control. He explained that there are different plans in place to ensure that the crimes in the area are stopped. Through working together with the community they will be able to stop any crimes that happen in the area. They will also be able ensure that the relationship between the two parties is strong so that they can work diligently together to maintain peace.

I was also given a chance to ask any questions that I had about the police force. Both officers did their best to answer my questions to the best of their ability. I asked them whether the allegations of police brutality that I had heard before are true. Officer Brown told me that in most cases it is found that the allegations are false. In some cases unfortunately it is true. In such a case the officers concerned are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. A separate section of the police investigates such allegations. This is the internal relations do this work. They ensure that the activities of the police are kept in check. Police officers are not left to their own devices when dealing with citizens whether they are guilty or innocent. Citizens should therefore have confidence that they can never be mistreated by the police. Anyone who feels that a police officer has overstepped their boundaries should feel free to report such occurrences (Shipler, 2011). However, they should also not take advantage of this as false accusations might lead to someone being sued.

The car was parked so that we could walk around a few blocks and observe what is happening. Officer Kent insisted even further that this was more important. They told me that they enjoy this more than riding around in the car. They got to stretch out and exercise. Another part was they got to interact with the public. Though there are some people who do not enjoy their presence there are people that prefer them being around. There were a few people that greeted the officers. I was also surprised that most of those people knew the officers by name. This was a clear gesture that they appreciate them there. They felt safe and that they can carry on with their activities without fear of anything or anyone. This showed that many people loved the presence of the officers there. It felt like they were all part of the community.

At around noon we went to a diner for lunch. This was after walking for a while. We had our lunch as the officers continued to tell me more about their work and the challenges that they face on a daily basis. They told me that they do not understand why people have a negative mentality towards them. I was told that the precinct and the whole police department were working hard to change this mentality. All the police officers were working hard to show the public that they are human. They hope that this will help the public embrace them even further as they have put a human face to the department. If the public is able to understand and appreciate the police it will help enhance their relations towards each other making the society a better place. I also asked them about the popular pun that all officers loving donuts. They told me that this was half true. The reason why they are associated with donuts is because of coffee. Coffee helps to keep them alert when they are on their shift. This is why they are always in coffee shops.

Our lunch was cut short when the officers were asked to respond to a mugging that had been reported. They told me they did not want to put me in any danger so I had to wait for them at the diner. Though I really wanted to witness the arrest I complied and stayed put at the diner. After half an hour, Officer Brown came to take me. He explained that they had arrested the criminal after chasing him for a while. He was caught red handed and they had to take him to the police station to be booked. We got to the car to find a man handcuffed and seated in the back seat. I sat in the front with Officer Kent as we drove back to the station. The man that had been arrested tried to plead with the officers to let him go that he would not do it again but they did not listen. Once at the station, he was booked and placed under arrest after all the processes had been done. The officers explained to me that it was normal for criminals to be remorseful once they were caught. However, they had to be put through the justice system to ensure that they were fully rehabilitated.

My police ride-along was very insightful. It helped me look at the police force in a different light. I am now able to understand better the challenges that officers face every day in the line of duty. I appreciate what they do so that my life can continue. I understand that it is my duty as a citizen to help the police officers by reporting any illegal activities going on instead of acting as a lookout. Police officers are important in each and every community. Their presence alone brings peace and calm to the residents of an area as they know that they are protected (Walker, 2005). This is an experience that would be very helpful to anyone that would like to have a better understanding of the police force.


Winters, P. A. (2001). Policing the police. San Diego, Calif: Greenhaven Press.

Walker, S. (2005). The new world of police accountability. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage.

Shipler, D. K. (2011). The rights of the people: How our search for safety invades our liberties. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

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