A police ride along can be a great tool for you if you would like to see what the day to day duties of a police officer is like.
Most police departments have a ride along program. It's good for the department to have it for a couple of reasons:
First off, it's great for public relations.
People are fascinated with police work. It seems as though everyone wants to know what it's like to be "on the job". So, by providing civilians a chance to go out on the road with a police officer, community members get to experience just a shred of what its like to be a cop.
When they're done and back at home, they'll tell their family, friends, co workers about the great experience they had, and the "professional, friendly and knowledgeable officer", that took them under their wings.
It's awesome PR for the police department, and as we all know, police can always use positive Public relations. And how do police get positive relations? Well, one way is to interact with community members, be transparent in the job that they do, and to build bridges by being more personable
You can argue that a ride along program does (or can do) all of those things.
Ride alongs can also provide people who are interested in policing, a more accurate representation of the job instead of just what they see on television. Let's be realistic though, one ride along for 10-12 hours or shorter, is not going to give anyone a full picture. As I said earlier, just a shred. More like a sliver of that shred.
But, it's a start. And it may be enough to get a potential future recruit, the interest/ excitement to want to go for it! OR, on the other hand, they may realize that it's not something that they're interested in after all.
If you do go on a ride along, remember a few things.
You are not a cop. You are being granted a unique opportunity to shadow a police officer and be a "fly on the wall" so to speak. It's okay to ask some questions if you have them, but don't be the "what if" guy. It's annoying as hell.
And don't get into some kind of argument with the officer to prove that you learned something in your criminology class. You are there on police ride along. You are there to observe, not to try and change the system.
You may see things while on the ride along, and believe that there is a better solution to a problem. But remember, you probably don't know what the full situation is, or why it's being done that way.
Criticizing or questioning the officer who is being gracious enough to take you out on the streets is not the best idea.