Cruising Along with the Cops

Not all my vacation last week was fun and sun, golf and good times. Since I actually had a week with no responsibilities, I thought I would take an evening to do what should be required duty for every citizen. I rode along with the Pittsburgh police.

The Ride-A-Long program has existed for years, designed to give citizens a sense of what city police officers face on a daily basis. Last Tuesday evening, thanks to my Leadership Pittsburgh class, myself and a classmate rode along with a city officer for four hours during his evening patrol around zone 1 which is the city’s North Side.

The officer was not only very open and honest about his daily duty, his trials and tribulations, his joys and sorrows. He grew up in Upper Saint Clair and joined the force later in life. He took us along all sorts of avenues, roads and side streets of the North Side. We went through hot areas where trouble would sometimes occur. We saw the mansions of Observatory Hill and the projects of Northview Heights.

Before leaving the station for this 6-10pm tour with him, both my classmate and I were offered the option of wearing bullet-proof vests. That certainly put the situation into perspective for us, but we both chose to go without.

Along the way, we stopped by a domestic dispute and actually got to see an arrest of a man who was wanted on an arrest warrant – in Fayette County. Upon searching his vehicle, you could smell the marijuana and we stood by as he was put in the police car and taken to jail.

While most of the night was uneventful, the experience was anything but. I learned just how difficult the officer’s job can be and just how engaged they need to be to fight crime in the city. Much of their work is proactive, meaning they anticipate hot spots and situations and speak to local residents about what’s happening in the neighborhood. They also get their share of verbal abuse from people in the community who wonder why they can’t do more.

I wish everyone could take four hours and ride along with an officer. Not only would you learn more about their job and their challenges, but also you would also learn more about your city.


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