16.030 - Citizen Rider Program

Effective Date: 11/15/2007


The Seattle Police Department sees the value in letting citizens observe the daily operation of patrol. To that effect the Department operates a program by which a citizen, after meeting the listed requirements, may accompany an officer during an assigned shift. The goal of this program is to provide the citizen with an informative and safe experience.

I. General

A. All requests for ridealongs must be made through the affected precinct. Other units may not arrange ridealongs for a precinct. If a unit would like a citizen to go for a ridealong, they will contact the appropriate Watch Lieutenant and make arrangements for the citizen to respond to the precinct and begin the process.

B. Group bookings such as university classes will be at the discretion of the Precinct Captain. Group ridealongs may be distributed equally throughout the Department so that one precinct is not overwhelmed by numerous requests at one time.

C. The maximum number of citizen riders per watch will be two.

D. If unforeseen staffing problems occur on the date of a scheduled ridealong it will be the Watch Lieutenants decision whether to allow the ridealong to occur or be rescheduled.

E. Ridealongs with Specialty Units will follow this procedure and will be at the discretion of the Unit Lieutenant.

F. It is prohibited for a citizen rider or a member of the media on a ridealong to accompany Department personnel in the service of a search warrant.

G. A citizen may not request a ridealong date that is less than three days out from the time the request was submitted to the clerk. If it is convenient for the watch, the Watch Lieutenant may schedule the ridealong sooner than the required 3 days.

H. There are two versions of the Citizen Observer Ride Request and Waiver (form 7.11 & 7.11b), an adult and juvenile version. The adult version is used for persons 18 years and older and the Juvenile version is used for persons 16-17 years old.

I. If the citizen cannot be contacted to arrange for a ridealong after three attempts, the Watch Lieutenant will return the Citizen Observer Ride Request and Waiver to the Desk Officer. The form will be filed. The citizen will have to reinitiate the ridealong process if they cannot be contacted after three attempts.

J. Each precinct will be responsible for maintaining a file containing the completed Citizen Observer Ride Request and Waiver. This file will be maintained for three years plus the current year.

K. If an officer identifies a citizen rider who should be disqualified from future ridealongs, this information will be documented on a Memorandum and submitted to their Watch Lieutenant along with the completed Citizen Observer Ride Request and Waiver. The Watch Lieutenant will determine whether future requests of the citizen should be denied and then return the memo and waiver form to the precinct Desk Officer. The Desk Officer will make copies of the memo and waiver form and send each of the other precincts the information.

L. Each precinct will maintain a file that contains Citizen Observer Ride Request and Waiver of those individuals who have been disqualified from participating in further ridealongs.

II. Citizen Requirements

A. Age

1. No person under the age of 18 years will be allowed to participate in the ridealong program, except under the following conditions:

a. A person age 16-17 years old may go on a ridealong if they:

(1) Have permission from their parent/guardian as indicated on the Juvenile Citizen Observer Ride Request and Waiver. The parent/guardian must provide the reason or justification for the request, e.g. interested in the Explorer Program or doing a project for school.

(2) The ridealong must be approved by the Precinct Captain. The Precinct Captain must contact the juvenile’s parents and explain to them that the nature of police work may expose their child to scenes of violence, obscene language, nudity, adult situations and other situations that may not be appropriate for a child to witness.

(3) The Precinct Captain may deny any juvenile ridealong request.

B. Criminal History

1. An adult seeking to go on a citizen ridealong, or the parent/guardian of a minor child seeking to go on a citizen ridealong, will first be asked to read and sign the waiver of liability and completely fill out the ‘Rider Information’ portion of the Citizen Observer Ride Request and Waiver. This must be done in person at the precinct where the ridealong is to take place. The citizen will then present the signed form with the Rider Information filled out and picture identification to the Duty Officer (Clerk).

2. The Clerk will complete a warrant check on the citizen and a NCIC III criminal history check (record this in the III log book under purpose code ‘C’).

3. If the person has an outstanding warrant, inform a sergeant and take appropriate action.

4. If the person has a criminal history it is at the discretion of the Watch Lieutenant, based upon the circumstances, history and other factors of the charge, whether the person will be allowed to go on a ridealong. A record of violent crimes or crimes against government order shall disqualify a person from riding with an officer. The officer taking the citizen for a ridealong should be informed of any criminal history discovered and may refuse to take the citizen rider if they feel it compromises officer safety.

5. The Clerk will check the file to determine if the citizen has been disqualified from going on ridealongs.

C. Conduct

1. Citizen riders will not be allowed to go on a ridealong if it appears they are impaired by drugs or alcohol.

2. An officer may not take anyone with whom they have a significant domestic relationship. This includes a spouse, domestic partner, and any children.

3. A citizen rider may not wear any part of a police uniform.

4. A citizen rider is not allowed to carry a weapon or firearm.

5. Citizen riders will not attend roll call and will wear a visible ‘Visitor’ identification badge during the ridealong and while in a police facility.

6. If the officer observes the citizen behaving in a way that distracts or endangers the officer, the public or the citizen, the officer may terminate the ridealong. The officer will document the incident on the Citizen Observer Ride Request and Waiver and inform their sergeant.

7. Citizens should be encouraged to bring a cell phone with them on the ridealong.

D. Number of ridealongs allowed

1. A citizen may go on one ridealong a year at each of the precincts. .

E. Citizen Feed back

1. The citizen will be asked to complete a ridealong feedback survey. The Watch Lieutenant will review and retain the survey for three years.

III. Desk Officer (Clerk) Responsibility

A. The Desk Officer (Clerk) will usually be the first contact point a citizen has with the citizen rider program.

B. When a citizen requests to go on a police ridealong the Clerk will provide them with a copy of the Citizen Observer Ride Request and Waiver with directions to read the instructions and waiver carefully. If the citizen feels they qualify for a ridealong the Clerk will instruct the person to sign the waiver and complete the ‘Rider Information’ part of the form and produce picture identification.

C. The Clerk will verify that the form is completely filled out and signed and that the photo identification is valid.

D. The Clerk will complete a warrant check and NCIC III inquiry.

E. The Clerk will check the precinct’s citizen rider file to determine if a year has passed since the citizen’s last ridealong and will also determine if the person has been disqualified from riding with the Seattle Police Department.

F. The Clerk will note any criminal history for the citizen on a copy of the warrant check and then attach the warrant check to the Citizen Observer Ride Request and Waiver with a photocopy of the citizen’s ID. The packet will then be forwarded to the affected Watch Lieutenant.

G. At the completion of the citizen ridealong the Clerk will file the Citizen Observer Ride Request and Waiver at the precinct. The Clerk may periodically go through this file and purge ride requests that are older than four years.

IV. Watch Lieutenant Responsibility

A. Review all Citizen rider requests submitted by the Clerk as soon as possible. The citizen making the request must be contacted within 3 days of making the request.

B. Determine if the form has been completely filled out and all the necessary information is provided.

C. Determine if the request requires Precinct Captain approval.

D. Contact the citizen and arrange the date and time of their scheduled ridealong. Make three attempts to contact the citizen and document the attempts on the Citizen Observer Ride Request and Waiver. If the citizen cannot be contacted, return the form to the Clerk to be filed.

E. Assign the rider to a squad and forward the Citizen Observer Ride Request and Waiver to the appropriate Sergeant.

F. The Watch Lieutenant will ensure that any documentation or reports generated during the ridealong reflect that a citizen rider accompanied the officer. The citizen rider should be listed as a witness or otherwise denoted as merely present.

V. Sergeant Responsibility

A. Assign an officer to take the citizen rider for the determined date and time.

B. Give the Citizen Observer Ride Request and Waiver to the assigned officer.

VI. Assigned Officer’s Responsibility

A. The assigned officer will review the Citizen Observer Ride Request and Waiver and contact the citizen in the precinct as soon as practical.

B. The officer may end the ridealong if the rider’s presence prevents the delivery of police services.

C. The officer will not engage in vehicle pursuits or emergency driving while a citizen is in their patrol vehicle. If it becomes necessary to drop off the citizen rider in an emergency situation, the officer will try to leave the citizen in a public place near a pay phone and inform radio so that the citizen may be picked up as soon as possible once the emergency is under control and resources allow. In the case that the rider is a minor child the officer may not be able to drop off the child safely and will not be able to engage in required police activity.

D. At the end of the ridealong the Officer will ask the citizen to complete a feedback form and return it to the clerk.

E. If an incident occurred during the citizen ridealong where the citizen may be asked to be a witness, the incident will be screened with the Watch Lieutenant and fully documented.

F. The officer will turn the completed Citizen Observer Ride Request and Waiver with copies of any documentation in to the Clerk at the end of the ridealong.