By John Blackledge
PBPD Deputy Chief
You’re sitting comfortably and watch as an SUV runs a stop sign, speeds up rapidly and begins to drive aggressively. It’s late at night, very dark and raining lightly. The scene suddenly changes as a police offi cer fl ips on the emergency lights, accelerates and pursues the vehicle a short distance until it pulls to the side of the road. The windshield wipers move rhythmically over the windshield, the police radio squawks loudly and you watch as the offi cer gets out and approaches the dark tinted SUV cautiously. There appears to be several subjects inside. But you’re not spending an average weekday evening watching your favorite primetime police series. You are actually in the passenger’s seat of a Palm Bay police car on a ride along, living it out in real life viewed through the windshield rather than a TV screen.
For more than 30 years the Palm Bay Police Department has permitted a wide variety of spectators to ride with its offi cers for a portion of a shift. It’s not just for Police Explorers, Academy Cadets or dignitaries, but average citizens from the community who are interested in getting a glimpse of the real events that occur in our daily work.
In TV land, an hour long show has 42 minutes of action-packed events interspersed with lots of personal life drama of the characters. Every week there are shootings, stabbings, major crimes and lots of high speed chases, along with steaming scenes. But in the real world, there are seconds of excitement followed by hours of tedious paperwork, complicated processes and stressful administrative issues, such as haggling over how a recent court case applies to a routine crime scene. Officers experience many signifi cant events during a career, but every day work is more often routine and much more complex than portrayed by Hollywood. And while our stars at the Palm Bay Police Department don’t get to live large like the celebrities, the do get to make a difference in the community and ensure the City remains secure. Palm Bay Police are proud that the crime rate for our City is the lowest of all cities over 50,000 in Central Florida and the fi fth lowest in the state. That is a tribute to all the personnel throughout the agency. We strive daily to ensure people are safe, prevent crime and solve the ones that do occur.
So, how do you get a front row co-pilot seat in one our police cars? The procedure is fairly simple. You go online at http://www.palmbayfl orida.org/police and locate the Ride Along icon on the right. Carefully review the instructions and rules then complete the forms online. You must sign a Waiver and have it notarized. The application and all materials are submitted electronically. If you have any questions, call the Uniformed Division administrative offi ce at 321-952-2463. Once submitted, it takes two to four weeks for approved applications to be scheduled.