If the title of this post caught your attention you’ve probably thought about taking a police ride-along, heard about a friend’s experience, or you’ve been on one for yourself. Let me tell you from personal experience that it was awesome and enlightening. And I went on the perfect one for a crime writer.
My ride-along started out with a manhunt. I experienced the excitement of wanting to find the guy and found myself scrutinizing every male I spotted in the area just to make sure he wasn’t the one we were after. Unfortunately, the search moved to the downtown area from the eastern end of the city where the hunt had begun, and the sergeant signed off the investigation. By the end of my ride-along, about five hours later, the man still hadn’t been found.
After the sergeant left the investigation, he turned to me as he was driving and asked if I had ever seen a dead body. I told him I had at memorials and funerals and then asked why. I soon found out that our next stop involved one.
I figured I’d catch a glimpse of the deceased under a tarp or being wheeled away, but I got far more than that. I received a front-row seat to a death investigation. For hours, the sergeant and I were mere feet away from the body. I witnessed firsthand how it changed color over time, but I also found that I went into detective-mode. The forensic identification unit—essentially CSIs—was called in and arrived with collection kits. The team members gloved up, snapped photographs, took fingerprints from the deceased, and more.
The entire time that I was on scene, I noticed myself going into a detached state—the result of adrenaline. Later that evening, it began to sink in that I had spent hours with a dead body, and I was nauseated. As more time passed, I became weepy as it sank in that the deceased had been a husband, a father, a lover, a friend…a person. That night I dreamed about the man. It wasn’t a nightmare, but I was an officer trying to figure out what had happened to him.
I couldn’t imagine returning to the field the next day and having a similar experience or witnessing something even worse, like a violent murder scene or that of a fatal car accident. But the knowledge that I received from the academy and this ride-along only served to strength the police procedurals in my latest release In the Line of Duty.
Readers and those who serve or who have served in law enforcement have expressed many times over the years how they appreciate the accuracy in my books. But readers have also commented on the fact that they felt like they were right there alongside the investigators trying to solve the murders themselves. Feedback like this has come back on many of my titles and it makes me pleased to be able to bring the feeling of a police ride-along to my readers through my books. And you won’t even need to a bulletproof vest.