RIDE-ALONG IS LENS TO POLICE REALITY
PGPD Officer Donald Rickert Positively Reflects Department
By Karen L. Bune
It is not uncommon, in some localities, for police departments to get a bad rap due to the rate of crime or incidents that may occur in their communities.
Sometimes the nature of what occurs may be of a controversial nature simply because of the circumstances surrounding them or the consequences that ensue, as a result of their occurrence, may raise the eyebrows of citizens who genuinely do not understand the challenges and difficulties that confront officers on a daily basis.
In the past, the Prince George’s County Maryland Police Department was the subject of consistent criticism by the community as well as the media.
Known to be a jurisdiction with a high rate of crime, historically, officers often found themselves confronting violent offenders who possessed weapons and lacked respect for authority. Those in violation of the law displayed no qualms about attempting to shoot a cop and, in some instances, successfully achieving that destructive goal. In cases where officers had to show a display of force due to the nature of the circumstances at the time, they were often perceived by the community as being excessive in their reaction and errant in their judgment.
Undoubtedly, once a department gets tinged with a less than positive reaction by the community, the press, or other entities, it becomes a real challenge to change that image into one that demonstrates a
reality contrary to the perception.
Oftentimes, it requires strong leadership by the chief as well as continued and advanced training of its officers and the promotion of ongoing community outreach by the department.
A police ride-along
program is a valuable asset to any police department and provides an opportunity for both citizens and professionals alike to view, firsthand, the reality of life on the street.
They can see the good, the bad, and the ugly and, for the most part, police officers consistently deal with the bad and the ugly. On a recent ride-along experience, this author had the privilege to ride with Officer Donald Rickert of the Hyattsville substation of the Prince George’s County Maryland Police Department. A young officer with four years on the department, it became immediately apparent that Officer Rickert retains a degree of street smarts that exceeds his age and extends beyond his early tenure on the department.
Officer Rickert was respectful and courteous to citizens he encountered on the street, was immediately responsive to calls for service, sensitive to crime victims, and proactive in his investigation of
reported incidents and alleged crimes. Moreover, he was outwardly engaging in providing cooperative and collaborative assistance to his police colleagues on the street and backed them up instantaneously
without hesitation. Officer Rickert was, at all times, professional in all ways. His performance exhibited a positive reflection on the department as a whole that was in contrast to negativism of the
past. His conduct is proof that the Prince George’s County Police Department has improved community relations in its jurisdiction with the by-product of making its mark in reducing violent crime to the extent
Undoubtedly, a ride-along program is beneficial for those in the criminal justice system and should be utilized regularly and consistently. Victim services professionals, prosecutors,
judges, paralegals, courtroom clerks, and others aligned with the criminal justice system need to get out and ride to see what the officers deal with on the street, refine and enhance their own degree of street
savvy, and keep their awareness on a realistic plane. Additionally, criminal justice professionals, who are also police colleagues, establish and reinforce the vital relationships that are essential to
engaging and maintaining the wheels of justice.
“A ride along is a great bridge to reach officers,” says Major Daniel Dusseau who heads the Criminal Investigations Division of the Prince George’s County Maryland Police Department. For citizens, the program can provide them a chance to see the community in which they live from a different perspective and can assist them in better understanding the difficulties police officers face in meeting the challenges presented by their localities.
The Prince George’s County Maryland Police Department serves as an excellent example of a police department that has come a long way in terms of improving its quality of service and response to crime.
Having heightened its community outreach and police-community relations, supporting a ride-along program, and promoting a professional approach to crime-fighting, as demonstrated by Officer Rickert, other law
enforcement agencies around the nation can take comfort in knowing that they are not alone in combating the difficulties that confront them and by no means should they allow obstacles to discourage them from moving
forward in a progressive fashion.
Copyright © 2009 Karen L. Bune
***Karen L. Bune is employed as a Victim Specialist in the State’s Attorney’s Office for Prince George’s County, Maryland. She is an
Adjunct Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia where she teaches victimology. Ms. Bune
serves as a consultant for the Office for Victims of Crime and the Office for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U. S. Department of Justice. She is a nationally recognized speaker and
trainer. She is a Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress and a Diplomate of the Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and The National Center for Crisis Management. She is also Board
Certified in Domestic Violence. Ms. Bune received the 2007 Notable Alumni Award from the Dept. of Public Affairs, American University, Washington, D. C. Ms. Bune appears in the 2009 edition
of “Marquis Who’s Who in the World” and the 2009 edition of “Marquis Who’s Who in American Women.”
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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE GETS ATTENTION
U. S. PARK POLICE FORCE IN DISARRAY
D.C. POLICE COMMANDER SOLBERG’S APOLOGY UNNECESSARY
POLICE VICTIMIZATION HAS WIDE IMPACT
US CAPITOL POLICE CHIEF GAINER RESIGNS
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U.S. CAPITOL POLICE CHIEF GAINER
US CAPITOL POLICE MOUNTED UNIT DEALT A HARD BLOW
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