Ride along brings new light to Cummins’ perspective (with video)


After her six hour ride along on Dec. 16, Cummins was able to get up close and personal with the Dallas Police Department. Photo courtesy Gerald Smalley.

Emma Cummins, Executive Editorial Page Editor

DALLAS – Riding along on Harry Hines Boulevard with Dallas Police lieutenant Gerald Smalley, I felt the phrase “one of our men in blue” to no longer be a cliche, but a phrase that could not accurately sum up our debt to policemen.


Many times, police officers will give citizens what they call “ride alongs” which typically consist of a citizen riding with an officer in a police car and observing what takes place during a shift. Most citizens are people who are interested in a career in law enforcement, but after I wrote a piece in September, I was given the privilege to go on a ride along with an officer from the Dallas Police Department on Dec. 16.


After spending six hours in that cop car, I gained an incredible amount of respect for responsibilities of Dallas police officers. While I may have not been “lucky” enough to see any dangerous crimes, having lunch with the officers and participating in a typical day gave me a different perspective.


I already knew that cops have a particularly stressful job and that from a layman’s perspective, it is often easy to pass judgement. However, this statement never felt more undeniably true than during that ride.


Talking to the officers and hearing them discuss interdepartmental politics and dynamics showed just how human they are.


The police serve a unique function in our local communities; they are responsible for keeping the peace but still are prey to the normal human struggles we all face. Expecting them to be flawless, especially those who work in high crime areas, is ridiculous.


Seeing the policemen question panhandlers, interview callers, search for burglary suspects and drug dealers and patrol the streets showed me a side of the police that was quite different than what the media portrays.


The officer I patrolled with was particularly different. When questioning panhandlers, he was nothing but kind and understanding. In the media, we always see the police officers who treat suspects as though they were sub-human, but we never see the cops who treat everyone with respect and humility. After all, we are only interested in news that grabs our attention; admittedly, covering cops who are good people does not make for “good” news.


While I am a part of the media, I think it is time to take a step back from what we really want from our media outlets. I understand that CNN and Fox News have to make profit, but if we expect something different from them, the mantra that “the consumer is always right” could bring real change.


Cops from each town, each city and state are now subject to intense scrutiny from those who have no idea what it is like to be a cop but are simply getting their opinions from trending videos online and in the news.  


Being a cop is now much harder and for those normal officers who are trying to make a living, resuming their normal duties is no longer an option. Being a police officer is a great honor but now it has been reduced to a political minefield.


Spending time with every day cops opened my eyes to how intellectuals and journalists have spent so much time preaching from their pulpit about racism when they have no idea what it takes to be a police officer.

It would do us all some good if we took a moment to humble ourselves and realize that policies and headlines made in perfectly safe buildings are in danger of being very one sided.