Forget "Cops" and "Rescue 911." Soon, Lawrence residents may get to see police officers at work first-hand.
Under a proposal being worked out by Lawrence police and city officials, the Lawrence Police Department's citizen ride-along program may be expanded as early as the start of the year.
Police Chief Ron Olin said the program was an informal process in which participants had to have a work-related or compelling personal reason for riding. Among the participants whose requests have been granted are journalists and researchers.
The proposal, Olin said, would formalize the process. A participant would fill out an application, then would be screened.
Were the proposal to be adopted, Olin said, a participant's curiosity about police work would be reason enough to be considered for the program.
Expanding the program is a risky step both for the city and the police department.
Olin said that whenever an officer would carry a ride-along, the safety of the officer and the passenger would be jeopardized.
Olin and Rod Bremby, assistant city manager, said one of their key considerations was the city's liability, which increases when observers are placed in police cars. Olin pointed out that the city halted a citizen ride-along program in the late-1960s when snipers started firing at cars carrying observers.
So why take the risk? Olin and Bremby said city authorities thought it could help clear up misunderstandings about the police department.
Bremby also said he thought the city could minimize liability concerns by keeping observers away from dangerous situations.
"We'll probably not put them in patrol cars that would be the first to respond to incidents," he said. "They may be riding in a supervisor's car rather than a responder car. But if the supervisor were required to be first on a scene, they might be asked to exit the vehicle at a certain location."