July 26, 2016 - Atlanta, GA - Officer Dwan Peterson on patrol in the Atlanta Zone 4 precinct. AJC journalists ride along with two Atlanta police patrol officers -- one black and one white -- in the wake of the fatal shootings in Minnesota, Louisiana and Texas.  
Photo: BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Is it possible to go on a ride-along with Atlanta police?

Welcome to "Actual Factual," a regular column in which I answer reader questions about goings-on in Atlanta. Here's one I did recently about how late ice cream trucks can play jingles.

Now that you're familiar, you'll find information for submitting your own questions at the bottom. 

Question: Is it possible to go on a ride-along with Atlanta police?

Some departments offer ride-alongs to the public in order to give citizens an idea of what a typical police shift may be like.

The Atlanta Police Department isn’t sure how many requests it gets for ride-alongs, but a spokesman said many of them are from journalists, college students majoring in criminal justice, people considering a career in law enforcement and community members who want to learn more about what’s going on around them. Some leadership programs also incorporate them as part of their curriculum.

At a time when tensions between police and the public are high across the nation, ride-alongs could be one way to increase local relations. 

But Atlanta citizens wanting to get an understanding of what police experience on a daily basis will have to wait. The department temporarily suspended ride-alongs a few months ago to maintain its “primary focus on further reductions in crime,” Director of Public Affairs, Carlos Campos, said. 

“We hope to be able to resume ride-alongs in the future as we believe they can be a valuable tool to help build bridges with the communities we serve,” he said in an email Thursday.

And in case you’re wondering about other departments, I also checked with the Fulton County Sheriff's Office, the Atlanta Fire and Rescue Department and Grady Memorial Hospital. They do not offer ride-alongs to the general public. 

MORE: Where’d the giant spinning rock in Midtown go?

Ride-alongs can also be a useful tool for reporters who want to research a certain topic.

Seven years ago, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was allowed to ride along with police for a look at the Atlanta vice squad's efforts to tamp down prostitution in the city. 

In 2015, Powder Springs allowed an AJC reporter to ride along with an officer to study the promise and pitfalls of cops and cameras. And a year after that, AJC journalists rode along with two Atlanta police patrol officers in the wake of the fatal shootings in Minnesota, Louisiana and Texas.

MORE: Who made that giant car sculpture in Midtown?

MORE: Here’s when MARTA trains should get free Wi-Fi

I am a staff writer with the AJC and a lover of Atlanta, my adopted home for nearly six years after moving to Georgia from Florida. To submit “Actual Factual” questions, contact me at becca.godwin@ajc.com, @BeccaJGGodwin on Twitter or via the form below. Thanks.

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Video: A different kind of ride along

Cobb County held a bus ride along for kindergarten and first grade students and their parents today, in preparation for the first day of school on Monday. By Monday, Aug. 7th, more than 700,000 metro Atlanta students will have returned to school. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

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