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Follow @SeattlePD around during Twitter "ride-along"

Seattle police posted this photo on Twitter to show "what a stripped car looks like" during a virtual ride-along in the South precinct.
Seattle Police Department
Seattle police posted this photo on Twitter to show "what a stripped car looks like" during a virtual ride-along in the South precinct.

Have you ever wondered what a Seattle police officer does all day? You’re not alone.

The department says it typically has long waiting lists of people who want to ride along on patrols. Now it’s offering a way to virtually give everyone a chance to see the action.   

These ride-alongs don’t require wearing a bulletproof vest, or signing any forms acknowledging you might end up in danger. In fact, Seattle police sergeant Sean Whitcomb says he can guarantees the experience will be safe.

“The best part of it is, people can do it from their desk at work, or from their homes,” he says.

That’s because instead of sitting in the passenger seat, anyone joining these officers is in front of a computer. The policeman uses the social networking site Twitter and the hashtag #tweetalong to keep observers up to speed

The result isn’t quite like the real deal. 

“There is some degree of filtration," Whitcomb says. "You don’t get to be in the car that’s driving lights and sirens to a call.”

The limitations may take a little bit of the fun and suspense out of riding along, but he says the officer will try to recapture some of it.

For instance, Officer Nate Shopay tweeted from his patrol of the Beacon Hill and Holly Park neighborhoods:

12:03 p.m. “A few folks were suspicious of some cable guys. They turned out to be legit.”

12:23 p.m. "This is what a stripped out car looks like. Some fellow officers just found it."

12:58 p.m. “Having too much to drink and accidentally hurting yourself is not advised but still legal.”

While virtual ride-alongs might not be as thrilling as an episode of reality TV show Cops, Whitcomb says they do provide insight into the reality for Seattle’s force. 

The department has done four so far and plans to do at least one a month in different parts of the city. Unless the public loses interest. Hundreds of people stopped following the feed a few months ago when officers posted nearly every call they received. This time, they've promised to Tweet with restraint.   

Charla joined us in January, 2010 and is excited to be back in Seattle after several years in Washington, DC, where she was a director and producer for NPR. Charla has reported from three continents and several outlets including Marketplace, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. She has a master of journalism from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in architecture from University of Washington.