By Natalie LakosilNovember 14, 2012
Fort Huachuca, AZ. - The Fort Huachuca Military Police Ride-along Program, which was reinstated Oct. 28, gives the public the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a military police officer.
During the ride-along, alarms had to be checked on, cars were stopped for various reasons, a non-injury accident occurred and a busy traffic enforcement zone resulted in the acting officers having a busy day.
Spc. Daniel Willis, 18th MP Detachment, was the motivating force to get this program up and running again. "I just have a passion for it. I have a passion for seeing people enjoy themselves when they come out with police officers and see what their take is on things.
"A lot of people have a lot of misconceptions and opinions that are either completely false or they just need some clarification, which we can clear up during the ride-along, so that's why I am so passionate about it," Willis said.
"The purpose of [the program] is to build community policing and those, in my opinion, are very important relationships between the community and law enforcement and to show them [community members] we are not just out there to write tickets and enforce school zones. We genuinely care about your kids crossing the street, housing areas and what's going on and that was part of it -- to bring somebody who is not used to law enforcement and let them right-seat ride and let them see what goes on, on a daily basis, on the installation," said Master Sgt. Thomas Burke, Provost Marshal Office, noncommissioned officer in charge, 18th MP Detachment.
Willis had to start from the bottom up to get the program running again, he said. He attributed a lot of support and help from his fellow officers and peers at the PMO as to how the program was reinstated.
The ride-along program, which is the same as previous years except for changes to policies and guidelines, is open to any individual 17 and older who is interested in seeing how law enforcement works on a daily basis.
"I am extremely interested in getting back [to being] involved in the communities here on Fort Huachuca," Willis said. Anyone, except those with a dangerous criminal record and juveniles, are authorized to go on a ride-along after they sign a waiver and are checked out.
"The waiver is basically stating you understand the risk you are taking because law enforcement doesn't stop; we are still police officers. … At any time, you can be put in harm's way, but my job is to take the route the safest way and make sure everyone involved has a good and safe time," Willis said.
"Hopefully the person riding along is talking to the officer about their concerns and vice versa, and everyone gets to talk about what's going on and what's important and why we do traffic stops and why we carry on the way we do to protect the safety of the community and Families that are here," Burke said.
The ride-along passenger is required to wear a safety vest that is provided prior to the event.
"At the end of the day I just want [those riding along] to walk away with a smile and say 'hey, maybe this is something I can do' or especially if it's a younger individual, especially a troubled individual, it can maybe make a change … just from the guidance and wisdom from some of the officers," Willis said.
"It's important not only for me to understand who is out here in the community and what people perceive us as, but it is a huge part as far as building relations with our communities," Willis added.
"If you see me driving around all day and I've never stopped to say 'hi,' yet you know I patrol the same area, you are going to wonder 'does this guy even care, or does he just care about writing tickets all day?' But that's not the case. I care about the citizens and the Family members, the Soldiers, everyone that's here on the post and it's really important to me [to get them] to understand that I care about them and that's why I am out here. I am encouraging everyone to come out here and be a part of this program," he said.
In order to participate, a person must go to the MP station, meet with the master sergeant and fill out their waiver form. After being cleared, the passenger can pick a date, and the adventure can begin.