No more police ride-alongs in Farmington

City Council questions this decision

The Farmington Police Department no longer offers citizens the opportunity to ride along with an officer and get a feel for what the officers do.

Police Chief Brian Lindquist told City Council members at a workshop on Monday, May 13, that ride alongs are too much of a liability and mitigation.

“My job is to protect you guys and the cops and citizens, and part of that is to mitigate reliability as much as we can,” Lindquist said.

He said that if a police officer has to worry about a passenger in the car during a response call gone wrong, then that worry could get in the way of the officer’s duty. He also said the computer system has private information, and if an officer is called on a domestic assault case, for example, the citizen left in the car could access or hear private information.

If someone is injured in a ride along as well, the city could get sued and always be paying that settlement off, Lindquist said.

“It’s not a spectator story, but we’ve treated it as such. But at the end of the day, if you were aware of the problem that potentially existed. … IT’s not a matter of (other cities) are doing it,” he said. “It’s not a good policy or good plan, and I don’t think it’s going to exist anywhere else much longer.”

Council member Christy Jo Fogarty asked for a compromise saying, “We’re not going to agree on this, but we need to find some middle ground. … I don’t want this opportunity lost to people.”

Fogarty said that if a student interested in law enforcement wants to do a ride along, it is a valuable way to determine his or her career path. She said not allowing this is a disservice to the community.

While neighboring cities do allow ride alongs, City Council members questioned whether this is a valuable service citizens should be allowed.

Council member Terry Donnelly said he is fine with no ride alongs and has no interest in ever going on one.

Council member Doug Bonar said, “My concern is a broad and consistent out reach to the citizens.” He hopes the police department finds ways to interact with the community where they are seen as individuals instead of just cops.

Mayor Todd Larson said he went on a ride along and found it boring for 90 percent of the time until a high-speed chase near the end. He said he saw where both sides were coming from.

“I also want our cops to be comfortable to do it,” Larson said.

“It’s half our budget. It’s a good marketing tool,” Council member Jason Bartholomay said. He raised the question if ride alongs bring more social value that outweighs the liability concern.

“It’s a great PR tool, but I can give them the same experience by watching the footage from patrol cars,” Lindquist said.

Fogarty and council members asked Lindquist to bring the a montage of footage that would be shown in place of a ride along.

“You need to convince me that you can show them just as well,” Fogarty said.