Student News

When law students review police decisions, they typically have the benefit of hindsight. But Lauren Ritter, L’17, wants students to understand the critical, in-the-moment decisions officers make.

Through Spider Riders, law students get the opportunity to ride along with the officers from the University of Richmond and City of Richmond police departments while out on patrol. The program was launched about 10 years ago by Corinna Lain as a byproduct of her Criminal Procedures course. This year, Ritter worked with Chris Daniels, L’17, and the Criminal Law Society to engage more law students in the program.

“If I can understand how an officer investigated and charged the offense,” said Ritter, who plans to pursue a career in criminal law, “I believe I’ll be better suited to prosecute or defend the case in the next stage.”

Ritter joined an officer in the Richmond Police Department’s 4th Precinct for a midnight shift. “I was able to talk to [him] about the hardest parts of his job, his favorite moments as a police officer, and his understanding of the case law that I was learning in my criminal law and procedure classes,” she said.

A typical ride-along on campus with the URPD begins with a tour of its facilities, which include a small evidence lab and dispatch desk. While patrolling, officers lend support to other officers making traffic stops or investigating reports of disorderly conduct.

Though students on a ride-along may not experience a patrol akin to an episode of Law & Order, they do get a chance to see, in real time, the split-second decisions officers have to make.

“It’s a stark contrast to the way we evaluate those decisions in class,” said Daniel.