Duluth Police Officer Invites Community to Join Him on Patrol in Virtual Ride Along

Virtual Ride Alongs are a way to give the community insight on what a police officer does.

DULUTH, Minn.- If you’ve ever wanted to get inside the head of a police officer and see what they do on patrol, you can now do that through Twitter.

It’s through something called a virtual ride along. It’s meant to simulate a real ride along with an officer in their car, and the Duluth Police Department has jumped on board.

Officers say virtual ride alongs make it easier for them to connect with the community in this technology run day and age, and one Duluth officer has gained quite the following on social media because of his work taking the community with him almost wherever he goes.

Rob Hurst is the face behind Duluth PD’s virtual ride along movement.

“Virtual ride along is essentially jut an opportunity on a broader scale to have people kind of see what the police are doing day in day out on their shifts,” Hurst said.

Hurst and his police K9 Hondo have grown quite the twitter following @officerhurstdpd.

“I’s a different way of getting people into the car,” Hurst said.

He says it’s impossible to take everyone on real ride alongs, so it’s nice to be able to answer the questions people have through social media.

“Oftentimes, at least for myself, you’re kind of surprised by the questions or some of the perceptions,” Hurst said.

Fox 21 recently rode with Officer Hurst on patrol to see how virtual ride alongs work.

“I’ll go on a call, I’ll put something out on it, on the virtual ride along. Sometimes you get busy and it’s just not practical to be sitting there, spending time doing that,” Hurst said.

Before he starts tweeting, something has to happen.

But when there’s no calls for him to respond to, he keeps watch on areas that have had problems in the past.

Checking on a suspicious house: his first act and first tweet of the night.

The next thing was responding to a woman going the wrong direction on a one way.

To keep people updated, Hurst tweeted after the fact.

After that, we got hit with three calls back to back, so the tweeting went on pause.

“I can take the firecracker call,” Hurst said.

The first of people blowing up fireworks and urinating near the lake.

Hurst couldn’t find the suspects, so he gave the reporting party a call.

“We’ll call the RP just to get more info, sometimes or like in this case, got here, couldn’t find what they were talking about and sure enough she gives me new info they moved on a couple minutes after I called,” Hurst said.

The next thing we did was respond to the call of a man who seemed impaired and was throwing socks near the street.

Responding to the man was called doing a welfare check.

“I’ve seen, since I’ve started, a lot more mental health type stuff where it’s purely just a mental health issue, somebody’s having a mental health crisis and you’re trying to help them,” Hurst said.

The last call was a domestic violence call where officers had to put puzzle pieces together to see who was telling the truth.

“For me personally, you wanna try, you wanna do right, you want to hold accountable who is the most accountable for whatever happened. That’s probably  the most difficult thing for me is the desire to want to get it right,” Hurst said.

With a small break between calls, Officer Hurst could update the virtual ride along with what had been going on.

“It’s one of those jobs that’s very visible, but yet very misunderstood,” Hurst said.

Officer Hurst knows updating people on twitter isn’t the same as showing them everything police do. But he says it connects him to the community, just a little bit better.

“What I hope is that people will recognize that it’s probably one of the most difficult jobs out there. This social media thing or twitter or virtual ride alongs is just kind of another way to try to expose that,” Hurst said.

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