Kirby, very good points. Especially the ride-along because you will be spending a lot more time with the officer(s) than a run-of-the-mill interview.
But where is this story supposed to be published? I didn’t see it mentioned. Lone daily? Lone rival? If it’s the latter then good grief no, you are correct. Screwing the competition can be really fun sometimes.
If it’s the lone daily, though, it would be totally irresponsible for them to not help you in some way. I’ve been a stringer for a lot of places including top 10 metros, and I never lacked leads. On the flip side, I never refused to give contact info. to anyone working on a story out of my own newsroom – as long as it was tangential to my beat, or totally unrelated to it, or I had zero time for it myself, etc. It wouldn’t suit that paper’s purpose to do otherwise. I may or may not have applied that principle to statewide or national media (or they with me.) Depends on the inquiry, among other variables.
Whether TerryT gets a top secret source or nothing may not even matter. The first story I got paid for was one about Michael Jordan. I don’t know where he fell on the Most Difficult People On The Planet To Talk To List, but even today it’s up there so far I can’t see it. One night I finally had the chance to ask him anything, and he had a decent amount of time to talk. I ended up with a small paragraph’s worth of usable stuff. I mention this because from then on I often had the same experience with everyone else I talked to for the first time – frisbee golf guy, barbershop guy, cop, local musician – public stature doesn’t always matter when you’re a stranger.
Definitely not easy to break through shyness, skepticism, monotony, half-truths, on and on. But it’s not impossible.