Keeping Watch Over Our American Families

For local law enforcement, the night shift can bring a host of worries as they work to keep our communities safe

Some people put in an eight-hour shift surrounded by co-workers in the kind of crowded office building where you meet at the water cooler to talk everything from sports to office gossip. Other folks put in their 40 hours talking on the phone, where they’ll mediate, cut deals, or talk logistics.

Then there are those like me — the cops across the country working the streets tonight, watching the sun go down at dusk, spending hours in the black stillness of the night, and looking on as that giant ball of fire in the sky rises again at dawn from their seated position alone inside a patrol car. On a slow night, where the call volume is low and the city is a ghost town, the solitude can either be cathartic or it can make you feel rather empty. It’s all up to you.

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Tonight is one of those nights. After a busy weekend of working on my days off, it’s the kind of Monday when I’m looking down the barrel of an even longer work week ahead of me than the one I just put in. I’ll clock at least 68 hours this week, and I’m only just getting started on my first 12. I’m usually one of the more social and outgoing guys on my watch, but I’m actually in the mood to spend some time alone tonight. I don’t want any trouble if I can avoid it, and I’m planning on just handling my calls and coming out of the gate slow.

“I’ll pick it up tomorrow,” the voice in my head tells me.

On this night, I’m spending my time driving the streets of my city, thinking long and hard. I’m thinking about my kids and how fast they’re growing up. I smile as my mind plays reruns of my oldest daughter doing that double back handspring she does. Then I think of how my youngest folds her cute little arms and connects her hands at her wrists instead of at her biceps like most people do. I can’t help but think about how pretty they are and what life is going to be like in just a few short years when they start becoming interested in boys. It starts to give me anxiety, so I remind myself to enjoy these years while they last. These are the great ones.

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I’m spending the night slow, rolling through the dark side streets and watching over the homes of our people as they sleep soundly in bed. One of the main reasons these folks can do this is that they know we’re out there, and I take pride in that. Cruising down a street that bears the same name as one of the roads in the town I grew up in causes memories of my childhood to flash by. I reminisce about the days my parents were hustling around to support a family and build their careers as I am doing now — those good old days before the gray hairs began to replace the youthful dirty blonde and brown ones.

We live 900 miles away from each other now, and I’m thinking about the precious time in their lives I’m missing. “I’ll make up for it one day,” I think to myself.

I put on some music, but I’m not listening to anything current. Tonight, I’m listening to all those old songs that I used to play in my first car as my wife and I would drive around aimlessly for hours, back when we were a couple of dumb kids in high school with our whole lives ahead of us. It was a red 1989 Nissan Pulsar with T-Tops and flip-up headlights that had a NASA sticker stuck to the side and a stupid little green fish capping the antenna until someone stole it. I thought I was pretty cool with my plastic hubcaps from AutoZone. Another smile takes over my face.

Related: Take It from This American Cop: No Day Is Ever Routine

“I don’t sing to her anymore,” I realize as old familiar songs that I haven’t heard in forever play one after the other — and it makes me wonder where that carefree kid I used to be has gone. Of course, this job has changed me in many of the ways that I was warned it would — but I don’t regret following the path that led me to the somewhat jaded outlook I’ve developed on people, culture, society, and the future in general. The changes come with the territory, but at this moment, ironic as it may be, the thought of that boy I used to be makes me want to be a better man. (go to page 2 to continue reading)  [lz_pagination] 

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