by Hal Collier
Click on the link in paragraph third from the bottom to read about how cops are trying to improve issues surrounding tired cops.
Who knew that working Morning Watch was so involved? Morning Watch was that 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM shift. There’s also a reason it’s called “Grave Yard.” As I said previously some cops never worked Morning Watch or worked it so seldom that still believed the human body was meant to sleep in the dark. I once had a day watch officer, Bob Plassmeyer, come up to me, shake my hand and thank me. I asked why and he replied, it’s because of guys like you that I don’t have to work Morning Watch. Thanks Bob, but I’d rather have a gift card.
I loved Morning Watch. It wasn’t too hot in the summer and when it got cold you wore thermal underwear. It was basically you and the bad guys. Patrol cops seldom saw the brass and supervision was a little more lax. One of the drawbacks was that you were always eating breakfast.
When I graduated from the academy I was assigned to Morning Watch and I was ignored as far as watch changes. In fact my first fourteen years on the job I worked Morning Watch.
I’m a little ashamed to admit it but I first told my wife I didn’t have enough seniority to ask for a change of watch. If I worked overtime, I would complain that day watch sucked and I would hate it. I think she knew. She just wanted me to be happy.
There were some preparations that had to be made if you’re going to sleep during the day. First, you had to buy blackout curtains for the windows. Another option is aluminum foil on the windows. The foil not only kept out the light but it kept the room cooler in the hot summer months. If you were a little crazy as some suggested, the foil also kept out the radio transmissions from outer space.
A window air conditioner was another good investment. It not only kept you cool but it blocked out the noise of the neighbors barking dog. The third and the hardest preparation was your beloved family. Some cops think that the officers who worked Morning Watch were the ones who suffered. It was their families who suffered. My wife often packed up the kids and left the house for at least four hours so I could get enough sleep to get through the night.
Sleeping in shifts became normal. You get off work at 7 A.M. go to bed for a few hours then get up take your children to one of the many programs you signed them up for, go home sleep for a few more hours, get up and go to work. Then, there were those hot summer days, even with an air conditioner you just couldn’t sleep. Sleep a little in the morning, then sleep a little in the evening.
Every so often, you were so tired that you slept all day. I once got up at 5 PM well rested. My wife asked if the next door neighbors jack hammering up their sidewalk kept me awake. I never heard them.
Anyone who doesn’t know cops will never understand the next phenomenon unique only to Morning Watch cops and alcoholics. That’s right drinking alcohol while the sun is rising in the East. Most cops rationalize it like this: businessmen get off work in the evening and stop by a bar for a drink to unwind. Some go home and have a drink before dinner. Morning Watch cops do the same thing. They get off work and have a drink to unwind, then they go to bed. The only difference is the looks you get when you stop at the store to buy a six pack of beer on the way home. I once saw six Vice Officers who had worked overtime waiting in front of a 7-11. By law, they couldn’t buy beer until 6 A.M. and they were ten minutes early so they waited with the above mentioned alcoholics.
I’d get home at 7:30 to 8:00 in the morning. My kids would be up and meet me at the front door. We would discuss world events and I’d have a beer while watching cartoons and eating a bowl of Raisin Bran. One morning, I was on a day off and my son Bob brought me a beer for breakfast. Try explaining to a 4 yr old that his father doesn’t drink beer in the morning on a day off.
Even as I gained seniority, I worked Morning Watch. I found that Morning Watch cops in Hollywood were there to do police work and I liked that. My last years, my age and body caught up with me. I found it harder to read drivers licenses in the dark, even with new glasses. The end took three months. It started with sleeping during the day. After four or five hours, I would wake up and couldn’t get back to sleep. This happened before and after a few days I was so tired I could sleep eight hours. After starting my third month of only getting four or five hours of sleep a day I came to the conclusion that sleeping during the day was for the younger crowd.
I used my seniority and went to Day Watch. I stayed on Day Watch until my retirement. Once, my captain called me at home on a day off and asked me to go back to Morning Watch. I refused and explained that I had done my time and my wife had already spent too many years sleeping alone. My seniority protected me from watch transfers and I finished out my career sleeping in the dark and drinking beer at sun down.
I loved the years I worked Morning Watch and had a lot of good memories. I worked with some of the best cops on the LAPD and made friends that last today. Morning Watch was not for everyone but it sure worked for me for a long time.