By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD
Think back to the days when you were very young. Your mom or dad would put you in bed and maybe kiss you on the forehead and say, “have sweet dreams.” Why did they have to say dreams? You were afraid to go to sleep in your bed. Some nights there were monsters under the bed or the monsters were in the closet. Didn’t matter—they were someplace in the room. You’d wake up screaming for your mom! If you had parents who never read Dr. Spock they might let you sleep in their bed for the night.
Flash forward a few years, now you’re in school and the monsters are gone but so are your pajamas, that’s right you’re naked in class. Who hasn’t had that dream?
You somehow reach adulthood and if you’re lucky you’re no longer naked in public. Now you’ve moved on to adult night mares. You wake up in the middle of the night asking yourself, did I pay the electric bill or what will they ask me at the IRS audit next week? My point is that you will always have bad dreams!
I’m about to describe some other bad dreams that sneak into what was supposed to be a restful night. That’s right cop dreams. Now, I don’t want some $300 dollar an hour doctor to analyze my dreams. I have enough things to think about when I lay my head on the pillow.
Early in my cop career, I had visions of bad guys trying to do me harm but one dream really stands out. I was in Hollywood just south of Hollywood Boulevard in a parking lot. I was chasing this dirt bag in a trench coat. I got within 50 feet of him when he suddenly turns and is now holding a machine gun. Oh, crap. I dive behind a parked car and make myself as small as I can behind the front wheel. Bullets are hitting the ground all around me. I suddenly have a shotgun. Don’t ask me to explain where it came from. I pump a shell into the chamber and without looking I reach around the front tire and fire off all five rounds at where I think the dirt bag is standing.
I’d love to tell you I filled the asshole with double OO buck from the shotgun but, no. I suddenly sat upright in my bed. My heart raced and I was sweating. I tried to reason—it’s only a dream, but I really would rather have been naked at my high school prom! Guess how much sleep I got that night.
I had many cop dreams during my 35-year career. They usually involved not being able to run from danger and the worst were that my gun wouldn’t fire. It jammed or I couldn’t pull the trigger. Now, I didn’t have these every night or in my case sleeping during the day, but I still had them every so often. I sometimes punctuated my dreams verbally. That’s right, I talked in my sleep or better said, I yelled. That usually woke up my wife and the dog, and it explained why the cat slept in the other room.
After thirty-five years of sometimes violent encounters, I retired. I assumed that after a while the dreams would be replaced by dreams of retired old folks. Wrong! I’ve been retired for over 12 years and I still wake up punching my pillow or yelling out to halt! In these dreams, I sometimes have partners that I haven’t seen or talked to in decades.
This upsets my wife and dog very much. I can now go back to sleep rather quickly but my wife tells me in rather stern terms that I need to sleep in another room. Sometimes she suggests I sleep in another county.
I asked around and found that most cops, retired or not, have these dreams. You can take off your badge, and throw away those uniforms, you might even lose contact with old partners but the dreams will always come back. They’re deep inside of a cop’s head for life. You just never know when they’ll resurface!
P.S. Do you still have cop dreams?