Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: AM Watch, part 5


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.

photo from
photo from

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.

imagesWMA3EG59Every 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.

In December 2011, a study was released by Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital which reported that about 40% of police officers in the U.S. have a sleep disorder.
In December 2011, a study was released by Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital which reported that about 40% of police officers in the U.S. have a sleep disorder.

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.


More Street Stories Tales from the Barking Muse

And We’re Off And Running, part 3

And We’re Off And Running

part 3 of 3

By Gerry Goldshine

Officer Andy Mazzanti and K-9 Rocky

Sharing a chuckle that comes from regularly working with someone under often trying conditions, I could feel some of my accumulated stress bleed off. Then Officer Andy and K-9 Rocky came up behind Sgt Dave. Petaluma Police had recently reinstated their Canine program; Rocky, a German Shepherd, was still relatively new and had yet been faced with the necessity to bring someone down outside of training.

Before we could strategize any further, the “Yutz” upped the ante on us by getting out of his car and standing next to it. Nothing quite irritates the hell out of a bunch of adrenaline fueled cops more than someone who just doesn’t want to go along with the program in a high risk situation. If the sound of multiple officers yelling at him in both Spanish and English didn’t catch his attention, one would have thought the distinctive sounds of multiple shot-gun actions being worked and the frenzied barking of Rocky would have. It didn’t.

Sgt. Dave told Officer Andy that he and Rocky now had the helm. Officer Andy shouted out that if the suspect didn’t comply with our instructions, he was going to release Rocky or words to that effect. By then, Rocky was very well caught up in the spirit of things and barking in what should have been an menacing manner to any sensible person, sober or not. An officer, who spoke Spanish, repeated Officer Andy’s commands.

No doubt more than one or two of us went slack-jawed when the suspect at last responded by dancing some type of jig in the street next to his car. This alone would have been the height of absurdity had not the suspect finished his little boogie by extending the middle fingers of both hands and held them defiantly aloft for all of us to see.

Succumbing perhaps to the influence of the Simpson’s C. Montgomery Burns, Sergeant Dave simply told Officer Andy, “Release the hound…” Well, at least that’s how I recall it.

Rocky, was off like Rin Tin Tin, eager like any other police rookie to finally put all his hard training to use for the first time. Before our would-be M. C. Hammer could rescind his crude digital display, Rocky leapt and grabbed Twinkle Toes’ right forearm in his jaws. The dog’s forward momentum carried him and the suspect to the ground. Half of us rushed the driver while the others took a most cooperative but rather inebriated passenger into custody. Just like that, the incident was over; it was almost textbook perfect in set-up and execution. The only injury was the bite from Rocky.

Sergeant Dave assigned someone from the Graveyard shift to take the suspect, who was quite clearly drunk, to the local hospital for treatment and a blood alcohol test. The passenger, equally smashed, was arrested and charged with public intoxication.

As everyone started leaving the scene, I saw amongst the assemblage, several units from the California Highway Patrol, a unit from the Sonoma County Sheriff and coming south on Stony Point Road, from his blocking position a half mile ahead of me was a unit from Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety. Quite the team effort. I looked at my watch and shook my head in dismay as I began filling out the CHP Form 180 to have the suspect’s car towed from the scene. It was well after end of watch and I had several hours of report writing ahead of me. “Go get him”, indeed!

Gerry is a regular contributor to Just the Facts, Ma’am. Check in weekly or so to see his newest posts.

Tales from the Barking Muse

Murphy Was an Optimist

As They Say, Murphy Was an Optimist

By Gerry Goldshine

Practically all of us have heard of Murphy’s Law, which basically says that if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. What most people don’t realize is that there are endless permutations to Mr. Murphy’s original coda. In police work, you can always tell when Mr. Murphy has decided to enforce his rule as soon as you’ve heard at least one officer exclaim, “Oh shit!”

It was 1981, before cell phones and computers. I was working Graveyard shift (9:30 PM to 7:00 AM) and it had been a very quiet night. It was about 3:00 AM and I was about ready to see if I could take break for my first cup of coffee to see me through to the end of shift. Here is where I encountered one of those subsections of Murphy’s Law. This particular one went, “If it’s been a quiet night and you are about to ask for your break, that’s when you get the dramatic call.”



“Lincoln-36, respond to 1634 Redacted Street for a possible man down. Just received a call from a payphone in front of Long’s Drugs. The juvenile reporting party stated that their father collapsed inside the residence. Unknown if any drugs or alcohol involved. No further information. I’ll be sending you backup from the station, Code-Three. Ambulance is also being dispatched.”

“Lincoln-36, copy.”

I was only about a quarter mile away and was at the house in just a couple of minutes. Standing clustered around the front door of the house was a woman and about six or so children, ranging from toddler to teen in age. Some of the kids were crying or had been crying. The woman was crying, shaking and on the verge of complete hysteria.

“My husband! My husband just had a quadruple bypass. He fell in the bathroom and he won’t move. Please!”

When confronted with a situation such as this, your training kicks in and it is amazing how the mind automatically prioritizes things for you. No sooner had I thought “Oh shit!”, than I was also advising dispatch that this was a possible heart attack while at the same time visualizing the steps to perform single person Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation. However, on this morning, Mr. Murphy was running this show. I was sadly mistaken in the belief that I had passed through my “Oh shit!” moment.

A Georgia man owes his life to the quick actions of his mother and the heroics of a Forest Park Police officer.
A Georgia man owes his life to the quick actions of his mother and the heroics of a Forest Park Police officer.

There, lying face down in the doorway, between the master bedroom and bathroom, was a man well over six feet tall and weighing-in at considerably more than 300 pounds; I was all of 5’7” weighing just 140 pounds. I felt for a carotid pulse and sadly there was none. He wasn’t breathing and his complexion had taken on a gray pallor. I knew from the EMT training I had received while in the Army, this was a good indication that he had been “down” for a significant amount of time. That spoke badly for his survival chances. I let dispatch know I had a “Code Blue” – which is medic speak for cardiac arrest. By then, the entire family had crowded into the bedroom and all were looking at me expectantly. Mr. Murphy was not finished with me; I asked if any of them knew CPR and was met with blank, unknowing stares. I was on my own. Adrenaline can be a wonderful thing because I somehow got this man out of the doorway and onto his back while the family continued to sit and stare anxiously at me. I could then see the fresh red surgical scar running down the center of his chest. I let dispatch know that I was starting CPR and asked how long before the Paramedics would be on scene. They were still several minutes away, as was my back-up.

As I mentally ran down the checklist to start performing CPR, for the first time in my career, I recalled what my EMT instructor had told us; when CPR is necessary, only 1 in 10 survive. Usually there has been far too much “down” time for CPR to be of any use. While impossible to describe with written words, I will always remember the sounds this man made each time the air I blew into his lungs came back out. Though it was probably less than five minutes when I heard the wailing sirens announcing the arrival of the Fire Department, it seemed like hours had passed as I labored away with chest compressions and rescue breathing. When the Paramedics finally relieved me, my uniform was drenched with sweat. My muscles were screaming from an overload of lactic acid. I felt a bit light headed. My legs were shaky when I finally stood back up.

I made my way out of the bedroom, which felt like it had become a sauna and met up with my Sergeant who had just arrived along with the officer who was my back-up. I filled him in on the situation. I suppose for the family’s sake, the Paramedics continued CPR and transported the man to the local hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Petaluma Fire Department ambulance
Petaluma Fire Department ambulance

When I stepped outside to take in some of the cool early morning, I reflected on Murphy’s law and all the little details that led to its harsh application in that family’s small house. Had anyone in there learned CPR after the deceased’s heart operation, would that have stymied Mr. Murphy? Had there been a working phone, would I have been there sooner? This being the first time I had tried to save someone’s life, even with what I knew, I still didn’t take the failure easily. I can still see the look of hope and expectation that was on those kid’s faces. However, as I look back after all this time, I can see that Mr. Murphy had me beat even before I had started my shift that night.

I didn’t stand a chance.

Traffic Officer Gerry Goldshine circa 1985
Traffic Officer Gerry Goldshine circa 1985

Gerry was born in Providence, Rhode Island but raised in Southern California. 

Upon graduating from California State University, Los Angeles, Gerry enlisted in

the Army and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. After leaving active duty

in 1979, he worked for Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. From 1980 until his retirement

in 1996, he was a patrol officer, traffic officer, and a trainer at Petaluma Police Department.

Gerry is married, has a daughter and lives in Sonoma County, California.

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