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The best and worst nights on the beat

A question posted recently on Quora asked, “What is an example of a good day and of a bad one for an officer?” 20-year veteran officer Christopher Hawk gave his opinion on the topic, below. Check it out and add your own thoughts in our comments section.

Good nights?  Good nights are easy.  In fact, most of the nights are good nights.

My ‘good day’ includes enough sleep before going in to work (I work 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.) so I'm not particularly grouchy.

During briefing, I won't get any subpoenas for court, and I might get a "Charge Status" report from the State's Attorney saying they're actually going to prosecute someone I arrested a few nights back.  Many times, the status reports state "No Charges Filed" with "S/A's discretion" listed as the reason.

As trivial as it sounds, I like having ‘my’ squad car up and running.  As ‘senior dog’ on my shift, I can choose which car I want to drive for the next six months (our shift bid term) and I usually take Car 3 (one of our last Ford Crown Vic cars).  It is set up the way I like it, everything works the way it's supposed to, and the driver's seat has formed itself to fit my butt. 

Patrol activity is well-paced.  Slow nights aren't too much fun, but getting slammed and going call-to-call isn't, either.  It's good to be able to pick and choose what kind of activity you want to be involved in, whether it's doing traffic stops or getting out and checking the welfare of a highly-inebriated 18-year-old from the major university in my patrol area.

During the course of the night, people aren't particularly rude or obnoxious to you.  No one yells, "F*** you, p**!" as you drive past a group of frat boys.  If you get out for someone and they take off running, you catch them and explain why running from the cops (and getting caught) is worse than actually being stopped and cited for a minor offense.

Bar close is relatively calm and most of the people are being friendly.  If you see a couple guys squaring off to fight, the spotlight and a short yelp of the siren convinces them to go their separate ways.

You might pick up a DUI and s/he takes the breath test, which almost rules out having to worry about going to court over it in the next 18 months or so.  Or you get a real treat and find a guy with a warrant for rape or domestic battery or something similar. 

Overall, most things go well on a good night.  No one causes too much trouble and everyone goes home happy.

A bad night?  Ugh...
The worst thing about a bad night is that you never know what will make a good night into a bad night until it jumps up and smacks you in the face.

It can start with being tired and grouchy at the start of the shift.  Then comes the "Charge Status" report saying the S/A didn't charge the guy you arrested for beating up his girlfriend because "Officer failed to document ongoing relationship between victim and offender." Huh?!  The S/A apparently didn't read the sentence, "Victim stated she and offender have been dating for approximately four months."

Car 3's still down? Damn!

You go out on patrol and it's either very, very slow or very, very busy.  Or, you're driving down the road, minding your own business, when 18-year-old Joe Drunk Kid walks out right in front of your car and you have to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting him.  You flip on your overhead lights and he looks at you, then takes off running.  When you catch him and tell him why you were going to stop him, he says, "Prove it," as if the video camera in your squad isn't enough proof.  Then, when you go to review the video, you discover the camera didn't activate when you turned the lights on.  Damn!

Then there are the calls which will just ruin an evening.  Someone's been raped.  Someone's been beat up.  Someone's been stabbed or shot.  Etc.  When you show up, the angry friends argue with you while you're trying to find out what happened.  Who stabbed the guy?  "You find out!  That's your job!"  Well, genius, how am I supposed to find out who did it when ten witnesses refuse to tell me anything? 

Then there are the really bad nights.  The one I remember is New Year's Eve, 1999.  That's the night I heard the neighboring city's PD being dispatched to assist fire/medical at a man down call — "self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head" — and I recognized the address because it was the residence of a fellow officer.  That night sucked.

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