As I sit here on the side of a nameless road on a cold January night, it occurs to me that no matter how dark it is on the horizon you can always see lights somewhere in the distance; the greatest concentration of people will always produce the greatest concentration of energy. It is from that mass of luminosity that you can derive your greatest hopes for the longevity and superiority of humankind.
Sadly, it doesn’t mean those indigenous peoples are worth a shit despite their luminosity.
I’ve worked “midnights” for a long, long time. This is the shift they always tell you about; the one where you never know about the fiends running through your back yard, and in the best-case scenario being chased by the good guys which were once known as us, “cops.” It is the time of day that the worst of the worst occurs more often than not, but also has the decency of not waking you up to make you aware of it.
I do the job from a car, first crossing the street and heading into the wider lanes and hoping to catch something in progress despite my positive outlook toward what humanity has to offer.
I drive glancing left to right toward restaurants and storefronts, expecting to see someone holding up the ones that are open or inside the ones that are closed. Seeing someone sneaking out of a drive through window in particular never gets old, and despite their size it’s happened more times than you’d think— though I’ve never caught an overweight burglar, come to think of it. (I never want them to be robbed, mind you; I hope to discourage it by just being visible. I simply hope to be there or nearby if it does happen, which is something you should encourage in your police force.)
I do this job based upon a balance of pessimism and experience (which are often one in the same). These are the people I deal with, so these are the ones emitting that light into the night sky you can see from far off that I described above … and if that’s the only kind of person you dealt with (aside from their victims), you might have a slightly negative outlook, too.
The third shift is full of the sort of blissful ignorance that allows you to rest so peacefully at night while George Orwell’s proverbial “rough men” stand ready to do violence so that you may continue to do so, and it’s from midnight the majority of my stories spring from. And the reason I am able to tell you my stories? It’s because I don’t break certain rules. The rules that state I cannot discuss ongoing investigations, that I cannot discuss investigations involving juveniles, and more importantly, that I don’t discuss investigations that would make you consider adding a third lock to your front and back doors. And to be honest, I get it.
I get it because some of my readers are close to me, and who really needs to know those things? It won’t do them any good other than wearing on their stomach linings, and I donate quite enough of that material as it is.
I just let enough out so that there is public awareness that “horrible shit” really does happen—and can happen in the happiest of places. It is the antithesis of my professional existence for people to live in fear or actually be unsafe, but I wish for them to be cognizant of the fact that “bad things really can happen to anyone at any time.” I would be negligent to act otherwise.
Put simply, right or wrong, I feel that letting good people know that bad things can and do happen is just as important as letting bad people know that there are consequences for their actions. It strikes a balance, and it’s in that balance I live and work.
That’s a lot to have gleaned from a simple observation from an old Crown Vic, but I suppose those thoughts are always just beneath the surface. We’ll consider that a job description or a mission statement for both on the government clock and here, for the newspaper.
Here’s to 10 more years of public awareness published in the pages of The Pulse. Happy stories or sad, I do love telling them so.
Alex Teach is a police officer of nearly 20 years experience. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.