Five Frank Twenty-Six Nights

BY T.F. STERN

A friend sent me a video link that explained how the television show, 1 Adam 12, was made; details about the characters, use of actual police incidents and tidbits that might have been missed otherwise. It set my mind off on a trip into the past; having served and retired as a patrol officer for the Houston Police Department.

The last eight or nine years of service was on night shift patrol out of the Northwest Sub-Station. There were two separate shifts included with the designation, Nights; Early and Late.  Early was from 10pm through 6am while Late was from 11pm through 7am.  This would accommodate folks getting off on Evening Shift or folks coming on Day shift the following day. 

When I first transferred to Nights I was assigned Lates and it took a few months to move to Earlies.  Getting off at 6am meant a world of difference since I also was a full-time locksmith during the day.  I would joke that I got my four hours of sleep every day whether I needed it or not.  I was burning the candle at both ends and got away with it, the light at the end of my retirement schedule being already on the calendar.

I’d have to admit my mind and body were unaccustomed to working all night.  Those last couple of hours were torture as I strained to stay alert to the end of shift.  I remember the first week riding by myself and pulling off to the side of Antione, pretending to set up on an intersection to catch red light violations.  Actually, I was so tired I was fighting just to stay awake as the pre-dawn hours clicked away.

You can imagine my panic when I was awakened by a beam of light coming through the front window of my patrol car, the sun had been up; but for how long?  Shaking the cobwebs from my head I realized I’d fallen asleep and should have already gone home.  I drove to the station, filled up the patrol car with gas and walked in the back door. 

The Station Sergeant greeted me, half laughing since he knew I was new to night shift work.  “You can’t fill out an overtime request for… over sleeping”, pausing as he finished those last two words.

He had me and all I could do was blush for proving I was human.  If you’ve never worked night shift then hold your judgement; it takes considerable time and effort to get your body accustomed to it.  I don’t think I ever mastered that part of life.

Each night when most officers would look for a place to have a meal; instead, I’d go find a quite secluded spot to park my patrol car.  I’d call out as if at a place to eat to make it official and then take a thirty-minute nap. 

I did this for several years until my supervisors got on a war path looking for a way to make things difficult.

I should backup and explain that we’d gotten a new Captain, the same guy who’d tried to get me fired for insubordination several years earlier when I was working downtown; but that’s a whole other story…

I was comfortably setup, protecting a warehouse loading dock from potential burglars, when the Sergeant tapped on my window with his flashlight.  He accused me of calling out at a fictitious location; but in actuality I’d simply used the hundred block address from the Stop and Go store on the other side of the intersection. 

In either case, it really didn’t matter since sleeping on duty was a violation, minor as it might be; but a violation of the regulations.  I suspect, and this is only speculation, that he wanted me to become insubordinate, raise my voice or some such behavior that would seal my fate.  That didn’t happen.

While at the station in the Captain’s office…doesn’t that seem strange, that the Captain would be in his office at 3am?  Where was I…while at the Captain’s office I thanked the Sergeant for being concerned for my well-being, enough that he would go searching for me when I’d already given my location to the dispatcher.

We also had a new Lieutenant who may not have had a clue as to my history with this particular Captain.  He sat listening with a puzzled look on his face, wondering why anyone would be upset with a night shift officer taking a nap while called out to eat.  I think he actually laughed when I mentioned how it touched my heart that the Sergeant was concerned for my well-being.  He could see what was going on and was impressed with my response.

Instead of getting me riled up and in deep trouble, something that in all likelihood would have gotten me fired, they placed an official letter of reprimand in my already monstrously large personnel folder.  From that night on during my last year before retiring I had to be especially careful about taking naps on duty. 

Before moving on…the Sergeant who went out of his way looking to catch me sleeping on duty; that fellow should have remembered how he’d fallen asleep in his patrol car one night in the middle of an intersection, that several police units were dispatched to an “Officer down” and that everyone laughed it off as just one of those things, that we’re there to take care of each other.  Yeah, that guy…

Moving right along…my call sign for many years on night shift was 5 F 26, pronounced Five Frank Twenty-Six as the title indicates.  Every rare now and then, when we were short-handed, I’d be assigned as 5 F 10; but with the understanding that I’d really be in the same basic area, just that I would also be covering the adjoining beat.

An hour or so into the shift the dispatcher called out, Five Frank Ten, waiting for me to respond, Five Frank Ten…still waiting and then calling out, Five Frank Twenty-Six?  It dawned on me, she was calling for me to respond as a rash of mike clicking filled the air, my fellow officers getting a chuckle.  Having a great dispatcher was one of the benefits on our shift.  She knew each officer and did her best to stay on top of her job without being bossy.

I’ve ramble on a bit; but having watched the video on 1 Adam 12 brought back so many memories.


t-f-stern-1Self-Educated American, Senior Edi­tor, T.F. Stern is both a retired City of Hous­ton police offi­cer and, most recently, a retired self-employed lock­smith (after serving that industry for 40 plus years). He is also a gifted polit­i­cal and social com­men­ta­tor. His pop­u­lar and insight­ful blog, T.F. Sterns Rant­i­ngs, has been up and at it since January of 2005.


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