Police work is a serious business, but it can have its lighter moments, particularly on the midnight shift when assignments and call volume are light or nonexistent. Early on there may be some jobs, but as the shift wears on, officers fight to stay awake toward the end of the tour. High jinx have been known to occur on occasion…
A Second Opinion?
Perhaps no one has a more macabre sense of humor than homicide detectives. I was working third watch (4:30 PM to 1:00 AM) with George, a brand new homicide detective one very warm summer evening. Since I was also relatively new in homicide our sergeant held back on assigning us any new homicides—we were “in reserve” so to speak. It was a very active night and every other team working had been assigned a fresh homicide. We knew we were next up, no matter what the case might be.
We were nearing the end of our shift when the oncoming midnight sergeant asked if we could stay over time for two hours. One of his crews had previously arranged for a late start because of a family function. If the night continued at its present pace he would soon be without manpower. We readily agreed, both of us secretly hoping to be assigned our very own murder, but it was not to be.
It was well after 2:00 AM when we were assigned to go into St. Anthony’s Hospital to morgue a body from a new murder. (Yes, “morgue” is a verb, see Morgue a Verb.) At the emergency room, George and I were directed to a small examining room at the far end of the ER hallway. On a gurney in the room we found the body of a chunky teen-age male Hispanic. Initial examination revealed a single small caliber bullet wound to his left chest. There was evidence of recently removed IV’s and paddle marks on his chest where a valiant effort had been made to restart his heart.
While we were examining him, John, the midnight sergeant walked into the room. Now John had honed the wicked homicide sense of humor to a fine edge. Not only was he a good supervisor, he was fun to be around. George of course had no way of knowing that.
John and I hoisted the victim to a sitting position and George examined his back for evidence of an exit wound. There was none. John and I gently lowered the body back to the gurney and when we released his arms it happened. Gastric gases, sometimes generated immediately following death, escaped from the boy’s mouth, but this time, as they did, they passed over the lad’s vocal cords.
“Aaagghh!” was the long moan.
The sergeant looked down at the youth and immediately responded.
“You say you want another doctor?” he said with genuine concern as he looked down at the young man.
George bolted for the door and was halfway down the hallway before I was able to catch him.
“George! George!” get back in here I said as I dragged him back into the room and closed the door as the sergeant and I burst into outright sustained laughter.
“He’s dead George—he’s really dead!”
The Traffic Stop:
Artificial activity was a way of keeping awake on the midnights in the uniform division. As rookie patrol officers, my partner and I worked the Cabrini Housing Projects. Division Street was the preferred route from the Rush Street night club district to the Kennedy Expressway just west of the projects. We could pick up a moving violation or two for the tour and pass away the time by engaging the hapless citizenry with idle conversation while giving most of them a warning and a pass.
It was a bitter cold winter night and even the traffic was extremely light. Cars were few and far between. We were bored stiff when a westbound auto cut the red light close at Larrabee. We curbed him just before he reached Halsted. I checked his license and decided to run a name check for no particular reason—artificial activity. I was freezing as I talked to him so I asked him to step out of his car. I patted him down and put him into the back seat of the warm squad. He was a pleasant young man, 22 years old, returning from a night on Rush Street. He claimed he didn’t drink and in the close quarters of our car we could not detect any odor of alcohol.
My partner called in his information to the dispatcher… we were the only radio traffic. We chatted a bit and we found him respectful but not fawning. Earnest, grave and perhaps a bit worried about being stopped. He would get a stern warning and then be on his way. We kept the conversation serious and the radio was dead quiet as we talked. Suddenly the dispatcher broke the silence with a radio identification and time check.
(in a sing-song voice)
K S Eeeeeee
Chicago P Deeeee
The big hand is on twelve
And the little hand is on three
He broke into a broad grin and put his hand to his mouth no doubt stifling outright laughter. My partner and I rolled our eyes and handed his license back.
“Get outta a here… be careful,” we admonished him in the most solemn tone we could muster.
Nude (on the) Beach:
Uniform patrol—the 18th District. It had been a hot day. Temperatures over 100 degrees and stifling humidity. Our midnight shift was not turning out to be much better. At 2 AM the thermometer remained in the mid-nineties and the air was still and nearly suffocating. Our beat included the lake shore and we pulled onto the concrete causeway at Fullerton and drove slowly south along the edge of the lake, hoping to catch a breeze. Widely scattered across the sand was a random cross-section of Chicago residents, on blankets, seeking relief and perhaps a few moments sleep.
The boathouse at North Avenue was an old but sturdy wooden structure painted white with blue trim. It housed a changing area for swimmers, rudimentary showers as well as an office area for lifeguards and, of all things, an actual boathouse at the north end of the building. It housed the row-boats used by the lifeguards during the day. As we passed the oversized double doors we noticed the lock hasp was not latched. A heavy brass lock was securely locked to the hasp, but effectively the doors were unlocked. We pulled one of the doors partially open and saw the heavy rowboats stacked atop one another, filling the room.
We knew that there was a lifeguard in the office area all night, supposedly for security. We pulled the squad to the center of the building and as we got out, a few of the nighttime moon bathers lazily raised themselves to one elbow to see what we were about. There were more folks at this location, perhaps 80 to 100, widely scattered across the sand.
We knocked loudly at the office door, waited and knocked again. After a minute or two, a bleary-eyed, tousled hair lifeguard opened the door, still half asleep. He was stark naked.
“What?” he snapped, obviously somewhat annoyed.
“The boathouse is open,” we replied. “But the lock is locked to the hasp.”
He stood there for a moment, his foggy brain processing the information.
“I’ll get the keys…” he said as he turned back into the office.
In many bizarre situations the future course of actions is set unintentionally. So it was here. We could have called after him, “…and put on some clothes!” but we didn’t. Maybe we just assumed he would. Maybe our 2 AM brains were also working slowly. Whatever the combined reasons, Joe Lifeguard returned to the door with an oversized brass ring filled with keys—still naked. He brushed past us and padded some 25 yards down the sandy walkway to the boathouse doors where he fumbled with the keys and the hasp.
The beach crowd was coming alive now with laughter and folks calling out to one another.
After a few minutes he started his trek back.
“Should we tell him?” asked my partner as he approached.
“Nah, too late now.” I said. “Let him ponder it when he wakes up in the morning.”