Our two towns, Cleveland and Charleston, and the rest of Bradley County never fully are asleep. Our health care givers, emergency services, utility providers and law-enforcement people are out there, always nearby.
Most often we take these things for granted. We are reminded of these folks when we hear the wailing of a siren or when the lonely, distant sounding of a train horn blasts out its warning in the wee hours of the morning.
Having worked the midnight shift many times, I can tell you that it can really be tough. It seems the hour just before dawn is the hardest time to keep your eyes open. It is then that you really have to stay busy to keep from falling asleep or running out off the road. It is then that you have to get out of the patrol car a lot, making more walk-around checks of businesses.
When you are working the night shift, you always welcome the sun as it comes peeping over the mountain of Chilhowee. Many studies have been made about law-enforcement personnel working the late night shift and the particular stress it tends to bring with it.
Over the years we have experimented with scheduling and have settled on the system we now use. Our people seem to favor these longer 12-hour shifts because it provides 3-day weekends and off every other weekend. Yet, they still work the 43-hour workweek that law-enforcement officers are required to work before it gets into overtime.
If nocturnal animals were able to talk, they would tell you there is a different world out there after midnight. There are a number of shift workers who come and go at different times.
There are also those who are day sleepers and seem to roam at night. Then there are some who are unemployed for whatever reason who can be seen out and about all night at convenience stores or just driving the streets. These are for the most part harmless.
Then you have those who have stayed too late and drunk too much and who are trying to drive home. Sometimes you encounter druggies too high to sleep so they stir about during the late hours. Also, there are always a few burglars and thieves out looking for an opportunity to score.
Some burglars have already cased a house or business figuring the best place to break in and know what they are going to steal. Where security cameras are used at businesses, the recorded video will show the suspect was there casing the place during business hours. Sometimes these cameras help us solve the crime.
The patrol deputy observes all the coming and goings during his or her shift. That deputy often will spot a known burglar driving or out at a convenience store and will make a mental note. If it is discovered that a burglary or theft has been committed during this time span, you then have a possible suspect.
When there is probable cause, this criminal is stopped by the patrol deputy and questioned. Other occupants in the burglar’s car are noted as well and checks are made for outstanding warrants.
All this is another aspect of building an intelligence base on criminal activities. Actually, everyone employed at the Sheriff’s Office can be a part of the intelligence gathering effort.
There is really no place for a self-centered, lazy, unmotivated deputy at the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office. Fortunately, we have a number of men and women who have put family and community above their own interests and do a very good job keeping us from harm’s way.
The ugly side of the late night shift is the deputy sees the weak side of humanity. The moral failures of people who are otherwise known to be good, decent folks are often seen. Unfortunately, some folks think tthe darkness covers their misdeeds. I am not speaking now about breaking the laws of the land, but I am speaking about folks breaking their own moral code.
Now, let me say that I learned decades ago when I was a rookie that I am not a morality enforcer. Nor do I have the very heavy responsibility of being the moral judge.
During these early years, I also learned I did not have to compromise my own conduct and standards to be an effective lawman. Further, I learned lawbreakers and wrongdoers have a respect and otherwise high regard for officers who are honest and forthright.
That is just another reason to hire deputies who have both feet planted on the ground and are otherwise well-rounded individuals emotionally, intellectually and even physically.
I want you to know that while you sleep there will be a competent Bradley County deputy just minutes away should he or she be needed.
While you were asleep we at the Sheriff’s Office were watching out for your well-being. Sleep well!
Thanks for reading.