By Lauren Howard
Ray Charles said it best when he sang the lyrics “You know the nighttime, darling, is the right time, to be with the one you love.”
Unfortunately, for many people who work nights, that time is reserved for providing a service to receive a fee. People can enjoy what they do, do what pays the bills or both.
For Chicago Police Officer Darius Parker, 30, working midnight to 8 a.m. five nights a week definitely pays the bills. Parker, who has been a cop for four years, works at the 6th District Gresham Police Station, 7808 S. Halsted St.
Parker is usually an early arrival to the station.
“I arrive early to talk with the afternoon or 3 to 11 [p.m.] guys,” Parker said. “You never know what you’re gonna find out.”
Parker is not accustomed to working nights, but prefers nights to working the afternoon shift.
“Afternoons, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. people are the worst,” he said. “That’s when people are at their peak. Most crimes occur during that shift. At least when I go to work people are calming down, going to bed or at least they should be in bed. It get’s a little crazy in the summer with people hanging out everywhere, but that’s about it.”
Parker, a Chicago native and graduate of Bogan Computer High School, never considered becoming a police officer until jobs in the business industry were scarce. Parker earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Chicago State University in 2002, and worked a series of odd jobs before becoming a police officer in 2006.
“I didn’t plan to become a cop until I saw they were hiring,” he said. “I couldn’t find a job and the CPD needed cops. I subbed for a few years and was considering becoming a teacher. I’m glad I didn’t waste money on a master’s [degree]. Look how they’re firing the teachers who have all those degrees.”
Parker envisioned himself securing an administrative or human resources position post -graduation. Instead, he worked as a substitute teacher for the Chicago Public Schools for a year and a half before submitting an application to the academy in 2005.
All Chicago police officers attend training at the Chicago Police Education and Training Academy, 1300 W. Jackson Blvd. While there, the officers participate in courses such as Human Behavior, Firearms and Drill Training and Physical Training. The physical training was the most strenuous for Parker, but learning about human behavior was exciting.
“It wasn’t easy, don’t get me wrong, but my motivation came from knowing the end result.”
Parker offered advice for future applicants.
“As long as you follow the rules you’ll do fine” he said. “I learned a lot about protecting myself and always trying to be aware of my surroundings. Don’t think just because you carry a gun and a badge you’re safe— sometimes that’s why people want to hurt you.”
Upon graduation from the academy, officers are probationary police (PPO’s) until completing the 18-month probationary period. According to ChicagoPolice.org, probationary officers earn a salary of $43,104, an additional $15,792 after completing the probationary period, and an increase to $55,728 after a full year as a police officer.
During the probationary period, officers work in “cycles.” Cycles provide every probationary officer with exposure to all three shifts: days, afternoons and nights. Every three days the shift rotates. Officers are assigned shifts, depending on which shift the cycle ends, at the end of the probationary period. For example, if an officer’s cycle ends while working the night, like Parker’s did, that will be the officer’s work shift , until further notice.
Parker enjoys his job as a cop, but working at night forces him to miss plenty of family functions and potential dates. He spends his mornings and two days off completing most of his errands, including attending class one day a week at Calumet College in Calumet, Indiana.
Parker plans to earn a graduate degree in Public Safety Administration, and hopes to eventually be promoted from the field and the night shift. With his busy schedule, Parker finds time to care for his elderly godfather, John Adams, by preparing meals for him daily, refilling his prescriptions and paying his bills.
Some police officers enjoy working nights, such as 22nd District, 1900 W. Monterey Ave., Chicago Police Officer Mike Newell. Newell is an 18-year veteran.
“I worked nights for eight years and loved it” he said. “I didn’t want to stop, I had to-I got old.”
But Parker said he is ready to embark on the next chapter in his career.
“That’s why I’m in school,” he said. “I want an administrative job or maybe something dealing with policy or Field Training. Human beings are not conditioned to be awake at night-night is for sleeping.”