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Ask a cop: What's the graveyard shift like?

Editor’s note: Every week a Lake Oswego police officer answers your questions in this space. Please send your questions to reporter Cliff Newell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 503-636-1281, ext. 105.

“What’s it like to work graveyard and how does it impact your family?”

As a police officer, working graveyard is considered one of the “rigors of the trade” and it is a challenging detail. This shift can vary from running from call-to-call to working five to six hours without seeing a person or vehicle move through the city.

There are so many things that we take for granted during “regular” business hours when the sun is out. It is dark at night and graveyard must adapt its routine to assist with maintaining the safety and welfare of not only the citizenry, but ourselves. Each traffic stop, each business check, each welfare check, each response to a call for service is a well-thought-out plan.

An officer on graveyard patrol has to think about how we keep ourselves safe with limited visibility, less staffing and less outside resources.

Working graveyard can be fun because we see some pretty amazing and crazy things, we respond to some unusual calls for service and we truly enjoy what we do.

A graveyard officer’s family is immensely impacted by the shift work. An officer who works from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. can be expected to be pulled in many directions once he or she arrives home. This can include getting kids off to school or scheduled events, taking care of chores around the house, trying to schedule appointments, grocery shopping or just spending quality time with family.

But wait, I haven’t even mentioned sleep yet! We sleep during the daytime hours. With a highly supportive family this can be accomplished successfully.

While thinking about a graveyard officer’s regularly scheduled 40-hour work week we have to consider all the other influences that come in to play. This includes court appearances, holding over or coming in early to cover shifts, training to keep us up to date on all aspects of law enforcement and meetings if an officer is assigned to a specialty detail.

So when do you sleep you ask? When do you see your family? We sleep whenever we can. A graveyard officer, on average, gets about six hours of sleep per day. However, studies have shown that compared to the same six hours a dayshift or swing shift officer might get during their sleep cycle, a graveyard officer’s six hours of sleep is of a much lower quality. MOISANUnfortunately, most graveyard officers are much more familiar with the negative effects of sleep deprivation than they are with the effects of a full night’s sleep. The negative effects of sleep loss can include insomnia, excessive sleepiness, irritability, changes in appetite, mood swings, decreased emotional well-being, decreased concentration and becoming accident prone. In addition there are the some other really scary side effects of lack of sleep —depression, anxiety, substance abuse and mood disorders.

Some things we can do to combat the effects of sleep loss are to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet and maintain hobbies and activities outside of work. The graveyard shift is a delicate balance of scheduling family life and work demands. Every day we go home is a successful day.

— Officer Karinya Moisan




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