Officer Natasha Mings isn’t much for predictable jobs. Luckily for the Plano Police Department, being an overnight patrol officer in the Patrol Services Division is a career that Natasha, a former legal assistant, always finds challenging — and in a good way.
“Part of why I enjoy my job is that I encounter different things every day,” she said. “I’m not a desk person. I like to be pushed outside of the box, and this is not a job to be complacent.”
Athletic in her school years playing softball, running track and cheerleading, the 2013 University of Missouri criminal justice graduate said she wanted a career where she could stay active. And there is plenty of physical activity in her job. As a police rover, Natasha answers calls that beat officers in the field can’t get to. She also patrols one of Plano’s four sectors which are divided into beats; part of her job is to pick up where beat officers leave off at the end of shifts. She covers Baker 13, which includes beats 1-3 in B Sector which stretches from the North to South borders of Plano, between Custer Road and U.S. Hwy 75.
What the average citizen may not know about the Plano Police Department is that during any given shift, officers like Natasha have three cameras filming inside their vehicle, a crash cam on the dashboard and a body camera – added to the department last year – that must be worn at all times. No matter where she is, a camera is always filming Natasha’s every move. The department also recently issued rifles and helmets to every officer, as well as plate carriers to wear over bulletproof vests.
Although Natasha said there isn’t one kind of call that transpires more often than another, her evening shift usually starts with traffic accidents. Disturbance calls are common as well, and later, the night gives way to calls concerning suspicious vehicles or people. She said she never knows what will become of an incident before she arrives. In fact, enroute to a location, she mentally prepares for what she might need to do but noted that it could change in an instant. When her shift quiets down later in the evening and the wee hours of the early morning, then it’s what she calls “hunting time.” She drives around businesses closed for the night, or neighborhoods, looking for possible break-ins, suspicious activity or possession of narcotics.
“You have to be self-motivated. I look for what’s out of place — I get gut feelings,” Natasha said. “But I’m never ashamed to call a more tenured officer if I’m unsure of something or need to ask an opinion to avoid an issue. I work with a good group of people.”
In a two-week period Natasha works six 5:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. shifts and one eight-hour shift. It’s those 12-hour shifts that resulted in this single mother of one hiring an overnight nanny to watch over her 9-year-old daughter who, by the way, never misses a night calling her mom before going to bed.
Although no two days for Natasha are quite the same, she provided a general overview of her average day (or night) as an overnight patrol police officer for the city of Plano.
A Day in the Life of an Overnight Patrol Police Officer
1 p.m. Time for Natasha to wake up, grab a bite to eat and feed the dog. Depending on how tired she is, she might head to the gym for a workout.
3 30 p.m. It’s back to the house to shower, have lunch and relax a little before leaving for work. She won’t be able to see her daughter until her shift ends.
5 10 p.m. Natasha arrives at the station and gets ready for the work day by checking emails, printing out papers she might need and checking the schedule. She attends a briefing with the evening crew in preparation for everyone’s shifts for the day.
5 45 p.m. Every officer loads his or her vehicle with shift essentials. Natasha gets her rifle into position in its cage and puts necessary items in a passenger-seat carrier: ticket books, extra gloves, cones, yellow vest, phone charger, etc.
6 p.m. Next up is answering calls and filling in for the A Sector/day shift that will soon be going home for the day.
7 30 p.m. Natasha meets fellow officers at Starbucks for much needed caffeine. The baristas know her by name and remember what she drinks — a skinny iced caramel macchiato.
8 30 p.m. This is time for Natasha to run traffic, ensuring laws are followed and enforced. Throughout her shift she makes it a point to be cognizant of paper license plates to be sure they are not fake or expired. Around this time, she also chats on the phone with her daughter to hear about the school day.
11 p.m. “Hunting time” begins. This is all about checking business districts and seeing if anything is amiss. Back alleys are usually on the docket. Natasha admits that it takes a lot of time for an officer to develop the skills needed to effectively recognize things of concern.
3 a.m. Natasha’s scheduled break is within this hour and she won’t receive calls. She might choose to work through anyway by catching up on reports.
5 a.m. It’s back to the station to unload patrol vehicle gear into her personal car, and to attend a daily debriefing.
6 a.m. While most folks are just getting out of bed and on to the kitchen to make coffee, Natasha winds down. She feeds her dog and takes a shower.
6 30 a.m. A time she truly values, Natasha gets her daughter up and ready and then drives her to school.
7 30 a.m. It’s finally time to sleep, but there are no light-blocking curtains to be found in Natasha’s bedroom – she admits she’s too tired to even notice the sun is up.