Pleasanton police Sgt. Ted Young knows all about overnight assignments on Christmas Eve. With 27 years in law enforcement, he's worked the day shift, swing shift and, this weekend, graveyard. So as his 7-year-old Sara dreams of St. Nicholas coming her way, Young will be in place to actually see Santa sweeping into Pleasanton.
Police work 10-hour shifts so Young's will start at 9:30 p.m. tomorrow night, hitting the street by 10. He'll be off at 7:30 Christmas morning in time to join in the gift opening with his wife Maria and their other children: Trevor, 11; Clayton, 17, and Sierra, who is home from UC Santa Barbara. Maria also is a sergeant with the Pleasanton police force, using her maiden name Munayer so as not to confuse anyone. She has charge of the department's DARE program and also supervises the liaison officers at the city's high schools.
Young may be the only degreed biologist on a police force in the area. With a bachelor's degree in biology from UC Davis and a master's from Cal State Hayward (now East Bay), he first served as a biologist with the California Fish & Game agency before joining the East Bay Regional Parks system in law enforcement. Although working outdoors most days and searching for poachers and illegal traps had its advantages, police work proved more exciting and productive.
His background also has given him a leg up when a frantic caller asks for help in killing deadly spiders and animals invading the home, which Young says usually turn out to be harmless. Once a caller said he had found a human hand. Young quickly recognized it as a prank by someone who had found a dead bear's claw and skinned it into what had a hand-like appearance.
In addition to working every shift many times on the Pleasanton force, Young also has handled a variety of assignments, including five years as a narcotics officer. That often requires working the graveyard shift and many more, including missing a Super Bowl a few years ago to track down and make arrests in a big narcotics bust at the edge of town.
Still, even as a veteran with years of spotting and stopping criminal activity at all hours of the night, Young admits that working the Christmas Eve-Christmas Day shift can be mighty lonely. By 11 p.m. tomorrow, after the last of the candlelight church services and family gatherings are over, stillness comes over the city as in no other night. Usually the Seven-11 and Chevron gas station at Santa Rita Road and Valley Avenue are open, but little else. Even the "bad guys" go home for Christmas. By then, Young, too, will have had a Christmas Eve dinner with his family and said goodnight before heading down to the station.
Although he doubts there will be many dog walkers late on Christmas Eve, if he sees you he hopes to exchange Christmas greetings. That may be his most excitement on a long 10-hour shift tomorrow night.