By Hal Collier
If you read my Ramblings about off duty jobs you’ll love the jobs I worked on duty. Now I said I worked the streets for my whole career and that’s true, but every once in a while something special came up and I was in the right place at the right time.
I already told you that I worked a Hollywood Boulevard Foot Beat, the best job I ever had. When you hear about some of the other jobs I worked you’ll wonder why I liked the foot beat the best. I was on some sort of “A” list for good jobs. I’d like to think I earned those jobs due to hard work and my pleasant personality. If that was true I should have been promoted way past my rank at retirement.
I worked a “hype car” where I arrested speeders (and not the traffic kind). Speeders are abusers of methamphetamine. They were a big problem in Hollywood. Dave, my partner, and I would go to the local dirt-bag motel and check the register. Oh look, “Kentucky Bob” is in room #13. We’d knock on room #13 and “Bob” would greet us like we were kin. Bob was so eager to snitch on other speeders that we couldn’t write down the information fast enough. He just wanted us to go away before we discovered he hadn’t paid that traffic ticket and was expecting a delivery of a dime bag of meth. We already knew about the warrant. Dave and I worked the speeder car for about a year until deployment needs caused us to return to patrol.
I once was assigned to an elite undercover unit in my Bureau. The chain of command was officer, sergeant and Bureau Deputy Chief. The whole unit consisted of 12 officers. It was plain clothes and beards, long hair was the norm. I hate long hair and wore a store-bought wig. Four days without shaving was all my wife would stand.
In 1984 the Olympics came to Los Angeles. Some officers gave up their whole vacation to work the Olympics and earn that extra cash for a newer car or house. Me, I gave them three of my off days. My wife and I needed a vacation. I worked the athletic village at UCLA for those days. Two days were fun and the third was a nightmare (more on that in an upcoming Olympic Ramblings). The third day I sat on a folding metal chair next to the athletic field from 6 PM to 6 AM. The bus drivers that passed by me were not pro- police. I could tell when they revved their engines as they drove by. The exhaust gave me a gold medal head ache.
I really enjoyed working patrol during the Olympics. The citizens were polite and didn’t bother calling the police with petty complaints. I’ll never forget one incident. We were stopped at a red light on Sunset. This lady honks and hollers to us. “I love they way you cops are handing the Olympics, you all look so professional.” I puffed out my chest and thanked her. Then she said, “but your police cars are crap.” The department took all the newer police cars and assigned them to the Olympic venues. My car that day wouldn’t have qualified for a taxi in Tijuana.
March 9, 1986 was the first Los Angeles Marathon. No, I didn’t run a marathon, but I did work the first LA Marathon. Ok “work” might be a stretch of the truth. Chuck and I were assigned to monitor the race as it passed through Hollywood. 2 cops, thousands of runners and hundreds of thousands of trapped cars.
Traffic in Hollywood became a parking lot due to the runners course and closed streets. Traffic was so bad that citizens caught in the grid lock felt to urge to show Chuck and I their new ring on their middle finger. Chuck and I decided to park in a closed gas station on Sunset Blvd. We sat on the hood of our police car and watched the runners, walkers, and tourists go by. Did I mention that we also sat behind the Playboy Playmates who passed out water to the contestants. One even offered us some water but we’d never accept a gratuity on duty? Ok, ask me if I know what color her eyes were?
Every year Hollywood hosted the Hollywood Christmas Parade. I worked the parade for over 30 years. In my early years I worked the parade route, most were long hours of standing and returning small children to their parents. Later, I got a job working the Green Room. The Green Room is the hospitality room where the celebrities stay until it’s their time to be in the parade. The Green Room was inside and warm and if you stood by the back door you got first pick as the caterer brings in the appetizers. Caterers love a man in uniform, especially if he’s got a gun.
May 19, 1991. I was not a big fan of movie stars but I did get to work the Green Room at the “Welcome Home Desert Storm Parade.” I was with Dale, my long time friend and partner. As usual we were standing by the back door, waiting for the next round of hors d’oeuvres. We were approached by two old codgers who wanted to shake our hands. I thought they must be the fathers of some Hollywood big shot. Then I noticed they had Congressional Medal of Honor medals around their necks. Damn, real American heroes, I had lump in my throat and could hardly talk. One received his medal at Pearl Harbor. I wish I had written down their names but I was star struck. They spent 30 minutes talking to us. What a thrill.
Later, we were introduced to General Westmoreland, general during the Viet Nam war. He was warmer than some of the Department brass I’ve spoken to. We met Martha Raye, who entertained our troops during WW II, the Korean, and the Viet Nam Wars. We also met other soldiers but these made the biggest impression.
September 14/15, 1987. Pope John Paul II visits Los Angeles. The Pope appeared at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Dodger Stadium. I was selected to work at the Satellite Command Post at Dodger Stadium. I sat inside the club house and watched the Mass, I was the only one below the rank of Lieutenant. That was after they fed us at the restaurant. Boy, what do I do with the sack lunch I brought from home? I told my wife her lunch was delicious.
Department schools: Every Police Officer in California has a POST (Police Officer Standards and Training) certificate. You have to have 40 hours a year of state approved training to keep your certificate. I have been to a week long school in San Luis Obispo. The department gave me a car, gas credit card, a hotel room and a food voucher. What ever money I didn’t spend on food I had to return. I ordered from the right side of the menu. Get it?
Twice, I attended schools in the seaside city of Oxnard. Nothing better than a three mile jog around the Marina before a city paid breakfast. I also worked the Democratic National Convention in L.A. in 2000. A group of Democratic delegates from Wisconsin wanted to take a picture of us wearing cheese hats. We declined. We were smarter than the two officers who agreed to put women’s underwear on their heads for a picture. One’s now a Wal-Mart greeter and other is on permanent desk duty.
I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that I was on three department training cadres. For almost 20 years I taught shotgun tactics and building searches for Hollywood Division. I also taught High Risk Vehicle and Van stops on a Bureau-wide basis. Hollywood started a rapid deployment training for an active shooter after the Columbine incident. The training was later taught on a department-wide scale. I was almost an expert on “I don’t remember” response during a Internal Affairs interview.
Ok, you must think I was some kind of golden boy geek on the LAPD. Actually, if you spread these nice jobs over a 35 year career and I got a good job every 3 1/2 years. The rest of the time, I was a patrol grunt and enjoying every minute. I spent numerous nights standing outside the police station in the dark on station security. I once spent fifteen hours in a wet uniform that turned my underwear LAPD Blue. I’ve been exposed to lice, crabs and yes, even AIDS. I’ve been pricked by a hypes syringe, but I prefer to remember the good jobs and I had a few.
I can’t believe we got paid for what we do.