By Hal Collier
On my last Ramblings, I described trying to adjust to sleeping in the day time and working all night. Most cops hated Morning Watch, but I soon fell in love with the police work that can be accomplished while the city slept. It must be in the genes, my son has worked Morning Watch for the past 15 years.
On Morning Watch you didn’t have to deal with the regular city traffic, you just had to dodge the drunk drivers. You don’t have the petty disputes between neighbors, “her cat digs up my daises.” The best part, the brass was home asleep and not out interfering with the way you handled a radio call. I spent two years on Morning Watch before my captain could put my face to a name. That was a good thing.
Hollywood in the 70’s was a lot of fun. You hit the streets at 11:30 PM. You cleared for radio calls and immediately got five calls, the max. Apparently the PM watch officers had been submarining to get off on time. They only had a two hour window before the bars closed.
In between racing from call to call, a few “hot shot” radio calls would come out. To non-police friends, a “hot shot” call was an emergency call demanding immediate attention. Robbery, rapes, drive by-shootings, you know the usual dull stuff.
On a slow night, usually midweek, you could sneak in a cup of coffee at Tiny Naylor’s. Tiny Naylor’s was a drive-in restaurant where you got car service—you know tray on your car window. I can’t tell you how many times I had to set the tray on the ground because we got a hot shot radio call.
Weekend nights were very busy and we rushed from call to call until about four A.M. When it slowed down, you had a chance to catch up on your log. Again for the non-police friends, a log documented when you got the call, when you handled the call and what time you cleared the call. It also documented what you did and who you talked to. Now during a busy night your log was written on a small 3×5 inch scratch pad and you had to transfer it to your log later. Many a busy night the whole night’s work was on small scraps of paper.
Working Morning Watch in Hollywood was like always being in the front of the line at Disneyland rides. Sometimes after work it would take an hour for the adrenaline to leave your body. I can’t believe they are paying us for having this much fun. There were some draw backs—ok, a lot of draw backs. Some cops couldn’t sleep during the day. Hell, some couldn’t stay awake for the ride home. Many a Morning Watch officer owes his life to the guy who invented the freeway lane dots known as Botts Dots. They woke him up just before he drifted off the freeway.
The biggest curse was probably court. Work all night, change into your Brooks Brother suit—you know the one with the C&R tags and drive downtown. You could wear your uniform, but then you became an information officer. Officer, can you tell how to get to? Sometimes citizens lined up to ask you directions or questions.
In the early 70’s court was in the old Hall of Justice. I remember walking past Charlie Manson’s girls during his trial. Soon after, they built the Criminal Courts Building (CCB) across the street. The new court house had a check-in and officer waiting room. If you got there early, you could lay down on the two couch like seats. If you got there late, you had to sit in a stiff upright chair. Now, some cops could sleep anywhere. They removed their suit coat, shoes, gun and laid down for a nice nap. Me, I found out early, no matter how tired I was, don’t lie down and close your eyes. After an hour asleep I was like a drunk at a Led Zeppelin concert.
Court could be a thirty minute visit or an eight hour ordeal. Ok, spend all night working, leave work for the drive downtown to court. Spend eight hours waiting for your case to be called, only to be told at 4:30 PM come back tomorrow. No problem, I’ll race home in rush hour traffic, eat a drive thru hamburger and grab a quick three hour nap and go back to work. This was not a rare instance but a regular occurrence.
I once had a partner, Mike Brambles, who had been up for two days between work and court. He fell asleep in Judge Lang’s Court, Division 38. Not just asleep, but he fell out into the center aisle, passed out on the floor. Judge Lang put him to bed in his chambers until end of the day and then sent Mike home.
Another time I had worked three nights in a row with court. I walked out of court as the sun was setting. I walked the three blocks to the Music Center where we had to park. I was in a daze and couldn’t remember which level I parked my truck, eight hours earlier. I found it after walking down two levels and everyone else had already gone home.
Just about every Morning Watch cop had a court story that the general public doesn’t know about. Next I’ll write about “Hitting the Hole!!