By Hal Collier
The following story is true and my last chapter on complaints. I spent thirty-four+ years on the LAPD and received my share of complaints. Some I did, most I didn’t do, and a few I was accused of, I wasn’t even there.
Serious complaints were handled by I.A. (Internal Affairs). They were cops just like the rest of us but some I.A. guys thought of us as the enemy. Almost any cop who wanted to promote did a tour of I.A. It looked good in their personnel package. I don’t know if they were rated on how many complaints they sustained (officer found guilty) but some of their tactics were suspicious.
I was a young officer and arrived at work one night after a few days off. In roll call, I discovered I was assigned to the jail. Officer Gary Hines thought he was working the jail and dressed for jail duty so we swapped assignments and I worked the desk.
Months later, I was told that I’m a witness on a very serious excessive force complaint. The I.A. cops always told you: “you’re just a witness,” or in today’s language, “a person of interest.” To I.A. it was synonymous with accomplice.
Sergeant Carlson comes to Hollywood to interview me. He takes me into the captain’s office and sits me down. He doesn’t smile and opens his briefcase, inside is a tape recorder. He shows me a work sheet that shows I’m working the jail on the night in question. I check my officer’s notebook and I see that I marked jail on said date.
Sergeant Carlson turns on the tape recorder and begins the interview. The complaint was that Officer Jack choked out an arrestee in the jail during the booking process.
Now, anybody that knows me very well, knows that I have a very good memory. For the life of me, I can’t remember the incident. Sergeant Carlson looks at me like I’m the biggest liar in the L.A.P.D. The old Hollywood Jail wasn’t that big and if anybody got choked out I would have known.
After numerous questions and my denial of any knowledge of the incident, Sergeant Carlson pretends to turn off the tape recorder. He then asks me, “Is there anything else you want to tell me about the incident?” This time, he’s smiling like were old friends. I stick to my story and plead ignorance, not a big stretch for me. As I’m walking out of the captain’s office I look back and see Sergeant Carlson turn off the tape recorder.
A few weeks later, I run into Gary Hines in court and he reminds me that we switched and he worked the jail that night. One month later Sergeant Carlson promoted to Lieutenant and transferred to Hollywood.
We never trusted each other.
My most serious complaint involved a pimp name “Bobo” and two other black men who picked up a drunk white valley girl at a club. They took her to their apartment on Beachwood Drive in Hollywood. After repeated sexual assaults and beatings, the girl escaped and ran into the street, screaming.
Dave and I were working the Hype car and our hours were 8 PM to 5 AM. We responded to the screaming women call and were told that the suspects were last seen northbound on Beachwood in a car. We stayed with the victim as other cops searched the area. As luck would have it, the suspects drove back down Beachwood and were arrested right in front of us.
Dave and I drove Bobo and his accomplices to Hollywood station. We found the victim’s keys under the back seat of our police car. We tucked Bobo and his friends in a holding tank and went home.
A week later, I went to court and testified about recovering the keys in our police car. For the next few months I was subpoenaed and attended every court hearing. The jury found Bobo and friends guilty and sent them to prison. The presiding judge had a question about why Bobo and accomplices were bloody in their booking photos and ordered an Internal Affairs investigation. Bobo and his cell mates were interviewed and all pointed me out in a photo lineup. They claimed that I beat them up in the police car on the way downtown to be booked. That was hours after I went home.
Two I.A. sergeants come to Hollywood station to interview me. They show me the face sheet of the complaint and point to a “PF” initial in the corner. It represents where the D.A. has said if true there’s a prima fascia case against me for assault under color of authority. In laymen’s terms that means if I’m guilty, I go to prison. I can’t go to prison, my son hasn’t graduated 6th grade yet.
The sergeants read me my Miranda Rights, which was then unheard of. They show me pictures of Bobo and his friends after booking. They have bloody shirts, swollen eyes and fat lips. When I left them in the Hollywood holding tank they were wearing clean shirts and no visible injuries.
Now, I’d like to tell you these two sergeants were smart, but I can’t. They asked me if I beat them up. I asked when they were booked at Jail Division. They said after 10:00 A.M. I showed them a copy of my daily log and pointed out that I went home at 5:00 A.M. I then pointed out a photo lineup of the three suspects taken at 8:00 A.M. by the investigating Detective. Bobo and friends are not beaten up.
I look these two I.A. Investigators in the eye and ask, “Do you think I waited around 5 hours on my own time to beat them up.” They then ask, “Well then, who beat them up?” I’m exasperated and answer, “How the hell would I know? I’m home in bed.” These two rocket scientists are going to interview my partner, Dave Balleweg who is off IOD (injured on duty) and living near Yucca Valley. They call ahead and get directions and set up an appointment. An hour after the appointment time is past, they call Dave and are lost somewhere near Indio, Ca. These two are going to keep Dave and me out of Prison. They can’t find Yucca Valley with a road map and directions.
Later, I was told that Bobo and his accomplices got into a fight in the holding tank and beat each other up. I’m not going to prison, so I don’t have to bulk up to protect myself from a cell mate named Peaches. They picked me out of the photo lineup because I attended every court appearance.
Two short complaint stories. “Mike” responded to a “burglar there now” radio call. They detained a couple of guys as suspects. One was acting like a complete “asshole.” He was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car. After interviewing everyone and determining that no crime occurred, Mike said, “I guess I’ll have to let this “Knucklehead” go.
Well, the “Knucklehead” complained that he was insulted by the remark. That’s right, I was assigned to interview eight to ten witnesses and spent dozens of hours investigating this terrible miscarriage of justice. I tried to rationalize that a “knucklehead” was a motorcycle and not misconduct, but the department wouldn’t buy it. Mike received a reprimand.
Last one: this officer stopped this nicely dressed lady for running a stop sign on her way to work. She didn’t want the ticket and wanted to make a complaint against the officer for using profane language. I was called to the scene. This particular officer was known for using swear words in a normal conversations. I was a little worried for him.
When I interviewed the lady she was very prim and proper and obviously well-educated. Of course, she denied running the stop sign but was more concerned with the officer’s language.
I next interviewed the officer and he smiled and said, “Sarge, I have everything on my tape recorder!” I listened to the tape and this was no lady, she swore like a drunken sailor. The officer was very professional, he didn’t even call her a knucklehead.
I played the tape for the violator and she blushed at first then want to make a complaint against the officer for taping her conversation. I told her the Police Department encouraged officers to carry tape recorders to avoid just such complaints. She called me a bad name and drove off.
Chief Parks was not asked to come back for a second term and some of the complaint procedures were changed. Frivolous complaints were made into short form. One day, I stayed home and completed eight short form complaints in four hours and got paid for eight hours. I didn’t even have to dress and shave for work. I was also able to write off my computer on my taxes.