By Hal Collier
Hal is a thirty-five year veteran of LAPD. We are pleased he is sharing his stories with us.
The following story is true. Lately I’ve used real first names. When I used a fake names, like John, I would get a dozen e-mails asking if that was officer so-n-so. My last couple of stories involved catching burglars and a car pursuit to Oxnard. This story will get back to the funny side of police work. I can talk about this now because I don’t have to have public approval for a raise.
Have you ever noticed that some people just beg to have practical jokes played on them? They get all excited, and are fun to watch as they swear revenge. Some are just easy to fool with.
This is the story of Chris, a Sergeant/Detective in Hollywood during the mid/late 70’s. Chris was a good cop and was always getting into pursuits and shootings. Some thought he was crazy, others believed he was a dinosaur who failed to evolve. Either way, Chris was the role model for a victim of practical jokes.
Chris was a pipe smoker. He was always waving his pipe around as he talked. He was always looking for his pipe. He would set it down and then accuse someone of taking it. One day he set his pipe down and Randy palmed it. Randy, a Viet Nam Veteran, removed a small amount of gunpowder from a bullet and mixed it in Chris’s pipe tobacco. Chris picked up his pipe and lit it. The gunpowder flashed in Chris’s face. Chris chased Randy around the station twice, threatening to shoot him.
I remember one morning, yea, Morning Watch, Chris gets in a pursuit. Chris broadcasts that he’s southbound La Brea from Franklin. Great, I’m at La Brea and Fountain. I’ll wait for him to drive the six blocks and be first in line to join the fun. He’s now passing Hollywood Boulevard, then Sunset. I can hear the siren but I don’t see him. He broadcasts that he’s passing Fountain. I look at my partner—we’re at Fountain and we don’t see him. Oh crap. He’s not on La Brea he’s on Highland four blocks east of us. The pursuit ended when Chris used the pit maneuver, twenty years before it was approved by the department. That’s just Chris being Chris.
Another time, Chris parked his black and white in the captains’ parking spot. Someone opened Chris’s car door and tied a huge plastic blow up whiskey bottle from his rear view mirror. The Captain came to work early and could be heard asking Chris why he had a whiskey bottle in his car, and if was just recently promoted to captain?
Flash forward a year or two. Chris is now working Detectives, but not out of reach of practical jokes. Randy’s partner, Gary is the master practical joker. Remember the rocks in the hubcaps and ball bearing in the door panel? That was Gary.
It started out innocently enough. You recall the old style phones where you could unscrew the earpiece? Every day, Gary would unscrew the earpiece and put a layer of scotch tape over the inside of the ear holes of Chris’s phone. By the end of the week, Chris was screaming into the phone: “I can’t hear you, speak up.” It was funny to watch. The other detectives were not as amused.
Now, Gary could also pick locks, especially the lock on Chris’s desk drawers. Once he placed a homeless man’s dirty underwear in his drawer. The coup-de-grace was the day Gary opened Chris’s desk and removed all his papers and personal items. He gave them to the Detective in charge. He lined Chris’s desk drawer with a plastic trash bag. Gary filled the drawer with water. He carefully closed the desk drawer and relocked it. Good thing Gary didn’t have any goldfish. Now half the officers and supervisors are in on the practical joke. The Detective squad room is packed with uniformed officers who suddenly have business with Detectives.
In walks Chris. He hangs up his coat and stands in front of his desk. The squad room gets quiet. He puts his key in his desk drawer lock. Everyone is looking at Chris. Chris turns and walks away to get a cup of coffee. Everyone takes a breath and acts as if they are working. Chris returns to his desk.
I’m surprised a big city detective like Chris didn’t notice that all these uniforms in the squad room. Detectives and uniform cops don’t usually like each other. Detectives complain that uniform cops make crappy arrests. The uniform cops complain that the detectives won’t get off their butts and investigate the arrests they make.
Ok, everyone, myself included, is anticipating Chris opening his desk drawer. He returns to his desk, sets down his coffee cup, and pulls out the drawer. Water slouches out onto Chris’s shoes. Chris has that “what the F—” look on his face. He pulls the drawer all the way out. All the water lands at his feet. The Detective squad room breaks out in laughter. A few run and get a mop and clean up the mess. Chris is sitting at his desk an hour later, staring blankly. A smile comes over his face as he appreciates the humor, but then a stern look creeps across his face as if to say “Why me?” Time for me to get lost before the bullets fly. Chris later retired and runs a gun shop in Simi Valley.
Your Tax dollars at work. You know before everyone got so touchy, about race, religion, sexual orientation, and suing everyone, this was fun place to work. It relieved stress and built camaraderie. I still miss the good old days.