By Mikey, Retired LAPD
…or “how I almost got fired,” as a recruit!
It was probably the second month of my LAPD academy training and we were in formation preparing to march up to the combat range to do some shooting. Now at that time, in 1973, we were issued a small canvas bag which held our practice ammunition and on top of the stack were our .38 caliber dummy rounds (6) affixed to a speedy loader. They were clip mounted side by side. I asked my shooting instructor if anyone had ever accidently placed a live round in the loader instead of the dummy round. I heard him because I was there: He said, “It’s never happened and that is why you check each other’s bag.”
So now we are at the range facing a 4’ wall practicing “dry fire” as we wait our turn to step onto the range. I pull the trigger 6 times open the cylinder and with speedy loader in hand insert the dummy rounds. I pull the trigger once, twice and on the third pull, a round went off. Oh yeah, a live round that is not supposed to be there because my instructor said it had never happened. Because I was still looking at the little hole I created in the wall, my instructor says n my right ear, “Did you just try to make a point with me?”
Before I could answer, he said, “Get the hell of my range.”
Now I am sitting in the locker room contemplating my future with the LAPD. I thought about calling my former employer and asking if my job was still there. But I knew they’d ask why I’m asking so I nixed that. Thought about calling my wife and telling her, but I didn’t want to mess up her day. So, I’m just sitting there when my squad advisor, a senior training officer tells me to go home and bring all of my LAPD stuff back in the morning. I car pool with a classmate and tell him we should ride separately to the academy in the morning. That night I shared with my wife the events of the day and told her I’d be fired in the morning. Not a good night.
Next morning, I’m sitting in class when my squad advisor opens the classroom door. The next words are doom to any recruit: he says, “Get your hat and books and come with me.”
I do not look at my classmates, as we’d discussed my departure during morning inspection. So here I go. I am standing outside the Training Division commanding officer’s office thinking of all it took to get here, just to end it like this, when the door opens and I am motioned in by the squad advisor. Counting him there are 5 training division staffers seating at a very long table, just staring at me.
Oh, and my shooting instructor is there as well giving me that look that says, “You got yours rookie.”
The captain pounds his finger on a folder, my personal package, and the following exchange takes place:
“You are a Vietnam Veteran.”
“Yes, sir,” I answer.
“Came to us from another agency.”
“Attended their academy?”
“Anything like this occur there?”
“Did you do that on purpose; load a live round into your weapon?”
So, the questions had been pretty good up until this one. This one just spring loaded me to the pissed off position.
“Absolutely not, Captain.”
“What happened, recruit?”
“Sir, I do not know what happened and I offer no excuse.”
“Did your squad leader check your ammo bag?”
Oh, crap I thought. No, he hadn’t because I was asking my instructor the infamous question about mixing up the ammo.
Now the Captain is looking at my shooting instructor.
So, for the next, however long it took, I explained the situation and added that I still did not know how that live round got where it did. I was told to go stand outside of the office. For approximately 10 very long minutes I waited. Do you know what goes through your head at a time like this? What would have gone through yours? Exactly!
I am asked to reenter and the captain states the following;
“You will resume your training, with your class because we think you are worth keeping. You will maintain yourself as professionally as possible and I do not want to hear about you until your graduation day or you break some training division recruit record.”
Well, I still had a job. I left the office, went down to my VW bug, sat down and cried. Yup, I did. Looking at my watch, I knew my class would be at code 7 (lunch) so I proceeded to the picnic area of the academy and found my class. They were so loud with their shouts of approval that I just knew I’d be getting called back to the captain’s office. It was good to be back with my classmates and it was good to have been given a rare second chance.
That was 1973. In 1979, I was a training officer at Northeast Division and discovered that my new rookie was the son of my academy shooting instructor. It all turned out good.
You see, my instructor was instrumental in saving my job.