By Hal Collier
I’ll bet that all the non-police that read this Ramblings never gave much thought to what it takes to drive a police car. Trust me, it’s more than leaving the police station and driving to the local donut shop. Most cops can relate to what I’m about to say. Let’s talk about checking out your police car before starting your shift. I’ve found a half-eaten chilidog under the front seat; it would have made a great junior high science project after being there for three days. I once found a WWII hand grenade on my front seat, left by officers of the previous shift. You have to make sure that any dented fenders were reported or you get the blame and maybe days off without pay.
Ok, you hit the streets. You’re looking for trouble. Take for example a simple traffic ticket. Say the driver is late for work and trying to make up a few minutes. He runs that red light by just by a second or two. The cop who sees the driver run that red light will commit three traffic violations just to catch him and give him a ticket. Even worse, he gets the lecture on how dangerous your driving was. Hint: don’t use that as an excuse in traffic court. Judges will still find you guilty! By the way, did you thank that cop for risking his life to give you that ticket? I didn’t think so and his parents probably are married.
Here’s an oxymoron for you. An officer gives you a ticket for talking or texting on your cell phone while driving. Look in his car and you’ll see a computer sitting next to the driver’s seat. I learned to drive, type and read messages all while driving on Hollywood streets. Quite a few officers have run into parked cars while driving and typing. By the way, some cops get days off, without pay, for traffic accidents that were their fault.
Another hazard is patrol! Yea, you’re driving around and looking for that arrest that will make your captain forget you missed court last month. You see an individual you think is wanted. You turn to look at him and don’t see that traffic in front of you has stopped. I had two of those in my career! At least I wasn’t looking at some underdressed woman when I rear-ended a car, honest.
Ok, let’s get down to real police driving-getting there in a hurry. I’m talking, the adrenaline pumping, heart in your throat; did I bring another pair of underwear? It’s not always a high-speed pursuit as depicted on TV.
One night I was driving a 1969 Plymouth—the finest police car ever made. My longtime friend Jim Moody was the passenger. A “shots fired” call came out on the very east end of the division. I was driving down Hollywood Boulevard—ok, I was speeding. We wanted to be first on scene. A car pulls out from a side street in front of me. No problem, I’ll turn the steering wheel to the right and tap the brakes, just as I was taught in driving school. Next thing I know the ass end of my police car is in front of my engine. Our police cruiser stops with the rear bumper ten feet from a closed bar. I look at Moody; his knuckles are white as he grips the dash. Our car has stalled, I think the car is amazed that we didn’t hit anything. I finally get it started and arrive last at the call. No shots fired. I learned a lesson that night.
Another time I was racing to a call on La Cienega. I was driving south from Sunset, traffic was light, and I’m sailing along. La Ciengega crosses Santa Monica—big deal, right? La Cienega is a very steep hill and levels off as it crosses Santa Monica then drops down again. That’s right my police car becomes airborne. If the tires are off the ground, the steering wheel and brakes are worthless. Again, I learned a valuable lesson—slow down and live to see retirement.
Next I’ll talk about pursuit driving, code 3 driving, and driving during buy/bust operations? Hal