By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD
The LAPD has had a policy in place for eons which mandated a few minutes of daily patrol roll call to “training.” The department published material and sometimes a real effort was made to comply. Mostly however it was an afterthought.
I thought if ever given the chance, I would try something different, something interesting maybe even something useful.
Years later as a junior sergeant at 77th Street Division I had every title possible. Sort of the LAPD version of Ensign Pulver, I was not in charge of laundry and morale but I was “Roll Call Training Guy.”
None of the other sergeants, all old timers, were the least bit interested in the job. It was just as well—the lieutenant, nearing retirement, let it be known, (he did not speak to junior sergeants) that two times a week was more than enough for training, as it was all “stuff and nonsense” anyhow. Besides he never attended roll call which was handled by the senior sergeants, who could not have cared if I read the communist manifesto as long as they did not have to listen.
I said to myself, self: you think you are such a hotshot find something good.
I had a classmate, Bob Burke, working at the academy who loaned me a slide projector and dug up some really great FBI type slides. “Suspect with gun,” “suspect with gun and hostage,” “unarmed suspect,” “citizen with tool that looks like a gun,”—you get the idea. The photo lab was a gold mine for more slides, photos of weapons that didn’t look like weapons, slides of drugs, exotic burglar tools. And more.
Now old street cops (and the 77th was a choice assignment so it was loaded with old cops) were not too anxious to listen to some kid sergeant tell them about police work. They were polite but skeptical at first but nobody threw anything at me and after a short period they got into it. I made a game of the suspect with a gun slides.
The troops yelling, “shoot,” “don’t shoot,” took a lot of ribbing when they “shot” a civilian.
I had a friend working narcotics talk of “hype recognition,” an auto theft guy talked of VIN’s (vehicle identification numbers), etc. and the lieutenant never knew any of this.
Then the lieutenant retired, I transferred, and the program died.
Many years later the training fires still burned and as a uniformed lieutenant at Hollywood (PM)and Wilshire (days) my program came back to life. Now at Hollywood, all my sergeants were young, new and probationers, as was I. We had some brainstorming sessions and decided what we could do, what would work or not and what would be most useful. Topics demonstrated were such as: How to properly search a suspect, a room, and a car. When we pulled the rear seat on a black and white, it looked like a Columbian drug lord’s arsenal.
My all-time favorite though was as roll call ended, the troops were told to remain seated and look alive. At that moment an individual unknown to them entered the room and in a loud clear voice stated, “My name is–. I just killed–. The body is located at–.” Plus, another five items of information. He was in the room less than 20 seconds.
The troops would have one minute to answer a 10-question quiz. We added a twist by having the suspect use a color as his last name and that of the victim. He also gave the color of his vehicle. He was wearing a red and white striped shirt.
As he ran out he yelled, “My shirt is black.” Questions number 9 and 10 were physical description of suspect and clothing worn. Yep, some “saw” black.
As the patrol force got younger, I had probationers working with probationers. The term training officer had not yet come into existence. We tried to teach at roll call what they should have learned on the street.
See now: south/east/even/north/odd/west for addresses, palm print on the trunk, no-yes/no answers, was the 459 (burglary) amateur or pro? Bugs on rear plate, etc.
Over the years I grew weary of writing 15.7’s (memos) proposing a permanent 2-3-person cadre traveling roll call to roll call doing a much better job with scenarios than we did. It never happened and then I was gone.