Ramblings by Hal Street Stories

Ramblings: True First Responders’ Heroes

Welcome to “Street Stories.” We’ll be adding stories from law enforcement veterans from time to time. Hal Collier’s Ramblings was the first guest I posted on this blog so it’s fitting that the re-launch is another story from him. Regular Mystery Readers Only and Writer’s Note will arrive every Friday along with guests Ed Meckle and Mikey. You can check out their previous post in The Call Box and Roll Call columns under “Street Stories.” If you subscribed to in the past year, you might re-add your email address (if you want to continue getting these posts). I’ve changed site servers–Thonie

LAPD Police car

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

You probably know about first responder heroes that make breaking news. These heroes sometimes get interviewed on TV or they have a ceremony where they give them a medal. Being a hero is something that usually happens in seconds or maybe minutes. When you think back, the actions were more of a reaction than a well-thought-out plan. I’m about to describe a true first responder hero.

My first responder hero is someone who was there not for minutes but for days, years and even decades. I’m talking about wives, spouses, partners. They are the real first responder heroes. I’m going to write mostly about my wife, but it applies to many. Even their children make sacrifices.

I was married to Terri for two years before I went to the police academy. I sometimes wonder if she knew what she was getting into with me becoming a cop. I guess love outweighs fear!

It started out preparing for the test to enter the profession. It usually involves a written exam and working out for the physical tests that are part of the application. It usually takes up some time on the first responders’ part.

While in the police academy your uniform needs to be dry cleaned and sweats need to be washed almost daily. It takes months of study just to get through the academy. My wife took care of all the laundry as long as I spent my free time studying and sleeping. After graduation from the Academy the real work started.

I’m sure all spouses of first responders can relate to what I’m about to describe.

The first is worry. The worry of a dangerous job—you never know if that kiss at the door will be your last. The worry when they break into your TV show and talk about a cop, fireman or other first responder being hurt or killed. They will sit glued to the TV for news hoping for information or dreading the thought of a knock on the door. Unlike their heroes, these worries aren’t gone in minutes but last for years. For some the worry ends with retirement. Others the worry never ends because they know what some other spouse is going through. Finally, the worry continues because a son or daughter has decided to follow in your footsteps.

The worry is the worst part but not the end. A first responder never has regular hours. He/she will miss family celebrations, children’s plays or games. How about the anniversary dinner where you fell asleep because you worked overtime? The holidays are almost always a workday. Friendships with non-first responders soon disappear, and the spouse will spend the day trying to keep the kids quiet because daddy or mommy is sleeping. Speaking of sleeping, cops who work nights spend a lot of time in court during the day. They often come home late afternoon grab a few hours sleep and go back to work. It’s the first responder’s spouse that has a meal fixed on short notice and wakes you in time to go to work.

My first responder hero kept my truck gassed, my uniforms picked up from the cleaners as I dashed out the door after a few hours of sleep.

After thirty plus years I retired. But the real hero had to deal with my job related injuries and worst of all the never ending dreams which come being a first responder. My hero was often woken up in the middle of the night as I ordered a suspect into a felony prone position. On a few occasions I punched the bedroom wall as I fought with a suspect. These first responders deserve a medal. I was once given a medal for two minutes of stupid panic on my park.

My wife should have been given a medal for fifty years of being a hero to me!


Ramblings by Hal Street Stories

Ramblings: Officer Involved Shooting

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

It was a clear day and my shift was going well. I was a field sergeant, but I was asked to sit in as the Watch Commander (W/C) while the W/C and assistant W/C attended a meeting. I settled into the W/C’s seat and noted that I was in command of the entire Hollywood Patrol Division. If something big happened in Hollywood, it was soon to be world news. It was nearing the end of my 12-hour shift. What could possibly go wrong? I had a very competent officer sitting to my left who often helped me handle the numerous calls meant for the Watch Commander. I bought myself a diet Coke for that late afternoon caffeine pick me up and settled into a game of FreeCell on the computer. I have to stay mentally sharp in case I’m asked to make a decision. Little chance, right?

I suddenly remembered that I last peed before roll call about 9 hours ago. Cops develop bladders the size of a basketball. Imagine being on a stake out or perimeter search and holding up a finger asking for a potty break.

So, I’m losing this game of FreeCell and make my last good command decision of the day.

I went pee. I casually walked back into the W/C office thinking the world would continue to spin. The young officer calmly said, “Hey sarge, you should see this message that came through the ACC (a computer in W/C’s office).”

I told him print it out.

I sat down take a sip of my still cold diet Coke. Now an OIS (Officer Involved Shooting) is so important that the department basically mobilizes. Everyone wants to be notified and half of those respond to the scene. No kidding. It was rumored that an OIS was better investigated than a homicide. An OIS doesn’t have to include shooting at another human being. An OIS might be an “aw shit” in the locker room where you accidently pull the trigger and put a hole through the next three lockers. It also might be during a foot pursuit when you trip, and your handgun goes off. No matter who or why you have an OIS everyone above the rank of rookie wants to be notified. I read the printout and an officer has fired his Berretta 9mm at a dog. Ok, not as important as shooting at a human being but still pretty serious.

My brain shifted into high gear. Notifications need to be made! I send my loyal officer to the roll call room with a print out of the OIS. He passes the notice to the Assistant W/C. The AW/C comes down to the W/C office and confirms the information on the print out. Yes, we have an OIS! The AW/C goes back to the roll call room and advises the Watch Commander who interrupts the Captain with the news. The meeting is immediately cancelled. See? An OIS is a big deal.

In the meantime, I scrambled to make notifications. I called a Use of Force Investigation—the detectives who investigate all use of force’s.

The officer who answered the phone asked, “What do you have?”

I reply, “I have an OIS!” He told me to stand by while he got the OIS form.

The next 5 minutes I answered questions. I move on to the next notification.

The Chief of Police, same scenario: “Wait a minute. I have to get the OIS form.”

Another 5 minutes pass but I’m used to the formalities that everyone wants to be in the loop.

My next notification was West Bureau. LAPD is divided into four bureaus and Hollywood in in West Bureau. Guess what? “Hold on a minute while I get the OIS form.” After 20 minutes of answering the same questions, I felt I’d done a pretty good job of making notifications. I can now return to my Diet Coke and game of Free Cell.

Two days later I’m the real Watch Commander when I got called into the Captain’s office. I suddenly get a chill when the captain closes the door.

I spent the next 20 minutes listening to my captain chew my ass out because West Bureau was notified 20 minutes late of the OIS. When it was finally my turn to talk, I went through my notification scenario, telling him the delay was possibly due to me taking a pee brake on city time.

The OIS was two officers responded to a Radio Call. When they walked to the house a large dog charged at the officers and they retreated to their car. The dog outran the officers and one officer fired one shot at the dog. The dog was last seen running west bound through the houses. Unknown if the dog was hit. PETA was not notified.

I was not written up for my lack of only being able to talk to one person at a time. I left the Captain’s office and started a new FreeCell game.


Ramblings by Hal Street Stories

Ramblings from Hal: Reprise of A Funny

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Originally posted August 2013, I thought it would be fun to read some of Hal’s classic pieces. -Thonie

The following is not really a practical joke, it’s just funny as hell.  I worked a Morning Watch Foot beat on Hollywood Boulevard in the late 70’s.  As I’ve said before, it was probably the best job I ever had. For my police friends, yes, there was plenty of work to do on morning watch.  Remember, Hollywood never closes and after midnight most of the crime involved drugs, prostitution and street crimes.  I actually walked my foot beat until 5 A.M.

It’s about 2 A.M. and I’m talking with my sergeant, a former Metro cop, and a good guy.  I’m about a half of block from the famed Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard. We’re discussing our new lieutenant who would need a street guide to find Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. We see two obviously intoxicated fellows walking toward us.  They need the entire width of the sidewalk to keep from falling into the street. As they near, we notice that one of the chaps has a Metro door panel under his arm. For my non-police friends, a Metro door panel is a magnetic panel, 4 ft by 3 ft that Metro officers attach to the doors of their plain cars.  It has a city seal and the cars shop number.

Ok, my investigative senses kick in and I stop the pair.  I’m thinking they stole it off a parked Metro police car.  I ask where did they get the door panel.  The least drunk of the two slurs, “Hello chaps, we traded for it”.  I detected a strong accent and an even stronger odor of numerous alcoholic beverages. I asked where they were from and they said they were Bobbies (cops) from England, in America on holiday.  I asked again where they got the door panel.  The spokesman said they met a couple of our comrades who invited them to their training site for a few pints. That would be the Police Academy Lounge. They traded a real Bobbie helmet for the door panel. I looked at my Sergeant and he just shrugged his shoulders.  Thank goodness, they were not driving.

Somewhere there is a retired Metro officer with a Bobbie helmet in his den and a retired Bobbie with a Metro door panel on his icebox

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Citizens Arrest

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Citizen Arrest is a law enforcement term used when a citizen arrests an
individual for a misdemeanor crime not committed in an officer’s presence.
Most cops hate citizen arrests. We like to make our own arrests. We prefer
to hunt elephants commonly known as serious offenders, like murder, robbery and rape.

During the hours that I worked (midnight to 8 AM), where I spent most of my career, we seldom had to deal with citizen arrests. We were free to track down a pachyderm.

Sears_building_Los_AngelesNow, Hollywood had more than their share of businesses that had shoplift
details. Sears, Zody’s (Remember Zody’s?), Save-on. Most of these had
competent theft detection employees. They didn’t call us until they had arrested the suspect and completed the arrest report. We also had an agreement that they wouldn’t call us unless the shoplifted dollar amount was over $35. Didn’t want to tie up two cops for hours on a $2.00 crime.

Every once in a while, a private security guard would make an arrest and call
us to take his arrest. That meant no arrest report and usually a minor
offense. There was a Hispanic bar on La Brea that hired a new security
guard. He arrested a patron for a minor battery and called us. He hadn’t written a report, and his arrestee need medical attention. We spent the next four hours cleaning up his arrest. No elephants that night.

Police-Report-Stolen-LaptopAfter a few more arrests by the same security guard, we decided to move him up to the Zody’s class. One night, we arrived at the bar on another citizen arrest. We told the security guard to get his car keys. When he inquired, “¿Por que?” (Spanish for “Why?”) I answered, “Because you’re going to write the arrest report.”

Now, English was a second language to this poor guy. After two attempts at writing a report, it was evident that writing English was also new to him.

I felt like an English teacher but after a few hours he completed the arrest report. Funny, the bar closed an hour before he finished.

Another strange thing: we never had another citizen arrest call to that bar.


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: A Slam Dunk Case?

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Now, I’ve been around the block a few times and not so naïve that I believe all cops tell the truth. Every so often a cop somewhere gets caught lying on an arrest report or in court. Now days there are cameras that record everything you do. Pick your nose and it goes viral on You-Tube. So, my point is why lie to put some bottom feeder in jail for a few days? Or worse yet, on unsupervised probation.

If you get caught lying, you get fired and lose whatever pension you have acquired. The prospect of getting employment at another law enforcement agency is slim and you’re too young to be a Wal-Mart greeter. Oh, and you might go to jail!

So why do cops do it? It comes down to us versus them—and cops hate to lose. The laws of search and seizure are made to protect the citizens of America but they are also protecting the criminals who commit the crimes. Most cops live within the guide lines of the law but usually right on the edge. Ok, enough of that drivel. This Ramblings is aimed at what happens when you write the truth and no one believes you. 

I was working morning watch and driving down a residential street in Hollywood. It was about 4 AM and a rather quiet night. I figured my partner and I would stay out of trouble and eat about 5 AM. I didn’t want to be too full before I went to sleep at 8 AM. 



burglar-157142_960_720We come to a side street and see a car parked on the wrong side of the street with the motor running. It’s not the paper boy. Then, I see a guy looking in an apartment window next to the car.

Now, even a rookie cop might find this suspicious and falls well within the guide lines of Probable Cause as defined by the California Penal Code! So, we get out and question the individual about his activities. He’s more nervous than a long- tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. He gives conflicting accounts of his presence and why he parked on the wrong side of the street.

I walk over to his still-running car and shine my flashlight in the interior. Nothing in the front seat but the back seat has an open brief case containing numerous small baggies containing a green leafy substance, resembling marijuana! Now, I’m standing on a public sidewalk and looking in the car, so I don’t have any Search and Seizure issues.

Los_Angeles_County_Jail__Twin_Towers_Correctional_Facility_I’m no narcotics expert but then again, I know that those small baggies are for sale and not personnel use. I arrest this individual for sales of marijuana and book him at downtown Jail Division. It’s where we had to book narcotics arrestees at the time. In the next few days a narcotics detective would gather up all the arrest reports and take them to the district attorney (DA) to file charges.

The L.A. County District Attorney has a conviction rate of 88/89%. Hard to believe that they couldn’t convict OJ. They only file cases that they think they can win. Now, I figured this was a slam dunk case, no stretching of Probable Cause or Search and Seizure; the arrest was handed to us on a silver tray. A few days later I got a notice from Narcotics Division that said the arrest was rejected by the DA. Their reasoning: “No one’s that stupid.”   

LA_County_DA_SealNow I don’t usually get too involved in my arrests after I finish the paperwork. I have had a lot of arrests rejected. I try to learn how to write better reports or learn more about search and seizure laws (which by the way, are always changing with each new court decision). This one kind of nagged at me, so I called the filing detective at Narcotics Division. He bluntly told me the DA didn’t believe my arrest report and didn’t want to see me perjure myself on the stand. 

So much for playing by the rules. I guess I’ll get over it someday, just not yet!   


Ramblings by Hal Roll Call

Ramblings and The Call Box: Patrol Areas

By Ed Meckle #7612 1956/1976, Retired LAPD


Fitzgerald House in Sugar Hill, Los Angeles


Our patrol area was known on the streets as “Sugar Hill.” Back in the 1890’s and turn of the century there were dozens of old mansions in our area—former homes of the rich and famous. All now fallen on hard times, some abandoned, or rooming houses, shooting galleries and just plain old flop houses. My partners knew every location and most of the street people.


We drove the main streets in the right lane with the flow of traffic, cruised the side streets and always the alleys, sometimes with lights out. All windows open regardless of weather. Sometimes late at night we would park, engine off and just listen.

We were there to see and be seen. Let both the good folks and the bad guys know we were there. 

Sometimes we ran from call to call with no patrol time. When we did cruise, we stopped and talked to suspicious people and sometimes were rewarded with narcotics, a gun or felony pinch.

We had no decent eating spots and always ate at a local greasy spoon. Food was free, with 25 cent tip. We ate what they put in front of you. 

Lots of coffee, drink and drive. More than one cup was tossed out the window to answer a hot call. 

It was a rare night without at least one cutting or shooting. When the relief checks came, and it coincided with a hot Saturday night, the area turned into Dodge City, a very violent place

The calls varied from reports, to assaults, to disputes and all I ca n say is I loved every minute of it.


Hal Collier #16336 1970/2005


Hollywood Boulevard from Kodak Theater

When on probation I was assigned a Basic A Car, first 6A17, the Beachwood Canyon car with little crime in the middle of the night. Two months later I was assigned 6A41 the basic car assigned to the Fairfax District, but again other than the occasional business burglary not much to patrol for. We spent most of our time on the busy streets like Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard. During the early morning hours, Hollywood was wide open. Even after the bars and clubs closed there was something going on. There were restaurants that stayed open all night to feed the rockers leaving the clubs. One restaurant on the west end of the division was known as “Rock and Roll Denny’s.” The drunk drivers were trying to negotiate the busy streets and the prostitute trade was just getting warmed up. I laugh whenever I hear someone say, “Prostitution is a victimless crime.” Ask all the johns who got robbed, wallets picked or just cut with a knife. The crime was when they tried to explain the loss to their spouse.


Like Ed, we also patrolled the side streets just off the main boulevards. I always had my window rolled down, not only to hear possible activity but if someone took a shot at you, it was possible to hear from what direction the shot came. I remember one cold winter night my training officer told me “Put some glass in that porthole.” I rolled it up half way. I once was driving down a dark side street with my lights out. We stopped a suspect and he told us “I knew you were the cops because I could see your rabbit ears on the roof of your car.” He was referring to our tin can red lights. I later decided to turn on my high beam lights which blinded my vehicle silhouette. You can always learn new tricks. 

free police picAs Ed mentioned, he would often park and shut the engine off. I seldom did that, but I found the hardest thing to teach a rookie cop was patience. Wait until the crime occurs before you jump in. An example: we got a call of a possible burglar at an apartment building. We did all the right things, approach with lights off, radio turned down and we quietly approached the building. We peeked around the corner of the building. We saw a suspect step into the bushes next to an apartment window, my probationer jumped out and yelled, “police freeze.” The DA refused to file charges, stating we stopped the suspect before he committed a crime. 

Hollywood was crazy with radio calls. Most nights, after briefing, you got five calls (the maximum). Some were hours old. I once got a call four hours old of a fight on a street corner. I told my partner of there still fighting after four hours I don’t want to tangle with them! We called it, “chasing the radio,” and seldom had spare time for investigative police work.

Like Ed, I loved every minute of it!

Next Ed and I will describe RTO’s from different decades.


Ramblings by Hal The Call Box

Ramblings and The Call Box: Police Cars

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Ed Meckle joined the LAPD in 1956 and I followed in his footsteps in 1970. Our careers over-lapped for about six years but we never met before attending a retired officers luncheon. We have become close friends even though some of our experiences were very similar as well as very different. This Ramblings is a collaboration of our experiences in patrol decades apart.

In Ed’s own words, he will describe what it was like working patrol in the 50’s. Times were different, and no one had video cameras or cell phones. The police were expected to keep the peace, no matter how. We will take you through what being a LAPD officer was like in different generations.

My experiences were a generation of change. I was lucky to have a little of both worlds. Unlike the dinosaurs, most during my era survived by evolving. You changed your tactics, or you looked for new work.


Police Cars

Ed Meckle 1956


vintage LAPD patrol cars Hermosa Beach St Pats Day 2011 labeled
Vintage LAPD patrol cars at Hermosa Beach St. Patrick’s Day 2011

Squad car, scout, cruiser, prowl, panda—whatever the name, they are the patrol/radio cars. The first line of defense, they are to the LAPD what the infantry is to the army.


The cars were tired. They were two- and three-year old Chevy and Plymouth 4 doors, the cheapest they could buy. Manual transmissions, yes, clutch and shift lever on the steering column. The division had one automatic transmission car for test purposes (will it be ok for police work?).

Bench vinyl-covered seats, no, repeat no seat belts. Two solid roof reds (mickey mouse ears) with a large growler siren between. Cars were so under powered that the siren operated by horn ring actually slowed the car down as pitch went up. No air conditioners and heaters never worked.

Basic, basic radio with a hand-held mike—red/green light for transmit/listen.


Hal Collier 1970

68 Plymouth Belvedere labeledWe were still driving two and year-old Plymouths. They were all automatic transmissions and the heater worked sometimes. No air or power steering in the beginning. The brakes on the ‘69 Plymouths only worked after heating up. I almost had a few accidents just trying to drive out of the station parking lot.

We also had the tin cans red lights as Ed described and I remember the growler siren on a few of the older cars. We had seat belts, but they were neatly tied in knots and stuffed under the seats. I considered Plymouths the best police car in my career. Most had over 100,000 miles and sometimes the door rests came off the door when you tried to exit, but the engines were strong. If you were in a fight for your life and requested help, you could hear the carburetor of that Plymouth open and the roar of that engine. You knew help was soon to arrive.

Later in my career we drove Fords, Chevys and even a few Matadors. They had air and power steering but not as fast as the old Plymouths. Just when I retired they switched to Ford Explorers. Lots of room—they needed it with the computer stuffed in the dash. No more bench seats and they removed the cup holders. Where will I put my latte coffee?


LAPD West Vly Sta 2007 labeled
LAPD Cruiser at West Valley Station photo taken 2007


My son, who is still on the job, says all the black/whites have the latest technology: light bar instead of the tin cans, MDT’s (mobile digital terminals-computers), some have dash cameras and even a few have FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared cameras). They even have a camera that reads license plates automatically. We’ve come a long way since Ed’s days!


Next, we’ll describe Police Stations from 1956 to 2005. Ed & Hal

–From Thonie, my error—I posted Police Stations back on January 21, 2018. Here’s the link in case you missed it.






Ramblings by Hal The Call Box

Ramblings and the Call Box: Stations


By Hal Collier and Ed Meckle, both retired LAPD

Each police station has a character all its own. As they are occupied 24 hours a day, they endure a lot of wear and tear. They’re expensive to build, renovate and add-onto, so they often live on well past their pull-date. Here Hal and Ed share some memories from their past stations.


Ed worked in Police stations that were built before the depression and had long outlasted their use. Hal was a little luckier, he enjoyed the charm of the old stations and learned to dislike the new modern stations.





Ed Meckle 1956/1976


I don’t know that I spoke much about the station houses, all large stone monoliths, probably built turn of the century. According to rumor, the University was “sinking.”


I do know it was out of plumb. Most of the interior doors would not close and round objects rolled off desks. The stairway to the second floor was separated from the wall and gave the illusion of floating in air. 


staircase freeBuilding and safety department was quick to handle the problem, though—with a sign telling you to use the outer edge of the stairs. The sign was there the entire two and a half years that I was.


All houses were two story, patrol and jail down, detectives and juvie up. All houses were two story, patrol and jail down, detectives and juvie up. We naturally did not have A/C, but we did have one thing that I don’t believe the newer houses had—trustees and a lot of them. They had a shoeshine stand, ran the coffee room, assisted the property man, swept and mopped up, pumped gas and helped the mechanics with repairs. They were all misdemeanor sentenced prisoners and were selected sometimes due to experience, mechanics, etc. 


Working with a new partner one night, I saw him hug the trustee who pumped our gas. I asked, “What?”


 “That’s my dad–doing 30 days on a deuce,” he answered. “Mom asked me to keep an eye on him, so I arranged to have him sent here to University.”




Hal Collier 1970/2005


I was lucky. My first station was the old Hollywood station, also built around the depression. The men’s locker room was in the basement. The locker room had drains in the floor and red painted curbs. It used to be where the 3-wheel motorcycles were parked. You walked down a ramp to get to your locker. The lockers were, I suspect, WW-II surplus. They weren’t secured to the floor and we often would slide a partner’s locker, moving it so the officer couldn’t find it.


I arrived at Hollywood just after the 1971 earthquake. During aftershocks, it was common for the watch commander to run out into the street in case the building collapsed. There was no air conditioning and during hot summer nights all the windows were open. The front desk had a PBX radio with the cords you plugged into the lite light. It was connected to the call boxes in the street. Antique to say the least! The jail was a classic old-time jail, which provided hours of entertainment—for the officers—not those incarcerated.


Next door across the patio was another building which housed Hollywood Receiving Hospital. Just one doctor and a nurse. The receiving hospital was good for sewing a few stiches and not much else. It was a blessing for the cops because, if you got in a scuffle with an arrestee and he needed medical treatment, you didn’t have to go downtown.


Around 1977 they tore down the old station and built a new state of the art police station.


North Hwd Police Station newPardon me while I try to keep that statement down. It was all cement, not a window to look out of. If you wanted to see what kind of a day it was you had to step outside. Once a month the city would come out and test the backup generator. The computers all had to be shut off during the power interruption. They’d run the generator for five minutes then shut it off.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne day—it was bound to happen—the power went out and the station went into darkness. The generator switched on and worked fine for five minutes then shut down. This modern, state-of-the-art police station was pitch dark inside. The only lights were the phone lights and they just told you that citizens were calling for assistance. The Watch Commander sent a rookie officer to Sav-on to buy all the candles they had. It seems that every month they tested the generator but forgot to refill the gasoline tank. Yep, it ran out of gas during a real emergency.


The first few years, the men’s locker room was huge. But the designers of the modern police station forgot one small detail. Women in police work. Soon the women’s locker room was too small. The city put a few lockers in an interview room in Detectives. The ladies needed a larger locker room which included a bathroom and showers. The city put Hollywood station on the bottom of the list and predicted we’d get an expanded locker room in 2 to 3 years. A few of the multi-talented officers sectioned off an area of the men’s locker room for the women.


Funny, the city then found the money and time to build the women’s locker room with a bathroom and showers.


There are newer stations as the LAPD expands but I’m not familiar with any of them.




Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings Special: New Year’s Day 2018

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

January 1, 2018

This is not going to be my usual Ramblings about first responders. Actually, the term first responder didn’t come along until after I retired. Now, being big city cop for 35 years I worked many a New Year’s Eve shifts and have stories that could send shivers up your spine. One year in South Central LA (Watts) they brought all the cops into the station at midnight to avoid all the gun fire.

No, this story is before I was a cop but probably trained me for being a first responder.

jack-box-ultimate-cheeseburger-01My first real job other than mowing lawns was at Jack in The Box. I lived in Eagle Rock a suburb of Los Angeles. Eagle Rock was only six short miles from Pasadena and the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game.

So, here I was working at Jack in the Box on a nice quiet winter afternoon which just happens to be New Year’s Day. I was working the grill and pretty happy with my promotion from the deep fryer job—fries, onion rings and deep-fried tacos. I have mastered the technique of flipping two hamburgers patties at a time and can wrap the finished burgers with the best of them.

I’m pretty confident with my burger skills when I look up and see a charter bus stop at the curb next to our driveway. No worries, just a bus driver getting something to eat. After two minutes I see about 60 people get off the bus and line up in a single file at the walk-up window. They all have individual orders. No secret sauce on 20 burgers, no salt on 15 burgers, 12 without pickles and so on. I would have panicked but I was only 17 years old and hadn’t mastered that skill yet. About an hour later they had all filed back on the bus and left. I don’t know where they came from or where they were going. I just remembered the boss saying it was one of the biggest sales hours the store ever had.

Rose paradeA couple of years later I was working at another hamburger stand, Twin Castle, not White Castle, and it was about two hours after the Rose Parade was over. No buses this time but I guessed that the Goodyear Blimp over the Rose Parade had a sign on it that said go to Twin Castle for lunch. I cooked burgers for over two hours until the rush subsided.

How did this prepare me as a first responder? I have been at shooting scenes, traffic accidents and a horrific fire that was less stressful than cooking special order hamburgers for a New Year’s Day crowd of citizens. I recommend that all potential cops work as a fry cook so you can learn to deal with the public.

Thonie’s comment: I’ve long believed that the best dispatchers were waitresses in their previous lives. The ability to multi-task and remain sane are critical in both careers. Sounds like Hal had some equally good training!

And from the crew at Just the Facts, Ma’am, Happy New Year!

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: An Overwhelming Traffic Collision

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Barham off r universal-city-ramp-002-jpg-20150104Did you ever have a traffic accident that was just overwhelming? This occurred in the mid 70’s and as usual I’m working graveyard shift. I’ll describe the scene for you. The Hollywood Freeway (aka 101 Freeway) winds through the Cahuenga Pass.  Cal Trans has closed the entire southbound lanes for pavement repair. Everyone has to exit the Cahuenga Boulevard exit which has a stop sign at the bottom of the ramp. Cal Trans has started closing down lanes at Barham and funneling everyone down to one lane by Cahuenga.

 About 2:30 AM, a semi-truck loaded with strawberries from the Central California barrels down the Cahuenga off ramp. About half way down, the driver realizes there’s a stop sign at the bottom of the ramp. Now, this truck is still at freeway speeds when he attempts to make a hard right turn. Well, you guessed it—the trailer flipped over on its side. The driver was ok but the load inside the trailer began to smoke. Of course, the fire department came out and sprayed that foam that they carry in the fire truck.

Isuzu_truck_overturnedNow the trailer is open, and the concerned citizens didn’t want to see the free strawberries go to waste. The fire captain advised me that the foam they have sprayed will give anyone who eats the strawberries a bad case of diarrhea.

My partner and I chase off the strawberry lovers, but we now have a new problem. The entire Hollywood freeway is still coming down the off ramp. Now, they can’t turn right on Cahuenga. We start directing them northbound. That seemed to work for cars and small trucks. Semi-trucks couldn’t make the turn, so we had to have them back up Cahuenga. This turned into a traffic nightmare.

To complicate matters some of the fine Hollywood citizens were stealing the strawberry flats. Hope they have more than one bathroom and lots of toilet paper. 

We decide to have Cal Trans open the freeway. The foreman tells us he can’t open the freeway until 5:00 AM. That’s 2 1/2 hours away. We need another plan. Hey, lets close the freeway off ramp at Highland Avenue.September_26,_2007_accident,_highway_9,_CT,_flipped_truck

Bill Barren, my partner in hell that night, and I jumped into our lowest-bid city police car. We drove north on Cahuenga to head off the morning rush hour traffic jam. Now, Bill and I have never attended the Cal-Trans lane reduction class. And we have only two boxes of flares. We throw out a bunch of flares and traffic begins to brake sharply and swerve to avoid a bigger traffic collision.

We suddenly feared for our lives. After a few near misses, we abandon our plan and exit the freeway. We get back to the overturned semi and just when we think things can’t get worse we notice that the truck load is again starting to smoke.

Of course, the fire department again responds and now Cahuenga Boulevard is completely blocked. The good citizens of Hollywood have abandoned the strawberry picking season. I heard the freeway was backed up to the Canadian border.

CHP patrol carOk, maybe that was an exaggeration, but it was a mess. We figured that was the problem of the California Highway Patrol. Bill and I disappeared and made a bee line to Winchell’s.


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