Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Police work was easier in the 70’s

Police Work Was Easier in the 70’s

By Hal Collier


Police work in the early 70’s was so simple.  You saw a crook and you arrested him or her.  If they resisted you overcame their resistance with a degree of necessary force.  On occasion a citizen witnessed the arrest.  Most times the witness stated, “What an asshole” and he was referring to the culprit.


Modern technology has changed police work forever.  I was watching one of those car pursuits on TV, you know the ones famous for Southern Calif.  Mainstream media is describing the pursuit and how dangerous they are and the fleeing suspect is endangering innocent citizens.  The media never mentions that the cops chasing this guy are also risking their lives.  I hated car pursuits. Of all the guys I chased only a few went to prison for their crimes.


The bad guy finally crashes and flees on foot. The cops chase him down and wrestle him to the ground.  Routine police work for the cops.  Wrong, the news media, has videotaped the entire incident. But on the 5 o’clock news, they only show the cops beating the suspect, who, by the way, was a choir boy.  If you look at the bystanders they all have cell phones and are taping the arrest.


The complaints come streaming in and the officers are under investigation.  The media is now critiquing the officers’ tactics.  The poor suspect has obtained a lawyer and is suing the cops, the city and the poor citizen who caused his crash.  Six months later, the officers are exonerated, but the media has moved on—they have other fish to fry.  Of course, years later a civil jury will award this thug millions of dollars because he was potty trained late.  This is nothing new to street cops.


Video cameras have become a very big part of police work.  Not all of it bad.  Wasn’t it video cameras that helped identify the Boston Marathon Bombers?  Now, the end of my career was near the beginning era of the video camera.  I didn’t have a cell phone until the 90’s. It didn’t take pictures or videos.  Hell, I now have a camera that takes videos but the instructions were on page 78 and I only read to page 36.


Everyone is familiar with the video of the Rodney King arrest, excuse me, the Rodney King “Beating” as the media called it.  Well, the media edited that tape to only show the police hitting King with their batons. They showed it over and over but only once did I see the part where King charged the officers.  When a jury saw all of the evidence they acquitted the officers.  The city broke out in riots.


During the L.A. Riots, numerous news agencies provided the Hollywood Detectives with video tapes of looting.  One particular tape showed an entire neighborhood looting the Sears store.  Two police cars arrive and the looters were streaming out the back door.  Most had stolen loot in their hands.  The tape showed a Deputy Chief butt stroking the thieves with a shotgun as they fled with arm-loads of goods.  He was from the old school of police work. Made me proud.


Videotaping cops
Videotaping cops


The fact of life is that now days, whatever you’re doing as a cop, there’s a chance that someone is watching you with a camera.  It’s a thin line between taking care of business and stepping over the line that will cause you to look for a new career, like maybe doing laundry in an orange jail jump suit.  More businesses have video cameras both inside and outside their business.  Police cars have video cameras in their cars as well as inside the stations. Hell, even parents video tape their babysitters.  I’m wondering if I should dress before going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  Some incidents are being shown on You Tube before the officer has finished writing the arrest report.



As I stated before, cameras can be good and bad for police work.  There was a Sears store in Hollywood that had video cameras throughout the store.  A security guard would sit in the control room and watch for shoplifters.  Some of the tapes were of shoplifters stuffing items in their own clothing and a few that really caught my attention. 


I watched one pair of crooks.  One approached a register to buy a pair of socks.  When the cashier opened the register he dropped the money on the floor.  When the suspect and the cashier bent down to pick up the money the second suspect grabbed the large bills from the open register.   The cashier didn’t even know that the money was taken.  The security guard had to chase the second suspect down Santa Monica Blvd and wrestle him to the ground.


Another time Sears was closed and it was the middle of the night.  A motion detector alarm kept going off and the doors were all locked.  After 2 hours of alarms we called the Sears security department.  They let us in and the security agent went to the video room.  We had a K-9 officer with his dog.  The Sears in Hollywood was 4 floors and had numerous stairways and elevators.  The Security agent advised that he would monitor the 4 floors and stairways on cameras while we searched.  The suspect was taken into custody hiding among some clothes.  He made a complaint against the officers for excessive force and dog bites.  The video tape showed the entire arrest and the officers were exonerated.


Security guard watching monitor
Security guard watching monitor

One of my favorite dispatches was, “See the security officer holding a lewd conduct suspect at Sears.”  My curiosity was piqued, lewd conduct in the middle of the day at Sears?  I walked up to the security office and the guard told me, “You have got to see this tape.”  I sit down and watch as the security camera followed a rather young attractive girl shopping in the clothing department.  As she stopped to look at clothes, this guy knelt behind her and sniffs her backside.  He pretends to be looking at clothes but after watching him sniff this girl’s backside 6 times. It’s obvious he’s not shopping for clothes.  The girl doesn’t notice because he never touches her. 


The suspect, I dubbed the “Sniffer,” then goes behind a sock bin and relieves his pent up tension.  All this in the middle of the day in one of the busiest Sears stores in America.  Only in Hollywood.  His lawyer plead him guilty after viewing the video tape.


It’s a nice Saturday and I’m the Watch Commander at Hollywood Division.  I’m playing a game of Free Cell on the computer and my desk officer walks up and says, “Hey Sarge, I have this guy at the desk and he wants to see you, he has a video tape.”  Oh crap, this is post Rodney King and a cop’s worst nightmare is a video tape.  I run through my mind if this is police misconduct, where’s my list of notifications? If I miss one notification, I’ll get an unpaid 2 day vacation.


I take the tape and walk into the Captain’s Office, the only TV/VCR in the station.  I hold my breath and hit the play button.  The video shows the north side of the police station.  I’m intently staring at the screen.  I watch for 10 minutes waiting for the cops to appear.  They don’t.  This citizen was filming rats running from the storm drain to the station trash cans.  I counted at least a dozen rats, a problem—yes. My problem—no!  I called Police Facilities to handle the rat problem.  I’m used to dealing with a different breed of rat. I breathe for the first time in minutes, no days off without pay and I can get back to my Free Cell game.


Police work is harder now days and cops have to be careful what they do and say, or end up as the 5 o’clock breaking news story.  

Police work was easier before all this technology.      



Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Jury Duty, part 2

Jury Duty

part 2

By Hal Collier



Last week, I wrote about my first day of jury duty.  A short recap is I sat in the assembly room for 7 1/2 hours and then was told to report to Department 108 the following week.  It was going to be a 30 day trial–that’s 6 weeks in real time.  The only excuses were financial hardship (my pension disqualifies me from that), medical impairment or hardship (I think my twitch is back), or caring for small children or an elderly parent.  Now I do take care of grandchildren 1 or 2 days a week, but that’s because I like to spend time with them. 


I’m screwed. 


I asked for advice from former cops that have experienced getting out of jury duty.  Some of the responses I received were helpful, some would only find me in contempt of court.  A few samples:  Tell the defense that your experience in law enforcement will prejudice you toward the prosecution.  That should work.  Another advises to tell them your dog is pregnant and you don’t know who the father is.  That sounds like a few hours in the holding tank.  I received advice from 3 different states.  My sister, always the positive one, remarked that the jury duty experience would supply me with more stories to share.  I think I would rather exchange stories with RJ about his putting pennies in a bag of water over a door to keep out flies.  Another friend suggested that I denounce my citizenship. He said in his county they are only expected to call in one day.  A former cop had the best answer.  Explain the many reviews that go into a filing and the prosecution of the dirt bag.  In laymen terms that’s means if it goes this far—he is guilty.


I spent many nights lying awake, rehearsing my story.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind doing my civic duty, but after 35 years of being a cop I figure I’ve done my share.  6 weeks sitting in a room listening to liberal lawyers trying to confuse a jury is not my idea of retirement.


The big day comes, I’m prepared.  I’m nervous, just like before taking an oral interview for promotion.  I have to be in court at 1:30.  I drive downtown early and arrive at 1:00 P.M.  I walk the 1/4 mile down Bunker Hill to get to the court house.  There is a long line to get through the metal detectors.  I get in line and see a Hollywood officer I used to supervise. He is in the short “officer only” line.  Another reminder, I’m GP—general public.  I remove everything from my pockets and step through the metal detector.  I’m advised that I have a handcuff key on my key ring and have to turn it in to the sheriff’s deputy.  Now, I have authority to carry my handgun, a fully loaded 9 mm semi-automatic, but there I am, turning in my hand cuff key.


I arrive on the 9th floor which is packed, mostly jurors, like myself. Another metal detector, I’m clean.  I find a seat on the bench and wait.  I see two former Hollywood detectives get off the elevator.  I say “hi” but they ignore me at first.  I forgot, I’m wearing my “Jury” badge.  Again, I’m GP.  No one is supposed to talk to jurors.  They are in a different court room. Damn, I was hoping for a conflict to get excused.  I see a gentlemen walking down the hall, he looks familiar. He looks at me and there is a look of recognition.  I believe I have arrested him some time but can’t place his face.  He enters another court.


My court clerk comes out and calls roll.  Only one juror is absent.  I’m amazed, because my group has 58 potential jurors.  After 30 minutes we’re herded into the court room and seated.  I recognize the judge, I think I testified before him just before I retired, maybe another conflict.  The judge explains that the trial will last 6 weeks, possibly ending just before Christmas.  It’s a murder trial, with special circumstances, that means death penalty.  We are then given a 15 page questionnaire and sent back out into the hall.  Each question has sub-questions.  If you answer yes, explain, same for no answers.  They want to know my views on the death penalty, illegal Immigrants, drug dealers, gun ownership, well—you get the picture.  I could do a whole page on “would you give more weight to a police officer’s testimony?”.   I’m worried my pen might run out of ink.  The witness list has more names then the USC football roster.  I recognize a few LAPD officers, maybe another conflict. Okay, I really don’t want to spend 6 weeks hiking up and down Bunker Hill. 


We turn in our questionnaires and are ordered back in one week.  Swell, another week of waking up in the middle of the night rehearsing my reasons for being excused.  I’m seriously thinking of using the pregnant dog excuse.  If I’m in lock-up I won’t be on the jury.  I might even be taken off the jury summons mailing list.


D-Day I think I’m finally going to get excused, I sail right through both metal detectors, I’m become a pro.  I find a seat in the hall and wait.  I’m listening to jurors from another court case, they’re on day 15—yikes.  I see the two defense attorneys enter the courtroom, they have California Berkeley written all over them.  The court bailiff comes out into the hall and states, “Raise your hand if you’re a juror in Department 108”.  Ok this it, time to give your well prepared excuse.  The deputy states, “The court has successfully picked a jury and you are all excused.”  First there was silence, then some applause, then a dash for the elevators.  I’m guessing they had 2 jury pools, one in the morning and my group in the afternoon.  No complaints.  I’m good for at least a year and then we’ll start all over again. 


I’d like to thank everyone who replied with advice.  I’m not going to have to denounce my citizenship, sit in the lock-up with someone who is blowing me kisses, and have my dog checked for a due date. 


I can just go back to being GP.



Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Jury Duty, part 1

Jury Duty, part 1

By Hal Collier

I retired 4 1/2 years ago. I spent my entire 34 years in patrol—you know—the “Backbone of the Department.”  I spent 19 years working “Grave Yard”. That’s the midnight to 8 A.M.  During that span I spent a lot of time in court after working a whole shift.  I couldn’t tell you how many times I finished my shift and spent the next 8 hours in court waiting for the slow wheels of justice to turn.  The early years we were compensated with 3 hours, no matter how many hours we were there. Some days we got out in 10 minutes, but others we were there when the sun went down.  Often we drove home at 6 P.M. and were expected to be back at work in 4 hours.  OK, that was the job and we accepted it.


As a police officer we are exempt from “Jury Duty.”  That all changes when you retire.  The chance of a defense attorney wanting a retired police officer on a jury judging his client is very slim.  18 months ago I received my first jury duty summons.  I called in for 5 days and was not asked to report, piece of cake.


In October, I received another letter informing me I had jury duty. I called in for three days and was told not to report. Then on Thursday, I was advised to report to Criminal Courts Building. That’s downtown. I spent more time in that building, than with my kids growing up.  Now, the County of Los Angeles treats people selected for jury duty with kid gloves.  Just kidding, they have you park a 1/4 of a mile from the court house, but it’s free.  You sit in a large room, maybe 250 people who were not able to come up with an excuse. I got there early and got a comfortable chair.  You get the orientation, explaining how glad you should be that you can serve.  They try to cheer you up by telling you they pay $15 a day, but only on the 2nd day. 




Two hours later, they call 40 names and send them to a court as potential jurors.  Some come back early, I can see why. They have “probable cause stop” written all over them.  For my non-police friends that means they beg to be stopped by the police by their appearance.  The potential jurors are randomly picked by a computer.  Some get picked 2 or 3 times, while I miss the first 4 jury calls.  I figure I’m sitting in a lucky seat.


Fast forward to 3 P.M. except it hasn’t been fast.  I’ve been sitting in this room for 7 1/2 hours, the lady behind me has been trying to cough up a lung, the guy in front of me has been snoring for 2 hours and the lady next to me has been on her cell phone for 6 of the 7 1/2 hours.  I’m thinking of asking her for a job because she must be pretty damn important.




The calm is broken when the Juror coordinator steps out of her office and says the next jury panel will have special instructions.  The room goes silent, the lady next to me hangs up.  The coordinator says the next jury trial will last about 30 days, that’s court days, 6 weeks plus.  Figure in Thanksgiving, they also close the 3rd Wednesday of every month, budget cuts, including any other excuse that comes up.  If I get picked for this jury, I’ll be eligible for Social Security when the trial is over, that’s if there still is Social Security.


The coordinator reads off the valid excuses for not being on a 30 day trial. I just missed the one being pregnant and due within 2 weeks.  I have one of those sinking feelings, you know—the one where you think you forgot to pay your taxes.  Well sure enough, my name is called.  I try to induce labor, nothing.  We are directed to the hall outside for special instructions.  I immediately scan my group, the snoring guy is there, the lady coughing up a lung is there, the lady on the cell phone is missing, that figures.  I’m a dead duck, I’m going to get picked.  I figure a 30 day trial is some high profile trial, maybe murder.  Shame it’s not Polanski. 




We are given our instructions and told that we have to call Tuesday night to see if we have to report.  She explains that not all of us will be called to report. She has a smile on her face; I suspect she is trying to save her butt.  She is surrounded by 50 people, some unstable, who have just been told they might have to spend the next 6 weeks deciding if some dirt bag should go free.  She finishes by telling us we get to leave an hour early, nice touch.  We all pile into the elevator to leave, it’s like identifying a loved one at the morgue.  No one’s talking, just a lot of deep sighs. I suspect shock.  I can’t help myself, I proclaim, “What a perfect ending to a nice day”.  I get a nice laugh.  Another says, “Well, I hope we don’t see each again”.  Shit, if I’m on this jury they’ll pick me as Jury Foreman.  When will I learn to keep my mouth shut?


We all head out to the 1/4 mile hike back to our cars, this time it’s all uphill.  Did I mention the parking is on top of Bunker Hill?  I’m trying to remember where “Angels Flight” is.  I find my truck in the Disney Parking lot on the first try, not always easy after some of those “28 hour awake” days I mentioned earlier.  I turn the ignition on and my truck will not start.  After 3 tries it starts.  I’m wondering what else can go wrong today, then I remember its 3:30 and I have to drive through China Town to get home.  I pull into my driveway and ask forgiveness for whatever I’ve done to deserve this day. 




I was afraid to check the mail, might be an audit notice from the IRS.  The puppy was glad to see me; she didn’t have anyone to play with all day.  I don’t know what to do with her if I have to serve 30 days.   I’m still thinking they won’t want a retired cop on a jury but after today I’m questioning my instincts. 


This saga will continue next week.  If you have advice or a like story, I like to hear from you.  I’d like to think I’m not the only smuck. 


The above story is true, the opinions are of the author.


So how was your day?


P.S.  The pauses were where I had to get up because my butt was falling asleep after 7 1/2 hours sitting on it yesterday.  Then again, maybe I should get used to it.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings by Hal

A re-run from May 26th, 2013

This is the first of many Hal Collier’s Ramblings. We’ve been posting every week since this date. We have many more original posts in the wings, but due to a (positive) live event, I haven’t had time to get Hal’s Ramblings ready. So here’s a re-run. Love the tone and sentiment of this work. Consider this as amends for not posting his regular column yesterday. Remember, to read past posts, go to Archive on the bottom right of the page, click on “Ramblings” and peruse all of the LAPD gems!


Welcome Hal Collier!

A big welcome to Hal–our new blogger. Hal spent over 3 decades in LAPD mostly Hollywood Division, so he has the creds. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, maybe both. These are reminiscences of a beat cop. Writers can learn and readers will be entertained. The best of both worlds.

This picture reminded me of an incident that happened in Hollywood.  I’m working patrol and one of my problem area’s was Delongpre Park.  It was just 3 short blocks from the police station but often was a haven for drug dealers and the large Hollywood homeless population. 
Delongpre Park was only a block wide and a block deep, 1 bathroom and a small kids play area.  A few benches but no tables or BBQ pits like bigger parks.

I was on patrol and noticed a large group of homeless men in the park.  I drove up the wheel chair ramp on the side walk as usual and drove into the park.  The homeless were all huddled around a shopping cart laying on it’s side. (see photo.) In the shopping cart they had charcoal briquettes, just turning to a nice hot grey color.  They were ready to cook.

I get out of my car and walked up to the group.  The spokesman of the group, I’m guessing the one without warrants, approaches me.  “Officer, please don’t ruin our BBQ!”
He tells me they all pooled their begging money, bought some charcoal and hot dogs and were having an old time BBQ.  I noticed the usual brown paper bags wrapped around a 40 oz bottle of beer, but what the heck hot dogs go better with a cold beer.  The park was empty of children and dispelling the rumor that my heart was smaller than my badge, I advised the troop leader to make sure to clean up after you leave or I’ll be looking for you in the morning.
The next morning, even before my coffee, I checked Delongpre Park.  The park was spotless, even the shopping cart was gone.  It had to make me smile.