Street Stories When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly: The View From Above

By Ron Corbin

When Pigs Fly

Flying for Air Support Division (ASD) is probably one of the premier job assignments for LAPD… other than for obvious reasons working “beach patrol” in Venice Division. It’s one of those cases where for a position to become available someone either has to die or retire. There could be a lot of reasons for this choice assignment, including good pay (Beach Patrol officers would probably work for free or even pay the Department for their assignment.). But most officers seeking to be a pilot or observer did it for the thrill and desire to fly. In any case, I’ll mention a few perks of the job.

If we had the time, slowly orbiting the perimeter of Dodger Stadium or the LA Coliseum on game nights was a frequent activity to check the score, and see if the “Boys in Blue” or Trojans of USC were winning. After a couple of orbits, we would have to depart the area to avoid a disgruntled fan’s complaint who thought we shouldn’t get to watch the game for free.

One of my favorite times to fly each year was PM Watch (swing shift) on the 4th of July. About a half-hour after the sun dipped below the Pacific’s horizon, I would climb up to about 1,000 feet above the ground, and slowly cruise over the LA Basin where I could also view the San Fernando Valley. As darkness appeared, a magnificent aerial display of fireworks began popping-up everywhere; at city and county parks, from hundreds of family backyards, Marina del Rey, the Rose Bowl, LA Coliseum, Dodger and Anaheim Stadiums. It was a memorable sight.

Naturally, it never seemed to fail that before the patriotic display ended, my observer and I would get a call of a palm tree fire. The typical cause was that juveniles had shot a bottle rocket into the dry fronds (usually on purpose), just to see how big a “torch” they could create. Their mischief’s glee was not only dangerous from embers landing on house roofs, but it also sent hundreds of rats scurrying down the palm tree from nests that were formed in the upper branches. People would scream and run as these rodents scampered into surrounding gutter drains and across neighborhood lawns.

Responding at 500 feet above the ground, which was the normal patrol orbit, someone would often shoot a bottle rocket at our helicopter. Being a federal crime (shooting at aircraft), this gave us probable cause to call for ground units to assist and arrest the “idiot” … er, I mean … suspect. All the arrestee’s fireworks were taken as evidence. Of course, the patrol officers were glad to respond, as many of the confiscated fireworks went home with them after end of watch for their own enjoyment.

In the movie “Blue Thunder,” starring Roy Scheider, it begins with him and his observer hovering outside a high-rise window … “observing”. Okay, okay…if you want to nitpick, they were peeping. I don’t know of any ASD crews who actually did this, but being the friendly “Mr. Policeman,” we would occasionally fly or hover beside a downtown skyscraper and wave to the office workers.

For responding to business burglaries and other calls for service in a commercial district, owners and/or occupants were encouraged to paint the address number of their building in large contrasting numerals on the rooftops. Even though the address code in LA requires “even numbers on the south and east sides and odd numbers on north and west sides of streets,” the helicopter observer could get to the correct street and block number of a call for service but finding the exact mid-block address was nearly impossible. Therefore, painting address numbers on rooftops assisted in this effort and considerably reduced response time.

Not many homeowners practiced this address ID technique. However, frequently aircrews would spot a different type of identifying number; a telephone number painted on the roof of a private residence. I probably don’t have to explain what this meant, other than there must have been some lonely females and cop groupies in “La La Land.” Usually, these houses also had a swimming pool, which meant nude sunbathers. Enough said. What can I say…it’s just a perk of the job.

One of the most famous private residences that aircrews would be sure to give extra aerial patrol was Hugh Heffner’s Playboy Mansion. A few orbits on each shift was to ensure that all was well and that his “guests” around the pool were safe and secure. Just because we were airborne cops didn’t mean that we couldn’t still hold to the Department motto…To Protect and To Serve, right? Besides, why should all those Beach Patrol officers working in Venice Beach have all the fun?

Police Helicopter Pilot … It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Lady Hamilton

This installment of Ed Meckle’s recollection of this particular case is longer than most, but worth the read, I promise you. Knowing there are policemen and women like him out there who strive for victim’s justice is consoling. –Thonie

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Before I begin let me apologize for the lapses in my story. Time has taken the victim’s and suspect’s name together with the street name. I remembered my partner and (irony) name of the bar. Timewise the best I can do is a hot weekend in 1966/67. 

I thought about this for a long time before sharing. In the past I have begun many of my stories with, “most officers do this” or “a lot of them do that.” But here I tread carefully and can only speak for myself and hope others feel as I do. 

No matter how much time you have on the job, how much experience, or how cynical you think you are I hope that somewhere maybe deep down you did something “special” that stands out in your mind; that you occasionally remember that special thing or things. Maybe you don’t talk of it but there are incidents you can really be proud of, when everything came together, the stars aligned, and luck was in your corner. And you thought “damn, that’s why I became a cop. That’s what it’s all about.” I really hope you have it, because I have one I want to share with you.

I take pride in the fact I never held a staff job. No graphs, no crayons, no colored pencils, no calculators, just street time out where the wild things are.

I am one of approximately forty-five detectives assigned to Wilshire Division and one of six working robbery. About every tenth week I catch weekend duty with three others. If it is a quiet shift you can catch up on your paperwork, watch a game on TV, play cards or just snooze. This was not to be one of those.

It was a hot holiday Sunday and just after noon when a phone call comes in from a radio car at the scene of a homicide. As the senior sergeant I am de facto watch commander. There are no homicide detectives among the four of us. 

I take the call along with Sergeant Jim Horkan. I knew him from Metro, never as a partner but he was a good street cop, former Cleveland P.D. and like myself a former marine (this will become a factor).

The scene is a well-kept, unremarkable, three-story brownstone in the 900 block just north of Olympic. As far as we can determine the entire populous of the building were elderly retired singles and couples. 

Our victim was third floor rear and discovered when a neighbor saw her open door. At this point in my career, I had handled two homicides, both related to street robberies, one successfully and one not.

I remember as a uniform at a homicide scene I watched the detective carefully place a kitchen chair in the crime scene and sit without moving for about ten minutes. Nobody had to tell me was burning every detail into his memory. 

Our victim was female, 80+ and had lived alone. She is in a supine position slightly to the right as you enter. Feet toward the door. Her simple house dress with button front has been ripped open. Her bra pulled above her breasts, panty hose pulled down and inside out still clinging to her right foot. 

Her hands were at her sides palms down, head turned to the left, legs 12-14 inches apart. There appears to be blood and skin under her fingernails. A dime-sized crescent shaped wound was between her eyes. She had been strangled and later tests would show raped. (D.N.A. then stood for “does not apply”) 

The rooms were what I suppose you would call an “efficiency” apartment—one large room doubles as living/bedroom. Bath to left, small kitchen to the right. 

The apartment appears to have been quickly searched, drawers open, items scattered. Notable is an empty watch box, home to a “Lady Hamilton.” Back in the day, watches especially ladies, came in large ornate boxes resembling clam shells. They were so fancy you did not throw it out even though it had no secondary use. 

The watch was gone. 

The residents tell us she was very proud of the watch, receiving it along with a plaque (hanging on the wall) when she retired from the Department of Water and Power in 1949. 

Along with a couple of uniforms we did a canvas and determined a stranger had been in the building not long before she was found. Described as early to mid-20s, husky and appeared intoxicated, he had walked into one apartment and approached a lone woman. Leaving when her husband appeared, he had also knocked on several doors and tried to talk his way inside without being obvious. Here was a promising person of interest. 

I got to thinking about the intoxication angle and told Jim I was going to play a hunch. I walked the 100 or so yards to the corner where stood a bar, the Jade Room. As luck would have it, I had on occasion, enjoyed a cool refreshing beverage or two. 

The only person present was the female owner/bartender with whom I was acquainted. Like waitresses/manicurists/beauticians everywhere bartenders are good witnesses, observant and good listeners.

“Yes, he was here. Drank Oly beer from the ice tub.” The ice water put any chance of prints from the bottle to rest.

Your impression, I asked?

“A sailor from Oklahoma.” 

I shared this with Jim and as former service members we knew where he would be heading on a Sunday afternoon. While I wrapped the scene up Jim took a radio car and went straight to the bus depot downtown. 

Standing in line to board a San Diego-bound bus was a tall husky 20-something sailor. He wore a ring with a crescent shape, had scratches on his face and a Lady Hamilton watch in his pocket. Hello.

At the station he admitted everything except for being in the victim’s apartment. He had no answer for the watch in his pocket. 

I was in before daylight the next day to talk to the Hamilton people at their Pennsylvania H.Q. when they opened.

  • The watch in his pocket had been sent to a local jewelry store in 1949 (good)
  • The store was no longer in business (bad)
  • By noon we had the owner’s phone number in Sun City, Arizona (good)
  • The son answered the phone; dad died some time ago and all sales records, serial numbers, etc. are long gone (bad)

Before hanging up the son actually said, “I thought things like this only happened in the movies.” 

The victim’s fingernail scrapings turned out to be consistent with human skin, beard stubble and blood but were not conclusive. There was trace blood in the ring, not enough to type. The lab however made a nice overlay match with the ring and the head wound. 

We borrowed five watches from Sears next door and did a “show up” with her friends and neighbors.  “It looks like it but I can’t be sure.” “Maybe it could be but…” Not a lot of help. 

We had to go to the D.A. soon for filing and still could not nail the watch down.

Think dammit, think. Ok the neighbors said the watch was a retirement gift from D.W.P. in 1949 right? Longshot but nothing to lose.

At the D.W.P. Personnel counter, her file had been retrieved from the archives and does not, repeat does not, contain the receipt for the purchase of the watch.

Last chance. “Was there a luncheon or some sort of formal presentation?”

“Yes, a luncheon.”

“Was there a photographer?”

“Yes, there was.”

“Thank you, Jesus.” There in the file were at least two photos of her holding her watch up for the camera.

L.A.P.D. Photo lab blew up the negatives as much as possible without losing context. Looked good.

Well folks, that was our case and the District Attorney (DA) filed murder one. We were also assigned a “special DA” Marsh Goldstein, whom I knew and respected. Special DA meant he would shepherd the case personally to conclusion.

We were assigned a liberal female judge who hated cops and would toss a case at the drop of a comma. Normally you would put on a “bare bones case” at the preliminary hearing. just enough to hold the defendant.

We gave them everything and hold him we did. Several months later Marsh called and asked if I had any problem with a murder one plea from the public defender’s office if the DA took the death penalty off the table. I thought it was a fine idea.

The public defender’s office very seldom pleads to murder one.

Somewhere I remember reading or hearing an old homicide cop who said something memorable…

                                                   “We speak for the dead.”

Street Stories When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly

By Ron Corbin, retired LAPD, LVMP

LAPD Bell 206 Jetranger

Can You Say…Guilty Conscience?

I was flying Air-3 one day, which basically had responsibility for everything south of the Hollywood Hills and the Mulholland-Sepulveda Pass. Of course, even with responsibility for assistance to 12 patrol divisions, most of our calls involved those over Southwest, Newton, and 77th St Divisions. These three divisions were generally considered “South LA”, and were some of the busiest for active police work in all of the 17 divisions that were in LAPD’s’ jurisdiction at that time.

Southwest was originally known as University Division since the USC campus resided in the northeast corner of the area. It consisted of a potpourri of cultures, Asian, White, Black, and Hispanic. And each had their gang influence. 77th St Division was infamous for the 1966 Watts Riots and demographics that made it a “hotbed” for police work. Newton Division was known as “Shootin’ Newton”, and was famous for the Black Panther Shootout in 1969, and the SLA Shootout in 1974.

While slowly patrolling the skies over downtown LA, my observer and I monitored a radio call of a “211 Just Occurred” at a liquor store in Newton’s area, with the dispatcher giving a brief follow-up description of armed robbery suspect and his last direction seen running from the store. The suspect was a light-skin Black male, approximately 6’5, and had red hair. Oh, and to disguise his identity, he wore a red bandana over his face (sounds kind of silly to be that race, that tall with red hair, and attempt to hide your face, don’t you think? Just ADC- Another Dumb Criminal)

 My observer responded via the radio that we were en route for aerial assistance. I banked the aircraft and headed southbound at VNE (pilot talk for maximum allowed airspeed for that particular aircraft) toward the scene, calling LAX ATC (Air Traffic Control) for clearance to enter their TCA (Terminal Control Area). This was necessary due to the fact that our call was going to be under the flight path of the large commercial jets approaching both west runways for landing. Our little helicopter would be no match for a jumbo jet, and a midair would make a bad day for everyone. Even causing a passenger-filled commercial airliner to have to make a “go-around” because of our air space intrusion would certainly generate (at the least) an angry phone call to Chief Ed Davis. However, following MOUs with FAA, LAX controllers worked well with us ASD (Air Support Division) pilots in our priority needs.

Arriving over the general area of the crime area and since ground units were already on the scene, we began a wide orbit several blocks from the incident, searching backyards and anyone running. It’s amazing how well you can see physical descriptions, clothing colors, and certain distinctive patterns of people from 500 feet above the ground, our standard altitude for orbit.

It didn’t take long for my observer, who was using gyro-stabilized binoculars, found the suspect. He was trying to “blend in” with the people on the street. But it was easy for us since we could not see another 6’5″ Black male with red hair and a red bandanna neckerchief tied around his neck…at least for miles around in our bird’s eye view.

While the observer was directing ground units to close-in and make an arrest, I thought that I could “buy some time” and maybe not cause the suspect run, which meant a foot pursuit for our officers. I activated the PA system and yelled, “You’re Under Arrest! Get On The Ground”!

Wow! Was I surprised when not only our suspect complied, but 6-7 other people also immediately dropped to the ground with their arms prone-out to their sides. (Hmmm, maybe I should have been a little more specific to my person-of-interest.)

Possibly I just located several crime suspects and cracked a bunch of unsolved cases, or these individuals had been through the process before. In either case, when the first officers drove up, they looked confused to see several individuals lying on their stomach ready to be searched and cuffed. My observer was laughing hysterically as he directed the ground officers to the right suspect.

As the Code-4 was broadcast, we left ground officers to explain and pacify those other citizens who had apparently had guilty consciences about something else.

“We turned and flew off into the sunset on our blue and white steed. I just wish that I could have left a silver bullet for those to ponder… Who were those guys in the air?”

Street Stories

Guest Post: Rory in the Restroom

By Stacey Pearson, retired Louisiana State Police

Photo courtesy of Tim Mossholder at Unsplash

My guest Stacey Pearson sent me this fun story:

This is a humorous piece that I wrote in response to someone asking me what it was like to go the bathroom in uniform! Rory is a character I’m developing.  She’s kind of a cross between Angie Dickinson and Mr. Magoo.  

Rory in the Restroom

Rory pressed her palms against the door and gave it a shove as she walked.  Inside the sanctity of the women’s restroom, Rory bent at her waist and peered under each stall door. All the stalls were empty, including the handicapped stall. She tapped the bottom of each door with the toe of her boot, swinging the door open enough for her to judge the stall’s cleanliness. She lingered at the spacious handicapped stall and weighed the ramifications.

“You’ll end up on YouTube,” she thought.

Rory stepped into the cleanest stall, the last one on her right. She shuffled around to her left in the tiny space, knocking the metal toilet paper holder with her holster. She tried sliding the door’s latch closed.  Once.  Again. She tried focusing, lining up the male and female parts.  She tried muscling it.  Broken.


Rory pulled the door towards her, squeezed sideways, and rattled past the toilet paper holder. She repeated the opening-entering-shuffling-and-banging-into process with the adjacent stall. This stall’s latch worked, and Rory began her bathroom stall ballet.

From muscle memory and in one smooth movement, Rory slid her thumb in between the two pieces of joined leather on her holster and popped open the snap. She spread her hand a bit and pressed down. Her thumb and forefinger separated, and the flat of her palm found its home on the grip.  She extended her forefinger along the slide’s underside, above the trigger guard, and pulled her weapon straight up and out of the holster.

Rory gingerly positioned her gun on the top of the toilet lid. The lid was slick with humidity. And not level. She gaped as her fully loaded Glock 17 with one 9mm round in the chamber slid off the lid and tumbled towards the floor. Rory snatched her gun in mid-air like a chameleon catching a fly with its tongue. She jerked her head away from the gun and slammed her eyelids shut. She flinched. And waited. Hearing – and feeling – no accidental discharge, she exhaled.  With no regard for muzzle safety, Rory unzipped her uniform shirt and shoved her Glock down the front of her ballistic vest.

Rory unsnapped the three belt keepers on her duty belt and peeled it back to separate it from her underbelt. The creak of leather, the jingling of handcuffs, and the rip and tear of Velcro was the music of police work. She turned to hang her duty belt on the back of the door only to discover three rusty screw holes forming a triangle. No clothes hook.  Just holes.


Rory pawed at the spider web of a cord that attached her portable radio to her shoulder mic. The cord was now wrapped around her neck. She released the mic from her left shoulder lapel by pinching the clip and then re-clipped the mic to her radio’s antenna. The antenna swayed with too much weight.

Rory shouldered open the third stall’s door like she was making a SWAT entry. This stall had a working latch, a clothes hook, but no toilet paper. Rory commandeered the last roll from the handicapped stall, thought better of it, and then returned it. She pilfered a roll from the stall with the broken latch. She backed into this fully-equipped stall, still lugging her duty belt and squawking radio.

Rory slammed the latch closed. She yanked on the clothes hook to make sure it could withstand the weight of her leather duty belt and all its accoutrements – polished-by-hand brass buckle, holster, two pairs of Smith & Wesson handcuffs, two ammunition magazines, and a Motorola XTS 5000 portable radio valued at 10% of her yearly salary.  Not unlike the slippery toilet lid, Rory had a similar bad experience with a faulty clothes hook.  This was the reason she had removed her weapon from its holster and now had it nestled between her 36Cs and her Second Chance ballistic vest.

Satisfied the hook was worthy, Rory hung her duty belt like a Renoir landscape.  She leaned back, looking left then right, to admire her work.  With the most delicate touch, Rory took hold of her duty belt with both hands, one on each side of the hook.  She hoisted it up, eyeballed it, then set it down.  Balanced!  On queue, a pair of Rory’s handcuffs slipped from their case and clattered to the tile floor.

Rory pressed her hand against her chest to keep her gun from falling out and bent over to pick up her handcuffs. When she raised her head, she bumped into her radio. Her shoulder mic came unclipped from the flopping antenna and skidded to rest in the handicapped stall. Rory jerked hard on the cord. The cord contracted, and the mic popped her in the lower lip like a runaway yo-yo. Rory got her duty belt, radio, mic, and handcuffs in custody. In the commotion, she pressed her radio’s emergency button.

The Dispatcher bleated, “The net is Code 3.  10-33.  Dispatch, I-76.  Code 4?  What is your emergency?”

Stacey Pearson is a retired law enforcement professional with extensive experience in complex missing and exploited children investigations. After a distinguished 20-year career, she retired in July 2018 as a veteran sergeant with the Louisiana State Police where she most recently served as the Manager of the Louisiana Clearinghouse for Missing and Exploited Children (LACMEC), the Statewide Coordinator of the Louisiana AMBER Alert Plan, and as the supervisor of the Lafayette Field Office of the Special Victims Unit (SVU).

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: I Saw A Woman Cry…

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Recently a short story on TV prompted this:

I saw a woman cry this morning. She was a young mother of two, sitting for a TV interview.

She was a nurse who has been working 12-hour shifts at a NY hospital. She hadn’t seen her family for weeks and had been staying over in the city for fear of infecting them.

She was crying because she was bone tired.

She was crying because she had seen so many around her die. She cried because her youth and inexperience with death of this magnitude had not prepared her.

She cried for the very young and the very old. She cried for those who had no one to cry for them and died alone.

She cried because she was confused, because she did not know which way to turn or what to do next.

I wish I had a happy ending for this tale, but I don’t. All I could do was cry with her because I, too, had no answers

Some people cry not because they are weak but because they have been strong for too long.

If you have never sweat, bled, or cried for someone you do not know, then you do not have even the faintest idea of what we are all about.

Some people spend a lifetime wondering if they “made a difference.”

First responders and LEO’s do not have that problem.

No, my friend you really didn’t have a “job,” it was a calling. Not 9 to 5 but 24/7.

You lived it, you breathed it, you loved it and would die for it.

It was your passion, your mistress even on the worst of days. Your time on the job were the “best/worst” days of your life. 

You were “alive.” You lived for the nights you can’t remember and for the friends you can’t forget.

It is not that we can while others can’t. It is because we did when others did not.

It was not the sweltering days, endless cold nights, nor working while others slept or celebrated. It was not the lies, the mindless hatred, indifferent public nor the verbal abuse.

It is not the misrepresentation by the press, nor betrayal of the politician. It is not the senseless violence seeing the unseeable, doing the undoable.

It is not running to the sound of the gun nor dancing with some dirtbag.

It is not walking into darkness seeking the unknown. Not for love of my partner, the high-speed chase the foot pursuit nor facing down an unruly crowd.

But it is how much we loved it and that dear God, that is what makes us who we were.

THE POLICE: Winston Churchill said it best. “Never in the field of human conflict, has so much been owed by so many to so few.”

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

With all the crazy, funny, bizarre things that cops experience, some are right there in the station house.

BB Ballistics

I was working a radio car and along with my partner. We were in the juvenile office at the station. In custody, we had one defiant 12-year-old boy, one red Ryder model BB gun and one tube of BB’s. He was given to us by an angry motorist with a BB hole in his windshield who’d chased him down. The juvenile ditched the gun (which we found) but he still had the BB tube in his pocket. He denied everything but couldn’t explain the BB’s.

The juvenile officer, Leroy Goforth, also got a denial. Goforth directed me to bring him an office trash can. Goforth emptied it. Then he instructed me to place it across the room open end toward him. He fired one BB into the basket. I retrieved the basket while he rummaged in his desk drawer producing a large pair of tweezers and a Sherlock Holmes-sized magnifying glass. 

He asks the boy, “Do you know what ballistics is?”


“It is the scientific method the police use to tell if a particular gun fired a certain bullet. Understand?”

The kid shrugged.

“Well, we are going to do a scientific ballistics test on your gun.”

At this point, Leroy retrieves the BB from the basket. Holding the BB with the large tweezers, he examined it with the large glass for a good 10-15 seconds. 

He gave the kid a long look. Then back to the BB. Kid, BB, kid, BB, kid, BB. Finally, shaking his head sadly, he pronounced, “Without a doubt, there is no question that this gun not only belongs to you but also fired the shot that struck the car. I also know it was an accident, you are sorry and will never do it again. Right kid?”

The kid nodded, “Yes.”

The Wisdom of Age

Many years later, I was the uniformed watch commander and noticed one of my “old timers” with a quarter-sized hole in the front of his uniformed trousers. Knowing he was two weeks from retirement and not about to buy new trousers, I told him, “Charlie, do something about that. We can’t have you walking about with your chalk-white leg showing.”

“Ok, Elltee.” An hour later, as he entered the office the problem seemed solved.

I asked, “That looks much better, what did you do?”

He grins, drops his trousers and I see where he has taken a dark blue marking pen and colored his leg.


The Education of a Young Patrol Officer

Back in the day when we carried .38 revolvers, I held a firearms inspection. On command you drew your weapon, emptied the 6 rounds into your left hand which was held out for viewing. The pistol was held at “inspection arms” in the right hand.

One of my probationers held a bright shining revolver smelling of gun oil and an empty left hand. He also had a terrified look on his face. I quietly told him to see me after roll call.

“What was that all about,” I asked. 

In a tremulous voice, he replied, “I cleaned my gun the other day and forgot to reload.”

I calmed him down and told he was not in trouble. I asked if there was anything I could say that would make him feel any worse than he was feeling already?

He shook his head. “No.”

I told him he would have to come up with some gimmick to make him think of his gun. Was it loaded? That sort of thing.

Years later the probationer, now a detective, entered an elevator I was on. 

He stood next to me but did not acknowledge my presence. As he got off, he laughed, patted his gun hip and stated, “When the Elltee says stay loaded, I stay loaded.”

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!


Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Cops and Robbers

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD      

Cops and Robbers? How many kids have played the game? Or cowboys and Indians? Or the heroic shot or homer to win the big game? Most will never achieve those dreams yet the cops part is most likely.

Maybe we never really intended to wind up here but for whatever reason (and there are many) we did. We have heard of the brotherhood or the calling or even the protection of the innocent but whatever the actual set of circumstances was “here we are.” And for better or worse we do the job.

The slackers, the lazy and the misfits are easy to spot and avoid.

From my 63rd anniversary of graduating from the academy I can look back a looong way. I have been sharing my tales with you now for a number of years and hope you still find them interesting. What follows is a collection of random thoughts. Brief moments that still bring a smile.

Working Metro, a late-night stakeout for some long-forgotten reason. We were in San Pedro perched on the mid-level platform of an inoperative oil derrick. The wind coming in off the ocean had convinced me I was going to freeze to death by daylight. 

Not a problem, says my partner as he stuffs his jacket with sleeping pigeons.

My friend Sully had come upon a sleeping drunk behind the wheel of a car in the ivy on the freeway shoulder. Sully was headed for the station for EOW (End of Watch) and didn’t want to get involved in booking a potential drunk driver. He pocketed the keys while he looked the car over. He broke off a toothpick in the ignition, then dropped the keys on the floorboard.

Back at the station when he tried to get into his car, he discovered he has the drunk’s keys.

The drunk was still asleep when he went back to make the change.

Still Sully.

We have all heard of the radio mic cord becoming a “lie detector” but Sully came up with the copy machine polygraph. A stack of pre-printed sheets labeled “TRUE” or “LIE” were fed into and discharged by the machine as necessary while our not too bright subject stood with his left hand on the machine and his right hand in the “I swear position.”

Working vice, we had a hooker who came up with the great idea of having her potential tricks swear under penalty of perjury that they were NOT police. She figured if she was busted, she could claim the officer perjured himself. 

Didn’t work in court.

Last Sully:

While we all worked the Robbery Squad at Wilshire Detectives, he swears his Chinese victim, owner of a laundry told a stick-up man who simulated a gun, “No gunny, no money.”

Tha Tha That’s all folks…

Street Stories When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly: LAX Security, or “Lax” Security?

By Ron Corbin, retired LAPD and LVMPD

When flying for Air Support Div, the choices for taking CODE-7 (meal break) are minimal compared to those for patrol officers. If you don’t bring your paper bag lunch, but choose to eat at a restaurant, the accommodations are basically relegated to those at airport cafes. The positive side of this is that air crews rotated every two hours, so we had a longer time to eat and relax between flights that ground officers weren’t afforded.

One day my observer and I decided to land at LAX and find a restaurant inside one of the major terminals. Landing and parking on the ramp, we walked up one of the empty jet-way stairs for Terminal 5, and entered the passenger gate area. We continued walking toward the front of the building, exited onto the sidewalk, and went to one restaurant located in adjacent Terminal 6.

After finishing our meal, we reversed our route to return to our parked helicopter outside of Terminal 5. As we approached the passenger security screening area, there were a couple hundred passengers in line to be screened and have their carry-on baggage X-ray checked.

This was a time when hijackings were prevalent around the world and, compared to current practices and procedures, airport security was in its “infancy.” There was no TSA as we know it today. Security personnel were contracted companies and standards in personnel selection varied from airport-to-airport. LAPD provided LAX with an on-site sub-station and division of uniformed officers assigned as a regular 24/7 element for protection.

Being “uniformed” officers, we started to go through the passenger “exit corridor” in order to get to our gate’s appropriate jet-way where we left our helicopter. A female security agent stepped in front of us, held up her hand like a school crossing guard, and said, “STOP! You can’t go this way,” and pointed to a sign saying basically the same thing.

At first I thought she was joking and with a big smile, started to step around her. She moved her body in our path and said that we had to go through the body scanner that all passengers were required. Even after announcing that we were LAPD and pilots for our aircraft outside, she seemed oblivious to the guns on our hips, remaining steadfast in her demeanor.

Agreed, we weren’t in the typical LAPD blue uniform, but my partner and I had the standard uniform in those days for ASD aircrews: khaki pants and shirt with holstered gun and ammo pouches. Our shirt had ASD shoulder patches, our name tag, and of course due to “Dragnet,” probably the most famous and identifiable badge in the world was pinned to our chest.

Not having time to waste and needing to get back in the air to relieve our other airborne crew, we figured it wasn’t worth the effort to debate this issue with her. So, we went directly to the head of the passenger line and were motioned through the scanner without question or delay. Of course, the security person at this point apparently recognized we were legit and never flinched to allow us passage as the “lights, bells and whistles” of the scanner alerted to the revolvers on our hips.

“I think she must have worked security at Wally World when it was closed for repairs.”

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.


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