Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: New Year’s Story

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Somewhere throughout the land there are probably a handful of old men who can claim the title connected to this Hollywood icon.

On the east coast in New York City every New Year’s Eve since 1907 the ball has dropped in Times Square. People come from great distances to be there and be part of the action.

3000 miles to the west however, we have the holy grail of locations—Hollywood and Vine. Famous the world around. If Hal had a dollar for every time he drove through this intersection he would have more money than Bill Gates.

I think I can say without contradiction that Hollywood has more strange, unusual, weird and bizarre characters than any place else in the city. If that is not enough thousands more are imported for New Year’s Eve. 

Hollywood and Vine circa 1952

Without having specific instructions, the new comers and maybe some locals too, are largely engaged as follows:

They are required to drink tremendous amounts of alcohol (mostly beer), to wander aimlessly in small groups or herds, to argue at the tops of their lungs with anyone and everyone, to challenge all comers to fight, “You want a piece of me buddy, come on.”

And then either lose interest or forget what they were doing, usually throwing up on anyone within range or themselves, and last but not least to fall down and sometimes fall asleep.

The following is true, so help me. I once saw one of our coppers walking while pulling on a piece of rope, holding on to the rope were 4 or 5 real, real drunks. He said with a straight face that he was taking them to get coffee and if they didn’t have the rope, they would fall down.

I swear.

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: One Christmas Morning

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

There are no elves, nor grinches, no Jacob Marley and no Tiny Tim.This is the tale of one minor incident in the city on any given day.

The Call Box

I was a sergeant working Wilshire Division detectives and with three others were the “Christmas crew.” My hope for a quiet day to work on reports evaporated when a patrol officer called in a “DB” (dead body) call at the far west end of the division, the high rent area.

Homes were well-tended and pricey. I was met by the uniformand the neighbor who is a “Spring Byington” look-alike, both in looks andmannerisms. “Spring” came over to wish Merry Christmas to her friend Abigail. Receiving no answer, she went home and called. Alarmed when there was no reply, she phoned the police. 

The uniform had no trouble gaining entry and found Abigail deceased. 

Dressed in pajamas, quilted robe, and slippers she was seated in an overstuffed arm chair facing the tree. The remnants of a cocktail sat ona low table to her left. 

From all outward appearances she died the night before. After deciding cause of death to be “natural” and thinking that was a pretty good wayof checking out, I released the uniform and turned my attention to “Spring.” 

I covered Abigail’s face with a blanket and asked “Spring” about next of kin. She confirmed her friend like herself was in her 80’s and a long-time widow. 

Spring Byington in Kentucky Jones 1965

Three grown children, a daughter, Ellen, living in Arizona who she spoke to by phone on a weekly basis, and two sons both estranged, whom Abigail never discussed, names unknown.

Kitchen “wall phones” were popular then and usually had a corkboard or message receptacle adjacent. Abigail did not disappoint. In one corner of the board was “E” with an Arizona number. Directly below was “T” and “D”who I hoped were the sons. Neither E nor T answered nor did a machine.

D answered, “Merry Christmas, this is Dick.” Now the crappy part. Anyone who has ever made a death notification can verify there is just no easy way. I couldn’t blurt out, “Merry Christmas, mom’s dead.” So, in my most diplomatic fashion, I gave him the news as gently as possible.

Now, this is a man who, by his later admission, had not spoken to nor made any inquiry regards his mother’s health or well-being for many years. He completely went to pieces. He was an hour away and would be enroute.

“Spring,” bless her heart, had without prompting nor asking has made a pot of coffee. We sat with our coffee sharing the silence, I finally asked about Abigail’s doctor.

“Spring” had driven her friend to the cardiologist on several occasions. He was on Wilshire and although she could not remember his name it started with “W.” 

Abigail came through again when the board yielded Dr W. Department policy stated if a doctor who had seen the deceased within the last thirty days (I think) and was willing to attest to cause of death, he could sign the death certificate. Otherwise it became a coroner’s case.

Dr W’s service stated Dr G was covering for him. I asked Dr G’s service for a call back a.s.a.p.  Ten minutes later, Dr G confirmed his association with Dr W, knew Abigail and was sure Dr W would sign off.

Thank you.

“Spring” left and when Dick arrived, he cried openly and told me of his regrets. It was awkward and there was nothing I could really say. I was finally able to calm him down enough to call a mortuary. I then walked next door responding to “Spring’s” invitation and enjoyed a very good breakfast.

The names Abigail, Ellen, T and D along with the doctors’ are invented for this story as it was long ago. 

The story and of course, “Spring” are both true.

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Justice Delayed

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

When someone mentions the 1950’s we tend to think of a more innocent time, a peaceful and happier period.

Take 1957 for example: Ike was president, The Bridge on the River Kwai won the Academy Awards best picture, the Milwaukee Braves won their first ever World Series, beating the N.Y. Yankees 4 games to 3. The Super Bowl was ten years in the future, the Russians gave us Sputnik, the National Guard enforced school integration in Little Rock, Gunsmoke was number one on TV with Danny Thomas second. Five of the top ten were westerns. Nobody had ever heard of Viet Nam.

And 128 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty. 13or 10% were in California.

This the story of two of them.

The city of El Segundo is south and west of LA. A beach community approximately 5.46 square miles, today about 17,000 residents. The name Segundo is Spanish for second as the city is home to the second Standard Oil Refinery Tank farm.

On a hot summer night, Monday July 22 at 1:30 A.M., El Segundo Patrol Officers Richard Phillips, 28, with 2 years’ service and Milton Curtis, 25, 2 months out of the academy stopped a 1949 Ford for running a red light at Sepulveda and Rosecrans. 

Phillips exited the police vehicle while Curtis remained seated. At that time a second patrol unit, Officers Charles Porter and James Gilbert slowed to observe. Phillips gave the “ok” signal and they moved on.

A few moments later the motorist produced a 9 shot Harrington and Richardson .22 revolver and shot each officer three times.

Harrington & Richardson

Curtis died instantly. Phillips, considered the best shot on the department, though mortally wounded, emptied his 6-shot revolver at the fleeing vehicle. He put out a help call bringing Porter and Gilbert first to the scene.

Phillips was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his wounds as police units from surrounding communities responded and hundreds of officers took up the search.

The unoccupied car was found four blocks away. One item of note was that three of Phillips’ rounds struck the vehicle but only two were found, leading detectives to believe the missing round struck the suspect.

El Segundo PD Officer Richard Phillips 
EOW July 22, 1957

Off-duty sheriff’s deputies from Firestone Station arrived and set up a perimeter. The search continued throughout the night and the day intothe next night. He was gone. 

El Segundo PD Officer Milton Curtis
EOW July 22, 1957

What Phillips and Curtis had no way of knowing was that an hour or so prior to the stop the shooter had approached two teen aged couples in the “Lovers Lane” area in the small neighboring community of Hawthorne. Brandishing a revolver, he robbed the group, forced them to strip, bound them with adhesive tape and raped one of the girls, before stealing their ‘49Ford. 

What Phillips and Curtis had no way of knowing was that an hour or so prior to the stop the shooter had approached two teen aged couples in the “Lovers Lane” area in the small neighboring community of Hawthorne. Brandishing a revolver, he robbed the group, forced them to strip, bound them with adhesive tape and raped one of the girls, before stealing their ‘49Ford. 

They later provided descriptions to profile the shooter indicating he had spent a lot of time with them, was very polite and had a southern accent. 

The El Segundo traffic stop was only a short time after the robbery/rape and the victims had not yet freed themselves. The traffic stop turned out to be anything but routine.

Two partial prints (both left thumb) were obtained from the Ford, however this was 1957 and unless they had something to compare them to, they had nothing. L.A. Sheriff’s Homicide took over and the agency with an excellent reputation for closing cases began what was to become a decades long search.


Many, many interviews, suspects printed, interrogated and released. They chased tips, leads and hunches, all to no avail. Finally, it went “cold” but they did not quit. You do not walk away from this.

In those days’ DNA stood for “does not apply.” Fingerprint searches were done by hand; there were no computers. And still they carried on.

FBI fingerprint analysis


In September 1960, just a little over three years after the murders, a resident of 33rd Street in neighboring Manhattan Beach found a rusted .22 revolver in his backyard along with a woman’s watch. In poor condition when tested for ballistics, the gun could only be listed as consistent with the murder weapon. The find was about one mile from where the Ford was located. It was assumed the suspect threw them as he ran. The watches (a search turned up number two) were identified as belonging to the robbery victims.

Now, finally, the detectives had a physical piece of evidence. Something tangible, something to look at, something to hold and better yet something with a serial number.

The Harrington & Richardson model gun had been purchased at a Sears store in Shreveport, Louisiana in June, one month beforethe shooting. The clerk Billy Gene Clark, who was 18 at the time of the sale, was found and interviewed. He remembered the transaction and stated the buyer wanted the cheapest model available $29.95 for “protection.” He liked the composite drawing (from the robbery victims) and provided the paperwork wherein the buyer had signed as G.D. WILSON. Checking other business in the area they found a GEORGE D. WILSON had spent the night at the YMCA. The handwriting looked similar to the Sears receipt. 

Over the next few years detectives found and cleared every George D. Wilson in the United States.

What looked like a closer was now just another tempting clue gone cold.

Throughout the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s a succession of detectives plodded on, following leads, tips and just plain hunches. Nothing. During this period over 1000 people were fingerprinted and eliminated and in excess of 2100 “looked at” and cleared.

In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks the FBI revised their fingerprint data base to include thousands of prints from various departments of unsolved crimes, however the base went only to 1980. Not 1957.


In September 2002 (45 years after the shooting), LASO Homicide Detectives Kevin Lowe and Dan Macelderry who were then responsible for the file took a call from a woman who had overheard a man bragging he was the shooter. His prints were obtained, and he was eliminated. As they were reviewing the file they decided to have the partial prints digitally enhanced using technology not previously available. The prints were then entered into the FBI data base and within minutes—they had a hit!

I can only imagine what those detectives felt at that moment.

In 1956, Gerald Mason age 22, had been arrested and printed for burglary charges in Columbia, South Carolina. Released in 1957, he hitchhiked to California. The gun purchase in Louisiana and the southern accent described by the robbery/rape victims now made sense.

The prints were a gift from heaven, but the detectives knew the D.A.would want more. Over the next four months samples of his handwriting were obtained and proved a match. His 1956 mug shot was ID by the victims, the second radio car (Porter and Gilbert) who drove by just before the shooting and the clerk at Sears.

They built their case slowly and meticulously and in late January 2003, Mason was placed under surveillance for a full week. On January 30, 2003, a phalanx of officers descended on Mr. Mason and his worst nightmare became reality.

When he fled the scene of the shooting, he made his way home to South Carolina where he lived a quiet life never coming to the attention of the authorities. Not so much as a parking ticket. He became a successful businessman owning a string of gas stations before his retirement. He was living the good life, husband, father, grandfather, respected member of the community. Now his home was filled with police officers and when El Segundo was mentioned, he stated, “You are here for that?”

His back still bore the scar of Phillips bullet which had marked him for ID so many years ago.

When confronted about the rape/robbery he stated he was drunk and did not want to remember it. He admitted the shooting, “I had to get thembefore they got me.”

Mason’s friends and relatives were convinced the police had the wrong man. Don’t we always?

He pleaded guilty to two counts of murder on March 24, less than two months after his arrest. He was sentenced to two consecutive life terms, to be served in a South Carolina Prison as part of the plea deal.

He died on January 22, 2017, 4 days before his 83rd birthday.

In 1957 I was a brand-new officer working a radio car and learning how to be a policeman. I carried the wanted notice for the killer until it fell apart.

Over the years I sometimes wondered when and how it would besolved. A fluke and some luck, no doubt. How about both? A five and dime burglary puts his prints on file. A loud mouth in California boasts of being the shooter which brings out the file which updates the prints which gets the hit. Life can be capricious as we know.

This column/blog is written for several different reasons. For those of you too young to remember this, those who knew some but not all and to make sure we don’t forget.

When someone mentions the 1950's we tend to think of a more innocent time, a peaceful and happier period.

This is also dedicated to those brave men and women who wear or have worn the badge while doing a thankless task for a sometimes unknowing and uncaring public.

Those who have never, helped, or bled or cried for a stranger do not have the faintest clue what it is like to be a police officer.


Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: This is Not My World

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD
She was probably mid to late 40’s, tall and almost gaunt as very wealthy women are required to be. Her features said she had once been quite beautiful and was still extremely attractive.

The mouth, though, was hard and judgmental. Perfectly coiffed and dressed for a night out she stood to one side in the kitchen of her Bel Aire home as I spoke to her husband. It was almost 1:00 am and I was bone-tired from the double shift.

Eight hours earlier, I had stood in his den while he recounted his concerns regarding his missing daughter, Chloe.

We were there at the direction of the Chief of Police who had taken a call from Mr. Big that afternoon. I was preparing to leave work for home when the captain called me and one of my teams into his office.

Asking us if we knew who Mr. Big was? Obviously yes, a very recognizable name and face and a very powerful man. It seems his daughter, Chloe had not been home to her beach-front apartment for almost a week. She shared it with two roommates while they attended the local junior college.

As this was the early 70’s, the Golden Age of Terrorism and people tended to see bomb throwers under every bush.
Inasmuch as I was assigned to the Organized Crime Intelligence Division, terrorists, anarchists and the like were not our priority. Why do I mention this? Because Mr. Big went right to the top when he wanted police intervention. Maybe to stir the pot, he told the chief he thought his daughter might have fallen under the influence of a “revolutionary” and run off with him.

Okay, so why were we here? Well whenever the brass needed something done outside normal channels or “off the books,” we got the job. As a matter of fact, some people didn’t even know we existed.

I also failed to mention Chloe was 18 years old, legally an adult and emancipated from her parents. The hook then was the fact she had “possibly” been abducted by this ne’er do well and needed our assistance.
Yeah, right.

Our instructions were to find her, take no action except if required, urge her to call home and then brief her father, the captain, and chief.

This blog however is not about how we found her but find her we did—living in a garage in San Pedro with a 30 something-year-old ex-con member of the Weathermen, a militant offshoot of the then defunct Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), both radical groups.

Maybe dad knew his daughter better than I had assumed.

This is however about Mrs. Big’s reaction to the news we delivered that early morning in their kitchen over coffee. We were all standing, and I had just finished briefing her husband. Before he could reply, she stated, and I paraphrase, “This is not my world.” A short pause and again, “This is not my world.” Her eyes were focused for middle distance and she looked toward the back door.

“This sort of thing has no place in my world. I cannot and will not acknowledge the existence of such people. Those actions and behavior are a complete contradiction to my lifestyle and have no place in it. I refuse to believe in such people and circumstances. I will hear no more. You have no further business here.”

We said good night and took our leave.

I made no reply that night and even now so long removed, I am not sure I have the words or expertise to counter her complete and absolute denial of reality.

There must be a message or lesson here somewhere.

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Partners

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Ask most street cops what they consider the most valuable; the most important part of their professional life, if forced to; the last he/she would consider giving up.

I feel the answer would be their partner.

Partner defined: “One associated with another, especially in business or action.”

“Associate or colleague” OK so far.

“Either of two persons who dance together” (define dance)

“One of two or more persons who play together in a game against an opposing side” and “sharing risks and profits” Yes and yes

You should pick your partner with the same care as you pick your mate because you are going to be as close to and spend as much time with them as you do with the person you married. Choose wisely.

Start with the obvious—you need someone who you can get along with; who will be there when your life depends on it. Someone dependable, someone who will not lose it when the “fit hits the shan.” Trust me it will, and that’s a hell of a time to discover you picked wrong.

Choose someone with a mindset such as yours yet different enough so you complement each other. He/she sees what you might miss and vice-versa. Someone in whom you can see and appreciate the good qualities and ignore the unimportant bad ones; someone you feel comfortable and communicate easily with.

“On the right, by the alley.”

“Got it.”

Someone who knows what you are likely to do in a particular situation; who can understand and also convey a message with a shrug, nod, grimace or some other gesture you hadn’t even thought of.

Your Huntley to, his/her Brinkley (dating myself here); during a stop and on your feet taking and maintaining a good position. Moving sometimes as though choreographed. His/her Rogers to your Astaire (yet again).

And when it’s “come and get it time,” and the world is spinning out of control, his Butch to your Sundance.

As the saying goes, “someone who runs TOWARD the sound of gunfire.”

Consider the following:

You begin your tour by seating yourself side by side with your partner in a visibly marked vehicle. You are going to spend the next eight plus hours together directed by the radio to solve various problems.

When free from the radio you are on the “prowl” and “looking for trouble.” Let me repeat that: looking for trouble.

Does this sound like the sort of job description where you drive to the labor pool and pick someone from the crowd? I think not.

You hope to find out before it becomes critical that you have chosen to right person, since by then it will be too late.

They say you are lucky or rich if you have one truly good friend in your lifetime. I would think then that if the same could be said of partners. I am truly blessed.

Ward Fitzgerald and Hal Brasher, both WWII vets, taught me “the game.” Both were my kindly old “uncles.”

Frank Isbell and I were the “proverbial identical twins separated at birth,” who found each other, while Richard L. Sullivan “Sully” and I were truly soul mates.

I will lie for you, I will bleed for you, I will take a bullet for you and I will die for you.

Dedicated to PARTNERS everywhere.

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Mini-mini Adventures

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

I was a uniformed police officer assigned to night watch patrol with my regular partner Frank Isbell. It was barely dusk, and we just turned onto a quiet residential street when we hear a call, “Ambulance, injured child.”

The address was in the next block and was a child-care facility in one of the old homes in the area. We were close and decided to respond.

The turn-of-the-century house set back from the street had a fenced in front yard littered with toys, tricycles, and a play house. At the top of the front porch stairs stood a young woman holding what appeared to be an unconscious child, 3-4 years of age.

The woman has been crying and was on the edge of hysteria. Frank took the child while I calmed her down. The young boy has what appears to be an excessive amount of dried blood coming from both ears which has run down both side of his face before drying. She told me she found him “unconscious” on the floor of the closet with the “blood” and was unable to rouse him.

At this point Frank, who sometimes has a flair for the dramatic, states, “I have a diagnosis. It’s not blood. It’s chocolate.”

It seems our young friend found a stash of soft chocolate candy. So, hiding himself in the closet he stuffed as much as he could in his mouth. When he could hold no more, (boys being boys) he then stuffed both ears full of chocolate. Having overdosed, he fell asleep at which time chocolate did what chocolate does, it melted and ran down his face and when dry gave the appearance of dried blood.

The ambulance crew was able to wake him up, clean his ears and then treated the woman with smelling salts.

A few moments later while waiting at the stop sign we looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Another time, still working with Frank, it was late night and traffic was almost nonexistent. We were stopped waiting to turn onto a major street when a lone vehicle filled with screaming party-goers slowly passed in front of us knocking over traffic cones one after another. We were in a major construction area and there were cones everywhere to guide traffic through a maze of detours. We swung in behind him and with our lights off, follow him for a least a block or about 50-60 cones.

When I lit him up, he was so startled he did a 90 degrees right turn and hit the curb.
He was cold sober, embarrassed and apologetic. I assured him we knew that he meant no harm. As a matter of fact, I offered, “I am sure you were just about to park your car and pick up and replace all the cones. Correct? And we are going to stay here and help you by making sure the line is perfectly straight.”

He thanked us for not arresting him and sending him to prison. One of us just “may have” mentioned the newly invented, “TRAFFIC CONE HIGHWAY DISRUPTION ACT.”
Lesson learned.

They say baseball is a game of statistics or numbers. In a way, so is police work. How far did you drive, how many calls, tickets, stops, time consumed for each and on and on?
Known as recap, the ear candy and traffic cone incidents would not have credited us with any meaningful stats. So, even though not part of the numbers game we did what we were sent out there to do. Since most police activity is nonconfrontational we were protecting and serving.

They say character is what you do when no one is watching……..

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: A Vast Wasteland

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPDpolic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1
Fifty-six years ago, Newton Minow, then chairman of the F.C.C. uttered the still quotable line describing TV as “a vast wasteland.”

As true now as then, most people gain their perspective of various occupations or professions from TV. Doctors, attorneys and yes, police officers.

TV helps people to understand us–what, with our wild car chases, daily gunfights, magic deductions, the treatment of victims and especially suspects, instant DNA and so on.
I have said it before and now again. Most of the job is non-confrontational and non-criminal. I understand that no one would watch a show of an officer giving directions, helping someone locked out of their house or car, looking for lost kids, etc.

The reality is a wild, crazy, funny wonderful ride with God knows what encountered along the way, from the mundane to “you ain’t gonna believe this.” Police work is the thrill of living by your wits and sometimes flying by the seat of your pants. Just the satisfaction you get from doing the job, especially when there is no one there to say, “Atta boy.”

Two examples:

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

I was a uniformed officer assigned to some event or another at the Memorial Coliseum, that monolithic home to the 1932 Olympics. I was walking a solo beat on one of the concourse levels, the wide cement “roads,” home to food stands, beer sales and massive restrooms that circle the inside of the venue.

I was approached by a man who reported. “There’s trouble in the men’s restroom.” He was gone before I could obtain any details.

Eight to ten feet inside the door, the problem was evident. A well dressed, middle-aged woman had inadvertently entered the men’s room. The urinals, probably twenty plus, are against the far wall. As she entered someone yelled, “Lady in the room,” at which time a good number of the men at the urinals turned as one to see what was happening.
The woman is now face to face, so to speak, with a situation she was unprepared for. She appeared frozen and unable to move. I stepped in front of her, close enough to block her view. Taking her by the shoulders, I attempted to turn and push her out the door.

She was rigid as a board and was not breathing.

Finally, I was able to break her free and start her moving while shaking her and telling her to breathe.

Once outside, she transitioned from not-breathing to hyperventilation. And she started to melt. Now, I was trying to hold her upright for a few seconds when she regained her composure. She straightened her clothing and without ever uttering a word or looking at me—was gone.

graphicstock-illustration-of-a-cartoon-angry-policeman-cop-_rFR6Esf2Kb_thumbYears earlier, I was working patrol. My partner Frank Isbell and I were in the station for some reason. As I passed the watch commanders office the sergeant called, “Meckle, see me.”
Yes, sergeant.
The following is the gist of that conversation:
Sergeant: Did you write a ticket to a [consulting note] Norman Williams earlier?
Me: Yes, Sergeant.
Sergeant: Did you have a problem with him?
Me: No, Sergeant.
Sergeant: He came in to complain that you called him a [consulting note again] “peragidave.”
Me: A what, Sergeant?
Sergeant: [consulting] A “peragidave or peragidive.”
Me: What’s a peragidive, Sergeant?
Sergeant: I was hoping you could tell me.
Me: Honest, Sergeant. I have no idea what he is talking about. My partner was there the whole time.
Frank has now entered the office and is standing just inside the door trying not to laugh out loud.
Sergeant: [to Frank] Well?
Frank: [shrugged] Nothing, Sarge. [smothering a laugh]
Sergeant: What?
Frank: Honest. Nothing, Sarge.
Sergeant: [to me] Did you say or do anything that would make him drive all this way to complain?
Me: All I did was write him a ticket. He wasn’t happy and said, ‘This is going to court.’ And I said, oh—
Sergeant: What, ‘oh’ what?
Me: I said, “That’s your prerogative.” Aw jeez.
Sergeant: I’m betting he didn’t understand what you said, kept repeating it to himself all the way here and it became peragidave. Do us both a favor. No more big words on the street.

Note: you can’t have laughs like that flipping burgers or bagging groceries, boys and girls.

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Roll Call Training

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

roll call West Midlands Police
West Midlands Police, UK, briefing,


The LAPD has had a policy in place for eons which mandated a few minutes of daily patrol roll call to “training.” The department published material and sometimes a real effort was made to comply. Mostly however it was an afterthought.

I thought if ever given the chance, I would try something different, something interesting maybe even something useful.

Years later as a junior sergeant at 77th Street Division I had every title possible. Sort of the LAPD version of Ensign Pulver, I was not in charge of laundry and morale but I was “Roll Call Training Guy.”

None of the other sergeants, all old timers, were the least bit interested in the job. It was just as well—the lieutenant, nearing retirement, let it be known, (he did not speak to junior sergeants) that two times a week was more than enough for training, as it was all “stuff and nonsense” anyhow. Besides he never attended roll call which was handled by the senior sergeants, who could not have cared if I read the communist manifesto as long as they did not have to listen.

I said to myself, self: you think you are such a hotshot find something good.

I had a classmate, Bob Burke, working at the academy who loaned me a slide projector and dug up some really great FBI type slides. “Suspect with gun,” “suspect with gun and hostage,” “unarmed suspect,” “citizen with tool that looks like a gun,”—you get the idea. The photo lab was a gold mine for more slides, photos of weapons that didn’t look like weapons, slides of drugs, exotic burglar tools. And more.

police carNow old street cops (and the 77th was a choice assignment so it was loaded with old cops) were not too anxious to listen to some kid sergeant tell them about police work. They were polite but skeptical at first but nobody threw anything at me and after a short period they got into it. I made a game of the suspect with a gun slides.

The troops yelling, “shoot,” “don’t shoot,” took a lot of ribbing when they “shot” a civilian.
I had a friend working narcotics talk of “hype recognition,” an auto theft guy talked of VIN’s (vehicle identification numbers), etc. and the lieutenant never knew any of this.
Then the lieutenant retired, I transferred, and the program died.

Many years later the training fires still burned and as a uniformed lieutenant at Hollywood (PM)and Wilshire (days) my program came back to life. Now at Hollywood, all my sergeants were young, new and probationers, as was I. We had some brainstorming sessions and decided what we could do, what would work or not and what would be most useful. Topics demonstrated were such as: How to properly search a suspect, a room, and a car. When we pulled the rear seat on a black and white, it looked like a Columbian drug lord’s arsenal.

My all-time favorite though was as roll call ended, the troops were told to remain seated and look alive. At that moment an individual unknown to them entered the room and in a loud clear voice stated, “My name is–. I just killed–. The body is located at–.” Plus, another five items of information. He was in the room less than 20 seconds.

The troops would have one minute to answer a 10-question quiz. We added a twist by having the suspect use a color as his last name and that of the victim. He also gave the color of his vehicle. He was wearing a red and white striped shirt.

burglar-157142_960_720As he ran out he yelled, “My shirt is black.” Questions number 9 and 10 were physical description of suspect and clothing worn. Yep, some “saw” black.

As the patrol force got younger, I had probationers working with probationers. The term training officer had not yet come into existence. We tried to teach at roll call what they should have learned on the street.

See now: south/east/even/north/odd/west for addresses, palm print on the trunk, no-yes/no answers, was the 459 (burglary) amateur or pro? Bugs on rear plate, etc.

Over the years I grew weary of writing 15.7’s (memos) proposing a permanent 2-3-person cadre traveling roll call to roll call doing a much better job with scenarios than we did. It never happened and then I was gone.

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Life on the Frontier

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

On the TV news recently, I watched as several black and whites along with some officers on foot attempted to herd escaped cattle in the middle of the night. While they played cowboy, I sighed thinking I had never had a call like that. 

I never chased a wayward horse, mule, donkey or even an old milk cow. I never went in pursuit of a sheep, goat, or even a fat old pig. 

 I did however remember two interesting animal calls.

“3-A-15, See the woman; unknown trouble.” Oh boy, let’s pause here for a second. When a person calls the police, the phone is usually answered by a sworn officer (depending on the size of the department) who attempts to determine the nature of the problem and whether to dispatch a car.

If the call comes out as “unknown trouble,” it means a trained officer was unable to determine the problem. Cops hate these calls. It could be anything from a cockroach in the bathtub to “I think there is an atomic bomb in my attic.”

crying-1299426__340The caller was at the curb when we arrived. The middle-aged housewife bounding up and down, crying and so worked-up she had the hiccups. We tried to calm her down and convince her she was safe and to tell us what the problem was. She gestured toward the house and finally said, “Snake.”

“OK, where?” I ask.

“Kitchen under the fridge.”

“How big?” 

She holds her hands approximately 20-24 inches apart.

I asked, “What kind?”

Her answer was an annoyed look and a shrug.

We all know Southern Calif is a desert and all I can envision is RATTLESNAKE. I am also aware that I never met a snake that I liked. I have no desire to cultivate a relationship with one now and do not intend to change my mind. 

 The house was a small WWII duplex—the kind that seem to be everywhere. She tells us the back door is unlocked so my partner and I decided to surround the critter, Frank in the back door to the kitchen. I went through the living room. Batons at the ready we entered the kitchen and there he was coiled in front of the refrigerator.

Copperhead? Cotton Mouth? Mamba? Rattler? or could it be a Fer de Lance?


garter snake
Garter snake

It is 10 inches of ferocious garter snake. The housewife provided a shoe box and after a short struggle, he was subdued. 

She refused to look so there was no discussion regards length. We released him with a stern warning at a nearby vacant lot.

Another chapter in the “Naked City” (sorry about that)


Another time:

“3-A-15 Choking Baby, FD (fire department) enroute, code three.” We were only a few minutes off and were there quickly. Front door was open, and we heard wailing from the rear.

Rott in back yardIn the back yard we see a woman trying to support the weight of a large dog who when attempting to jump to freedom, snagged his choke chain on the fence, and hanged himself. He appeared lifeless and the woman was unable to lift him high enough to get him down.

As we lay him on the lawn the FD arrives. Frank alerted them, and they brought a portable oxygen bottle. 

In a few minutes they had revived him. Everybody congratulated everybody, too emotional to speak.

It is my understanding the F.D. now carries small animal sized masks. 

Oh, and the dog’s name was “Baby.”





Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: How I Saved Los Angeles from a Tsunami (sort of)

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Prior to December 26, 2004 I had never heard the term tsunami. Watching film as the walls of water from the Indian Ocean swept thousands to their deaths was almost too much to comprehend.

Caused by a 9.0 earthquake in the Indian ocean off the West coast of Sumatra it had the energy of thousands of atomic bombs. Within hours killer waves slammed into the coast line of eleven countries from East Africa to Thailand, traveling thousands of miles, they destroyed cities and killed an estimated 227,898 people.

LAPD class a uniform
LAPD Class A uniform photo courtesy of Gall’s

That said, let me tell you of the great L.A. tsunami. Many, many years prior I was working Metro; a bachelor living the good life in Hollywood. As I recall it was hot. Summer? Who can tell in LA? It was morning and I was scheduled to work that night. The call from the office told me to report ASAP in Class A uniform, emergency and bring your rain boots. Rain boots??

An hour later I was on one of many buses rolling out of the main police building. We were briefed as we went. My partner could not be found so I was paired with a non-Metro officer who I do not know and who was probably scooped up when they were frantically looking for blue suits. The non-Metro sergeant told us a major earthquake in the far Western Pacific near Hawaii had produced a large tidal wave which was expected to hit the LA coastline at an unknown time—time estimates kept changing.
Now the rain boots made sense of course. A massive wall of water is about to hit the city and I had a pair of boots which end at mid-calf. Sure. Why not?

We were to locate and warn as many people as possible and to provide assistance as necessary. They dropped my partner and I together with the sergeant at some small boat marina. We were on foot, no vehicle and no radio, no method of communication. The sergeant tells us to spend not more than one hour warning as many people as possible and then get out, find high ground.

Stereotypical LA
Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles

“High Ground?” We were at the beach for God’s sake and we didn’t have a car. Assuming the boat house or whatever will have a P.A. system we head there. The 18-year-old minding the store said he had to find the owner to get permission for us to use the loud speaker. I told him he has three minutes or else. I have no idea what or else was, but it sounded good. Two minutes later I was on the PA system trying to keep it low key but informing one and all there was trouble coming. The civilian radio had broadcast a warning or warnings earlier in the day. When I was finished with the PA several people on the docks looked in our direction and then went on about their business. One middle aged lady actually came into the office and wanted to know if we were really policemen.

tsunami Ao Nang, Krabi Province, Thailand 2004Within the hour we joined the sergeant on the roof of a nearby two-story building.

We waited for the magic hour as it approached, then passed. Nothing, absolutely nothing. The buses finally picked us up and we went back down town in silence feeling for all the world like fools. Nobody knew anything. At the office we were told the wave slowed and then died somewhere in mid Pacific—they thought.

I took my boots and went home.

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