By Hal Collier
This is the conclusion of Hal’s Foot Beat Stories, for now. He might have another one cooking that he will share with us soon. Next week, we’ll look at Hal’s take on different types of calls for service. Leave us a comment if you care to ask Hal about his life in LAPD. And as always, I’m here to answer questions, too. –Thonie
I never expected the foot beat chapter to be this long but once I started, all these memories flooded my brain. Don’t panic, I’m not ready to climb up on roof like those knuckleheads in Louisiana. The fond memories even pushed out the thoughts of the ugly daily news.
I asked for and was given a Morning Watch Foot Beat. I don’t think any other division in the city has a Morning Watch Foot Beat, but then none looked like Hollywood in the late 70’s. When all the other night and strip clubs closed up Hollywood was just getting started.
My Lieutenant didn’t want me making a bunch of misdemeanor arrests, like lewd conduct in the porno theaters or drunks in a bar. That was a job for vice.
I had almost 8 years on the job but felt as if I was on probation. We had to produce or go back to a radio car, handling barking dogs, loud parties and explaining to citizens why we took 3 hours to handle their call for service.
We would clear roll call at 11:30 and park our police car in a taxi zone right next to the Hot Dog Stand. Well, we were sort of a taxi, we just made one-way trips and didn’t charge a fare. We would walk one round of the Hollywood Boulevard foot beat boundaries. La Brea to Vine. After Midnight there wasn’t much open on the east end and a waste of energy and shoe leather. We would spend the next 6 hours in a 3 block radius of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland.
I learned some interesting tactics while walking a foot beat. First, most crooks look up and down the street for a police car, they seldom look on the sidewalk for a foot beat cop. I often could walk right up behind two guys on the Boulevard and look over their shoulder and see them exchange dope for money. I also discovered I could walk right by two suspicious characters, turn down the next corner and circle back through the alley and watch them break into someone’s car.
We did some of our best work walking through dark alleys and parking lots behind Hollywood Boulevard. Another foot beat tactic was dodging vomit, urine and used condoms. Still want my job? I often questioned the wisdom of putting carpets in the Watch Commanders Office. No cop washes the bottom of their shoes before entering the station.
We often saw an empty car alone in a parking lot even when there was lots of free street parking. Run the license plate for wants and bingo, it was stolen. Other times we looked at the ignition, punched ignition meant it was stolen and not reported. Now comes the hard part, you had to keep your eye on the stolen car, go get your own car and then hide it someplace where the suspect won’t see it.
Any cop who spent more than a day in patrol, knows how hard it is to hide a Black & White police car with a light bar. It’s easier to hide a face pimple on prom night.
One of us would stay in the car, and the other was watching the stolen car, usually hiding behind a trash dumpster, with urine and vomit under your feet.
I won’t tell you about all the arrests we made walking a morning watch foot beat but we often led the watch in arrests. Of course, we seldom got tied up handling radio calls.
We often free-lanced and responded to crimes where the suspect might still be in the area. We also didn’t want to piss off the other hard working cops on our watch.
Yesterday’s radio car cop was my partner the next night. If things got busy we would jump into our police car and handle radio calls. I remember once the radio operator tried to assign me a radio call high in the Hollywood Hills. I agreed to handle the call but quoted a long delay, because I was on foot a mile and half from my car.
I was fortunate that I was given good partners to work with. Every once in a while I would get a cop who didn’t want to work or for that matter, walk the foot beat. One night I was assigned this cop who was known for being lazy. I noticed that every half block I found myself walking alone. I would look back and my partner was leaning against a closed business. Once he was sitting on a bus bench next to a homeless person.
His attitude changed when a suspect shot another drug dealer in the face with a shotgun behind the hot dog stand, 30 feet away from where we were standing. He stayed pretty close for the rest of the night. Two nights later we arrested the shooting suspect. I had a snitch who told me which motel he was staying in.
I had a lot of fun walking the Hollywood Boulevard Foot Beat and I got to work with some great partners, J.J., Dan, Stan, Bill, Cliff and a host of other good cops.
Mike Castro walked the Hollywood & Western Foot Beat, (6FB4) with Dave Smith and Ken Hobbs and said it was a great job. Other officers walked a foot beat in Ramp (Rampart) or Central Divisions and all agreed pounding a beat was a fun and rewarding job.
After 3 1/2 years, I was told that they needed my foot beat spot for a new radio car that would handle all the burglar alarms. It was called a code 30 car and was staffed with officers Jack Myers and Ron Venegas. That’s right, they became the famous Hollywood Burglars. They were the cops that broke into businesses to steal property–on duty. I’d hate to be the supervisor that made that decision. Walking a foot beat was the best of times, that later turned into the worst of times. That will be another Ramblings story.
Today’s Hollywood Boulevard foot beat cops ride bikes or drive around in their cars. It’s just a different time. I was one of the lucky ones who got a little bit of the good ole days.
Back when I first started, back in the olden days of 1966, the rookies walked a beat in downtown Petaluma, from midnight to 0400. I really enjoyed doing it. Later when there were less walking beats they would ask for volunteers to walk a beat on special days, like Halloween. I always volunteered. My favorite anecdote, was when a bunch of teen-angers went by, & threw a water balloon at me. It bounced once, didn’t explode, being a baseball player, I fielded it on the hop & threw it back, hitting their car & finally exploding.
Great story, Warde!