Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Hitting the Hole, Part 3 of Morning Watch

Here in Northern California, we called ‘Hitting the Hole’ something else–‘hitting the wall’. It’s when you’re so tired that you can’t keep your eyes open. If you’re in Dispatch, you normally cannot get up and walk around. You’re tethered (literally and figuratively) to the radio console. Imagine calling 911 and no one there to answer. Anyway, until Hal wrote about this, I didn’t know there was any other way of expressing it. Anybody heard any other terms for it?


By Hal Collier
If you’re still awake from my last Ramblings about working Morning Watch, this won’t put you to sleep! I’m going to talk about “Hitting the Hole.” It’s not what the non-police might think. Hitting the Hole was cop talk for catching a few winks in your police car on duty. Hitting the Hole may take two Ramblings—after all I worked nineteen years of Morning Watch.

I don’t know of any cop that never hit the hole on duty or any division that officers didn’t do it. In some divisions the officer and supervisors hit the hole together.

I can just hear the citizens and politicians yelling about our tax dollars paying the cops to sleep. Before you call for an investigation, I’ve seen some of our politicians asleep during civic meetings. Don’t we pay firemen to sleep every day? I could show you pictures of city workers sleeping in their trucks and these are all during the day after a night off.

I’m not going to justify sleeping on duty but sometimes your body just needs sleep. I’m going to give you an example. A cop works Morning Watch, he works all night, gets off at 7:00 A.M. He has to be in court at 8:30 A.M. He jumps into his court suit, grabs two cups of coffee and drives downtown. He checks in with the district attorney and discovers that the court has a full calendar. The officer is told that his case is low on the list of cases to be heard. The office slumps onto those hard wood benches and listens to numerous cases. The district attorney tells the officer his case won’t be heard until after the noon break.

After the noon break, the district attorney advises the officer that the defendant’s attorney has a trial in another court and yours might be the last case heard. Ok, it’s 3 P.M. and the officer spends ten minutes on the stand and is excused. The officer has now been up for over 24 hours. He drives home in rush hour traffic, grabs a quick bite to eat and tries to sleep. He has to be back at work in 4 hours.

Craig Bushey said that after a few days in court and working Morning Watch he was stopped twice by the same officer for possible DUI, on his way to work. Just tired, but the CHP officer asked Craig to take another Freeway to Hollywood.

Have you ever been really tired and know that you have to get up early? You look at the clock and think, if I get to sleep right now I’ll get four hours sleep. Thirty minutes, later you recalculate: if I get to sleep right now, I’ll get three and half hours sleep. You finally fall into that deep sleep. Then your alarm, or in my case my wife, wakes you. It’s time to get up and go to work. Your eyes burn and your head aches.

cops at Briefing  photo by Columbia Tribune
Cops at Briefing
photo by Columbia Tribune

You sit in roll call and try to stay awake. The Sergeant is passing out court subpoenas and he stops in front of you. Crap, you have court in the morning. Some might think this was a rare occasion, but it happened to me numerous time. I once spent three nights working and then three straight all day in court. Thank goodness that I was young and indestructible.

Some officers didn’t have the all-day court excuse. I knew one officer who was building a house with his father. He worked all night and the spent half the day doing construction work. Actually, he didn’t do much work in uniform. Other officers worked off duty jobs, like on movies, and didn’t get much sleep. The other group was just plain hung over. I remember a few nights where my partner was not in Roll Call. He met me in the parking lot and told me I was driving tonight.

Here’s my disclaimer. I hated hitting the hole. I had this fear that some terrorist was going to sneak up on our police car and shoot both me and my partner as we slept. I hope I die in my sleep but I didn’t want to in my 20’s and in a city car bought at the lowest bid.

When you’re on probation you do what your partner says and you keep your mouth shut. Most Hollywood cops only hit the hole for an hour or so. I often tried to convince my senior partner, let me drive up in the hills and you can sleep. I knew all the streets in the Hollywood Hills, including all of Laurel Canyon, before I got off probation. I could drive for an hour in the hills without getting lost.

I’m going to give you a few examples of my falling asleep on duty. I had a training officer, Rick Morton and we worked hard until about 4 A.M. when the radio calls died down and the dirt bags were either already in jail or had crawled under their rocks.
Rick always drove and he would park in this Cahuenga West alley that only ran for one block. He took a short nap and I caught up on the log. After he woke up, we would eat at Candy’s restaurant on Cahuenga West around 5:00. My story: I had been in court for three days and had about ten hours sleep in that time period. We parked in the alley. I was exhausted and thought to myself, “I’ll just put my head back on the head rest and close my eyes, just for a few minutes.” Well, you guessed it—I was sound asleep in minutes, no counting down the time.

Symbionese Liberation-Army photo from
Symbionese Liberation-Army photo from

I was in that deep sleep when a trash truck pulled into the alley behind us. I didn’t hear it drive in, I didn’t hear it roll out the Dipsey dumpster, I didn’t hear the motor where it raises the dumpster. When the trash truck dumped the trash with a loud bang, I shot out of my seat and banged my head on the ceiling of the police car. My heart was racing and Rick was telling me to calm down. Later I learned that a block away the SLA was dropping off their propaganda tapes at a radical radio station KPFK. Great sleeping spot, Rick.

Another night, Rick bought a rape report call. The rape occurred a week ago so it was only a report. That’s right, I’m going to write the report. We interview the alleged victim, who I suspect only reported the crime when the check bounced. We got the Readers Digest version of her account of the crime and Rick told me to have her sign the report. We then drove to an upper parking lot of Universal Studios. Rick slept while I wrote the report in my lap with a flashlight.

Another time Rick had actually gotten a good days sleep and offered to drive while I caught a few winks. I woke up to Rick singing Elvis songs over the police car PA system. I looked out the window and saw Beverly Hills street signs. Rick was a good cop but couldn’t sing.

Picking a proper “Hole” was an art and you often had to change locations. Next Ramblings, I’ll reveal for the first time some of the favorite sleeping “Holes” of Hollywood cops in the 70’s.


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