By Hal Collier
The following stories are true and can be verified by more than a dozen people who have no ambitions to run for political office. You know, politicians can’t be trusted to tell the truth. As usual, I’ll only use first names and all incidents are true to the best of my fading memory.
My last Ramblings dealt with the first day of the L.A. Riots. The L.A.P.D. was mobilized, which means all days off are cancelled and everyone works 12 hour shifts. That’s 12 hours on the clock, it doesn’t count travel time to and from work, putting on your uniform. I worked 13 straight 12 hour days. I was one of the lucky ones. I had a wife who cooked, did the shopping, banking, took my uniforms to the cleaners and acted as an alarm clock when I wanted to hit the snooze button. After about the fifth day your body gets into a rhythm. After the 13th day they gave me one day off. It screwed up my rhythm and I couldn’t do anything but sleep.
Ok, back to the riots. The first day, I was relieved at 7 P.M. and told to go home. I had to be back at 6 A.M. I wasn’t working at night but the following was told to me by officers who worked nights. The Department set up a huge command post in south central L.A. 52nd and Arlington, if memory serves me correctly. They sent a large number of officers from the night shift of each patrol division to report to the command post. RTD (Rapid Transit District) bussed them to the command post. Hollywood officers then spent the whole night sitting at the command post. Nothing irritates a cop more than sitting, when there’s crime happening.
They were being held in reserve, for what, only the department command staff knew. At the end of their shift they were bussed back to Hollywood. These cops were angry, they weren’t hired to sit while the city burned. The RTD bus was N/B on Vine Street at Lexington. Amatron, a large electronics store was being looted. A supervisor halted the bus and said, “Let’s go.” Can you imagine the surprise of the looters, when 60 cops get off a RTD bus and with blood in their eyes and charged into them?
The next night as the bus was being loaded, our Captain, an old timer, saw the flames of burning buildings on Hollywood Boulevard, ordered the officers off the bus and told the officers, “Well, save Hollywood first.” That’s leadership.
After a few days, the National Guard was called in and some order was restored. One citizen tried to run a National Guard roadblock, he was shot in the ass. I guess the National Guard doesn’t care about the L.A. Times opinion.
The Calif. Highway Patrol (CHP) had been doing escort duty for the fire department. Yea, even the firemen, the good guys, were targets. After the third day, the CHP left and I was assigned to escort the fire department. Two police cars were assigned to a fire station for the whole shift. Whenever the paramedics left the station, one of the police cars went with them, even if it was for lunch. I followed a paramedic truck to Pink’s for lunch, then spent an hour as they cruised Melrose looking at girls. It beat being shoed. The other police car went with the engine truck. I discovered that when following a fire truck code 3, lights and siren, the cars that do pull over, pull right back out when the truck passes. I almost got hit four times in three days.
Most cops know that the firemen have nice break rooms with aircraft seats, not the small ones found in coach, but the big oversized recliners. They have a large screen TV with surround sound. They also have a fully equipped workout room. These are all paid for by the firemen through their own station fund. Although this was easy duty, it was boring as hell. I took a book the second day. I was assigned to fire station #27. It was an old building, built in the 20’s. It had fire poles where you could go from the second floor to the first in seconds. Yea, I tried it once. If you land too hard you get your knees shoved up into your neck. Fire Station #27 is a Battalion Station. A battalion is 2 Engine trucks, a Hook and Ladder, 2 Paramedic trucks, a Hazmat truck and a Battalion Chief. That’s as big as it gets.
If you know firemen, you knoq they don’t just sit around waiting for a fire or medical emergency. They take a perfectly good wood ladder, strip it down, sand it, then re-varnish it. They wash the underside of their fire trucks and wax everything that doesn’t move. Ok, I’m sitting around the break room, killing time. The firemen are always pulling the trucks in and out the doors for washing. About mid-day Keith, calls out to me on the radio.
“Hey Hal, they’re all gone”.
I ask, “Who?”
Keith says, “The whole battalion, they’re gone.”
I ran downstairs and sure enough, we’ve lost a whole fire battalion. How am I going to explain losing seven fire trucks including a hook and ladder truck? This won’t go well when I take a promotional oral. I know they didn’t get called out, because I’ve learned the bell and buzz sounds signaling a call for Station #27. Remember the TV show Emergency? After a few frantic moments, I found out they went to another fire station for lunch.
That was the end of my fire escort duty.