By Hal Collier LAPD, Retired
We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.
The following story is true and the character is, or should I say was, real. He passed away years ago. Lawrence Mescher (sp)
First my story: I’m not the most computer-literate person in the Western Hemisphere. I’m always asking kids to fix some problem with my lap top. My generation didn’t grow up with computers. Hell, we had to read the instructions on a new calculator. Our kids taught us how to play the Atari games.
When I made sergeant in 1993, my new captain said that all paperwork shall be completed on the computer. The dumb ass that I am, I raised my hand and advised him that I didn’t know how to use a computer. He rolled his eyes and said we’ll teach you.
A little knowledge is dangerous. I got a ten minute lesson and dived into my first project. I deleted a whole page that took me an hour to complete. I missed the part where they teach you the save key.
My police department has a policy that anything you turn in is called “Completed Staff Work.” Completed Staff Work means no abbreviations, proper grammar, spelling, and everything else I forgot from English class. I signed up to be a cop not an editor for the Encyclopedia Britannica.
As computer dumb as I am there are some cops out there with less skill. Flash forward a few years. I’m learning to use the computer and I can even load paper and unjam the printer. I come to work one morning and after writing a report I press the print button on my computer. The printer is in the Sergeants room behind the Watch Commanders Office. My computer replies that the printer is not working. I check the printer and discover that the printer is jammed with paper. No problem. I unjam the paper and the printer begins to print commands that were sent to it hours earlier.
I figure I’ll look over the newly printed documents and return them to the author. I stumble across an e-mail by a Hollywood sergeant to another sergeant in another division. The e-mail describes his current lieutenant and what a waste of uniform and air this lieutenant is. He goes on to blast the Police Departments promotion process and if this individual ever makes a decision the sergeant might have a heart attack.
These kinds of comments about your boss are not career builders. I agreed with the sergeant’s assessment, but Jeeze, don’t write it down where it might fall into the wrong hands. I sneaked the e-mail to the sergeant and became an accomplice. The lieutenant promoted and the sergeant and I stayed in patrol, which is where we wanted to be in the first place. Sergeants name (RJ) available for a coupon for a car wash.
Hollywood Character: Lawrence Mescher
Lawrence won’t be known to a lot of the officers who came to Hollywood after the 80’s but some of the early cops will recognize him, not by name but by his reputation. Lawrence hated the cops and the feeling was mutual. He was a thief, a pack rat and often made complaints against any officer who questioned his behavior. Lawrence could be found standing in front of a news rack on Hollywood Boulevard, usually after midnight. Lawrence always had a stack of new newspapers under his arm.
I remember once I got a complaint from a businessman about some bum living in a car. I approach the car and it’s filled with junk. I mean the only place to sit down is the driver’s seat. There’s a six inch pile of papers on the dash. Lawrence is sitting behind the wheel. I ask for his driver’s license. Lawrence replies, “I want your business card and badge number.” I tell Lawrence, “It will be on the vehicle impound report when I take your car.” Lawrence pleads, “Don’t take my car.” I’m amazed when Lawrence pulls his driver’s license out from the middle of the pile of papers—and it’s valid. I won this one. Lawrence moved his car.
Later, Lawrence became a training tool for young probationers. A training officer would see Lawrence and advise the rookie that Lawrence was an arson suspect, which he was. He always seemed to be close by whenever there was a trash can fire. The idea was that Lawrence always gave the police a hard time, refusing to ID himself, demanding the officer’s business card and threatening to make a complaint. This was a good training tool for a rookie. The rookie learned that he was in charge and not to back down to someone just because they threatened to complain.
Lawrence was also a thief. He would stand in front of the news rack until he was sure that the police weren’t around then jimmy the coin slot and take all the newspapers. The newspaper guys couldn’t figure out why their racks were empty and no money was in the coin box.
Lawrence was found dead in a motel on Sunset Boulevard. The motel room was filled with unread newspapers. I’d tell you what Lawrence was doing when he died but it might not be appropriate.
I don’t think any Hollywood officers shed a tear.