By Hal Collier
In my last Ramblings, I mentioned Motor cops having dust-offs. A dust-off was a minor accident where the motor cop got up and dusted himself off and didn’t report the incident. Motor cops received a tie clip with the number of years that they didn’t have a reported accident. Robbie said he saw motor cops in roll call with blood dripping down their arms. When asked, no accident, nasty rose bush or angry Chihuahua dog.
Not all motor cops were as lucky. 34 LAPD motorcycle (M/C) officers have died in traffic accidents. Paul Verna was shot to death by robbery suspects. I later supervised his son in Hollywood. Clarence Wayne Dean died when he drove off a just collapsed freeway overpass during an earthquake. These were just a few.
Remember Eddie Haskell of “Leave It to Beaver” fame? Ken Osmond, his real name, later became a LAPD Motor Cop. In September 1980, he was shot three times while chasing a stolen taxi. Two of the bullets struck his bullet-proof vest and the third ricocheted off his belt buckle. See photo, Ken in the ambulance.
One of the other dangers of being a BCMC is the injuries of too many reported accidents. Almost all motor cops have back problems, most have multiple surgery scars. Craig admits to two back surgeries, one hip replacement, and one neck surgery. He says he aches all the time but riding sure was fun.
I knew one motor cop in Hollywood, Norm, who had metal braces attached to his boots for support. Motor cops take their motorcycles home every day. I knew one motor cop who crashed with a deer on the way home to Palmdale. Ouch! Some survive and return to work, others are not so lucky. They have permanent injuries and are pensioned off work. As they get older the more the injuries hurt. If you’re collecting Social Security right now think of how you feel getting up in the morning—and you’ve never had a dust-off.
Lou described an accident he had on the freeway. His radio was B/O (broken) and he was enroute downtown to get it fixed. Lou hit an oil spill on a transition road and went down. He couldn’t call for help and stood on the transition road for 45 minutes as the citizens drove by with smiles on their faces. Another time, Lou described how his motorcycle caught on fire while he was riding it. Not all Los Angeles City equipment is new. After Lou’s last accident, he gave up riding when his doctor asked him if he planned to walk in retirement.
With all that doom and gloom what’s the attraction? Why do apparently healthy, mentally sound (?) officers want to ride a motorcycle in a big city or any city for that matter? The rewards must be greater than the negatives.
I surveyed the many motor cops I have worked with and here’s their replies. Craig said it was for the money. Motor cops take their motorcycles home each day. They have free transportation to and from work and they don’t pay for gas. They also get a lot of overtime for attending traffic court. Motor Officers also get hazard pay but I don’t think it’s enough.
Lou talked about the freedom of riding a motor. You had to write your tickets but let the sergeant try and find you. Motor sergeants were usually old motor cops who promoted. The working motor cops had more shit on the supervisor then he had on them. “Tell on me and I’ll tell on you.”
Skip said there’s only two kinds of cops, those who ride motors and those who want to ride motors. He went on to say there are two kinds of motor cops, those who have gone down and those who are going to go down. Think about having a dust-off in your future?
Skip also recalled the time he was off-duty and on his way home in Burbank. He saw an obvious drunk driver and just couldn’t let him drive any longer. He stopped the driver and found out that he wasn’t drunk, just crazy as a loon. Skip escorted him into the lobby of the Burbank Police station, then rode away. Who was that masked motor cop?
Robbie was a little more verbose, (wordy). You either love riding motorcycles or you hated it. He loved riding. Most motor cops rode motorcycles before applying for LAPD motor school. Robbie said riding a black & white M/C with red light and siren was just a bigger rush. He said going in pursuit on his motorcycle had no equal on the Richter scale.
Robbie also said that the L.A. Police Department thought that motor cops were nuts so they got away with more than a patrol cop. Robbie has been retired for over 20 years and still has dreams of riding his Harley in L.A. with his partners. Hopefully he doesn’t have dreams of the dust-offs! Motor cops love to ride, and a lot ride their own bikes after retirement, not unlike “Easy Rider.”
I’m going to describe some of the motor cop incidents that I observed.
I worked Hollywood patrol for more years than the Andy Griffith show was on TV. In that time, I had a lot of interaction with motor cops. I can’t think of a bad experience that whole time. I transported their drunk drivers and warrant suspects. If a motor cop gets flagged down by a robbery victim, I took the report. Motor cops lose the ability to take non-traffic reports when they graduate from motor school. No problem, they bailed me out of many multi-car traffic accidents.
I knew one motor cop who was the most interesting. Avo, was a senior motor officer and he worked Hollywood Day watch. I never saw Avo mad or heard him complain about anything. He loved riding motors and loved life.
I once received a radio call for transportation for Avo at Hollywood Boulevard and Cherokee. I was close and as I arrived I spotted Avo’s M/C parked at the curb. Avo’s helmet was resting on his handle bars. The only thing missing was Avo. I looked up and down Hollywood Boulevard. No Avo. I sent my probationer up Cherokee to a parking lot to see if Avo was there. Nothing! If you knew Avo you knew he didn’t run after anyone. I’m about to put out an “officer needs help” call when I spot Avo walking out of a ice cream store. Avo has a single dip cone and his arrestee has a double dip cone, both bought by Avo. No wonder I never had to fight one of Avo’s arrestees.
Another time I’m leaving the station parking lot and as I drive northbound up the street, I see this official LAPD motor cycle southbound on the sidewalk. It’s Avo. He’s walking his arrestee to the station for booking. Clarification, the arrestee was walking, Avo was riding. What no ice cream?
I was once working deep under cover. I was wearing a wig and hadn’t shaved in a week. We were driving a Bundy-Rent-A-Wreck. For my non-police friends, Bundy rents cars that the auto wreckers turned away. Most had bald tires, dents and current registration was not an option. We were in Venice and looking for real bad guys. This car I’m driving was cherry—it had a rear view mirror. I look at the mirror. I see a motor cop with red lights on. Crap, he’s pulling us over.
My partner looks worse than I do. I can see it on the 5 o’clock news. Get out of the car, hands up, lie on the hot ground, arms and legs spread out. Where did I put my badge? I rip off my wig and step out making sure that I don’t make any furtive moves. My hands are so high that low flying sea gulls are in danger. Wait, I recognize that motor cop. It’s Bohlen. He’s worked Hollywood! I yell out, “Bohlen, it’s me Collier from Hollywood.” He looks at me then the car and shakes his head. We both looked like wrecks.
Motor cops are definitely a different breed from patrol cops but damn, they sure were fun to work with. Motor cops have been seen driving home with a Christmas tree on the back of their motorcycle.
One last thought, a motor cop in Hollywood had a license plate frame on his police motorcycle that said, “Smile, I could be behind you.” His sergeant made him take it off.