By Hal Collier, LAPD, Retired Hal is a thirty-five year veteran of LAPD. We are pleased he is sharing his stories with us.
The following story is true. I thought my last Ramblings about the desk was the final chapter, but I remembered some incidents myself and I was asked why I didn’t write about so and so. So here goes. You know it almost sounds like working the desk was all fun.
Remember these stories are spread out over thirty-five years. I could tell you about the times there were twelve people waiting in line to make a report or get their car out of impound. I could bore you with the time a citizen waited twenty minutes in line to be told he needed to talk to a Detective. The Detective interviewed him for thirty minutes and then walked him back out to the end of the desk line and told the desk officer to take a report. Ah!!! Why didn’t the detective just take the report when he was getting all the information? See? This was why patrol and detectives didn’t get along.
There were some pretty amusing stories also. There was a desk officer (JP) who raced out of roll call to be the first one at the desk. No one else rushed to work the desk. After some time the other desk officers discovered that he was placing a sign on the outside of the desk in front of his seat that said “Questions Only.” He didn’t have to take any reports.
It was also common for desk officers to throw items into a desk drawer that needed to be booked into property: found drivers licenses, credit cards, keys, and other items that are beyond description.
Another time a little old lady walked into the lobby, with a paper bag. She set the paper bag on the counter and removed a hand grenade. It was something her late husband had brought home from who knows what war. The lobby and the front of the station were evacuated and an hour later, the bomb squad determined it was safe. No reports taken during that hour. This happened more than once.
Some nights, there was entertainment at the desk. If Hollywood had a new lieutenant, one of the patrol officers would send “BJ” to the station to greet him. BJ was a well-endowed woman who lived on Yucca. First time I was introduced to BJ was at Yucca and Wilcox. My partner pulled into the parking lot at Playboy Liquor. I hear a female voice calling out, “Officer.” I look up at the balcony and see this woman. She says, “Hi, I’m BJ.” I hunch my shoulders at her and I hear my partner laughing. BJ flops out her boobs and wiggles them at me. Welcome to police work, Hollywood style.
Back to the new lieutenant. Some officer would send BJ to the desk and have BJ ask to see the Watch Commander. The new lieutenant would walk out to the desk and you guessed it, BJ would greet the new Watch Commander in the only way she knew how! I never sent BJ to the desk. I had a child on the way and really needed my job.
Flash forward a lot of years. I’m a sergeant and the Watch Commander for the day. It’s a Saturday. One of my senior desk officers tells me that a citizen wants to speak to me. Not unusual, people always want to speak to the Watch Commander. I go to the desk and this man says he has a video that he thinks I should see. This is post-Rodney King and we know what a mess that video caused. My heart is racing, I can feel my blood pressure rising, I should have called in sick. I ask him what’s on the tape. He only tells me it pretty disgusting and something needs to be done.
I take the tape, and tell the man to have a seat. I go into the captains’ office to watch the tape. I’m thinking, oh please not a video of a policeman involved in some deed of misconduct. I go over the list of notifications if it’s a Rodney King-type tape. If I miss one notification, it’s days off without pay for me. My kids are both in college and I’m broke.
I hit the play button and hold my breath. It’s a video of the north side of the police station, near our trash dumpsters. At first, I’m looking for cops, then I see small furry rodents. That’s right—rats, dozens of them. They are living in the storm drain and come out to raid our trash dumpsters.
I know from experience they aren’t eating left over jail food. I can breathe again and the only notification I need to make is to the city to rid the station of these pests. Most officers thought all the Watch Commander did was drink coffee and play Free Cell on the computer.
Working the Hollywood desk had its moments, but for the most part, it was busy twenty-four hours a day. When I worked Southeast (Watts), the morning watch desk was run by one officer who watched VHS movies on a small TV most nights. The Watch Commander brought in the movies. They even turned off the lobby lights; it looked like we were closed. Different worlds.
This last story is half desk, half Watch Commanders Office. We used to have a coffee machine in the Watch Commanders (W/C) office. It was one of those office machines where someone actually had to make a pot of coffee. No one wanted to make coffee, so a game was devised where you would pitch a quarter at white circle on the tile floor. The farthest quarter from the circle had to make the pot of coffee. You had to be careful that your quarter didn’t end up on its edge and roll into the desk area.
Next, it was decided that we would have three quarter pitches. First loser would make coffee; second loser had to buy coffee for everyone in the game. The last loser had to pour coffee for everyone. Soon the third loser had to wear a red waiter’s vest and hang a white towel over his arm as he poured. If you lost all three games, you made the hall of fame and had you picture taken. Sometimes if you had a lot of participants, it could cost you your eating money for the night, not to mention the embarrassment of wearing the red vest. Your tax dollars at work.
Working the desk was not a lot of fun, but it had its moments and of course these memories.
Desk favorites: Leo Simon / Andy Andrews