Be sure to check out Just the Fact’s, Ma’am on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 for Marilyn Meredith’s guest post on her research for her Rocky Bluff PD series.
By Hal Collier
The following stories are true and are from the annals of the Los Angeles Police Department. As in the previous Ramblings dealing with personnel complaints I will only use first names. I’d like to stay away from political opinions but the Los Angeles Police Department became a political party when they ousted Chief Daryl F. Gates.
In the days of reason, the Chief of Police was picked by the Police Commission, who was appointed by the Mayor. Once selected as Chief he was in for as long as you wanted. He was protected by Civil Service and could only be removed if he committed a crime or retired.
Back then, the mayor was a friend of the police department and supported the chief. After the riots, everyone blamed the police and Chief Gates. Gates was forced to retire and the politicians took over. The mayor hand-picked Police Chief Willie Williams. It was a big mistake. He was always in Las Vegas gambling and couldn’t even pass the California Police Officers Standard & Training (POST) a requirement to carry a gun or be a cop in California. No problem, he was the mayor’s pick. After five years Willie was not asked to come back. The new chief was selected from inside the department, Bernard Parks. He was a strong disciplinarian and he was going to clean up the Police Department.
Parks’ first directive was that the Los Angeles Police Department would take all complaints and investigate all complaints. It didn’t matter how ridiculous or outrageous the complaint was: take the complaint and assign a supervisor to investigate it. Parks once said department morale was not his problem. Well, morale took a dive and experienced cops left the LAPD in droves for other departments.
Now, I’d never imply that Hollywood has a few nut cases but I once took a complaint from a lady who claimed that Police Chief Parks and Mayor Riordan were doing “The big nasty” in her attic and they filled her walls with cocaine. When you stop laughing, think about this. I wrote up the complaint and passed it through channels to be investigated. I’m sure it was not taken seriously but as a supervisor we were not given the discretion to “round file” (trash) these complaints.
Chief Parks decided he would check to make sure we took all complaints. He directed I.A. (Internal Affairs) to call in bogus complaints and then check to see if we took the complaint and submitted it for investigation. I had no problem with taking the false complaint which took an hour to type out, two hours if spell check was broken, try and find a hard bound dictionary in today’s computer age. What I didn’t understand was why the complaint came back and a Hollywood supervisor spent hours investigating an incident that never occurred.
I once took a false complaint called in about an unknown officer calling a traffic violator a “dumb ass.” I took the complaint and it went downtown. A week later it returned for investigation, but it had the same allegations, date and time, but occurred in the San Fernando Valley, fifteen miles from Hollywood. Now, this bad officer really got around. I laughed that the Internal Affairs Officer mixed up the paper work. Yea, I still had to investigate the complaint and spent another two hours of the tax payer’s money.
I once was assigned a complaint that involved a Hollywood Officer who was arrested for drunk driving in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve. It also involved a traffic accident with three college girls from Colorado. Some of my colleagues thought I was lucky, a trip to Las Vegas and Colorado on city expense. Ha, if there were trips involved the complaint never would have been assigned to me. I handled most of the investigation from the beautiful Hollywood sergeants’ room on the telephone. The farthest I traveled was to a McDonalds’ near USC to interview the officer’s girlfriend.
Most days, Hollywood had one or two field supervisors. A field supervisor is supposed to be in the field keeping the patrol officers out of trouble. Half the time they were in the sergeants’ room typing up false complaint investigations. Ok, I’m going to slowly back down off my soap box.
Of course, there were the chronic complainers. James Woodard comes to mind. He lived about two blocks from the station and hated everyone, neighbors, passing traffic, but especially the police. He once wrote a letter to our captain, commending me for being professional and complaining about two other officers. The next week he wrote a letter demanding my letter of commendation be removed from my package and a complaint filed against me.
I was once the subject of a Woodard complaint for an incident on a certain date and time and I wasn’t even in the county that day. Yep, some poor supervisor spent hours investigating and interviewing me. The pictures of me and the fish I caught at Big Bear Lake on the day in question was not considered proof.
I’ll never forget my first complaint. I had about two weeks out of the academy. My partner, myself and two other officers were accused of stealing some guy’s money. Being the probationer, I was taken into the Captains Office and stripped down to my underwear and socks while a sergeant went through my clothes and wallet. Another reason to wear clean underwear. Police officers rights hadn’t been invented in 1971.
This one involved the first time I was sued. Some felon claimed that he was beaten by unknown Hollywood Officers. Of course I was listed as “et al” meaning all officers, but I was being sued for $1,000,000. I went home and told my wife we were being sued for a million dollars. Her remark was, “Hal, we don’t have that kind of money!” I suggested I might work some overtime, sell an organ or sell our child that was going through the terrible two’s. The law suit was dismissed.
Next some more crazy complaints and a couple of very serious complaints lodged against me.