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 was there. I’ll follow with a story about another Hollywood Character. I asked around for this character’s name or background. Everyone who worked Hollywood in the 70’s knew him but only two remembered his name and only Dale Hickerson remembered his background.
Ok, first the story. With today’s TV coverage of car pursuits and police tactics, everyone is an expert on how we stop felony suspects. The Helicopter reporters tell the viewers what the police should do next and they criticize the officer if it’s not according to their textbook. One of the problems is that different police departments have different tactics and policies.
Late one night a Hollywood police car spots a stolen car. The senior officer broadcasts that he is following a stolen car and requests a backup and a helicopter. The officer is southbound on Highland passing Sunset. I’m excited because I’m close and fall in behind the lead officer.
It must have been a slow night because two blocks later most of the cops in Hollywood division are behind us. The helicopter is overhead with its bright light shining down on the stolen vehicle. The lead officer turns on his red lights at Santa Monica and Highland. The suspect’s vehicle stops. I look behind me. We have about six police cars all with their red lights on and the entire street blocked. The helicopter is circling overhead.
The lead officer gets on the PA system in the police car and broadcasts to the suspect’s vehicle, “This is the Los Angeles Police Department” I hear a voice from an officer behind me, “They know who we are.”
Picture this: fourteen officers crouched down behind their car doors, guns drawn, and adrenalin surging through their veins. Suddenly laughter breaks out. The lead officer is not going to let this stop him from conducting a tactically correct felony car stop. He orders the driver to throw the car keys out the driver’s window.
After a brief pause, the driver of the stolen car tosses a screwdriver out the window. More laughter from the officers.
The lead officer did everything by the book, but it was funny as hell.
Hollywood Character: Baseball Pitcher—Old Bill
During the 70’s, there was a black man who would stand at the southwest corner of Santa Monica and Western. Other guys like me told his name was Bill. Just after first light Old Bill would be out on the corner with a baseball and a glove. I think he was in his 70’s or 80’s. Bill would bend at the waist and look in to get a sign from an imaginary catcher. He would wind up and throw an imaginary pitch. Sometimes he had runners on base and would throw an imaginary ball to first base. I once looked at his baseball glove. It was similar to my dad’s glove that he used in high school in 1935, I know because I still have it.
Hollywood officers, including myself would stop and ask Old Bill, “What’s the score?” The Dodgers were always winning. The count on the batter varied but I don’t ever recall him giving up a home run. Another officer asked him once if any runner had ever stolen a base on him and Bill replied, “No I have a good catcher.” He was fun to talk to. I wish I had asked him more about his background. Dale Hickerson said he played some pro ball in the Negro leagues.
Last time I saw Old Bill was early one morning. I received a radio call of a man down at Santa Monica and Western. When I arrived, I was told that the man had been transported to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. I arrived at the hospital and Old Bill was lying on a gurney. A nurse was trying to pry Bill’s baseball and glove from his hand. Old Bill had a stroke and I never saw him again.
The Dodgers lost the best pitcher they never had and Hollywood lost a character.