By Hal Collier, LAPD Retired
We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.
The story you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the embarrassed. Everyone who was working at the Hollywood Police Station at the time, knows who the involved parties are. My past stories have been true police incidents followed by true practical jokes. The incidents I’m about to tell you will about cover the whole page, all involving the same officers. I will use a first name only to describe them. I did not personally participate in this practical joke but I was aware of it and didn’t object. Feel free to pass this story on, I checked with the ACLU and the statute of limitations have expired.
I’m going to have to go into a little background for my non-police friends who read my stories. Each police division is divided into areas. Each area is assigned a police or “A” Car. Remember “1 Adam 12?” Each ‘A” car has a Senior Lead Officer who is responsible for the activities of the “A” car on all three watches. Each “A” car will have its own Black and White (police car) assigned to it. That Black and White is supposed to only be used by the officers working that “A” car. Brand new police cars are always given to the “A” cars. Ok, if you are going to drive the same police car for the next six months to a year, you’re more inclined to take care of it. You keep it clean, inside and out and avoid dents and dings.
Here is where my story begins. Paul was a Senior Lead Officer in Hollywood and took pride in his Black and White. He made sure it was washed and serviced regularly. Paul’s downfall was that he cared too much about his car. If an officer on the previous watch was on overtime with Paul’s car, Paul would drive to his location to exchange cars. If an officer checked out Paul’s car who was not assigned to his car, Paul complained to the Watch Commander. I was a Senior Lead Officer for nine years and can understand Paul being protective of his car, but I also figured, the car belongs to the city. Paul was working Day Watch, that’s like 7 A.M. to 3 P.M.
Paul’s protective nature of his police car irritated some of the officers on the previous watch, that’s 11 P.M. to 7A.M. The first inkling that something was wrong was when Paul drove out of the police station parking lot and heard a clinking sound coming from the wheels. He drove to the police garage and had the hub caps removed. There were rocks in each hub cap. This went on for weeks. The officer, I’ll call Gary, who was putting the rocks in the hub caps either grew tired of that tactic or ran out of rocks.
This is not anywhere near the end of the story. Gary next placed a ball bearing inside the driver’s door. It must have been the size of a large marble. Now you might be thinking, what’s that going to do? Well, a ball bearing rolls. Inside a car door it rolls back and forth. Now just think of a two mile trip to the market. Every time you accelerate the ball bearing rolls to the back of the door. Every time you brake the ball bearing rolls to the front of the door. Each back and forth motion ends with a metallic clank. OK, now that you have the picture in your mind, imagine spending eight hours in a police car. That’s an average of 30 miles a day, every stop, “clank”, every start “clank”. How many starts and stops are there in 30 miles of city driving? I’m sure a Cal-Tech graduate could figure it out but to a street cop it amounts to a jacket with sleeves tied in the back and a rubber walled room.
Paul took the car to the police garage and had the door panel removed but they couldn’t get that damn ball bearing out. About a year later I was driving this same black and white. I slammed on the brakes and that ball bearing rolled forward ending with a “clank.” I think it had been stuck in the grime in the bottom of the door panel and I freed it. Oh crap, I wonder if those jackets come in extra-long sleeves? I honestly believe that somewhere in L.A. there’s an old taxi cab with a ball bearing inside the door waiting to be released.
This is still not the end of the story. One bright sunny Saturday, Paul got his vehicle keys from the equipment officer and walked out into the parking lot. After three trips walking around the parking lot, Paul couldn’t find his car. He suspected foul play, so he walked across the street to the police garage. Sure enough there was Paul’s police car sitting next to the gas pumps. It was sitting on four milk crates with tires removed. A note on the windshield said Paul “your tires are in the property room, have a nice day”.
I’m sure this was not the highlight of Paul’s long outstanding career, but I often think of Gary and the amount of work involved. Bringing all those rocks to work. How he got that ball bearing inside the car door and who jacked up that car. He took all four tires off. The tires were then rolled across the street and placed in the property room, which means he had to walk past the Watch Commanders office. Some practical jokes are a lot of work.
If I recall, the Watch Commander said “enough” and things returned to normal, if that’s possible in the Los Angeles Police Department at Hollywood Division.