By Hal Collier
The following story is true, the names have been changed to protect the embarrassed. Rookie mistakes are not all made by new police officers. Some of the biggest police blunders are made by senior sergeants, lieutenants, and captains. Often they make these blunders because they haven’t worked in the field in years. We call them “building boys”. To my non-police friends, building boys work non-patrol assignments to further their careers. I don’t fault them for their ambition to promote as long as they listen to those who have spent their time in the field. As usual I’ll only use first names to protect their identity. I’ve found most of my cop friends are willing to pay me to learn their real names. Nothing like a little dirt on a supervisor to get your requests granted. No coins this time guys.
We had a lieutenant–Phil, nice guy but a building boy. LAPD policy dictates when you bring in an arrestee who has a large amount of cash, a supervisor has to do a money count. This cuts down on complaints that the officer stole money. Ok, the officer brings in the cash and asks the supervisor to count it. The supervisor counts the money and initials a money envelope. So this “building” lieutenant takes the cash out of the envelope, all bills and begins counting. He licks his finger after every few bills to separate them. After a few seconds of this, he asks the arresting officer who he arrested. The officer stated he arrested a female prostitute in rather skimpy clothes. The lieutenant licks his finger again and asks the officer where she had the money. The officer says, without missing a beat, she held it her love vault. OK, if you need a further, more graphic description of a love vault, you need to get out more. This same lieutenant bought some ocean view property in Hawaii, sight unseen. Problem was no roads, electricity, and water, none planned for twenty years, but it had a nice view.
The second supervisor was again a nice guy, not a building guy. Hell, he’d get lost in a building with more than one story. He sits in the Watch Commander’s office with the narcotics scale and weigh things. I walked in one night and he asked for my badge. He wanted to know if a sergeant’s badge weighed more than a policeman’s badge. Duh. He also weighed a pack of Wrigley’s gum. At the time, there was a commercial on TV with a person walking around with a pack of gum under his arm. This sergeant calculated that the pack of gum would be too heavy to carry. Your tax dollars at work. He was a sailor. Always talking about sailing and buying a bigger boat. His wife was a home decorator who made a good salary. They bought a home in the marina with a boat slip, closed escrow, and then found out their boat was too big for their boat slip.
The third rookie mistake is all mine. I’m driving and responding to domestic violence radio call. I drive to the location and park two houses away. That’s an officer safety tactic so you don’t get ambushed. See, I’m cool and thinking. We approach and hear arguing coming from the house. We deploy, which means taking cover in case someone comes out shooting. We knock and yes, there’s a family dispute in progress. They really look surprised to see us and ask who called. We never tell them. We separate the parties and determine there is no crime. We offer our expert advice and tell them we don’t want to return or someone will go to jail. That always scares the shit out of them. Yea, right.
We get in the car and I’m telling my probationer, John, “See, that’s how you handle these domestic calls.” I drive to the end of the block and look at the street sign. I’m on the wrong block, just like the song, “Silhouettes on the Shade”. I drive to the next block and the right address. Guess what–a domestic dispute. Again, we handle a domestic dispute. This time, I didn’t offer any advice to my probationer. John didn’t make any comments which might have been the reason he made it off probation.
I worked with a Viet Nam Veteran, a quiet unassuming guy. He did his job and never talked about his war experiences. If you spend 8 hours in a police car with someone you get to know the person. That’s why police officers are so close and protective of each other. We found out that we both grew up in Eagle Rock and played in the same Little League. I later found out that he was awarded the Silver Star for heroism. One day, were driving around and he says to me, “Hal, lets catch us a pigeon.” I’m thinking, why? They’re flying rats, and my previous experiences with pigeons was not fond. He tells me that pigeons are blind at night and you can catch them easy. I remind him we’re working day watch and I don’t want some busy body citizen calling the Watch Commander, complaining about two policemen chasing pigeons. I was the senior officer so I won the argument. At least that’s what I thought.
The next day, this mild-mannered officer was working with someone else. I’m driving into the station as he’s leaving. We smile and wave. I go into the station for about 30 minutes. When I come out to my police car I have 4 pigeons inside. Not only are they on my head rest, front seat and MDT (that’s the computer in police cars), they have all relieved themselves numerous times. Lesson learned, don’t ever trust the quiet guy.
This same quiet officer, had a habit of tying a fishing line to the inside police car door handle and to the siren switch. When the unsuspecting officer opened his car door the siren would wail and the officer would relieve himself in the parking lot. This officer later went to the Bomb Squad.
Your tax dollars at work.