Ramblings by Hal

Rookie Mistakes

By Hal Collier


The story you are about to read is true.  The following mistakes were mine and mine alone.  Some I have repressed for over three decades, but I have come to the conclusion that my career is over.  I was a slow learner when it came to my career.


LAPD Academy graduates
LAPD Academy graduates

I mentioned station security in one of my earlier stories.  One of the important jobs of the station security officer was that the flags be posted at dawn.  The old station was two stories and the flag pole was outside a second story window.  To attach the flags to the pole you had you lean way out the window and attach both the American and California flags.  One morning after eight hours of standing in the dark and leaning out the window, I hung the California flag upside down.  I was tired and didn’t notice.  The Captain drove into the station parking lot and wanted to know who thought the California bear should be on his back.  After apologizing to the Captain.  He suggested that I have two more days of Station Security to practice posting the flags the proper way. It never happened again.

Most probationers are pretty proud of being a cop. Unfortunately most citizens aren’t that impressed.  I’d been in the streets for about 6 weeks and I learned that people were always watching you. I want to make a good impression.  It’s Saturday night in Hollywood, the streets are crowded, young ladies stare as you drive down Hollywood Boulevard.  I’m pretty impressed with myself.  I’m the passenger officer in a 1969 Plymouth black and white–the best police car the department ever used.  It’s only 2 years old but already has over 70,000 miles and the dash has holes in it.  The seat belts are tied in knots so you couldn’t wear them if you wanted to.  In the hands of a good driver that car could take a corner on two wheels and not lose speed.  My partner Rick was just that kind of a driver.

1969 Plymouth Belvedere patrol car
1969 Plymouth Belvedere patrol car

We got a code three radio call. That means red lights and siren.  It was halfway across the Division. Cool, I’m going to have hundreds of citizens watching their tax dollars at work.

Now Rick is in rare form. He’s taking corners that would make a stunt car driver proud.  Were southbound on Fairfax approaching Sunset.  The streets are packed and they have all stopped to watch us make a right turn onto Sunset.  John takes the corner like a pro, I grab the inside door handle to fight the centrifugal force.  The door handle comes off in my hand and I slide across the seat.  I’m now sitting next to Rick as if we were on a date.  I scoot back across the seat to my side of the car and look out the window.  I see all these people laughing.   I’m guessing they won’t vote us a pay raise this year.

Another early lesson you learn is that you’re wearing a blue wool uniform.  Wool uniforms attract animal hair of any kind.  When a little old lady invites you to sit on her couch, ask if she has cats.  Lint brushes hadn’t been invented yet so you spent the rest of the night looking like a fur covered cop.  That was not even my rookie mistake.  I was wearing a long sleeve, blue wool uniform one cold night.  We had an encounter with a combative drag queen.  I said I wouldn’t be politically correct, for my non-police friends, a drag queen is a man who dresses in women’s clothes.  The choke hold was a department approved tactic and was even encouraged in the early 70’s.  It was never fatal and saved you from hitting the bad guy with your night stick.

This gentlemen in women’s clothing decided he was not going to jail. The fight was on.  I applied the department approved choke hold.  The gentlemen soon went to sleep for about 30 seconds and was handcuffed.  As I stood up my partner was laughing at me.  I looked down at our suspect, he was wearing a rabbit hair coat.  My uniform was covered in rabbit hair and my sleeve had pancake make-up all over it.  Sometimes rookie mistakes can’t be helped. Yea it was the first day of a clean uniform

Practical Joke:  People in all walks of life have played practical jokes on fellow friends, employees, and spouses.  Most people in emergency services use practical jokes as a morale booster and stress release.  Most old timers will say they miss the old days.

We had a Lieutenant who was liked by the whole watch.  He rode a Harley Davidson motorcycle and considered anyone who rode a different motorcycle a lesser form of life.  His motorcycle was his pride and joy.  One boring night on A.M. watch, the Lieutenant had his motorcycle parked at the rear door of the station.  The Lieutenant was distracted by some accomplices, while another officer pushed his pride and joy into the Captains Office.  An hour later the Lieutenant was called into the Captains Office, where the Captain wanted to know why the Lieutenant’s Motorcycle was dripping oil on his carpet.  Ok, not all practical jokes are well thought out.  The Lieutenant was more concerned if his motorcycle was scratched.


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