By Hal Collier and Ed Meckle, both retired LAPD
Each police station has a character all its own. As they are occupied 24 hours a day, they endure a lot of wear and tear. They’re expensive to build, renovate and add-onto, so they often live on well past their pull-date. Here Hal and Ed share some memories from their past stations.
Ed worked in Police stations that were built before the depression and had long outlasted their use. Hal was a little luckier, he enjoyed the charm of the old stations and learned to dislike the new modern stations.
Ed Meckle 1956/1976
I don’t know that I spoke much about the station houses, all large stone monoliths, probably built turn of the century. According to rumor, the University was “sinking.”
I do know it was out of plumb. Most of the interior doors would not close and round objects rolled off desks. The stairway to the second floor was separated from the wall and gave the illusion of floating in air.
Building and safety department was quick to handle the problem, though—with a sign telling you to use the outer edge of the stairs. The sign was there the entire two and a half years that I was.
All houses were two story, patrol and jail down, detectives and juvie up. All houses were two story, patrol and jail down, detectives and juvie up. We naturally did not have A/C, but we did have one thing that I don’t believe the newer houses had—trustees and a lot of them. They had a shoeshine stand, ran the coffee room, assisted the property man, swept and mopped up, pumped gas and helped the mechanics with repairs. They were all misdemeanor sentenced prisoners and were selected sometimes due to experience, mechanics, etc.
Working with a new partner one night, I saw him hug the trustee who pumped our gas. I asked, “What?”
“That’s my dad–doing 30 days on a deuce,” he answered. “Mom asked me to keep an eye on him, so I arranged to have him sent here to University.”
Hal Collier 1970/2005
I was lucky. My first station was the old Hollywood station, also built around the depression. The men’s locker room was in the basement. The locker room had drains in the floor and red painted curbs. It used to be where the 3-wheel motorcycles were parked. You walked down a ramp to get to your locker. The lockers were, I suspect, WW-II surplus. They weren’t secured to the floor and we often would slide a partner’s locker, moving it so the officer couldn’t find it.
I arrived at Hollywood just after the 1971 earthquake. During aftershocks, it was common for the watch commander to run out into the street in case the building collapsed. There was no air conditioning and during hot summer nights all the windows were open. The front desk had a PBX radio with the cords you plugged into the lite light. It was connected to the call boxes in the street. Antique to say the least! The jail was a classic old-time jail, which provided hours of entertainment—for the officers—not those incarcerated.
Next door across the patio was another building which housed Hollywood Receiving Hospital. Just one doctor and a nurse. The receiving hospital was good for sewing a few stiches and not much else. It was a blessing for the cops because, if you got in a scuffle with an arrestee and he needed medical treatment, you didn’t have to go downtown.
Around 1977 they tore down the old station and built a new state of the art police station.
Pardon me while I try to keep that statement down. It was all cement, not a window to look out of. If you wanted to see what kind of a day it was you had to step outside. Once a month the city would come out and test the backup generator. The computers all had to be shut off during the power interruption. They’d run the generator for five minutes then shut it off.
One day—it was bound to happen—the power went out and the station went into darkness. The generator switched on and worked fine for five minutes then shut down. This modern, state-of-the-art police station was pitch dark inside. The only lights were the phone lights and they just told you that citizens were calling for assistance. The Watch Commander sent a rookie officer to Sav-on to buy all the candles they had. It seems that every month they tested the generator but forgot to refill the gasoline tank. Yep, it ran out of gas during a real emergency.
The first few years, the men’s locker room was huge. But the designers of the modern police station forgot one small detail. Women in police work. Soon the women’s locker room was too small. The city put a few lockers in an interview room in Detectives. The ladies needed a larger locker room which included a bathroom and showers. The city put Hollywood station on the bottom of the list and predicted we’d get an expanded locker room in 2 to 3 years. A few of the multi-talented officers sectioned off an area of the men’s locker room for the women.
Funny, the city then found the money and time to build the women’s locker room with a bathroom and showers.
There are newer stations as the LAPD expands but I’m not familiar with any of them.