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. Earlier I wrote about rookie mistakes, some made by probationers, some made by new supervisors, a lot made by me. I thought I was finished with that category but I had an epiphany. This story is short because the practical joke is long.
I’m the junior officer and I’m working with Ron on A.M. watch. It about 3 A.M. and the radio is quiet. Ron is driving and complaining about how little sleep he got during the day.
Now, to my non-police friends who think cops don’t catch a few winks during the long nights—they probably think their elected politicians have their best interests when passing laws.
After about fifteen minutes of Ron complaining how tired he is, I offer to drive and let him nap. I tell Ron I’ll drive around the hills so the sergeant doesn’t catch us. Ron jumps at the chance and pulls over. We exchange seats on Prospect Avenue, a quiet side street on the east end of Hollywood. Ron adjusts the head rest and crosses his legs. I’m adjusting the mirrors because Ron is shorter than I am. Ron’s head rests on the headrest and he closes his eyes. I put the car in drive and accelerate to about fifteen MPH. I drive about two blocks and realize that the seat is too close to the steering wheel. Short partners are great for looking under things, like beds, but not for looking over fences.
I reach down to pull the seat lever to move the seat back. This is before electric seats so you have to push off on the floorboard with your foot to move the seat back. Ok, remember the car is traveling about mph. Ron is reclined and drifting off to sleep. I put my foot down and slide the seat back.
The car jerks to an immediate stop, Ron lurches forward almost slamming into the dashboard. I immediately realize that I stepped on the brake pedal.
Ron begins calling me names, usually reserved for the low life’s we deal with. I’m thinking of my stupidity and began to laugh. Ron thinks I did it on purpose and spews more profanity at me. The more he yells the harder I laugh. Ron didn’t close his eyes for the rest of the night.
Hal Collier is a retired LAPD veteran of thirty-five years. He’s been gracious enough to share his “Ramblings” with us.
The following stories are true. I couldn’t make up this stuff. These stories are my experiences as a police officer. I only mention this again because some of my old partners who read these stories have fading memories. They get halfway through one of my stories and can’t remember if they took their morning pills. As I mentioned in one of my last Ramblings, sometimes good arrests just fall into your lap.
Most non-police people think cops eat a lot of donuts. If a cop does eat a donut you can bet it won’t be a white powered variety. Blue wool uniforms and white power don’t mix. The public bases their conclusion on the fact that they see two or three cop cars parked at a Winchell’s, or Cooper’s Donuts.
I just aged myself.
Today’s cops hang out at Starbucks, or Goldstein’s Bagel Shop. Most cops don’t eat donuts, but almost all drink coffee. Be honest— just about everyone gets a coffee break. I won’t even get into some of today’s cops ordering a cup of coffee with the word latte in it, or with a squirt of this or a 1/2 and 1/2 of that. Ordering a cup of coffee shouldn’t take twelve words. And what’s with that little sleeve to keep you from burning your fingers? Today’s cops are a whole new breed.
k,back to Ramblings. I’m working A.M. Watch, you know–that 11 P.M. to 7 A.M. nightmare. My partner and I are going to need some caffeine to get through the night. After Roll Call, we drive to the Yum-Yum Donut Shop at Melrose and Highland. We drive into the parking lot and are greeted by the baker. He’s yelling something in Spanish. My knowledge of the Spanish language is to tell a suspect to put his hands up and that his mother is a member of the world’s oldest profession. All I understand him saying is black guy and robbed. He’s pointing toward the alley. I guess our coffee break is going to have to wait.
We drive into the alley and see two black guys pushing a car. They finally get it started and jump in. We stop them. Yep, they had just robbed the donut store. Ok, not everybody I arrested was a Rhodes Scholar, but come on, don’t rob a place and then find out your car won’t start. Double dumb: the driver was arrested once before for robbing this same donut store. I think my commendation said that I have superior knowledge of crime trends, keen observation skills, and outstanding tactics. Reality, I just wanted a cup of coffee.
I’m still working A.M. Watch. It’s been raining most of our shift. We’re driving eastbound Hollywood Boulevard, approaching Western Avenue. We see two black guys running across Western and into a parking lot behind the Bank of America. Ok, running in the rain is not unheard of. Gene Kelly made a fortune dancing in the rain. It’s when one of the guys looks over his shoulder at us and they both duck down behind a parked car. Ok, we’re going to investigate.
I pat down one of the chaps and feel a large bulge in his right front pocket.
I ask, “What’s that?“
He says, “My money, about $12. You can check if you want.”
I pull out a wad of crumpled up U.S. currency. It’s over a hundred dollars.
My partner, Cliff, looks at me and says, “What do we do now?”
I tell him “We wait for the radio call.”
Three minutes later, ”Any Hollywood Unit, 211(Robbery) just occurred Hollywood and Western at the taco stand. Suspects two male blacks.”
With a grin as wide as a Cheshire cat, I pick up my radio and broadcast, “Code 4, suspects in custody”.
Again, the commendation said something about experience, tactics, blah, blah, blah.
Reality, luck, and right place at right time.
On TV, a burglar alarm at a closed business means a crime is in progress. In reality, 95 % of burglar alarms are false. It’s often employee error when closing, or the wind, or rain. One hot day, we had a power failure and it triggered every business alarm in a five block area. Yea, we had to check out every business per department policy. A.M. Watch is a little different. Sometimes the alarms are good. Most business burglars prefer to work when everyone is asleep.
I’m working A.M. Watch. Yea, I know, I’m always working AM’s. In fact, I spent nineteen of my thirty-five years working in the dark, maybe that’s why I now get up at 4 A.M. everyday. Anyway, a burglar alarm comes out at a business on Melrose. Doug, a good street cop, who succumbed to a promotion to Sergeant, responds. Doug, being a good cop, drives to the rear alley. Low and behold a business burglar. Doug has caught him red-handed. The only problem is that Doug is in the wrong alley. He’s north of Melrose and the alarm is on the south side. Well, Doug has caught some business burglars. The real alarm was false.
We got a suspect and the getaway car. We have to search the business. I’m on the perimeter when the officers search the building. It’s a commercial cleaners, drapes, curtains, and large items. Jim the senior officer comes out of the building and says he can’t find anyone but he has that feeling an experienced police officer gets. Jim feels that someone is in there. He says, “Hal, you take a look. I think someone is in there but I can’t find him”. I think Jim has read my above commendations, he knows I’m not good, just lucky.
I go into the building and look around. Nothing. I’m standing in the work area of the building. I don’t want to doubt Jim’s sixth sense. I noticed a large pile of drapes lying on the floor. I stared at them and they appeared to be breathing. Yep, the burglar was hiding under that pile of drapes. The Judge laughed out loud when I testified in court that the drapes appeared to be breathing.
See you don’t have to be good all the time, just lucky.