More Street Stories


By Anthony Morgan, Retired Oakland PD

Anthony wrote this tribute to a fellow cop in 1983. It stands the test of time.–Thonie



Funeral for Phoenix Police Officer Issac Ros
Funeral for Phoenix PD Officer Isaac Rossario


A friend of mine passed away a few days ago. His name was Joe-the last name is not important. He was 74 years old. Joe was a cop. He retired about 14 years ago after 33 years’ service with the San Francisco Police Department. If my math is correct he started in 1936. Joe was a cop up to the day he died. He loved the profession and he was immensely proud of the Inspectors badge he carried for a good portion of his career.
Joe fit the role of the detective in the old “B” movies of yesteryear. A man of medium height and ruddy complexion, I can picture him wearing a freshly laundered white shirt, grey suit and tie and the ever-present hat. Donning a knee length overcoat to go out on a case on a foggy San Francisco evening always seemed to complete the plainclothes uniform. His stories of the “old days” conjured up images of Bogart in “The Maltese Falcon”. The cops back then, he said, solved cases by wearing out the soles of their shoes. The old guys got the job done by hard work and a lot of luck. Joe said that the detectives of today have the luxury of computers and new-age technology. God knows what he would think of today’s investigators. But, he would probably say that all cases are still solved by hard work and occasional luck.

After his retirement Joe remained in touch with law enforcement and his fellow co-workers. He became involved with the Veteran Officers Association. Joe worked hard to insure the rights and benefits of the active and retired officers remained intact and free from tampering by the City. He was a battler and one to give up without a fight over an issue he thought important. Occasionally someone would comment that he was wasting his retirement years working so hard. It wasn’t a waste of time for Joe. He enjoyed helping others and it gave him a sense of purpose.

Back in the early 70’s, I told him that I wanted to get into police work. He sat there for a moment and then he told me to go to Oakland. I thought for sure he would steer me toward S.F.P.D. Joe said the police department was having some troubles. It was mired in some pretty heavy and negative politics and stuck in a hiring freeze. He saw a strike on the horizon. He mentioned that the Oakland Police Department had the finest training and had the reputation of being a progressive police agency. Joe felt that it would take the S.F. Police Department years to recover. Armed with his advice, I applied for O.P.D.

After my graduation for the Academy he wrote me a note. It read, “To the new Cop-good luck and best wishes for a great career. Have fun.” It was signed “an old has-been.” I always thought that it must have been pretty dull being a police officer in the “old days.” After all, everything seems to happen so fast today. It wasn’t until I had some time on the job that I began to see some similarity between his years and mine. A number of his war stories were the same as mine, just the names and settings were different. It just seemed that the people were a bit more civilized back then.

Joe would get fully involved in his stories. He would start rubbing his hands and occasionally poke the listener in the shoulder just to emphasize a point. His voice would rise and fall in the old San Francisco Mission dialect-a little Boston Irish taint. The Mission accent would become even more pronounced as he reached the end of his tale. He always tried never to end on a sour note. He added humor and always tried to make a point.

One time I asked him what the high point of his career was. After a pause he replied, “I went 33 years without ever having to use my gun on someone. I was very fortunate.” He wished the same for every cop.

At the funeral service I saw some of his buddies from the job. All of them were about the same age as Joe. Their posture was stooped, their walk a little slow. There is a tinge of sadness in their voices as they recalled the old days. Their ranks are thinning. They all know that the day will soon come that no one will be left to tell their stories of accomplishments and failures. I looked hard into their eyes of these men. I could tell they were cops. Or, as Joe would say “They ARE cops.” He felt the saying “once a cop, always a cop” was true.

Joe had a lot of respect for the title “COP.” He always greeted me with “Howya doin’, cop?” He felt that cops were something special. He loved the word “cop.” He mentioned that being a cop meant being strong and having integrity. He expected cops to fail occasionally but what made them different was their ability to get back up and face the troubles head-on. Being a cop in his day was something to be proud of. In thinking about it, being a cop today still is something to be proud of.

Joe, to you I say thanks for everything, for being a mentor, and…so long, COP.

Roll Call

Roll Call: Accidental Discharge

By Mikey, Retired LAPD

…or “how I almost got fired,” as a recruit!


250px-LAPDacademyIt was probably the second month of my LAPD academy training and we were in formation preparing to march up to the combat range to do some shooting. Now at that time, in 1973, we were issued a small canvas bag which held our practice ammunition and on top of the stack were our .38 caliber dummy rounds (6) affixed to a speedy loader. They were clip mounted side by side. I asked my shooting instructor if anyone had ever accidently placed a live round in the loader instead of the dummy round. I heard him because I was there: He said, “It’s never happened and that is why you check each other’s bag.”



So now we are at the range facing a 4’ wall practicing “dry fire” as we wait our turn to step onto the range. I pull the trigger 6 times open the cylinder and with speedy loader in hand insert the dummy rounds. I pull the trigger once, twice and on the third pull, a round went off. Oh yeah, a live round that is not supposed to be there because my instructor said it had never happened. Because I was still looking at the little hole I created in the wall, my instructor says n my right ear, “Did you just try to make a point with me?” 


Before I could answer, he said, “Get the hell of my range.”

Now I am sitting in the locker room contemplating my future with the LAPD. I thought about calling my former employer and asking if my job was still there. But I knew they’d ask why I’m asking so I nixed that.  Thought about calling my wife and telling her, but I didn’t want to mess up her day. So, I’m just sitting there when my squad advisor, a senior training officer tells me to go home and bring all of my LAPD stuff back in the morning. I car pool with a classmate and tell him we should ride separately to the academy in the morning. That night I shared with my wife the events of the day and told her I’d be fired in the morning. Not a good night.

Next morning, I’m sitting in class when my squad advisor opens the classroom door. The next words are doom to any recruit: he says, “Get your hat and books and come with me.”


I do not look at my classmates, as we’d discussed my departure during morning inspection. So here I go. I am standing outside the Training Division commanding officer’s office thinking of all it took to get here, just to end it like this, when the door opens and I am motioned in by the squad advisor. Counting him there are 5 training division staffers seating at a very long table, just staring at me.


Oh, and my shooting instructor is there as well giving me that look that says, “You got yours rookie.”

The captain pounds his finger on a folder, my personal package, and the following exchange takes place:

“You are a Vietnam Veteran.”

“Yes, sir,” I answer.

“Came to us from another agency.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Attended their academy?”

“Yes, sir”

“Anything like this occur there?”

“No, sir”

“Did you do that on purpose; load a live round into your weapon?”

So, the questions had been pretty good up until this one. This one just spring loaded me to the pissed off position. 

“Absolutely not, Captain.”

“What happened, recruit?”

“Sir, I do not know what happened and I offer no excuse.”

“Did your squad leader check your ammo bag?”

Oh, crap I thought. No, he hadn’t because I was asking my instructor the infamous question about mixing up the ammo.

“No sir.”

Now the Captain is looking at my shooting instructor.


So, for the next, however long it took, I explained the situation and added that I still did not know how that live round got where it did. I was told to go stand outside of the office. For approximately 10 very long minutes I waited. Do you know what goes through your head at a time like this? What would have gone through yours? Exactly!

I am asked to reenter and the captain states the following;

“You will resume your training, with your class because we think you are worth keeping. You will maintain yourself as professionally as possible and I do not want to hear about you until your graduation day or you break some training division recruit record.”

Well, I still had a job. I left the office, went down to my VW bug, sat down and cried. Yup, I did. Looking at my watch, I knew my class would be at code 7 (lunch) so I proceeded to the picnic area of the academy and found my class. They were so loud with their shouts of approval that I just knew I’d be getting called back to the captain’s office. It was good to be back with my classmates and it was good to have been given a rare second chance.

That was 1973. In 1979, I was a training officer at Northeast Division and discovered that my new rookie was the son of my academy shooting instructor. It all turned out good.

You see, my instructor was instrumental in saving my job.

Roll Call

Roll Call: The Norton Avenue Incident

A new column, “Roll Call,” appears  on alternate Sundays starting today. The author is called “Mikey.” In the ongoing mission to bring the real stories to literature, television, movies, the internet, Mikey has joined Hal Collier and Ed Meckle from LAPD to share his tales.

His creds: Served in the USAF as a military police officer, 1 year in Vietnam.  Joined the Ontario PD in 1971 and remained until 1973 when he joined the LAPD. He worked Juvenile, Narcotics, Vice, Training and Patrol.  Mikey made sergeant in 1990 and retired in 2008, from Hollywood Division.

Here’s his first story: The Norton Avenue Incident by Mikey

Norton Avenue, Wilshire Area 1991

In my eighteen years of being a field sergeant, I was fortunate to have learned early what it meant to appreciate the field officers—both seasoned and the “wrinkle-frees,” as I referred to them. This is a story of bravery and selfless devotion to the communities we serve.

Occasionally, being in the right place at the right time can be a very healthy thing—if not for you then for someone else. I had been a sergeant six months when the Rodney King incident occurred. I was assigned to Wilshire Patrol and usually worked the morning watch. However, because I had been a PT/ Self Defense instructor at the academy I was asked to attend several community meetings throughout the city to explain the department’s use of force policy following the Rodney King incident.


This temporary assignment required me to adjust my work schedule. It was about 1:30 P.M. when I was picking up coffee at the Winchell’s on La Cienega at Washington in preparation to attend a community meeting in the valley. So, I wasn’t supposed to be in that division. The call that we all dread, “Officer needs help, shots fired, officer down,” came out over the air. The call was on Norton Avenue near 9th Street.

I responded and saw a black and white in the middle of the street facing north with a probationary officer taking cover on the right front fender of the cruiser. His partner was lying down behind him. I asked the officer to go to a tactical frequency and to my astonishment, I was talking to the senior officer! He told me that the person lying down on the street was a female shooting victim. The senior officer had taken a position of advantage in the home directly north of the house where the victim had been shot. A neighbor had called communications, mistakenly saying the female victim was an officer. According to the rookie officer, the woman was still alive.

Just then the senior officer reported a shot being fired from within the house where the female victim has escaped. The officer reported a young man, bound and gagged, had been pushed out of the back door. He fell motionless onto the driveway. It was later discovered the young man was the son of the female victim.  Both had been shot by the woman’s estranged boyfriend.

night time shooting policeAdditional units began to arrive and we formulated a rescue plan. As I was instructing the officers what to do I noticed that a lieutenant and a senior sergeant were observing the preparations. I motioned for them to join the group. The lieutenant said, “You’ve got it.”

I had the officers who were not on the rescue team spread their bullet proof vests on the rescue vehicle that would afford the rescue team some protection. The vests were affixed to the cruiser with duct tape. After all, this was 1991 before armored doors.

Five officers were to deploy in the rescue vehicle, one was to exit prior to the vehicle entering the drive way. His job was to assist the probationary officer placing the female victim into the cruiser and proceeding north on Norton and out of harm’s way. The four remaining officers were to proceed into the driveway, two were to rescue the male victim and the other two would cover the officers rescuing the male victim.

LAPD_helo.jpgI asked the pilot in the overhead air unit that when she observed the unit enter the driveway, to flatten the pitch of her rotor. Being a helicopter pilot, I know that this creates a sound similar to a machine gun going off—a great distraction.

Everything went as planned and the officers were able to secure the male victim in the cruiser and safely leave the house. The senior officer, still in his position of advantage, heard a single shot shortly after the officers left.

Now at the scene, SWAT made entry and found the suspect dead from a self-inflicted wound. Both victims survived their wounds.

Now came the hard part. Not only reports, a law enforcement necessity, but those brave officers needed to be awarded for their bravery. I met with the divisional and patrol captains and we discussed the writing of the awards document. I made it perfectly clear that all officers involved were to receive the awards and citations commensurate to their involvement. I told both captains that my involvement was as the scene supervisor and nothing else. I told them that anything higher than a commendation for my involvement would have diminished the bravery of those five young officers. I sent them into harm’s way and they never hesitated. They never questioned my decisions, they were flawless, and they were the best the department had to offer.

All five received their well-deserved medals.




More Street Stories

You’re Not A Cop Until You Taste Them (A Rookie’s Story)

This article is re-posted from one of my favorite sites: The Badge of Life Canada

Author Bernie Moss is a “Senior officer for the Corpus Christi Police Department.
The department was all astir, there was a lot of laughing and joking due to all the new officers, myself included, hitting the streets today for the first time. After months of seemingly endless amounts of classes, paperwork, and lectures we were finally done with the Police Academy and ready to join the ranks of our department. All you could see were rows of cadets with huge smiles and polished badges. As we sat in the briefing room, we could barely sit still anxiously awaiting our turn to be introduced and given our beat assignment or, for the lay person, our own portion of the city to “serve and protect.”

It was then that he walked in. A statue of a man – 6 foot 3 and 230 pounds of solid muscle, he had black hair with highlights of gray and steely eyes that make you feel nervous even when he wasn’t looking at you. He had a reputation for being the biggest and the smartest officer to ever work our fair city. He had been on the department for longer than anyone could remember and those years of service had made him into somewhat of a legend. The new guys, or “rookies” as he called us, both respected and feared him. When he spoke even, the most seasoned officers paid attention. It was almost a privilege when one the rookies got to be around when he would tell one of his police stories about the old days. But we knew our place and never interrupted for fear of being shooed away. He was respected and revered by all who knew him. After my first year on the department I still had never heard or saw him speak to any of the rookies for any length of time. When he did speak to them all he would say was, “So, you want to be a policeman do you hero? I’ll tell you what, when you can tell me what they taste like, then you can call yourself a real policeman.” This particular phrase I had heard dozens of times. Me and my buddies all had bets about “what they taste like” actually referred to. Some believed it referred to the taste of your own blood after a hard fight. Others thought it referred to the taste of sweat after a long day’s work. Being on the department for a year, I thought I knew just about everyone and everything.

So one afternoon, I mustered up the courage and walked up to him. When he looked down at me, I said “You know, I think I’ve paid my dues. I’ve been in plenty of fights, made dozens of arrests, and sweated my butt off just like everyone else. So what does that little saying of yours mean anyway?” With that, he merely stated, “Well, seeing as how you’ve said and done it all, you tell me what it means, hero.” When I had no answer, he shook his head and snickered, “rookies,” and walked away.

The next evening was to be the worst one to date. The night started out slow, but as the evening wore on, the calls became more frequent and dangerous. I made several small arrests and then had a real knock down drag out fight. However, I was able to make the arrest without hurting the suspect or myself. After that, I was looking forward to just letting the shift wind down and getting home to my wife and daughter. I had just glanced at my watch and it was 11:55, five more minutes and I would be on my way to the house. I don’t know if it was fatigue or just my imagination, but as I drove down one of the streets on my beat, I thought I saw my daughter standing on someone else’s porch. I looked again but it was not my daughter as I had first thought but merely a small child about her age. She was probably only six or seven years old and dressed in an oversized shirt that hung to her feet. She was clutching an old rag doll in her arms that looked older than me. I immediately stopped my patrol car to see what she was doing outside her house at such an hour by herself. When I approached, there seemed to be a sigh of relief on her face. I had to laugh to myself, thinking she sees the hero policeman come to save the day. I knelt at her side and asked what she was doing outside. She said “My mommy and daddy just had a really big fight and now mommy won’t wake up.” My mind was reeling. Now what do I do? I instantly called for backup and ran to the nearest window. As I looked inside I saw a man standing over a lady with his hands covered in blood, her blood. I kicked open the door, pushed the man aside and checked for a pulse, but unable to find one. I immediately cuffed the man and began doing CPR on the lady. It was then I heard a small voice from behind me, “Mr. Policeman, please make my mommy wake up.” I continued to perform CPR until my backup and medics arrived but they said it was too late. She was dead. I then looked at the man. He said, “I don’t know what happened. She was yelling at me to stop drinking and go get a job and I had just had enough. I just shoved her so she would leave me alone and she fell and hit her head.” As I walked the man out to the car in handcuffs, I again saw that little girl. In the five minutes that has passed, I went from hero to monster. Not only was I unable to wake up her mommy, but now I was taking daddy away too. Before I left the scene, I thought I would talk to the little girl. To say what, I don’t know. Maybe just to tell her I was sorry about her mommy and daddy. But as I approached, she turned away and I knew it was useless and I would probably make it worse. As I sat in the locker room at the station, I kept replaying the whole thing in my mind. Maybe if I would have been faster or done something different, just maybe that little girl would still have her mother. And even though it may sound selfish, I would still be the hero.

It was then that I felt a large hand on my shoulder. I heard that all too familiar question again, “Well, hero, what do they taste like?” But before I could get mad or shout some sarcastic remark, I realized that all the pent up emotions had flooded the surface and there was a steady stream of tears cascading down my face. It was at that moment that I realized what the answer to his question was. Tears. With that, he began to walk away, but he stopped. “You know, there was nothing you could have done differently,” he said. “Sometimes you can do everything right and still the outcome is the same. You may not be the hero you once thought you were, but now you ARE a police officer.”


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: AM Watch, part 5


by Hal Collier

Click on the link in paragraph third from the bottom to read about how cops are trying to improve issues surrounding tired cops.

Who knew that working Morning Watch was so involved?  Morning Watch was that 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM shift. There’s also a reason it’s called “Grave Yard.”  As I said previously some cops never worked Morning Watch or worked it so seldom that still believed the human body was meant to sleep in the dark.  I once had a day watch officer, Bob Plassmeyer, come up to me, shake my hand and thank me.  I asked why and he replied, it’s because of guys like you that I don’t have to work Morning Watch.  Thanks Bob, but I’d rather have a gift card.

photo from
photo from

I loved Morning Watch. It wasn’t too hot in the summer and when it got cold you wore thermal underwear.  It was basically you and the bad guys.  Patrol cops seldom saw the brass and supervision was a little more lax. One of the drawbacks was that you were always eating breakfast.

When I graduated from the academy I was assigned to Morning Watch and I was ignored as far as watch changes. In fact my first fourteen years on the job I worked Morning Watch.

I’m a little ashamed to admit it but I first told my wife I didn’t have enough seniority to ask for a change of watch.  If I worked overtime, I would complain that day watch sucked and I would hate it.  I think she knew.  She just wanted me to be happy.

There were some preparations that had to be made if you’re going to sleep during the day.  First, you had to buy blackout curtains for the windows.  Another option is aluminum foil on the windows. The foil not only kept out the light but it kept the room cooler in the hot summer months.  If you were a little crazy as some suggested, the foil also kept out the radio transmissions from outer space.

A window air conditioner was another good investment. It not only kept you cool but it blocked out the noise of the neighbors barking dog.  The third and the hardest preparation was your beloved family.  Some cops think that the officers who worked Morning Watch were the ones who suffered.  It was their families who suffered.  My wife often packed up the kids and left the house for at least four hours so I could get enough sleep to get through the night.

Sleeping in shifts became normal.  You get off work at 7 A.M. go to bed for a few hours then get up take your children to one of the many programs you signed them up for, go home sleep for a few more hours, get up and go to work.  Then, there were those hot summer days, even with an air conditioner you just couldn’t sleep.  Sleep a little in the morning, then sleep a little in the evening.

imagesWMA3EG59Every so often, you were so tired that you slept all day.  I once got up at 5 PM well rested.  My wife asked if the next door neighbors jack hammering up their sidewalk kept me awake.  I never heard them.

Anyone who doesn’t know cops will never understand the next phenomenon unique only to Morning Watch cops and alcoholics.  That’s right drinking alcohol while the sun is rising in the East.  Most cops rationalize it like this: businessmen get off work in the evening and stop by a bar for a drink to unwind.  Some go home and have a drink before dinner.  Morning Watch cops do the same thing. They get off work and have a drink to unwind, then they go to bed.  The only difference is the looks you get when you stop at the store to buy a six pack of beer on the way home.  I once saw six Vice Officers who had worked overtime waiting in front of a 7-11.  By law, they couldn’t buy beer until 6 A.M. and they were ten minutes early so they waited with the above mentioned alcoholics.

I’d get home at 7:30 to 8:00 in the morning.  My kids would be up and meet me at the front door.  We would discuss world events and I’d have a beer while watching cartoons and eating a bowl of Raisin Bran.  One morning, I was on a day off and my son Bob brought me a beer for breakfast.  Try explaining to a 4 yr old that his father doesn’t drink beer in the morning on a day off.

In December 2011, a study was released by Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital which reported that about 40% of police officers in the U.S. have a sleep disorder.
In December 2011, a study was released by Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital which reported that about 40% of police officers in the U.S. have a sleep disorder.

Even as I gained seniority, I worked Morning Watch.  I found that Morning Watch cops in Hollywood were there to do police work and I liked that.  My last years, my age and body caught up with me.  I found it harder to read drivers licenses in the dark, even with new glasses.  The end took three months.  It started with sleeping during the day.  After four or five hours, I would wake up and couldn’t get back to sleep.  This happened before and after a few days I was so tired I could sleep eight hours.  After starting my third month of only getting four or five hours of sleep a day I came to the conclusion that sleeping during the day was for the younger crowd.

I used my seniority and went to Day Watch.  I stayed on Day Watch until my retirement.  Once, my captain called me at home on a day off and asked me to go back to Morning Watch.  I refused and explained that I had done my time and my wife had already spent too many years sleeping alone.  My seniority protected me from watch transfers and I finished out my career sleeping in the dark and drinking beer at sun down.

I loved the years I worked Morning Watch and had a lot of good memories.  I worked with some of the best cops on the LAPD and made friends that last today.  Morning Watch was not for everyone but it sure worked for me for a long time.


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