Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, What Scares Cops?, part 2

By Hal Collier LAPD, Retired

We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.

Ok, so what does scare a knight in armor?  Be prepared to be shocked. 


First and foremost, the number one thing that scares a cop is that radio call, “Go to the Watch Commander.” Really, how bad can that be? You’ve spend half a shift doing everything right—well, maybe mostly right. You and your partner immediately go over all the radio calls and traffic stops you made that night. Did we piss off some tax paying citizen and he’s making a complaint? Did the Watch Commander discover that I missed court to go on that three day water skiing trip? Whatever, it can’t be good.


When I was the Watch Commander I would monitor the patrol units to see who was working and who was goofing off. If I had a simple request for the transportation of an arrestee to court or the downtown jail for medical treatment, I would get on the radio, and in my best “oh shit” voice tell the goof-off unit to come to the Watch Commander immediately. The officers would come into the watch commander’s office with their tails between their legs just like your dog did the last time he got into the trash. I enjoyed that—they weren’t doing anything productive anyway.


So what else scares cops? You handle a call with a drunk or drug crazed individual and you end up in a fight for your life. These fights are never pretty. You win the fight and go home. The next day you discover someone filmed the fight and it’s all over the news and YouTube. You watch the news broadcast and discover the media has edited the fight and only shows you beating the guy who just seconds earlier tried to take away your gun. They show the clip over and over again. Even you begin to think you over reacted.


Soon a maelstrom of vocal people are calling for an investigation including the President of the United States. Later a jury sees the entire video and acquits you. But it’s too late, you have been tried and convicted by the media. Your career is over. I’ve seen cops arrested then later acquitted when all the facts were presented. Rodney King happened over twenty-four years ago and is still brought up regularly. This is happening all across the United States. That scares a cop. These types of incidents are usually followed by a large lawsuit filed against you, the city you work for, and the Chief of Police. I’ve seen police officers homestead their homes so they don’t lose them in the lawsuit.


“Officer Needs Help” calls scare a cop.  In the 70’s some LAPD car radios had what we called cheaters. A cheater was a second radio that allowed everyone to hear an officers broadcast. This allowed an officer to know what other officers were doing and where they were doing it. The main point was you could hear the officer’s voice inflection. Was he excited or calm?  Ok, the scary part—the cheater radio suddenly blasts out “Officer needs Help.” The officer is screaming into the microphone. Your adrenaline has jumped so high you can hardly breathe. It doesn’t matter how close or how far you are from this officer you’re going to break all department rules to go to his aid. If the officer adds, “Shots Fired or Officer Down” to his broadcast, you’re glad you wore your ballistic vest and you unlock the shotgun. Are you scared? Bet your ass you are! Scared for the officer, scared for his wife and family. It may take hours for the adrenaline to leave your body.


Here’s another one that scares cops. You’re on a day off or just off hours. You’re relaxing in your living room watching the ball game. They break into the game to announce, “Breaking News.” An LAPD officer has been shot in the division where you work. Of course it could be any division, we move around in LAPD. They don’t have much information and they hopefully don’t give out the officer’s name. So you sit there and rack your brain, who’s working today and what are my partner’s days off? Yea, you could call the station and try to get some information but you know their busy, so you just wait. You just wait and listen to the news men report what they don’t know. That scares you.


Even after they report the officer’s name, and if you don’t know him/her, you’re still scared. Is he or she married and a father or mother. How old are the children? It scares you because you know that could be you someday.


You finally retire and figure nothing is going to scare you anymore. Wait, your son or daughter has decided to follow you into the noble profession of police work. You’re proud but you know the dangers. Suddenly all the above fears come rushing back only with a few new ones. Now you know what your spouse went through all those years. A late night phone call or knock at the door will send chills up your spine. Ok, the phone call was a drunk asking if this is Madam Whoopee’s all night massage parlor, but try getting back to sleep after that. The knock on the door is never good, especially if the people on your front porch are wearing uniforms.


Ok, now you know some of the things that scare cops and I’ll bet I missed a few. Give me your fears and I’ll add them to my list.  Oh by the way some cops really are afraid of snakes.       


More Street Stories Tales from the Barking Muse

Aw, Crap!


By Gerry Goldshine

Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke the Elder is to have said that, “…no battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”  People are adaptive, innovative and unpredictable. As police officers, we train to expect the unexpected but at the same time it is human nature to rely on patterns of behavior. We think it likely that when we turn on our patrol car’s emergency lights to make a traffic stop, the driver is going to pull over and most do just that. When we hand a driver our pen to sign the citation, we anticipate they will comply rather that subject themselves to arrest. As an officer gains field experience, they develop skill in reading body language, watching facial expressions and listening to vocal inflections using them cues for when a person isn’t going along with “the plan”. However, even the most veteran officer can find there are times when they have done everything right and yet still be wrong.

I was helping another officer search a house for a woman, well known to us, who had a no-bail warrant for her arrest. In past encounters with her, usually involving public intoxication or possession of minor amounts of drugs, she had always been cooperative. After about thirty minutes, we found her in one of the bedrooms hidden beneath a four-foot high pile of dirty laundry. I offered to take her to the station and book her, because the other officer had a mountain of reports to complete. As I walked the

Woman in Handcuffs photo courtesy of
Woman in Handcuffs
photo courtesy of

woman out to my patrol car, I kept one hand firmly gripped around the links of the handcuffs she wore behind her back. We chatted amicably about her situation; she talked about having difficulty getting into a rehab program. When we got to my car, I did another pat down search for any weapons and finding none, I opened the back door for her get inside. Standing next to the rear of the door, I let go of the cuffs and raised my other arm so that I could shield the top of her head from hitting the door frame, as I had done on countless other arrests. She had just about planted her derriere on the seat when she suddenly sprang back up. She was just small and flexible enough to duck under my arm and take off running with her arms still handcuffed behind her back.

Staring at her in disbelief, the first thought that went through my mind was, “Aw crap!” At the same time, I wondered how in the hell a 40 year-old man, in reasonably good shape but with two bad knees and wearing a cumbersome ballistic vest plus least 10 pounds of police gear, was going to catch this lithe twenty-something year old woman, sprinting as though she had just left the chocks at the Olympics. I took off after her, letting dispatch know that I was in foot pursuit in between gasps for breath. I rounded a corner just in time to see her execute a perfect Fosbury Flop” into the back of a passing Chevy El Camino pickup. Fortunately, at least for me, the driver saw what was happening in his side mirror and immediately slammed on the brakes. I caught up before she was able to get completely out of the pickup bed, that task made difficult because her hands were still handcuffed behind her back. She apologized profusely for being “stupid” all the way back to my patrol car, while I tried to raise my oxygen levels back to some semblance of normalcy as nonchalantly as possible. I knew that I was in store for not only considerable ribbing from my fellow officers but more than likely, an ass-chewing from my bosses as well.

No sooner had I arrived at the station then I received the expected call, over the station’s public address system, to report to the sergeant’s office after I finished booking the prisoner. His first question to me was a simple, “Well?” I told him what had happened and after he digested it for a bit, he suggested we go out to my car so that he could better visualize what had happened. Along the way, the Lieutenant joined us and almost immediately began yelling at me about losing control of my prisoner. My sergeant cut in and explained the situation and we went going to see what I could do to prevent it from reoccurring. That seemed to mollify the Lieutenant for the moment.

I showed them how I got her into the back seat and the way in which she had made her escape. The Lieutenant proceeded to put me through a variety of different stances in front of the open door, most far removed from common practice and many more out of the realm of practicality. When it became apparent there was no simplistic solution, the Lieutenant glared at me and warned, “Don’t let this happen again or I’ll be writing you a reprimand!” With those sage words of wisdom, the Lieutenant stormed off back to the Watch Commander’s office.

My sergeant offered a more insightful analysis. He told me that while a larger person more than likely would not have gotten past me, perhaps my past experience with the woman caused me to anticipate one set of behaviors, missing the body language cues signaling a new set, namely that she was going to bolt. Then, with a slight grin, he added, “…but sometimes, despite our best efforts, shit happens.”

To coin another saying, “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.”

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