The following are a reprise of Hal’s favorite posts–Foot Beat Stories. Today’s is 3 of 4 first posted in 2013. Next week will feature the wind up of his foot beat stories and the week after, readers will enjoy new material from Hal Collier. –Thonie
I’m re-posting this as it didn’t go out over social media on Sunday as it’s supposed to. –Thonie
By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD
The following stories are true to best of my fading memory. I only worked a foot beat for 3 1/2 years but boy, did I pack a lot of fun into those 42 months. I just spent a month learning how to walk in the daylight. Now, I’m off to mid PM’s which is a little different. I’m going to work with “Dan”—another long time foot beat officer.
At the time, Hollywood Division had two officers name Dan. One was referred to as the “crazy” Dan. Lucky for me I worked with the other one, but there was some debate on that. Ok, I’m going to be working in the dark. I’ve got the walk down, I can do bar and porno theater checks, but I’m going to miss London Britches and the Artisan’s Patio.
Dan was a lot different than J.J. Brown. Dan was younger, had less patience and was quicker to anger. This should be fun and a challenge. Dan was working his way up to the Gene Fogerty style of a foot beat cop: my Boulevard, my rules and no questions.
Dan carried a straight baton just like the rest of us, but he attached a leather thong which allowed him to spin it as he walked along. It was right out of the 50’s.
My first night walking with Dan, he suggested we eat at Ernesto’s, an Italian restaurant next to the Egyptian Theater. You know, working nights might be nice. On Morning Watch we only had few places to eat, Copper Penny, Copper Skillet and Pinks if you ate before 1 A.M.
We sat in a booth at Ernesto’s and the waiter greeted Dan like a brother. He brought us each a cup of coffee, but no cream. I’ll suffer. I took a sip, it’s not coffee–it was red wine. I don’t want to spoil the mood but I don’t drink wine and switch for a cup of coffee.
A few weeks later we finish a meal at Ernesto’s, lasagna and garlic bread. I’m going to need an hour to walk off dinner. It’s Saturday night and Hollywood Boulevard is packed. Traffic is bumper to bumper in both directions. We see this jerk in a pick-up truck let the car ahead of him move up 30 feet. He then pops the clutch, spinning the tires then slams on the brakes.
Dan says, “I’ll show you how we handle these type of guys.” We walk between cars and up to the truck that’s stopped. We both approach the driver’s window. Dan reached in and removed a 40 ounce bottle of beer. Dan then grabbed the driver’s hands while I reached in to shut off the ignition. Traffic in front of us cleared and the driver popped the clutch. The truck lurched forward spilling Dan and me into the middle of Hollywood Boulevard.
The truck made a quick right turn on Mc Cadden and almost hit a guy on a motorcycle. The guy on the motorcycle is pissed and he says to Dan, “hop on” and well go get him. Dan declines—see, he’s not the crazy one. The guy in the truck sped up and slammed into a light pole. Guess he couldn’t drive without a 40 ounce of beer between his legs.
This is where it really got fun. The guy in the truck staggered out of his now wrecked truck and was planning his escape. This stranger on a motorcycle tells the truck driver hop on, the cops are coming. The truck driver jumps on the back of the motorcycle and the motorcycle guy turns around and dumps the felon at our feet. Bet you never saw that on Adam 12. No one would have believed it.
A week later Dan and I were standing in front of our Captain. Apparently our foot beat tactics and Boulevard Rules were not the same as department rules. We both got a notice to correct.
I learned many more lessons on walking a foot beat and now I’m ready to fly on my own, on Morning watch.
Dan and his partner Tim’s police careers were cut short a few months later when their police car was rear ended by a drunk driver. They both suffered back injuries and had to be pensioned off. We lost two good cops and a wealth Hollywood Boulevard foot beat experience.
Next chapter, it’s my foot beat and I’ll have to prove I’m worthy. Hal
This will be the last installment in foot pursuits. I was involved in a lot of foot pursuits in my career but most were uneventful. Some were very short, some involved multiple officers and sometimes I was just out-run by some rookie cop who still had a drawer full of T-shirts with his name on them. You only had T-shirts with your name on them in the Academy. These rookies just love running past you in a foot pursuit. I heard one laugh as he ran by me but I got the last laugh when he ripped out the knee on his brand new uniform pants. Rookies, you have to get rid of those leather soled dress shoes when you graduate from the academy, no grip on the turns.
There are rules when running after a suspect on foot. These rules are for officer survival. Partners should never split up. It happens but is strongly discouraged by the Department. If a suspect runs around a corner, the officer should go wide around that corner. That’s in case the suspect has decided to ambush the officer when he rounds the same corner.
If you jump a wall, don’t go over the same place that your suspect jumped over. I chased a suspect over a wall once and when I got to the top of the wall I saw him crouched down waiting for me on the other side. Never run with your finger on the trigger of your gun. I was chasing this guy. He jumped off a car bumper and over a wall. I stepped on the bumper and slipped on the dew. Thank goodness I didn’t have my finger on the trigger or it would have been days off without pay for a negligent discharge. For my non-police friends, that’s an “awe shit”.
Most cops developed a sixth sense about some aspect of police work. I knew a cop, Tony Diaz, who could look at a car and tell if it was stolen. Another partner, Joe Cupo, could look at a guy walking down the street and tell if he was carrying a gun. Some were great interrogators. Some were great butt-kissers, too many to name–but I digress.
My sixth sense was foot pursuits. I could tell if a suspect was about to run. It’s body language. I couldn’t teach it to other cops but I just knew. We would be talking to a suspect and suddenly he would turn and run. Most times I was already taking a step after him before he took his first step. Partners would ask, how did you know he was going to run? I couldn’t give them an answer, I just knew.
I was walking a foot beat on Hollywood Boulevard with a partner and we saw this suspicious character. I approached him and he took off running. I’m chasing him and broadcasting on my old handheld CC unit. A CC radio was an antique form of communication before all officers had radios on their belts. I’m running after this dirt bag and broadcasting my direction, requesting backup and the description of this miscreant. His description may change if I catch him alone, but that’s another story.
The radio operator must think I’m a rookie, she tells me to calm down, take a deep breath and repeat my message. As calmly as I can, I tell her that I’m chasing this suspect on foot and after I catch him I’ll take a deep breath. Three blocks later we catch him. I got to the station and the W/C told me that Communications Division called and the radio operator apologized, she didn’t know I was running and broadcasting at the same time.
This was probably my most rewarding foot pursuit, not because I caught the bad guy but because I cleared the most crimes by running this guy down.
A little background: There’s an area just south of the Hollywood Bowl parking lot where the houses can only be accessed by steps and a sidewalk. Alta Loma Terrace runs west from Highland Avenue and intersects with Broadview Terrace which runs north from High Tower. There are about 3 dozen homes that line the sidewalks, cozy unless your moving furniture. These homes don’t get any police patrols because it would require officers to get out of their cars and hike up the stairs and sidewalks.
Back to my best foot pursuit. I’m walking a foot beat on Hollywood Boulevard at 2 A.M. Foot beat officers had CC units which were hand held radios. I’m listing to a radio broadcast of a hot prowl burglar on Broadview Terrace. After the third burglary, we decide to see if we can help. The suspect was not shy about being seen as he would break into an occupied house. That makes him very dangerous. Before we walk up the steps the burglar has committed another crime. The area is all hillside with lots of foliage and hiding places.
We have six officers and two long blocks to search to see if he’s still in the area. He’s taken wallets, stereos and some other large items. We figure he’s got them hidden somewhere in the area. I found the stolen items on a dirt path at the end of Broadview Terrace. We decide that my partner and I will hide near his stolen loot and grab him when he returns. The other officers pretend to leave the area. We think it’s a good plan.
We only wait a half hour when I see our suspect walking up the sidewalk toward us. I duck down behind a porch wall and wait. Our suspect disappears. Oh crap, we’ve blown the stake out. We hear the elevator that connects Hightower to the steps. The elevator is going down. Oh shit, my suspect is getting away. The elevator comes back up and a resident is in it. He’s not happy with my gun pointed at his head. He said no one was in the elevator when it came down. Our suspect is still in the area.
I go back to the spot where I last saw the bad guy. I step between two houses and look down at an overgrown hillside, adjacent to the Hollywood Bowl parking lot. It’s dark and all I see is trees and some bushes. I’m still shining my flashlight around the area when my suspect jumps up and starts running. I lost him once but not again. I run down the hillside. I can only see a foot in front of me but I can hear my suspect, as he crashes through the bushes ahead. I step into a hollow and land on my butt. I lose my night stick. My partner falls into the same hole and picks up my night stick. My partner is fifteen yards behind me, a non-smoker, and I’m guessing by the sounds, that I’m ten yards behind the suspect.
I’m thinking, I can’t lose this guy, I’m pretty sure I ripped my uniform, I know I have scratches and I’m wondering if there’s poison oak on this hillside. We break into the clear and my suspect jumps a fence and runs through the Bowl parking lot. I see him hide in some bushes and I wait for other officers to show up.
We catch the guy, but I’m a little beat up, my uniform is not torn and I didn’t get poison oak. Our bad guy broke into nine homes that night. He never made it to court, because he was dying of cancer. The home owners were happy, my sergeant was happy and I was happy. Now all I have to do is spend the next six hours writing up an arrest report and booking this guy at a medical facility.
I wish all of my foot pursuits turned out this good.
The brass ring for pretty much any rookie officer is that final day or night in their department’s field-training program. They’ve gone through the hiring process, completed the academy and are now at the end of twelve to fourteen weeks of having their FTO painstakingly scrutinize every citizen interaction, every arrest, every citation and every report. As a Petaluma officer, I finally grabbed my brass ring on a Saturday night in December of 1980. At that time, the Petaluma Police Department’s field-training program was about 12 week long, broken down into three, four-week phases. The last week of the program was known as “Plain Clothes Week”. During this phase, your training officer wore street clothes and was along only to evaluate you; they were not to assist you in any way though you could ask other officers for help. In essence, this was the police department’s final exam to determine your abilities to solo as a police officer.
Officer Dave Long had been my training officer for my final phase, working the Swing Shift, which ran from 1630 hours (4:30 PM) to 0230 hours (2:30 AM). On this memorable Saturday night, the swing shift sergeant had called off sick. Since Dave was the senior officer working that night, he had to fill-in as the acting Watch Commander. Dave asked Officer Tom Swearingen, another FTO, to take his place as my training officer. Dave then assigned us the busy downtown beat just to make sure I had an “active” final night of training.
As I recall, it was definitely very busy that night but one incident in particular still stands out in my memory; the party on Elm Street (no, not that Elm Street). Somewhere close to 0200 hours -2:00 AM- I was beginning to let myself think about finally reaching the finish line when I heard dispatch sending units to investigate several anonymous reports of a loud, disruptive party in the beat next to mine. A few of the people calling, complained that there were more than a hundred attendees and that some of them were tossing beer bottles and cans into the yards of neighboring houses. Other callers said that there were minors consuming beer and hard liquor. I knew officers, an hour or so earlier, had already warned the people throwing the party to quiet things or we would have to order it shut down.
A few minutes later, Officer Long requested all available westside units to respond to the Elm Street situation and meet up with him. The first clue I had this was not going to be a simple operation, was the legions of parked cars lining both sides of the street and throngs of people making their way down the sidewalks to the party, several blocks before I got even close. I pulled in behind a line of double-parked police cars, in time to see other officers putting on their riot helmets. I wasn’t exactly sure what had transpired before I got there, but I had a hunch that the first requests to shut the party down had been met with less than enthusiastic compliance.
There were about a half dozen of us standing out in the street, waiting for Officer Long to tell us the plan of action when a car drove up and parked in the driveway of the party house. Now you would think a bunch of police officers wearing riot helmets, in front of that same house, might be a clue that something was amiss. Apparently not to the occupants of this car, because the passenger, later identified as ““Stu Pidteen”, got out of the car holding a glass containing some type of beverage. Given the circumstances, Officer DJ Phimister, who was nearby, suspected the beverage might contain liquorand asked the young man to wait a moment. Ignoring DJ, ““Stu”” continued walking towards the front door, which, under the circumstances, seemed to be a rather impolitic course of action. DJ then ordered the teen to stop and in response, “Stu” sent the glass he had been holding, hurtling at DJ’s head, before running inside the house. Happily, it missed Officer Phimister, who took exception at coming close to testing the efficacy of his riot helmet. Naturally, he ran after “Stu” and since I was close by, I followed behind.
Just before making entry, I distinctly remember looking back at Officer Swearingen; he was, after all, my training officer that night. He had one hand raised, as if he were about to offer some sage FTO advice but then realized it was too late. Following DJ down a hallway towards the backyard, I couldn’t help from noticing the scores of people crammed inside that house; in fact, it was standing room only. I remember thinking that more than a few of the young men I ran past appeared to be on the very large and athletic side – as it turned out they were members of the Petaluma High varsity football team.
DJ managed to lay hands upon “Stu” just as he was about to scale the back fence. No sooner had DJ put the “habeas grabus” on him than one of the nearby partygoers decided he wanted a “piggyback” ride…on DJ’s back. Not prepared to play horsey, DJ reflexively let go of “Stu”, who attempted to make a beeline back to the inside of the house. I was close enough to grab “Piggyback Rider”, pull him off DJ and throw him to the ground. He lunged back up at me and I drilled him in the solar plexus with my baton, ordering him to stay down on the ground.
DJ was less than amused and “Piggyback Rider” suddenly found himself the focus of his attentions. As DJ was handcuffing “Rider”, I watched his back to prevent a replay because there were now about twenty very unhappy belligerent people moving to surround us; not a particularly good sign. While this was happening, some other officers managed to snag “Stu” just before he made it inside and he was quickly hustled out to the front yard.
So much was happening; I began to feel as though I were in a three-ring circus especially when I caught sight of another officer turning in a circle, spraying mace at about six or so people who had him surrounded. As if that weren’t enough, I saw another officer holding his 36-inch long riot baton in such a way to keep another portion of the crowd from moving past him to prevent DJ from arresting “Piggyback Rider”. At the same time, he was trying to keep an avenue of escape open to us. From out in front of the house, Officer Long asked over the radio what our status was in the backyard.
It was then that this officer holding back the crowd with his riot baton immortalized himself as a master of understatement. He calmly replied over all the noise and tumult, “It’s building!”
Finally, someone made the wise decision that was time for us all to “get the heck out of Dodge City” and make our way back out front. Officer Phimister somehow maintained custody of “Piggyback Rider” as we made our way back through the house. I think we were fortunate there were so many people crowded inside that house because none of them realized what had just taken place in the backyard.
A cacophony of noise greeted us when we got out front again. Sirens filled the night air, as units from the California Highway Patrol and Sonoma County Sheriff arrived to help us shut down the party. Up and down this section of Elm Street, you could hear the clipped voices of dispatchers and officers blaring from the various portable and car radios. Adding to the hubbub was the loud animated voices of the partygoers themselves, as they poured out of the house and into the surrounding neighborhood. In the resulting confusion, “Stu Pidteen” got into a scuffle with yet another officer and made his escape into the night, though he was thoroughly sprayed with Mace for his efforts.
In the midst of all this, I heard Officer Long calling me on the radio.
“Lincoln 36…Congratulations…You’ve successfully completed training…Now I need you to hold over for two hours.”
I quickly looked down at my watch and saw that it was 0240 hours; Swing Shift had officially ended! I was at last, exactly where I wanted to be. I wisely resisted the temptation to respond with a loud, ‘Yahoo”!
Epilogue: Since several officers knew “Stu Pidteen’s” identity from prior encounters, the District Attorney filed an assortment of charges and the Court issued a warrant for his arrest. In a town of just slightly over 30,000 people, it didn’t take long for us to find him and serve the warrant. With the passage of time, “Stu Pidteen” eventually became a far wiser adult.
As for the phrase “It’s building!”, for several years after, it became almost obligatory to describe any situation, large or small, that seemed to be spiraling out of control.
Altruistic motivations aside, one of the reasons many of us chose police-work as a profession was the unpredictable nature of the job. Each day presents new and differing challenges; one shift might be filled with mind numbing reports while the next might involve ducking punches trying to quell a bar brawl. Business professionals are not usually going to find themselves involved in a physical altercation with a customer. Yet, such confrontations are almost a given in police work, more so depending upon the number of drinking establishments your town happens to have. In an officer’s career, most of these fights usually blend into the tapestry of innumerable, long forgotten calls for service, traffic stops and arrests. That said, there are always some fights that you never forget.
Swing shift briefing this particular afternoon was unremarkable save for a warning about not using our flashlights in place of our batons. Apparently, a not so happy “camper” was suing officers of a Southern California department for doing just that. I filed that tidbit away in the back of my mind, thinking it would never be of importance, before heading out to patrol my assigned beat, on the east side of town. By the time Graveyard shift hit the streets later that night (around 2200 -10:00 PM) I was buried in reports; since it was the early 1980’s, we actually had to write our reports by putting pencil/pen to paper. This is the less than glamorous facet of police work seldom, if ever, portrayed by Hollywood fiction which in reality, typically makes up the larger part of an officer’s day.
Our patrol cars were our offices and we would have to park somewhere within our beat to complete our paperwork so that we were available to handle any calls. Back then, a favorite spot to park and write was an old abandoned gas station at the corner of East Washington and South McDowell Boulevard. I had parked facing west, directly across from the “I Forgot Its Name” restaurant and bar, which was nestled in the middle of a Best Western Motel complex.
I had been writing for about an hour or so, my clipboard stuffed with reports yet to be approved by my sergeant. I was engrossed in some residential burglary report that had no leads, when the sound of a man yelling broke my concentration. I could tell, without even looking, that it was the type of howl made by somebody having consumed a snoot-full of booze. I just knew that he was probably going to require my attention, putting me further behind in completing my paperwork. I grudgingly peered out the front windshield in time to see a middle-aged man stagger over to a shopping cart that someone had abandoned in the parking lot. Clearly unaware of my presence and for reasons known only to him, this likely intoxicated clown proceeds to push the cart right into the street where it rolled to a stop in the middle of the far right lane, posing a hazard to traffic.
At almost the same time, Officer Dave Port happened to be making a right turn from East Washington onto South McDowell and witnessed what I had just seen. Dave got on his patrol car’s public address system and ordered this inebriated moron to pull the cart back out of the street. Neither of us was especially pleased with his response, which was in sign language and involved a contemptuous display of his middle finger. I fired up my patrol car and drove across the street to join Dave, who by then had pulled into the parking and removed the cart from the street.
By the time I got out of my car, Dave was in the process of explaining to “inebriated moron” that he was going to get a rather costly citation for causing a traffic hazard. Not surprisingly, he responded in a less than pleasant manner, giving both of us another emphatic, “Fuck you!” only this time, verbally and rather loudly, too. He turned to walk away as Dave and I looked at each other in disbelief. I stepped in front, blocking his withdrawal as Dave told him that he was under arrest for disorderly conduct. It should go without saying that “inebriated moron” was not having any of that and whirled around, quite obviously prepared to fight. I grabbed one of his arms, intending to apply
a wristlock, when another man came running toward us from between some parked cars. Without a word, he proceeded to shove me away from the first subject. Speaking with a heavy German accent and his breath laced with the unmistakable odor of alcoholic beverages, this new player demanded to know what we were doing with his brother. Given that we were now facing two drunken combative morons, Dave notified dispatched we needed more help.
I tried to explain to our newest “friend” that we were arresting his brother for pushing the shopping cart into the street, creating a traffic hazard and for public intoxication. I had already decided to arrest him once we got some more help, figuring for the moment, a modicum of discretion was the best course of action. Naturally, as Murphy’s Law is wont to do, he swung a balled up fist at me catching me with a glancing blow to my shoulder. The fight was on, Dave grappling with one brother and me with the other. Somehow, Dave had managed to use his portable radio and told whoever was coming to help us, to step up his response to “Code Three” – with emergency lights and siren. This in and of itself was a sign to other officers, that we were undoubtedly in some “deep Kimchi”.
An instant later, I unexpectedly found myself fighting with not one but two men. My first thought was that Dave had somehow lost control of the idiot who had caused all of this. That was until I saw that he was also fighting with two men. What started out to be a simple “routine” arrest for public intoxication had turned into a donnybrook and we were outnumbered two to one. Dave and I both had the same disquieting thought; where were these guys coming from and how many more were going to join the fracas?
I had already taken a couple of well-placed body shots when I managed to get my hand on the microphone clipped to my uniform shirt’s epaulet and called a “Code Twenty” meaning that we needed any and all help we could get, immediately if not sooner. Just as I heard dispatch sounding the alert tones over the radio, someone knocked the microphone from my shoulder and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground beneath two attackers. From out of the corner of my I caught a brief glimpse of a third person running towards me. That “Oh Shit!” moment quickly turned to relief when this person tackled one of the two atop me and pulled him off. For the moment, I was back to fighting one on one.
In the ensuing struggle, I managed to get on top of my suspect but unfortunately, the jackass was then lying on his hands and arms, making it impossible for me to handcuff him. I yelled at him to put out his hands, though at this point, I knew it was a futile request. I upped the use of force ante pulling out my trusty can of Mace, which is essentially liquid tear gas, and gave him a generous dose in his face. Unfortunately, the Mace did not work as advertised and he still refused to bring his arms out from underneath him or cooperate in any manner whatsoever.
I reached for my baton and discovered it had popped out of the holder on my equipment belt; so much for that option. It finally dawned on me that I was holding my police issue flashlight in my right hand. It was with a great sense of irony that I looked at the flashlight, then the suspect’s head, then the flashlight. I quickly figured that it was probably an incredibly bad idea to smack him in the head with said flashlight, given the warning we just received in briefing; however, the good Lord knows just how badly I wanted to do just that at that very moment.
Then, the welcomed sound of wailing and yelping sirens piercing the night, converging upon us from what seemed like every direction, finally penetrated my consciousness.
The cavalry had arrived! In a matter of seconds, the restaurant parking lot and part of South McDowell Boulevard filled with patrol cars from not only Petaluma Police but also Sonoma County Sheriff and the California Highway Patrol. The sounds of more than a dozen police car radios echoed off the surrounding buildings, which were awash in a kaleidoscope of flashing blue and red colors.
A couple of officers helped me convince my subject to conclude that it was in his best interests that he let me handcuff him. As one of the other officers led him off to one of the waiting patrol cars, I looked around the chaotic scene and noticed someone in street clothes assisting some officers in cuffing my other assailant. As it turned out, he was an off-duty California Correctional Officer who happened to be driving by and saw that we needed help. He was the person who tackled one of my assailants.
Within minutes, all four were in handcuffs and on their way to the station for booking before transport to Sonoma County Jail. That’s when we learned they were all brothers, living in the San Francisco area, though they were originally from Germany which explained the accents.
As has previously been mentioned on “Just-the-Facts Ma’am”, during these kinds of adrenaline fuel incidents, our perception of time is altered. For me, the wait for help to arrive seemed interminable, yet the entire confrontation from start to finish lasted no more than four and a half minutes. I’m not sure how long it was before I finally felt the adrenaline bleeding away only to be replaced by an overwhelming feeling of fatigue. Both Dave and I had torn, tattered uniforms, in addition to an assortment of cuts, scrapes and bruises; Dave had torn cartilage between several ribs while I had a couple of badly bruised ones.
Now, had this been an episode of Dragnet or Adam-12, this would be the point where the fate of the four suspects was revealed. In keeping with that spirit, some names have been changed to protect the guilty. The District Attorney, in and for the County of Sonoma, accepted the following plea agreement for the four Deutschland Brothers. By each brother pleading guilty to two counts of misdemeanor “Battery upon a Police Officer” and two counts of “Resisting Arrest and Interfering with an Officer”, the DA would dismiss the felony battery charges and request no jail time upon successful completion of 5 years probation. The guilty plea rendered moot the lawsuit they filed against the City of Petaluma for alleged police misconduct. It also meant that the counter-suit Dave and I filed against each of the four brothers was successfully settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. The Chief of Police wrote the off-duty California Correctional Officer a letter of commendation for coming to our aid.
Apologies to the band Fun. and their wonderful song,Some Nights
Check out Just the Facts, Ma’am on Wednesday for the continuation of Hal Collier’s Ramblings on calls for service–next comes part one of 5150’s. For those of you who aren’t familiar with that term, it’s the California Welfare & Institutions Code for mentally impaired. Get ready for more stories!