The Call Box

Call Box: Detective Story, The Real Deal, part 2

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Badge_of_a_Los_Angeles_Police_Department_detective_(2434)If only it were that easy and glamorous.

Your average detective drowns in paper/computer reports. He/she is assigned a specialty such as homicide or robbery. Crimes are usually broken down by type, burglary (either residential or business), auto theft, theft from vehicle or forgery.

First thing in the morning:
You must check for arrestees assigned to your team. They are either questioned and released, held for further investigation with strict time constraints or submitted to the D.A. for charges to be filed.

You also may have to transport your own prisoner to a different lock-up.

You must read the overnight reports to see if anything requires immediate attention.

If you have a heavy case load you are probably in court several days a week.

You must find time to re-interview all victims and witnesses and serve all subpoenas for your court cases.

You must keep abreast of all deadlines for required reporting.

You must be prepared to respond to any and all calls for service.

f prints magnifierTelling the lieutenant, “That’s not my field/specialty/responsibility/job,” earns the response, “There is nobody else available, handle it. Like it or not, you are a good soldier. You do what you must.”

Not only does the fictional detective get the bad guy, he does it with time out for commercials. In real life, our clearance rates vary by crime but are never as good as the T.V. cop’s.

The Call Box

The Call Box: The Hat Squad

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Robbery defined: 211 P.C. (California Penal Code):

  1. 1. Taking money/goods/property
  2. 2. in possession of another
  3. 3. from their person or immediate presence
  4. 4. by use of force or fear.

People are robbed, despite what the press says. Houses and cars are burglarized, not robbed.


Detectives assigned to the Robbery Detail, despite their actual size, seem larger than life. I won’t call it a swagger but more of an aura, an overpowering sense of quiet intimidation, or awe. They project a competence and a message stating, “I am not to be trifled with.”

Job Description: take down the bad guys.

Into this mix in the late 1940’s, we have The Hat Squad, one half-ton of “bad man” hunter.

Now, men wore hats back then, fedoras or flat caps in the winter, straw hats or skimmers in the summer. This group however wore identical fedoras with 3″ brims, and tailored suits. There were 2 teams of 2, all 6’2″ or over. The lightest weighed in at 235.


They were Max Herman and Clarence “Red” Stromwall, Harry Crowder and Eddie Benson. Much has been written about them, all based on interviews and research. I, however, knew them.


They were at least 10 years ahead of me on the job but in later years, I got to know all of them socially. Gentlemen to the letter. But on the job, they were legends.

Stories abound from the stickup men who gave themselves up when they heard the Hats were after them, to the “never mind any damn badge. My ID is on my head.” One story that made the rounds: A witness looked through the door peep hole of his second-floor apartment building and saw two of the Hats. He was so frightened he jumped from his bathroom window. He broke an ankle upon landing. He was a witness, yet.

Truth?  Urban legend? Who knows but the Hat Squad were and still are revered.

Now robbers are generally not very nice people. They take things away from defenseless victims sometimes hurting them in the process. They usually are armed which makes them think they are bigger and smarter than they really are.

The Hats always seemed seven feet tall and their bulk would blot out the sun. They were Tonton Macoute, the boogie man, and the thing that goes bump in the night.


They made a bad movie about them, all riding together in a dark blue 1948 Buick convertible. Please. Also, a TV show; thankfully, one season only.

Their era ran from the late 40s through the early 60s.

Cropped Hats

The photo you are looking at was published with a Los Angeles Times article and now hangs in the current Robbery / Homicide squad room.

All were WWII vets, Eddie a paratrooper, Harry Air Corp, Max and Red Marines. Eddie, who played some pro football with the N.Y. Giants died too young of natural causes. The other three went to law school and became practicing lawyers while Harry and Red went on to become superior court judges.

They are gone now and have become part of the history and lore of the L.A.P.D. We shall never see their like again which is probably just as well in our politically correct world, populated by so many girly-men. Sorry, governor.

They can be found under L.A.P.D. Hat Squad on your computer.


The Call Box

The Call Box: The Blue Chip Bandit

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Every police officer has a collection of stories/memories or incidents that he or she brings out now and again to share with friends. It can be the “biggest” this or the “strangest” that but every copper has them. The category of “stupid” is so often encountered that TV even has a show called “America’s Dumbest Criminals.” Any officer can quote the old “crime makes you stupid” axiom. In keeping with that thought, let me introduce –the Blue Chip Bandit.

It is the mid-1960’s and I am a detective sergeant working the robbery squad at the old Wilshire station. My partner is Dale Brown a “good ol boy” from Oklahoma. Wiltshire is a busy house with three teams assigned to the robbery detail. I look at the movie or TV detectives of today and they have offices a CEO would envy. The six of us shared a table in a room the size of a bathroom.

The first thing I normally did in the morning was to check to see if we had any arrestees (in custody) that required action. Next, would be to check the “over nights” (crime reports that came in during night shift) to see if anything required immediate attention. Dale was banging away at the old manual typewriter as I began to read the robbery reports. Normally I would skim them then read them closely. One, however, immediately caught my eye. I read it a second time then slowly a third, thinking someone was playing a joke.

“Brownie,” I said. “We have one to work on now. Single gunman, victim and witness can both ID the suspect; good description of the car: an older Chevy, dark blue with a green right front fender and white passenger door. Oh, he is also about 5’6” and an Albino.”

Brownie finally looked up from the typewriter.

“However,” I continued. “We will never catch him. He is too clever for us, a master criminal.”

Brownie waited patiently for the shoe to drop.

“He covered the last number on the license plate with Blue Chip stamps.”          

Let me pause a moment for those of you too young to know what blue chip stamps were. At that time, some merchants gave out either Blue Chip or S & H Green stamps with purchases. You pasted them in little books and when you saved 127,000 you got a can opener or some other luxury item to make your life easier.


Brownie snorted while I called DMV, who gave me my ten possible matches. Being an astute detective, I quickly picked the proper one. The Chevy, which gave me a name, which gave me a criminal record, which gave me a mug shot, which gave me a positive ID from victim and witness. Whew!! By now it was time for lunch. Before eating, however, I put out a broadcast for suspect and vehicle wanted for armed robbery. 

When we cleared after lunch, the RTO informed us a south end radio car had bagged our suspect. We drove straight to 77th Street Division where the radio car was still doing the reports. The suspect car still had the blue chip stamps on the plate and the gun was inside. How sweet it is.

While Brownie rounded up the reports and talked to the uniforms, I pulled our “Albino” out and talked to him in an interrogation room. He admitted the robbery and said he knew the only reason we caught him was that he forgot to take the stamps off the plate. I told him this was true and asked him how he came up with such a clever idea. He said a friend told him to cover one number and they can never catch you.

I marveled at what a great idea that was and told him in confidence, “but it always has to be the last number and one number only.” He actually thanked me. As we walked him to the car I thought he looked almost luminescent in the sunlight. On the ride back I told him due to his unique looks he should try a different line of work—like burglary.

Brownie finally had enough. “Kid, forget the unique bit. You couldn’t be any more noticeable if you were on fire. You probably glow in the dark and you drive a clown car. Give it up”

The suspect said, “thank you sir.”

At least he was polite…


More Street Stories

Guest Post: MPD Chief Edward Flynn: Share my confidence in your police

This article was re-posted by Craig Schwartz, Santa Rosa PD.

By Edward Flynn, Police Chief of the Milwaukee Police Department


As we enter the summer of 2015, on the heels of an unusually violent first half of the year in both Milwaukee and many of our peer cities, I write to provide some context that acknowledges the challenges we face, outlines your police department’s ongoing strategies to reduce crime and make our neighborhoods safer, and remind us all of the accomplishments of the men and women of the Milwaukee Police Department.

In a recent conversation covering the evolution of policing in the past 40 years, which covers the arc of my career, there was frustration that the same criticisms being leveled at the police today were being leveled at the police 40 years ago.

This is despite the fact that over the last 40 years, police have advanced and improved more than any other component of local government. We have become more technologically sound, have higher levels of integrity, are more restrained in the use of force, are more integrated, are more educated, are more carefully trained and are more selectively chosen than ever before. Yet we are hearing many of the same criticisms.

Did the police as a national institution fail? My answer is no. The police evolved. Fast enough, far enough, perfectly enough? No. More than the national narrative wants you to believe? Yes.

So why is there so much frustration and confusion? Because it became easy to delegate the social problems of America to the police. Over the past 40 years, there have been massive disinvestments in mental health care, social services for the homeless, for the disadvantaged, for those who are substance abusers. Our police have become the social agency of first resort for the poor, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Indeed, if one did not know better, one would think society had decided that no social problem is so complicated that it cannot be cured with more training for the police. That is neither accurate nor sustainable. We throw the young, idealistic, service-minded men and women of policing into a social meat grinder and we expect them to perform perfectly at all times. When they err, we do not treat them like soldiers in Afghanistan making a mistake under pressure; we treat them like criminals. This is wrong.

The code of conduct we adhere to in Milwaukee specifically calls on us to distinguish between mistakes in judgment and acts of malfeasance. We hold ourselves accountable under this code because it is the right way to behave and because if we choose not to hold ourselves accountable when we make mistakes or violate the law, no one will believe us when a bad thing happens despite the lawful and within-policy behavior of our officers.

We are data-driven, which sometimes means our efforts to produce and provide information about crime, safety and police activity in Milwaukee is used against us. We accept that reality, frustrating as it might be. While there is no declaration of victory in policing, those who deny progress and decry reforms do a disservice to the communities they purportedly support and the men and women who have chosen to serve their neighbors as police officers.

What are some of our measurements of accountability?

In 2007, there were nearly 500 citizen complaints filed against department members. Between 2007 and 2014, your officers engaged in nearly 1.5 million citizen contacts as part of their proactive policing work. The professionalism of our officers resulted in a 66% reduction in complaints from 2007 to 2014, from 488 to 168. During the same time frame, we reduced the frequency of our use of force by one quarter.

Since 2007, we have experienced a 24% reduction in Part I crime, which is defined by the FBI and includes homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson. From 2008 through 2014, we averaged 87 homicides per year, compared to an average of 108 homicides per year between 2001 and 2007.

A scientific survey was conducted last year to measure citizen satisfaction with police services, and I have asked for the survey to be repeated annually. What did we learn? Nearly three-quarters of the respondents were satisfied with their police department and 73% were satisfied with our visibility in their own neighborhood. There is room for improvement, and we are dedicated to making that improvement. We will continue to engage residents, neighborhood groups, churches, nonprofits, schools and every level of government agency in our community-based efforts.

While we have seen aggregate improvement in crime over the past seven years, there is a spike in crime. This brings pressure to revert to the failed conventional policies of the past. Why? Because there is nothing safer in government than failing conventionally. We know that if you stick with something innovative and you have a temporary setback, the pressure to go back to the failed, stale policies of the past is overwhelming. I will not do that. We have had measurable success, and we will continue to have success without sacrificing the support of the disadvantaged neighborhoods that rely on their police.

We cannot deny there is a national narrative of negativity regarding race and police, and that negativity — as righteous or exaggerated as it might be — has a detrimental effect on both the morale of our officers and on the perspectives of the public alike.

But the greatest danger to the healthy growth and development of young African-American men in our central cities is being murdered, wounded or maimed by someone who looks just like them. We are committed to dealing with that. We are committed to dealing with it justly. We are committed to doing it in a manner that holds us accountable to our professional standards. At the same time, we are not going to be intimidated into not doing our job.

No agency of government is more accountable for its role in accelerating positive social trends, retarding negative social trends and making a difference in the neighborhoods of a city. We are continuing to engage with neighborhoods to build their ability to advocate for themselves.

All of our officers, upon finishing field training, are strategically assigned to neighborhoods with high rates of violence in order to provide a strong and accessible police presence. We are continuing to use data to guide our deployments and we have launched a visible, enforcement-oriented presence in our high-crash areas to reduce the sharp increase in injuries and deaths we have experienced this year.

I am proud of this department and I am proud of the progress it has made. I have seen the work your officers perform. I have seen the pressures under which they operate. I have been at the scenes of terrible incidents where they are exposed to the worst human conduct imaginable, and I have watched them maintain their dignity, calmness and professionalism. I have proudly presented them with hundreds of medals for heroism, valor, lifesaving and restraint. And while I sometimes fear my pride in them comes across as arrogance, I am confident our continued work with the people we swore to protect is worthy of their support and esteem.

I am proud to serve this agency and this city, and I invite you to share my confidence in your police.

Edward Flynn is chief of the Milwaukee Police Department.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Miscellaneous, part 5-A Smart Burglar


 by Hal Collier

Hal is a thirty-five year veteran of LAPD. We are pleased he is sharing his stories with us.


The following story is true. In my last Ramblings I bragged a little ok, a lot about my best arrest. This story is about a business burglar who fooled me. The name of the suspect is real. It’s funny that I can’t remember the name of my best arrest, but this guy’s name is always on my mind. It’s probably because I had him and I let him slip away.


I’m working A.M. Watch and I have been studying the Daily Occurrence (D/O) sheets for crime in my area. I patrol the central area of Hollywood which is largely businesses along Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. I notice a pattern of burglaries in small businesses. Some don’t have alarms and the items taken are small. I find myself driving through rear alleys and parking lots along Hollywood Boulevard. I jump on any alarms that are dispatched but don’t have any luck. The crimes continue and I’m getting frustrated. 


dark alleyHollywood is unique in that there are always people out in the middle of the night. Most cities don’t have pedestrians walking the side streets and alleys at 3 AM. I remember once I’m working with Frank, who just transferred into Hollywood. I’m driving down Hollywood Boulevard at 4 A.M. and Frank yells, “Stop. Turn around; go up that side street.” My adrenalin starts rushing. I whip the police car around and I just miss hitting a homeless man. I figure we got us a crime in progress. Maybe the Watch Commander will get off my back for not writing enough tickets.


Frank directs me to stop this pedestrian. Ok, we got him stopped. I ask Frank, “What do we have?” Frank looks at me like it’s my first day on the job. He says, “You’re kidding, right? We have this guy walking up this dark side street at 4 A.M.” In all fairness, in the Hollenbeck where Frank came from a guy walking up a dark side street is suspiciousin Hollywood nothing”. Remember Hollywood never sleeps.


Back to my burglar. I hear a broadcast of a burglar alarm in my area on Hollywood Boulevard. I’m only a block away. I immediately drive to the back. I approach this common courtyard which serves about ten businesses. This guy exits the courtyard. We grab him, I’m sure we got our burglar. 


The questioning goes something like this. “What’s your name?” 

“Steven Cox.” 


“What are you doing back there?” 


“I know it’s wrong but I had to go to the bathroom. Go ahead look under the fire escape”. 


I have my partner fill out a Field Interview card. I check under the fire escape and sure enough, someone has defecated. It’s fresh. I won’t go into a description of how I know it’s fresh, just trust me. I check the rear doors and windows of the business where the alarm was activated. Nothing. I look around at the other businesses. I can’t find any evidence of a burglary. We run him for wants and warrants over our police radio. No wants or warrants. I’ve run out of ideas. We release him.


burglar by aneta.orgTwo days later, I have the burglary detective yelling at me. Steven Cox is a wanted business burglar and he wants to know why I didn’t arrest him. The detective says that Cox has a warrant. He’s calling me all kinds of names because I didn’t check him. I explain that I did run him for warrants and the detective cools down. His boss is on his case because Cox is stealing Hollywood blind. The detective wants to know why I didn’t recognize Cox. I arrested him two years earlier inside Mike Smith Volkswagen on Cahuenga. He used the name Mark Johnson then. Hell, the detective had to look at my nametag to see who I was and I have worked with him in the same station for years.


Cox was caught a few weeks later and sat down for an interview. He was one smart burglar. He pre-planned his crimes. He would case the business during the day when they were open, then come back at night. He always urinated or defecated somewhere close to where he was breaking in. That way he would have an excuse for being at the rear of a business. He would take two swigs of alcohol before going out and act drunk if stopped in an alley. He would breathe in an officer’s face and stagger around. He fooled two Metro Officers that way when they caught him at the rear of a Mercedes Dealership. He would take out a whole windowpane so it didn’t look broken. He would go inside a business run around and see what property he wanted, then exit and wait for the police to check out the business. If the cops left, he knew he had all the time he needed.


Cox discussed the time I stopped him. He panicked and gave me his real name and date of birth. Why his warrant didn’t show up when I checked him is anybody’s guess. He admitted he fooled me and was burglarizing a business five doors away from where the alarm was activated. I still have the tape of Cox’s interview. Cox was one smart burglar. 

Sometimes even when you’re lucky you miss a big one.

More Street Stories

Compassionate Cops? 5-31-14

Here’s another wonderful post about the good that police officers do. Courtesy of C.L. Swinney. Link to his blog is at bottom of post. –Thonie


Florida Officer Helps Boy Who Lost Birthday Present


A Jacksonville police officer gave a local boy the birthday that had been stolen from him, all because of an auto burglary.

According to the police report, someone broke into the boy’s mother’s van on Gilmore Street between 5 p.m. March 27 and 2 p.m. the next day and stole children’s clothing valued at about $2,000. That included his birthday present.

The mother had purchased the clothing with her tax refund, the report states. She told Officer Derek Pratico, who handled the auto burglary, that she did not have any money to replace the gift and didn’t know how she was going to give her son a birthday.

Pratico wrote up the police report and finished his tour of duty, then went to a store the next day and bought a new birthday present, cake and birthday card for the boy. He got a $100 gift card for the child’s mother to help her. Then he gave them their presents.

“I did not do this for any recognition,” Pratico said in a Sheriff’s Office Facebook post. “I just felt it was the right thing to do at that moment.”

Police did search the neighborhood for suspects in the auto burglary and did check the minivan for fingerprints, the report states.


http://Compassionate Cops? 5-31-14.

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