More Street Stories

The Decoy Story

This post from Ron Ray, retired LAPD

Ok, here goes—

It was the late seventies. I was working Hollywood morning watch. My partner had just finished writing a ticket at the intersection of Santa Monica and Western. We were in a parking lot across the street from a local dive bar and since it was close to closing time we decided to sit and wait and snag a DUI driver leaving the bar.

We did not have to wait long and saw our future arrest come staggering out of the bar and start walking to his car parked at the curb. As he walked to his car we noticed that he was placing his hands on other vehicles for support as he walked. He gets in a late fifties Cadillac, starts the engine, cranks the wheel, and punches the accelerator. The car makes a sharp U-turn from the curb, tires are screeching with rubber burning and it goes blasting east on Santa Monica to the entrance to the Hollywood Freeway.

The guy has a lead on us and my partner does some driving to catch up. We are south bound on the freeway about three miles or so before we get the guy stopped and pulled over on an off ramp. We get him out of the car and one thing is readily apparent.

He is old. His driver’s license says he is 89.

One other thing becomes apparent. He is not under the influence. No booze on his breath, no nystagmus in his eyes, and his speech was clear and distinct. We asked him if he had been drinking and he said he had not had a drink in fifty years. We asked him what the hell was he doing in a bar then. He replied that he lived in an apartment down the street from the bar and went there because he was lonely and he could talk to people. We asked what the hell was up with his driving.

He replied, “I was sitting there in the bar when someone come in and says that there is a black and white parked across the street. Someone else asks, ‘Hey, Pops you want to earn some money?’”

“They pass the hat, everybody kicks in a few bucks—I think twenty to twenty-five. They say, ‘Take this money and go take the cops on a wild goose chase’……so I did.”

We kick the old guy loose. I am laughing, my partner is fuming. We race back to the bar and of course find it locked up tight.

All the cars gone, not a soul around.





Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Desk Duty, part 2 of 4–Fun in the Jail

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. The names and the stories are to the best of my memory. This is the second of four parts of working the Hollywood desk. The desk was next to the infamous Hollywood Jail. A door led from the desk to the jail. This made it easy for bailouts to leave and cops to get in on a fight. Sometimes when things were slow at the desk I’d walk into the jail to see what was going on. This leads up to my story of things you will never see on TV.


I would open the jail door and asked Fitzgerald, our grumpy jailer, “Hey, Fitz. Anything going on?” 


One day Fitz says, “Hey, go back in the misdemeanor section.”


I walk back and everyone is awake. It’s about 3:30 in the morning. I announce to no one in particular, “What’s going on?”


One of the guys in a cell says, “Hey officer, watch this guy.” He points to a cell. There’s a guy sitting alone in the cell. He is shirtless and his head is wet. He’s sitting on the cell floor, cross-legged, with his hands in a prayer motion in front of his face. 


I said to him, “Ok, show me what you got.”


He stands up, walks over to his toilet, firmly places his hands on the toilet bowl rim, and does a perfect handstand. I’m impressed. He lowers his head into the toilet bowl water, maintaining his handstand. The drag queen in the next cell reaches through the cell bars and flushes the toilet. Everyone cheers and the man stands up, returns to his sitting position on the cell floor.


flushing toiletI congratulate him on his strength, poise, and balance, then ask him, “Can you do it again?” Without a word, he returns to the toilet and completes the above described task. I give him a 9.7. I deducted some points when I saw a little wobble on the handstand.


Only in Hollywood.


I show up for work one night after spending the whole day in court. My plan is to leave roll call and head to Pinks, because I haven’t eaten since the day before. Back in the old days our vending machines only contained candy bars and peanuts left over from the ‘65 riots. In roll call, I’m informed I’m assigned to the desk. I’m starving and they didn’t make food runs for the desk officers in the old days. 


About 3 A.M. I poke my head in the jail and ask Fitz if he would put an extra jail breakfast in the oven for me. All arrestee’s are fed three times a day. The meals are similar to a TV dinner, kept in a freezer, and cooked in a large oven. The breakfast meal consisted of a small sausage patty and a slice of French toast and something resembling eggs. Trust me these were nothing like the Swanson TV dinners you had in the 50’s and 60’s. They served it with coffee, not Starbucks, but some instant coffee made with warm water from the tap. The coffee foamed up when you poured the water in. 


Jail mealFitz tells me my breakfast is ready. Two bites and I understand cruel and unusual punishment. I was always taught to never leave food on your plate but I did that day. I rushed home and had a bowl of cereal with my kids while watching cartoons. Never again was I tempted to eat jail food. 


I worked with an old timer at the desk, Gerst, who lived in his car with his dog. Yea, he was a cop and I think he had the first dollar he ever made. I’m not saying Gerst was cheap but I think he considered underwear a frivolous luxury. He would go around the jail and gather up the uneaten food. He said it was for his dog, but I wasn’t sure. I felt sorry for the dog.


Once a woman came into the station to pick up her juvenile grandson. He was in a holding tank, yelling, and screaming about how he was picked on because he was black. He was going to sue everyone. The arresting officers wanted to kick his butt but remained professional. His descriptions of police officers would make a sailor blush. 


His grandmother and guardian, a polite Southern woman, heard him yelling and asked if we would release him now. Her grandson walked out into the lobby. He was about a foot taller than his her. Grandma promptly slapped him across the face and said, “Nigger, shut the f–k up.” She then apologized to the officers and grabbed her grandson by the ear. She led him out the lobby doors, still holding on to his ear saying, “Just wait until I get your black ass home.” As she walked him to her car, she was kicking him in the butt every few steps. I was glad she didn’t live in Hollywood. I know there was a child abuse call about to occur. It brightened everyone’s day at the desk.  


Old lady on phoneMrs. Croft used to call the desk all the time. I never met her in person but it was obvious she was lonely. If I had the time, I would talk to her. After a while, she would ask for me by name. Once she promised to buy me and my wife a new Cadillac. I knew that wasn’t going to happen because she lived in a flop motel on Western. She was nice, just down on her luck.

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