Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: An Overwhelming Traffic Collision

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Barham off r universal-city-ramp-002-jpg-20150104Did you ever have a traffic accident that was just overwhelming? This occurred in the mid 70’s and as usual I’m working graveyard shift. I’ll describe the scene for you. The Hollywood Freeway (aka 101 Freeway) winds through the Cahuenga Pass.  Cal Trans has closed the entire southbound lanes for pavement repair. Everyone has to exit the Cahuenga Boulevard exit which has a stop sign at the bottom of the ramp. Cal Trans has started closing down lanes at Barham and funneling everyone down to one lane by Cahuenga.

 About 2:30 AM, a semi-truck loaded with strawberries from the Central California barrels down the Cahuenga off ramp. About half way down, the driver realizes there’s a stop sign at the bottom of the ramp. Now, this truck is still at freeway speeds when he attempts to make a hard right turn. Well, you guessed it—the trailer flipped over on its side. The driver was ok but the load inside the trailer began to smoke. Of course, the fire department came out and sprayed that foam that they carry in the fire truck.

Isuzu_truck_overturnedNow the trailer is open, and the concerned citizens didn’t want to see the free strawberries go to waste. The fire captain advised me that the foam they have sprayed will give anyone who eats the strawberries a bad case of diarrhea.

My partner and I chase off the strawberry lovers, but we now have a new problem. The entire Hollywood freeway is still coming down the off ramp. Now, they can’t turn right on Cahuenga. We start directing them northbound. That seemed to work for cars and small trucks. Semi-trucks couldn’t make the turn, so we had to have them back up Cahuenga. This turned into a traffic nightmare.

To complicate matters some of the fine Hollywood citizens were stealing the strawberry flats. Hope they have more than one bathroom and lots of toilet paper. 

We decide to have Cal Trans open the freeway. The foreman tells us he can’t open the freeway until 5:00 AM. That’s 2 1/2 hours away. We need another plan. Hey, lets close the freeway off ramp at Highland Avenue.September_26,_2007_accident,_highway_9,_CT,_flipped_truck

Bill Barren, my partner in hell that night, and I jumped into our lowest-bid city police car. We drove north on Cahuenga to head off the morning rush hour traffic jam. Now, Bill and I have never attended the Cal-Trans lane reduction class. And we have only two boxes of flares. We throw out a bunch of flares and traffic begins to brake sharply and swerve to avoid a bigger traffic collision.

We suddenly feared for our lives. After a few near misses, we abandon our plan and exit the freeway. We get back to the overturned semi and just when we think things can’t get worse we notice that the truck load is again starting to smoke.

Of course, the fire department again responds and now Cahuenga Boulevard is completely blocked. The good citizens of Hollywood have abandoned the strawberry picking season. I heard the freeway was backed up to the Canadian border.

CHP patrol carOk, maybe that was an exaggeration, but it was a mess. We figured that was the problem of the California Highway Patrol. Bill and I disappeared and made a bee line to Winchell’s.


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, More Character Short Stories

By Hal Collier LAPD, Retired

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

This is going to be a long character story so I won’t start with a couple of short cop stories, but then most of what I’m about to write about is short stories. Some of the stories have been included in other Ramblings but most are worth repeating. A few I’m going to tell for the first time because the statute of limitations has run out and Dave is retiring from his last job in Oklahoma. That’s right: Dave Balleweg


A little history. Dave Balleweg transferred to Hollywood in 1975, during the Massage Parlor crackdown. I’m not sure which side he was on, pro or con for the massage parlors.


Dave worked Wilshire Division before coming to Hollywood. He use to work PM watch and then go to radio station KGBS at midnight and work as a disc jockey for 6 hours. He would stay after to listen to the radio team of Hudson & Landry, an underrated comedy team.


Dave has the personality that charms people. All the years I worked with Dave, we never had to fight a suspect into jail. He even got suspects to come to the station and turn themselves in. One female hype, Dee, came to the station on Thanksgiving, with a turkey in the oven. Others he had arrested, called Dave to snitch on other hypes. Dave’s sense of humor will show itself in the following stories.


I’m working Morning Watch. Yea, oh-dark-thirty to sunrise. I walk into the roll call room at start of watch and the first thing I notice is someone is sitting in my seat. That’s right Dave is sitting in my spot. I’m not superstitious about sitting in a certain seat. I knew one cop, Stan, who thought he would be gunned down if he didn’t sit in his regular seat.

Bet you thought all cops were sane.


Now, I’m not an old timer, with only 5 years’ experience, but then we have a pecking order and I do have some seniority. Dave is senior to me so I sit right behind him so I can keep an eye on him. The next night I beat him into roll call and sat in my seat, welcome to Hollywood, Dave.  Ha ha.


A few days later we were assigned to work together. We hit it right off, it was love at second sight. After work that night my ribs hurt from laughing for 8 hours.  For the next 7 years we sat next to each other in roll call. 


Now after 35 years on the LAPD, I’ve worked with a lot of partners, some good, and some bad. Some made 8 hours seem like an 18 hour day, others the time flew by. I was fortunate to work with some great partners who became lifelong friends. Most of my stories are from working with friends not partners. For my non-cop friends, cops develop strong bonds with their partners. They spend long hours riding around and talking. Then, in an instant they are fighting for their lives or protecting each other from harm. It can be a strange relationship.


I had a lot of fun experiences with Dave and most would never make a TV cop show—no one would believe them. One night in the late 70’s, it rained harder than it has ever rained in Los Angeles. Streets flooded and Laurel Canyon turned into a river. Cars and people were swept away. I wasn’t working with Dave that night. I was assigned to a damage control car as the city went on Tactical Alert. I was asked to check on Dave and his partner, Dale, who were directing traffic at Mulholland and Laurel Canyon—and had been there for 6 hours. I snaked my up to their location. By now, all the cops are wet. Our blue wool uniforms are soaked and we smell like a wet dog, our underwear and t-shirts have a blue tint from our uniforms. I drive up and there are Dave and Dale in the middle of Mulholland and Laurel Canyon. They’re skipping around and singing like sailors. I learned that the actor, Paul Michael Glaser, had given the officers a bottle of brandy. It was the good stuff too.


The next night Dave and I are working a damage control car. We’re checking on residences that had to be evacuated due to mud slide damage, see if barricades are in place on closed streets, etc.  Cahuenga East is flooded and barricades were placed in order to keep cars from driving into 5 feet of water. Dave and I drive up and see the roof of a submerged car.


There’s a man bobbing in and out of the driver’s window. Our detailed investigation revealed the man was a Sheriff’s Lieutenant, who had been at a club in North Hollywood and was taking a younger lady to her house for a nightcap. 


Some kids moved the barricades as a joke and watched as the lieutenant drove into ‘Lake Cahuenga’ as Dave named it. The lieutenant was bobbing for the lady’s purse. We got the lieutenant’s car pulled out and drove his lady friend home. The lieutenant’s main concern was that the story didn’t get out to his co-workers. We promised silence, but two days later the lieutenant asked to meet us at Lake Cahuenga. He ratted on himself and his friends proclaimed him Commandant of Lake Cahuenga. He tried to bribe us with 2 bottles of Cognac. 


Part-2 next week will have more Dave Balleweg stories.


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, part 8, Miscellaneous-A Slow Chase

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, best to my fading memory. Some of my earlier stories dealt with pursuits. One was about my worst car pursuit and one my worst foot pursuits. Even the bad pursuits are a fond memory of an eventful career. As in life, not everything is bad. I actually had a lot of good moments. I remember my lucky arrests. Ok, this story is about the best and longest car pursuit I was ever in.


If you remember, I said I don’t like car pursuits. They’re dangerous and they seldom seem worth risking your life. Think about hurtling through the streets at breakneck speeds, because someone doesn’t want a ticket, they’re drunk, or they’re driving a stolen car. Even a stolen car will only get them a few months in county jail. A lot of cops die chasing cars. I knew of one cop who loved pursuits. He would hide out on Forrest Lawn Drive, see a speeding car, and let him get a good head start, before turning on the red lights and siren. The speeding car would figure he had enough of a lead to outrun the cops and take off. 


Ok, back to my story. I’m working; yep you guessed it, Morning Watch. I’m working with Bill, a good partner. Some partners you just click with. Bill’s driving and I’m keeping the books. Books are police slang for keeping the log and writing all the reports for the night. Bill and I had a great system for running license plates that were going away from you. The driver would look at the first three or four letters/numbers and the passenger would look at the last three letters/numbers. That way we would have the whole license plate to check to see if it was stolen or wanted. If you’re following behind the car, it’s not a big problem because you can read the license as you talk to the dispatcher downtown.


police traffic stopWe’re stopped at a red light at Franklin Avenue and Bronson Avenue. A car drives southbound on Bronson past the front of our car. The driver looks at us then quickly looks away. Ok, if you’ve got kids you know that look when you catch them doing something wrong. Bill and I look at each other, without saying anything. We both know he’s dirty. We pull in behind the car, a 70’s Pinto, and run the license plate. The dispatcher tells us the car is stolen, taken in a robbery, the suspect is considered armed and dangerous.


The adrenalin is starting to flow. We request back up and an air unit (helicopter). This is where the action begins. We have a backup police car behind us, a helicopter overhead, and a full tank of gas. That’s important as you will see later. We cinch up our seatbelts and turn on our red lights and siren. The Pinto accelerates to a top speed of 45 mph. To my non-police friends, Bill is responsible for driving the car. I’m responsible for broadcasting streets, direction, and suspect description. Both officers watch for oncoming cars, cross traffic, pedestrians, and Department Brass. 


The Pinto drives westbound Hollywood and northbound Cahuenga. I don’t think we’re going to have any trouble keeping up with this 4 cylinder Pinto. After all were driving a high performance, police equipped V-8 that the city bought from the lowest bidder.


The next 20 miles is pretty boring. The Pinto drives onto the northbound Hollywood Freeway (101). The Pinto is straining to get over the Cahuenga Pass. I’m broadcasting our location as we pass the off ramps. We are now in the San Fernando Valley and as we pass each on ramp we see two police cars waiting to get into the action. The Pinto is now up to 65 mph. We have a sergeant with us who keeps our pursuit from becoming a 30-car procession of police cars. 


Ford Pinto
Ford Pinto

As we head into the west end of the valley, our radio begins to break up. Another item bought from the lowest bidder. Communications advises us to let the helicopter broadcast the pursuit. Ok, I hang up the microphone, put up my headrest, and tell Bill to wake me if the Pinto exits the Freeway. Ok just kidding, but the Pinto is not going to outrun us or the helicopter. 


We leave L.A, County and enter Ventura County. I see Ventura County Sheriffs sitting on the on ramps. We travel through the communities of Agoura, Westlake Village, and Thousand Oaks. The Pinto strains to get up the hill on the Conejo pass. On the down side it reaches speeds that top 70 mph. We are driving into Camarillo when our helicopter advises us that he is low on gas and has to turn back. Ha ha, we filled up at start of watch. I think were in Ventura when the Pinto slows and exits the freeway at Victoria Ave. He’s out of gas. Hum!


The end of a pursuit is usually a dangerous, tension-filled occurrence. Cops are mad because of the danger this dirt bag has put them through, the adrenalin is flowing and after a close call, revenge is on most cops minds. These are the times when police officers lose control of their emotions and end up on You Tube and in court unemployed. This was different. After this slow, long pursuit, the adrenalin has left us. We order the driver out of his car and he complies, unlike Rodney King. He lays down on the street and I handcuff him. I put him in our car and we begin the long drive back to Hollywood. Our Sergeant has to stop and get gas, to get back to Hollywood. The pursuit was 56 miles in 53 minutes.


We’re on our way back and I ask the suspect, “Why did you run?” He said, “I was in West Hollywood and I saw the Sheriffs kick a guy’s ass for flicking a cigarette. I’m driving a stolen car, I was just putting off an ass kicking. You guys didn’t even hit me”.   I told Bill, “Stop the car. Let’s kick this guy’s ass.” The guy’s eyes got big and Bill and I both laughed. 


The robbery involved a gay man who picked up our suspect for a date. Our suspect took his wallet and car. Not the kind of Armed and Dangerous you see on TV. The pursuit lasted longer than it took me to write the arrest report. 


I think my sergeant is still trying to cash a check in Ventura to buy gas so he can get back to Hollywood.


We don’t miss him. 

Ramblings by Hal

Prostitutes, part 3

By Hal Collier




The following stories are true and I remind you I never worked vice, or PED (Prostitution Enforcement Detail).  I was a street cop who got dragged into the underworld of prostitution.  Come to think of it, I got paid, so I guess I was a member of the oldest profession. I just didn’t have a pimp or have to take off my clothes.


This is the third part of a trilogy, or what I thought was a trilogy until I received comments from part 1.  I get, “Hey Hal, remember what’s her name or did you ever hear about this or what about the contests?”  I also get questions about the “Green Box.”  Some of these comments spark a memory, so please feel free to pass along your stories to me. 


Lets talk about “Drag queens,” as most street cops refer to them.  The politically correct call them transvestites, transsexuals, cross dressers, or a man trapped in a woman’s body.  I’m old school and not paid to be politically correct anymore, so I’ll refer to them as Drag queens.  If this offends you, I’m sorry.  Drag queens may take two or three Ramblings to fully explain.  They’re very complex. We’ll see.


My first experience with a drag queen was an eye opening experience.  I had a whole three days out of the academy. I responded to a radio call of a stabbing at Franklin and Cahuenga.  We get there before the ambulance and see this girl lying on the ground.  She’s bleeding from a stomach wound.  This other young girl, hysterical, is kneeling over our victim.  My partner, a senior officer, tells the second girl to move out of the way.  The hysterical girl refuses and pushes my partner.  He slaps her across the face and knocks her down.  I’m shocked!  I was brought up to never hit a woman.  Later, I was told that neither of them was a woman.  Now, I’m really shocked.


It takes a while and some training to tell who is female and who is male, especially in Hollywood.  This training is not a one or two day lesson, it takes years and even decades to become an expert.  Some men still can’t tell the difference, or so they say.  Unfortunately, I’m considered a department expert.  No extra pay, no ribbon to wear on my uniform, like pink sock-filled bras.  It was just determined by a couple of captains during a trial board.  I’ll explain later.


Guessing a person’s gender is a slippery slope at best.  Guess wrong and you get sued, guess right and you still get sued.  It’s not an exact science.  The first trait I was taught was to look for an Adam’s apple—only men have them.  Bet the men check that on your next night out at a bar.  Better to find out in a bar than in the backseat of your Chevy.   Next, look at their hands, women usually have smaller hands and slim fingers.  Third, look at their feet.  Did you ever see a man try to fit his size 12 foot into a women’s open toed shoe.  The toes bunch together like sardines.  Last but not least, women don’t get a 5 o’clock shadow after 3 A.M., well, unless you’re dating a female Russian athlete.Trans


Ok, now you have the basic knowledge for gender classification.  You think you know their sex and something goes wrong.  I had a partner, Randy, who had booked this drag queen a half dozen times.  Always a man, this time the queen had the sex change operation.  Male officer strip searches a “now legally female” spells lawsuit and became the lead story on the 5 o’clock news.  Drag queens now have the Adam’s apple shaved, electrolysis, and breast implants.  Some of these medical changes were paid for with your tax dollars.


During the early years of my indoctrination to the, “women trapped in a man’s body” life style, I saw some amazing sights.  Subjects with no breast implants, used to stuff their bras with dirty socks.  The wigs they wore still had the shards of glass from the window of that wig store on Hollywood Boulevard. Smash and grab.  


photo courtesy of
photo courtesy of

Some of the queens put a lot of effort into their dress. Others, like Eddie Johnson, didn’t have their heart into it.  I’m going to finish up this segment with Eddie Johnson. Eddie could fill up a whole page but I’ll just hit the highlights with my encounters.  Eddie was a young black man who scratched out a meager living as a prostitute.  Eddie wore an ill-fitting blond wig and a pair of cut off Levi’s.  Eddie passed for a women to only the most inebriated tricks.  Oh, by the way Eddie was also an alcoholic.


I once got a radio call of a woman down in the ice plant.  It was just getting light and the call was up in the hills near the Hollywood Reservoir.  I was met by this doctor on his way to work when he saw Eddie face down in the ice plant.  He said the girl was breathing but probably drunk.  I recognized the blond wig and cut off Levi’s.  I yelled, “Eddie, wake up.”  Eddie rolled over and said, “Good morning, officers.”


I put Eddie in the back seat of my police car and headed downtown to the drunk tank.  I asked him, “how in the hell did you end up in the Hollywood Hills?”  Eddie slurs something like, “last thing I remember I was sitting in the back seat of another police car!”


Last time I saw Eddie was downtown.  I had just finished booking someone at PAB when the B-Wagon (drunk wagon) backed up to the ramp.   Out steps Eddie, blond wig on sideways and the same cut-off Levi’s.  Yes, Eddie was drunk.   Eddie moved from the glamour of Hollywood to the alleys of skid row.        


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: AM Watch, part 4

By Hal Collier

Here is another Ramblings story about working Morning Watch.  Those cops who spent most of their time working Day or Pm Watch will scoff at sleeping on duty, but try sleeping in the day with small children in the house, or the sounds of everyday street noises.


Some officers who refused to park and sleep, fell asleep at the wheel.  Some hit parked cars and more than one cop fell asleep at the wheel of a police car while stopped at a red light.  They were usually awakened by some citizen knocking on the driver’s window, yelling, “Officer, are you all right?”


Albany, NY cop sleeping in car.
Albany, NY cop sleeping in car.

Remember, I mentioned how hard it was to hide a black and white police car? Well, hide one with the intention of closing your eyes and catching a quick nap.  First and foremost, you need to find a location where some terrorist or dirt bag won’t find you.  Second, you need to find a location that the new sergeant who’s trying to make a name for himself, can’t find.


Third, don’t park in a spot that some citizen will find and call the Watch Commander to complain about how much he pays in taxes not have cops sleeping on his dollar.  I’ll bet you didn’t know this much thought went into grabbing a quick nap, did you?


Usually, the senior officer picked the spot.  It had to be close to the center of Hollywood, in case you had to respond to an emergency call or meet that pesky sergeant.   If you were buried high up in the Hollywood Hills, it would take you a good half hour to get to Hollywood Boulevard and then you had to explain where you were.  If you were too close to Hollywood Boulevard, a transient, looking for recyclables, would be knocking on your window asking if you had any cans in the back seat.


Hollywood Bowl parking lot (top)
Hollywood Bowl parking lot (top)

One of the best spots was in the Hollywood Bowl parking lot. It was close to Hollywood Boulevard yet out of public view.  Across from the Bowl was the Odin parking lot.  In the back of the lot was a ramp that opened up to about twenty parking spots.  It might have been for employees working during the Hollywood Bowl season.  Anyway, it was out of sight and had large trees lining the parking lot.  If you backed into one of the spots you had a steep hill at your back and a view of the ramp in front.  I only mentioned the trees because in later years the police helicopter couldn’t see your police car from the air.


One night there were four police cars in the Odin lot, each taking turns sleeping and handling radio calls.  The rule was the first police car in the Odin lot had to chase out the homeless but he got to log it as extra patrol.  Another good spot was an upper lot at Universal Studios.  It was remote but a fair distance from Hollywood Boulevard.  It was also patrolled by the sheriffs.


Odin was the best. Now, I’ll describe some of the worst.  I mentioned the short one block alley on Cahuenga West, my partner picked to rest before eating.  The SLA dropped off their propaganda tapes at radio station KPFK a block away in 1974.  Sometimes a cop would pick a dead-end street up in the hills, only trouble was that all the prostitutes liked those streets as well to complete their business transactions.


One ingenious officer, (Mike Brambles) found what he thought was the perfect spot.  They were building brand new houses right under the Griffith Park Observatory on Los Feliz.  The houses were almost completed and he discovered that he could back his police car into the garage and close the door.  He just needed to be awake and gone before the workers arrived.


This night, the officer was working a report car, which means he was alone.  It was slow and he backed into a garage and closed the door.  He was careful to shut the engine off so he didn’t asphyxiate himself.  He woke up before the workers arrived but not before a truck dumped a load of sand in the driveway blocking the garage door.  He frantically called a friend to bring him a shovel so he could dig his car out of the garage.  True story.


LA Coliseum tunnel
LA Coliseum tunnel

There is a legend of two officers parking their police car in a tunnel at the Coliseum.  It was so tight that they couldn’t open their car doors.  The car battery died as they slept and they had to break out the rear car window to escape. Truth or legend?


The officers were not the only ones who slept on duty.  I was working with this brand new rookie and at about 4 A.M., we needed gas.  I pulled into the police garage which was across the street from the station.  As I pulled up to the gas pumps, I noticed a sergeant’s car parked between two other police cars.  The rear door was open and a pair of feet were sticking out.  The rookie also noticed the feet and thought we should investigate.  I asked him if his old employer was holding his job for him.  He replied “no” and I advised him pump the gas and clean our car windows and mind his own business.   He made probation and later he was my lieutenant.


Another time, I had this probationer who had a little problem with priorities.  He shows up at work and as we leave the station, he tells me, “We have to take it slow tonight!”  He goes on to tell me that instead of sleeping, he went to a Doobie Brothers Concert in Santa Barbara. I reminded him that if he fell asleep he might need his old job back.


Flip the coin.  I make sergeant and am transferred to Southeast Division.  That’s right—Watts.  Now, one of the first lessons you learn working Watts is don’t sit in your car, even to write in your log.  The less friendly inhabitants had a tendency to take pot shots at the cops.  As I described in a previous Ramblings, Morning Watch in Watts was very slow.  Watts was nothing like Hollywood.


I knew the cops were Hitting the Hole but I just wondered where and why I wasn’t invited.  Of course, the reason was that when you promote you become one of them instead of one of us.  It was just as well—I might miss watching the sun rise over the Watts Towers.


I had a former Hollywood cop approach me in the parking lot at end of watch and tell me how they turned over every rock and just couldn’t find anything to arrest.  I laughed and asked to see his log.  They showed ten miles all night.  I smiled and told him that if you Hit the Hole for half the night, you should drive up and down the freeway a few times to put extra miles on the police car.  That way, it didn’t look like you were parked most of the night.  His eyes lit up and he knew that I knew. Then I told him, “I know what you were doing. I just don’t know where.”


I was driving around Watts one very quiet night and couldn’t find anyone doing any police work. I was southbound on Figueroa in an industrial area that bordered the Harbor freeway.  An emergency call came out and as I was making a U-turn I almost got run over by the entire watch exiting from behind a closed warehouse.  I took that secret with me when I left Watts a few months later.


The next Ramblings will be the last on working Morning Watch and it will give some of you a different perspective of Morning Watch Cops.        Hal

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Hitting the Hole, Part 3 of Morning Watch

Here in Northern California, we called ‘Hitting the Hole’ something else–‘hitting the wall’. It’s when you’re so tired that you can’t keep your eyes open. If you’re in Dispatch, you normally cannot get up and walk around. You’re tethered (literally and figuratively) to the radio console. Imagine calling 911 and no one there to answer. Anyway, until Hal wrote about this, I didn’t know there was any other way of expressing it. Anybody heard any other terms for it?


By Hal Collier
If you’re still awake from my last Ramblings about working Morning Watch, this won’t put you to sleep! I’m going to talk about “Hitting the Hole.” It’s not what the non-police might think. Hitting the Hole was cop talk for catching a few winks in your police car on duty. Hitting the Hole may take two Ramblings—after all I worked nineteen years of Morning Watch.

I don’t know of any cop that never hit the hole on duty or any division that officers didn’t do it. In some divisions the officer and supervisors hit the hole together.

I can just hear the citizens and politicians yelling about our tax dollars paying the cops to sleep. Before you call for an investigation, I’ve seen some of our politicians asleep during civic meetings. Don’t we pay firemen to sleep every day? I could show you pictures of city workers sleeping in their trucks and these are all during the day after a night off.

I’m not going to justify sleeping on duty but sometimes your body just needs sleep. I’m going to give you an example. A cop works Morning Watch, he works all night, gets off at 7:00 A.M. He has to be in court at 8:30 A.M. He jumps into his court suit, grabs two cups of coffee and drives downtown. He checks in with the district attorney and discovers that the court has a full calendar. The officer is told that his case is low on the list of cases to be heard. The office slumps onto those hard wood benches and listens to numerous cases. The district attorney tells the officer his case won’t be heard until after the noon break.

After the noon break, the district attorney advises the officer that the defendant’s attorney has a trial in another court and yours might be the last case heard. Ok, it’s 3 P.M. and the officer spends ten minutes on the stand and is excused. The officer has now been up for over 24 hours. He drives home in rush hour traffic, grabs a quick bite to eat and tries to sleep. He has to be back at work in 4 hours.

Craig Bushey said that after a few days in court and working Morning Watch he was stopped twice by the same officer for possible DUI, on his way to work. Just tired, but the CHP officer asked Craig to take another Freeway to Hollywood.

Have you ever been really tired and know that you have to get up early? You look at the clock and think, if I get to sleep right now I’ll get four hours sleep. Thirty minutes, later you recalculate: if I get to sleep right now, I’ll get three and half hours sleep. You finally fall into that deep sleep. Then your alarm, or in my case my wife, wakes you. It’s time to get up and go to work. Your eyes burn and your head aches.

cops at Briefing  photo by Columbia Tribune
Cops at Briefing
photo by Columbia Tribune

You sit in roll call and try to stay awake. The Sergeant is passing out court subpoenas and he stops in front of you. Crap, you have court in the morning. Some might think this was a rare occasion, but it happened to me numerous time. I once spent three nights working and then three straight all day in court. Thank goodness that I was young and indestructible.

Some officers didn’t have the all-day court excuse. I knew one officer who was building a house with his father. He worked all night and the spent half the day doing construction work. Actually, he didn’t do much work in uniform. Other officers worked off duty jobs, like on movies, and didn’t get much sleep. The other group was just plain hung over. I remember a few nights where my partner was not in Roll Call. He met me in the parking lot and told me I was driving tonight.

Here’s my disclaimer. I hated hitting the hole. I had this fear that some terrorist was going to sneak up on our police car and shoot both me and my partner as we slept. I hope I die in my sleep but I didn’t want to in my 20’s and in a city car bought at the lowest bid.

When you’re on probation you do what your partner says and you keep your mouth shut. Most Hollywood cops only hit the hole for an hour or so. I often tried to convince my senior partner, let me drive up in the hills and you can sleep. I knew all the streets in the Hollywood Hills, including all of Laurel Canyon, before I got off probation. I could drive for an hour in the hills without getting lost.

I’m going to give you a few examples of my falling asleep on duty. I had a training officer, Rick Morton and we worked hard until about 4 A.M. when the radio calls died down and the dirt bags were either already in jail or had crawled under their rocks.
Rick always drove and he would park in this Cahuenga West alley that only ran for one block. He took a short nap and I caught up on the log. After he woke up, we would eat at Candy’s restaurant on Cahuenga West around 5:00. My story: I had been in court for three days and had about ten hours sleep in that time period. We parked in the alley. I was exhausted and thought to myself, “I’ll just put my head back on the head rest and close my eyes, just for a few minutes.” Well, you guessed it—I was sound asleep in minutes, no counting down the time.

Symbionese Liberation-Army photo from
Symbionese Liberation-Army photo from

I was in that deep sleep when a trash truck pulled into the alley behind us. I didn’t hear it drive in, I didn’t hear it roll out the Dipsey dumpster, I didn’t hear the motor where it raises the dumpster. When the trash truck dumped the trash with a loud bang, I shot out of my seat and banged my head on the ceiling of the police car. My heart was racing and Rick was telling me to calm down. Later I learned that a block away the SLA was dropping off their propaganda tapes at a radical radio station KPFK. Great sleeping spot, Rick.

Another night, Rick bought a rape report call. The rape occurred a week ago so it was only a report. That’s right, I’m going to write the report. We interview the alleged victim, who I suspect only reported the crime when the check bounced. We got the Readers Digest version of her account of the crime and Rick told me to have her sign the report. We then drove to an upper parking lot of Universal Studios. Rick slept while I wrote the report in my lap with a flashlight.

Another time Rick had actually gotten a good days sleep and offered to drive while I caught a few winks. I woke up to Rick singing Elvis songs over the police car PA system. I looked out the window and saw Beverly Hills street signs. Rick was a good cop but couldn’t sing.

Picking a proper “Hole” was an art and you often had to change locations. Next Ramblings, I’ll reveal for the first time some of the favorite sleeping “Holes” of Hollywood cops in the 70’s.


%d bloggers like this: