At the time that I worked Northeast Vice, we owned Griffith Park and part of the Hollywood hills. Complaints about lewd conduct occurring in several areas of the park required the unit to enforce these laws so that the public could better enjoy the park, it’s many hiking trails and spectacular views of the city.
A particular trail which afforded a magnificent view was a hot spot for the ‘complained of’ activity. Accordingly, the unit focused its efforts on the location which sported an 80-foot drop from the trail to the ground below. The actual 80 feet distance had a slight angle to the bottom, so it was not a straight drop. At the time, one of the lewd conduct violations was the grabbing of one’s private part which was considered foreplay. Once that happened, the vice copper would identify himself and with the aid of his partner, effect the arrest. It was 1978 and if you aren’t old enough to remember, it was a very wet winter.
Rick, my partner, and I were assigned to work that trail. I drew the short straw and would be the ‘trick.’ Rick hid in the bushes where he could cover me and be a witness to the violation while I stood on the trail, the bait. Soon enough came this rather large individual—about 265 pounds and about 6 feet. I was playing with a twig and my arms were chest level. The individual stood about 10 feet to my right and slowly worked his way toward me. Now, the deal was when the violation occurred, I was to step to the side, Rick would emerge from the bushes, we would identify ourselves, advise the guy why he was being arrested, hook him up and off to jail.
With his left hand the guy grabbed me so hard I grabbed his hand and yelled, “LAPD vice, you are…” He took a swing at me and as I tried to block his punch, we fell off the trail. We quickly traversed the 80 feet I was talking about earlier. Now, I was wearing combat boots and several feet from the flat ground we stop! I say we, because I had a hold of him. My right foot has wedged into a rut, remember the rain, and my foot was supporting us both.
I was laying on my back holding onto the guy when I hear Rick sliding on his butt down the hill, shouting for me to hold on. Then, I heard a “snap,” and I found myself looking at the ground, my left leg out to the side. I let go of the guy as the pain started to get serious. Rick sails past me toward the soon-to-be-arrested violator as I am attempting to dislodge my leg. The boot slipped out of the rut and down I went, landing on my left shoulder.
So, the guy has violated me, caused me to break my foot and screw up my shoulder. I was on the ground watching Rick attempting to place a choke-hold on the guy (we could it then). But Rick can’t get the guy in a seated-up-right position to affect the choke. I crawl over to the two, place my right hand on his left buttocks and my left hand between his thighs in an attempt to push with the right hand and pull with the left.
Rick chokes the man out, as the guy goes down, urinates.
Uh, huh. Groped, broken ankle, messed-up shoulder, wet left arm up to the wrist.
This will be the last Ramblings on fighting in uniform. As I said before I didn’t fight a lot but sometimes I just couldn’t talk my way out of wrestling match.
I worked a few plain clothes assignments but never vice. Vice officers are always fighting. They get a violation and the criminal either decides he’s not going to jail on a morals charge, or he claims that he didn’t know it was a cop. Suspects always use the defense they didn’t know it was a cop when arrested by a plain clothes officer.
Ironic that all the times I was dressed for a fight, you know jeans, tennis shoes and an old shirt, I never had to fight.
Not all my fights were with men as you might expect. I was brought up to never hit a girl but once as a child I learned a valuable lesson. My sister had been picking on me and hit me. I hauled off and hit her back. She never hit me again. Hum.
It’s December 24 at about 3 A.M. My partner a female and I get a domestic family dispute call. We arrive and expect it to be a husband/wife dispute. No, it’s brother against brother and both have been drinking. Brother “A” punches brother “B” in the nose, breaking it. Brother “B” demands a citizen arrest of brother “A”. Both brothers are in their 30’s and by law we are required to accept the arrest.
Brother “A” gets handcuffed and placed in the back seat of our police car. I’m about to drive off when the boys’ mother, also drunk, races out of the house and screams, “You’re not taking my son to jail on Christmas Eve!” She reaches in my open window and grabs me around the neck. I swing open the car door and knock mom to the ground.
As I step out of the car, Mom attacks me. Mom is about 5′ 3″ and 100 lbs. soaking wet. I declined using the department approved choke hold and go for a rear wrist lock. I’m thinking it will be more humane for a little old lady. I hear a familiar snap sound—shit, I broke her arm. Mom and the son both went to jail on Christmas Eve. Mom first stopped off at an emergency room to have her arm set.
Another time I’m walking a Morning Watch foot beat. We are walking thru an alley just south of Hollywood Boulevard at Highland. We see two guys and a girl standing next to a parked car. They are acting suspicious and we approach in the dark. When we get up on the car we see a second girl crouched down. I walk up on the girl, she screams, jumps up and grabs my badge.
Cops are very protective of two things. Their gun (which if taken away from them will get them killed) and their badge. The badge is earned and carried with a cop at all times. An officer keeps the same badge throughout their careers unless they promote. Most cops shine it every day before pinning it on their uniform and if shined enough the windows of City Hall were rubbed smooth. My badge said “Policeman”. Later, when females were hired for patrol, the badges said “Police Officer.” I use to say that I spent more time sleeping with my badge than I did with my wife.
Anyway this young girl grabs my badge and is attempting to rip it from my uniform shirt. Without even thinking, I grab the girl by the neck and lifted her with one hand and threw her on the hood of the car. The girl had been to a club drinking and when they got to their car, she decided she had to pee. She squatted down when we walked up on her. She was embarrassed being caught and even more embarrassed when she went to jail. Yea, she made a complaint against me.
This last story involved the longest fight I was ever in. The Hollywood Palladium in the 70’s was notorious for booking rock groups. With rock groups, comes drug abuse. I’m working with Officer Bob and we get a call of a 415 Man (disturbing the peace) a block from the Palladium. The citizen says this guy was running around in his yard acting crazy and jumped over his fence. He went east. We tell the citizen the standard Adam 12 line, “We’ll check it out.” We get back in our car and drive east. We only travel a few houses when another resident runs out and asks us if were looking for the drunk nut. The resident says he sitting in his driveway. Oh crap, we’ll have to take the drunk downtown to book and it will take us a couple of hours.
We walk up the driveway and see our suspect sitting in some tall grass. He’s looks stoned and I can’t see his hands due to the grass. I walk behind him and grab his hands. As he stands up he digs his heels in the ground and throws me back against a block wall. I apply a department approved choke hold as taught to me by Bob Jarvis at the Police Academy.
This suspect is only about 5′ 6″ and a 130 lbs. I’m 6′ and 160 lbs. of a fighting machine. My partner, Bob is a weight lifter and very strong. Somehow my choke hold slips and this little guy refuses to pass out. I’m trying to reapply the choke hold and Bob is whacking the suspect across the shins with his baton. Both of these tactics just anger our suspect. I vividly remember Bob throwing his baton away and ripping his clip on tie from his shirt and jumping in to control this drug crazed lunatic.
We can each control an arm, but when we try to pull his arms behind him, so we can handcuff him, he gets a burst of strength. We’re rolling around on the ground for a good ten minutes. With our body weight we can keep him pinned to the dirt. We count, 1, 2, 3, and swing his arms behind his back. After 5 minutes we get one hand cuffed. 1,2,3, pull his arms back, this time we were inches from cuffing him. This goes on for another 10 minutes, 1,2,3, ah shit we almost had it that time. After a long time we get this little guy cuffed. The resident watched from his kitchen window and couldn’t believe the strength of the little guy. We would need him as a witness later when our suspect made a complaint against us for excessive force.
We booked our suspect at Hollywood Jail and the next day he couldn’t walk to the Sheriffs bus due to the whacks across the shins. We had a couple of interviews with Internal Affairs and were cleared of the charges. Our suspect was loaded on PCP.
There’s a funny ending to this story. Six months later, I get a radio call to an apartment regarding a loud party. We knock on the door and the owner gets right in my face about what a brutal cop I am. That’s right it was the little guy I ruined a uniform fighting with. I run him for warrants and sure enough, he didn’t show up for court on a traffic ticket. I can’t arrest him in his residence at that late hour due to a law. I advise him to take care of his warrant and he tells me to do something anatomically impossible and said something about my mother.
The law restricted his arrest in his apartment until 6:00 A.M. At 6:01 A.M. that same morning, I knocked on his door and asked him if he had taken care of that warrant. He said he hadn’t. Guess what, he went to jail again. Don’t talk about a cop’s mother.
As I said before I didn’t like fighting, even when you win, you lose. Torn uniforms, Citizen Complaints, but thank goodness your skin grows back.