Street Stories When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly: LAX Security, or “Lax” Security?

By Ron Corbin, retired LAPD and LVMPD

When flying for Air Support Div, the choices for taking CODE-7 (meal break) are minimal compared to those for patrol officers. If you don’t bring your paper bag lunch, but choose to eat at a restaurant, the accommodations are basically relegated to those at airport cafes. The positive side of this is that air crews rotated every two hours, so we had a longer time to eat and relax between flights that ground officers weren’t afforded.

One day my observer and I decided to land at LAX and find a restaurant inside one of the major terminals. Landing and parking on the ramp, we walked up one of the empty jet-way stairs for Terminal 5, and entered the passenger gate area. We continued walking toward the front of the building, exited onto the sidewalk, and went to one restaurant located in adjacent Terminal 6.

After finishing our meal, we reversed our route to return to our parked helicopter outside of Terminal 5. As we approached the passenger security screening area, there were a couple hundred passengers in line to be screened and have their carry-on baggage X-ray checked.

This was a time when hijackings were prevalent around the world and, compared to current practices and procedures, airport security was in its “infancy.” There was no TSA as we know it today. Security personnel were contracted companies and standards in personnel selection varied from airport-to-airport. LAPD provided LAX with an on-site sub-station and division of uniformed officers assigned as a regular 24/7 element for protection.

Being “uniformed” officers, we started to go through the passenger “exit corridor” in order to get to our gate’s appropriate jet-way where we left our helicopter. A female security agent stepped in front of us, held up her hand like a school crossing guard, and said, “STOP! You can’t go this way,” and pointed to a sign saying basically the same thing.

At first I thought she was joking and with a big smile, started to step around her. She moved her body in our path and said that we had to go through the body scanner that all passengers were required. Even after announcing that we were LAPD and pilots for our aircraft outside, she seemed oblivious to the guns on our hips, remaining steadfast in her demeanor.

Agreed, we weren’t in the typical LAPD blue uniform, but my partner and I had the standard uniform in those days for ASD aircrews: khaki pants and shirt with holstered gun and ammo pouches. Our shirt had ASD shoulder patches, our name tag, and of course due to “Dragnet,” probably the most famous and identifiable badge in the world was pinned to our chest.

Not having time to waste and needing to get back in the air to relieve our other airborne crew, we figured it wasn’t worth the effort to debate this issue with her. So, we went directly to the head of the passenger line and were motioned through the scanner without question or delay. Of course, the security person at this point apparently recognized we were legit and never flinched to allow us passage as the “lights, bells and whistles” of the scanner alerted to the revolvers on our hips.

“I think she must have worked security at Wally World when it was closed for repairs.”

Writer's Notes

The Call Box: Code 7’s Aren’t Sacred

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

Ask any patrol officer what his/her favorite radio transmission is and I’m sure most will say … “Code 7 granted.” 

Somewhere there is a rule/regulation/order whatever that states, very sensibly only a certain number of cars can be off the air to eat at any one time. When your request has been denied several times, you try to be first in line when another unit clears from 7. 

Eating spots…there are spots and there are spots. Well, just let me say that Hal, working Hollywood, probably had no shortage of fine eateries to choose from while I, working a poor, crime-ridden area did not have that luxury. The powers that be stated we could not eat outside our area and we had one restaurant which would have had to improve greatly just to be average. 

The food however was free, and we ate what they put in front of us and we left a 25-cent tip (this is a long, long time ago, boys and girls). Being “off the air” however, did not necessarily mean you would enjoy your meal in peace.

 A few examples:

We hadn’t been seated five minutes when we hear shouting from the parking lot. Then two rapid fired rounds followed by the racing engine of a departing vehicle and then a third and fourth shot. 

As we were seated in the rear by the door we were up and out quickly but cautiously fully expecting to find a body in the lot…not this time.

Standing not ten feet from our black and white was a woman holding a handgun which she quickly dropped when ordered.

She admitted shooting at her husband and then his car as he left. We found no blood and discovered where one round had hit a car parked next to ours.

We got a pinch but missed dinner.

Saving what I consider a “classic” until last: this was related to me by Dwight “Skip” Gillett, LAPD retired and a colleague from the “Old Centurions.”

In Skip’s own words, edited for length:

I was working AID, Accident Investigation Division, on the PM watch in 77th Division with my partner Chuck Morrow. Inasmuch as it is a poor, crime-ridden area there are not many (actually none) decent restaurants where we can eat.

So, we are having a burger at an outdoor greasy spoon when we hear shouting.

There right in front of us is a northbound vehicle, hood open with a passenger seated on the front fender shouting instructions to the driver who, of course can’t see because of the hood.

“Slow down a bit,” “Little to your left,” and “Stoplight coming up.”

Now any cop will tell you that sooner or later you witness all sorts of weird behavior, and nothing you see should surprise you until something crazier comes along. But this one ranks right up there.

Decisions., decisions.

engine-bayFinish the burgers or do the right thing? Dedication overcame hunger and we made the stop. It seems the fuel pump was non-operational, so the fender rider was pouring gasoline directly into the carburetor and since the driver could not see, he was calling out directions. 

Logical, right? As clever as this might seem you may have guessed by now alcohol was involved.

End result: lost the burger, got one deuce.


[Me again] I have said it before. Where else could you find a job where you could do some good, meet the quality of  people we do, have a lot of fun and still get paid?

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Dispatchers and MDT’s

by Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

I’ve given you some of my true stories of the good and bad dispatchers. They can all be verified by listening to me talk in my sleep.

I was not brought up in the computer world but was dragged into it by my employment and my kids. I think my first experience with a computer was an Atari 2600 and playing Space Invaders. My kids beat me regularly.


Before computers in the cars you received radio calls by voice from the dispatchers. On a busy night in Hollywood it went something like this: I’d pick up the microphone and in my ‘please don’t give me all the crappy calls tonight’ voice say, “6A65 Morning Watch Clear, Good Morning.”

The RTO responded, “Good morning. Stand by for five calls.”

The RTO would then pause to give you time to get out my #2 Ticonderoga pencil and a 3”x5” note pad. The RTO would then read off the five calls. I had to write down the time, address and nature of the call. High priority calls came first. That 3”X5” note pad was your log (or DFAR as we called them in the LAPD; DFAR stood for Daily Field Activities Report).

Often at code-7 you would transfer your notes to the DFAR. On real busy nights you spent a ½ hour after end of watch completing your DFAR. That was on your own time, by the way. I wished I’d taken short hand in high school instead of print shop. I heard that some officers that didn’t like RTO’s would make them repeat the calls a second and third time—not my style. I knew where my next call was coming from.


After handling the first high priority call you notified the RTO and tried to move on to the next call. Well, if another high priority call came in the RTO gave that for you to handle first. Some nights it went like this for most of the night. That was why we sometimes handled loud party calls three to five hours late. Hell, the party giver had almost sobered up by the time we showed up. That was Hollywood in the 70’s.


Sometime around the mid 80’s they started putting computers in black and whites. They were called MDT’s (Mobil Digital Transmitters or terminals). A marvelous piece of technology when they worked. Somehow putting a computer in a hot car is asking a lot from a machine invented by a geek. I don’t know what caused the problems with the MDT’s other than most cops resist change. Some old timers refused to even turn them on and others vandalized them. The fact was, an officer either adjusted or rode the pine bench (desk).


The RTO now gives you your five calls by transmitting them to your MDT. I missed her sweet voice as she destroyed the next two hours of my career! Like them or hate them computers are here to stay. Adjust or go the way of the Dodo bird.

Computers had some drawbacks as anybody knows who ever accidently deleted that nice letter to Aunt Millie before you sent it!


Next: How computers changed police work forever!   Hal

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: More on Dispatchers

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Now, I once had a partner who didn’t like the RTO’s. I probably shouldn’t have let him talk on the radio but I was young and it was my turn to drive. We had just finished code-7 (eating) and my tasteless partner clears then burps into the microphone. The RTO professionally thanks us and gives us two calls at opposite ends of the division at EOW(End of Watch). Her revenge!


One night I handled most of Hollywood Division due to low deployment and other units being tied up. I cleared the backlog and requested to eat. After my request, a rape investigation call was broadcast for any Hollywood Unit. I knew I was going to get the call unless another unit cleared. The RTO broadcast the call three times trying to avoid giving me the call. I thanked her and bought the call. The RTO was trying to help me. I worked three hours overtime and didn’t eat that day. By the way, the rape was a prostitute who didn’t get paid.


As a sergeant in Hollywood, I often was asked to give new RTO’s in training a ride along. I gave them quite an eye-opener. I would first drive them up through the nicest neighborhoods and point out which celebrities lived where. Then I would show them the seedy side of Hollywood. Some couldn’t keep their mouths closed, not from talking but from AH! Last, I would drive by where the drag queens were parading the streets of Hollywood. The most common comment I heard was they look better than some women. I reminded them that from a distance in the dark, yea, but as the night wears on the 5 o’clock shadow appears and you’ll notice that they have stuffed a size 10 foot into a women’s size 7 open toe shoe!


Not all dispatchers were great at what they did night after night. We all have some bad nights but when it comes to officer safety, you have to be professional.

Next I’ll give some examples of the lazy dispatchers.   Hal


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Code-7 Interrupted

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

This is not the last Ramblings about eating Code-7.

Most cops need a break from the usual stress of being a police officer. Admit it—every time you see a police car you look to see what they’re doing and if they’ll notice that you’re not wearing your seat belt.


With everybody having a cell phone, Joe Citizen is recording your every move on duty—you’d better watch where you scratch. If they saw a UPS or mail truck they wouldn’t give it a second look.

That’s the life of being a cop!


So you get that break and sit down to eat.  Your meal is served and you don’t want to be bothered. You just want to unwind. Some good intended citizen comes up to you as your putting that first fork of dinner into your mouth and says, “I don’t want to interrupt your meal but,” then they do just that! Ten minutes later they say “Well, I’ll let you get back to your meal.”  Unfortunately your 23 minute Code-7 is almost over. 

By the way—that code-7 is on the officers own time. In the LAPD if you worked an eight hour shift you worked eight hours and twenty-three minutes. If you’re on a twelve-hour shift you worked twelve hours and forty-five minutes. If you didn’t get Code-7, you could put in for overtime but then you had to listen to the wrath of your sergeant for abusing the system. 

You would’ve thought that the overtime was coming out of your sergeant’s pay check.


Next week , a few examples of my interrupted code 7’s.


Writer's Notes

Ramblings, 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. 

The following stories are true. Hell I couldn’t make this stuff up. These subjects are a sort of miscellaneous collections.

A senior officer was teaching a female probationer out to make sure a gun was unloaded before booking it into evidence. It was a tube feed 22 caliber rifle. The officer was in the station report writing room and showed the probationer that the gun was now empty. To demonstrate he pointed the gun at the ceiling and pulled the trigger. Guess what? A round was stuck in the tube and has now been fired into the ceiling. As luck would have it, the bullet pierces a water pipe which starts to leak water on the computers. The report writing room starts to flood and is spreading to the Watch Commanders Office. How’s that for an “Aw Shit?”

The city decided to stop redecorating the offices of elected officials and spend some money on cops. They started with the detectives’ room. They took out all the old tables and replaced them with cubicles. I found this humorous. Detectives were at work 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. Street cops were using a report writing room 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The report writing room had 5 computers, only one worked, 4 chairs of which only two were not broken. Hell, the detective interview rooms had new chairs. I certainly wouldn’t want a suspect to be uncomfortable.

I printed up a sign and posted it on the door leading to the detectives’ room. “People who work in cubicles are expected to think outside the box.”

My captain was not amused.


Earlier I talked about searches and telling citizens that we had Patty Hearst cornered years after she was arrested. As you’ve read in the papers, we often search a neighborhood and discover that the suspect has escaped. I’m an old timer and after the search was determined to be over, I would call out, “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free.”  The young cops would scratch their heads in bewilderment and the old cops would bust out in laughter. Guess what? No one ever surrendered. I guess the audience that runs and hides from the police are a younger crowd. Even the younger cops would ask, what’s “Ollie Ollie Oxen free.” No wonder they call me a dinosaur. If you forward this outside the U.S, you might have to explain “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free.” Some of you might have to Google it for the meaning.

In the early 70’s, the department decided that the Plymouth police car was not good enough for the LAPD. They bought the Mercury Montego and began distributing them to patrol divisions. The Mercury had a big 429 C.I. engine that could out run any car as long as it was a straight road without dips or bumps. The big engine caused the front end to be very heavy and the car would bottom out at the slightest change in road surface. You couldn’t turn around in a driveway without getting hung up. To turn around in the middle of the block took three turns. The engine ran so hot that even in the middle of the night, you ran the air conditioner to keep from cooking inside the car. Cruel and unusual punishment was making your suspect place his hands on the hood of your police car with the engine running. The cars sucked for street patrol.

The only good thing I remember about the Mercurys was the backfire trick. Bored officers discovered that if you got the Mercurys up to 35 MPH and turned off the key, then turned it back on, the car’s engine would back fire. The backfire was so loud it woke up pigeons and made nearby cops dive for cover thinking they were being shot at. Great fun.

Bored cops would see another pair of cops stopped on an investigation. You would drive by and shut off and on the engine and watch the cops drive for cover when the engine backfired. My partner Jim Tomer was driving one night, and we had this ongoing practical joke with some other cops. Late one morning we saw them stopped on Ivar just south of Hollywood Boulevard. We circled the block and timed the traffic light just right. We drove by the officers at 35 MPH. Jim turned off and on the engine. We traveled about 50 feet past the officers before the car backfired. I looked out the passenger window and watched this elderly lady just getting out of her parked car. The loud backfire startled her and she fell back onto her car seat.

Another year without a pay raise; my kids will never go to college.

Being a big city cop is an ongoing learning experience. I prided myself in learning from other officers’ mistakes and trying not to make the same ones. As you already know, I spent a lot of years working morning watch, or grave yard as it is commonly called. During your 8 hour shift you’re busy until about 5 A.M. When things slow down the cops try to take Code-7. That’s “eating” for my non-police friends. The problem is that only a few cars can eat at a time. If you’re the first to request code-7, you get to eat. If you’re last to request you get put on the code-7 list, which can be longer than a DMV line.

Ok, my lesson: I’m on a search perimeter. It’s in the Hollywood hills and I’ve been standing on a street corner for 2 hours in the cold and dark. The sun is coming up and I’m tired and hungry. This story takes place before each officer had a hand held radio for communication. The radio in the car squawks, “The suspect is in custody.”

Like most cops, I head to the scene. I want to see the guy that made me stand in the dark for two hours. As I follow other officers toward the handcuffed hombre, I see Butch Harris going the other way. Now Butch was an old timer who had street savvy and taught me a lot.

I’m wondering why he doesn’t want to see the bad guy. Seconds later I know, as I pass another patrol car, I hear Butch clear and request code-7. He was the only Hollywood car that ate that day. I went home and ate cold cereal for my code-7 while watching “Adam 12” with my son. I used Butch’s lesson for 20 years after that. I discovered that I could see the bad guy in the holding tank at the station after eating breakfast.

You thought I was slow, huh?


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