Ramblings by Hal

A Veterans’ Day Tribute from Hal Collier

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Hal sent this article along to commemorate the day we honor veterans–the real American heroes.

The following story is true and I’ll use real names. I worked many special events during my time in Hollywood. I worked the Hollywood Christmas parade in one capacity or another for 30 plus years. Notice I said Christmas and not Holiday parade. I’ve resisted being politically correct and now that I’m retired I’ve been set free. I’m writing this now because it is appropriate.


I worked more movie premieres than Siskel & Ebert. The best job I ever worked was the “Welcome Home Desert Storm Parade” for the military. It was May 19, 1991. It was a tribute to all the soldiers who served in all the American wars. It was especially for the Viet Nam veterans who never were welcomed back.


I was assigned to the Green Room with Dale Hickerson. The Green Room for my non-Hollywood readers, is the room where celebrities gather before and after an event. They serve food and drinks and the celebrities mingle. Dale and I have worked the Green Room for the Christmas parades and learned that the best place to stand was at the rear exit. That’s where the stars walk out to get on a float or in a car to begin the parade. It’s also next to where the caterers bring in the fresh appetizers. We had first shot at all the good food. Caterers always take care of the guys with guns.


Dale and I are not into the Hollywood celebrity worship thing. We find that most of them are phony and have enormous egos. The Desert Storm Parade was different. They had real American heroes.


Dale and I were standing by the back door when two old timers walked up to us and started talking. They both had Congressional Medal of Honor medals around their necks. Damn real American heroes. I had lump in my throat and could hardly talk. One received his medal at Pearl Harbor. I wish I had written down their names but I was star struck.

They spent thirty minutes talking to us. What a thrill.


Later we were introduced to General Westmoreland, a general during the Viet Nam War. He was warmer than some of the department brass I’ve spoken to. We met Martha Raye, who entertained our troops during WW II, the Korean, and the Viet Nam Wars. We also met other soldiers but these made the biggest impression. 


Dale and I will never forget the sacrifices and the thrill of meeting some of these true American Heroes. To the veterans who read this;   “THANK YOU.”        


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Hollywood Characters, part 5, Old Bill

By Hal Collier, LAPD, Retired

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

The following story is true, I was there. I’ll follow with a story about another Hollywood Character. I asked around for this character’s name or background. Everyone who worked Hollywood in the 70’s knew him but only two remembered his name and only Dale Hickerson remembered his background.


Ok, first the story. With today’s TV coverage of car pursuits and police tactics, everyone is an expert on how we stop felony suspects. The Helicopter reporters tell the viewers what the police should do next and they criticize the officer if it’s not according to their textbook. One of the problems is that different police departments have different tactics and policies.


Late one night a Hollywood police car spots a stolen car. The senior officer broadcasts that he is following a stolen car and requests a backup and a helicopter. The officer is southbound on Highland passing Sunset. I’m excited because I’m close and fall in behind the lead officer.


car stopIt must have been a slow night because two blocks later most of the cops in Hollywood division are behind us. The helicopter is overhead with its bright light shining down on the stolen vehicle. The lead officer turns on his red lights at Santa Monica and Highland. The suspect’s vehicle stops. I look behind me. We have about six police cars all with their red lights on and the entire street blocked. The helicopter is circling overhead.


The lead officer gets on the PA system in the police car and broadcasts to the suspect’s vehicle,  “This is the Los Angeles Police Department”  I hear a voice from an officer behind me,  “They know who we are.”


Picture this: fourteen officers crouched down behind their car doors, guns drawn, and adrenalin surging through their veins. Suddenly laughter breaks out. The lead officer is not going to let this stop him from conducting a tactically correct felony car stop. He orders the driver to throw the car keys out the driver’s window.

After a brief pause, the driver of the stolen car tosses a screwdriver out the window. More laughter from the officers.

The lead officer did everything by the book, but it was funny as hell.


Hollywood Character:  Baseball Pitcher—Old Bill


During the 70’s, there was a black man who would stand at the southwest corner of Santa Monica and Western. Other guys like me told his name was Bill. Just after first light Old Bill would be out on the corner with a baseball and a glove. I think he was in his 70’s or 80’s. Bill would bend at the waist and look in to get a sign from an imaginary catcher. He would wind up and throw an imaginary pitch. Sometimes he had runners on base and would throw an imaginary ball to first base.  I once looked at his baseball glove. It was similar to my dad’s glove that he used in high school in 1935, I know because I still have it.


Negro LeagueHollywood officers, including myself would stop and ask Old Bill, “What’s the score?” The Dodgers were always winning. The count on the batter varied but I don’t ever recall him giving up a home run. Another officer asked him once if any runner had ever stolen a base on him and Bill replied, “No I have a good catcher.” He was fun to talk to. I wish I had asked him more about his background. Dale Hickerson said he played some pro ball in the Negro leagues.


Last time I saw Old Bill was early one morning. I received a radio call of a man down at Santa Monica and Western. When I arrived, I was told that the man had been transported to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. I arrived at the hospital and Old Bill was lying on a gurney. A nurse was trying to pry Bill’s baseball and glove from his hand. Old Bill had a stroke and I never saw him again.

The Dodgers lost the best pitcher they never had and Hollywood lost a character.


Ramblings by Hal

Miscellaneous Ramblings, part 1

By Hal Collier

The following stories are true. I’ll only use first names if I remember them correctly. These are bits and pieces of things that happened in my career. Hope you enjoy. I hope I don’t get sued.  


Dale Hickerson and I are working together. Dale and I have been partners and friends since 1971. Partners come and go; friends like Dale are for a lifetime.


LAPD 69 Plymouth Belvedere
LAPD 69 Plymouth Belvedere

Ok, enough mush. I’m going to drive today. We check out a black and white (B/W) from the kit (equipment) room. You never know who drove it last, whether it has gas, or has a half-eaten Pinks Chili dog with jalapeños under the front seat that’s been there five days? Anyway, you get your car keys, walk around the parking lot for twenty minutes, looking for your carthey all look alike.  Ok, I found it.


I open the trunk and drop in my twenty-five pound equipment bag. Dale is a few steps behind me. He was searching the west end of the parking lot. I open the driver’s door, lean in and put my baton in the door holder. I lean in a little farther to put my clipboard between the front seats. 


I freeze. Sitting there between the seats is a pineapple hand grenade. Dale opens his door and I yell freeze. Dale looks down and see’s the hand grenade. Now, anyone who’s been married for a long time knows that husbands and wives often think the same things and finish each other’s sentences. Dale and I have been partners for so long that we both stand up and look for cops or a sergeant laughing at us. No one’s looking at us. We check the fire department next door, (see earlier story about firemen’s practical jokes) nothing. The hand grenade is wedged between the seats. All we can see is the middle part of the body.


Dale and I were young cops when the SLA and other subversive groups were targeting police officers. They planted bombs under police cars. We didn’t want our pictures on the wall in the station lobby. That’s reserved for officers killed in the line of duty. We called the bomb squad. 


Any time a suspected explosive device is found, you clear a 300-foot perimeter. The entire police parking lot is shut down and it’s change of watch. Detectives are showing up. All they want is to park their car, go to their desks, and have a cup of coffee. Even worse, the previous watch wants to go home and climb into bed. None of that is going to happen until the bomb squad checks out our car. Dale and I look at each other; this day is starting out bad. Detectives are making a Starbucks run and the previous watch is asking if they get overtime because they can’t get to their cars.


The Bomb Squad arrives and checks out the hand grenade. Apparently, the thing is a dud. The bottom is drilled out, but we couldn’t see that. Two night watch officers found it in a parking lot, saw that it was a dud and put it between the seats of the police car. At the end of their shift, they forgot about it and went home. They got their asses chewed and Dale and I spent the rest of the day looking over our shoulders.


Hollywood StationAt one time, our police station parking lot had planters with some trees. The planters were next to parking spots where officers would have arrestees get out of the back seat of the police car. If officers were not watching, the bad guys would drop their dope in the planters. One year we had a 12-inch Marijuana plant growing in the police station parking lot. The planters were removed when they built the new fire station next door.


This is a locker room story. It was a known fact that I was the first one in the locker room every day for almost 35 years. I even beat the probationers. I didn’t like being late or rushed. It was also well known that I always had chewing gum in my pocket and carried a sharp knife. I hand sharpened my knives and liked to keep them very sharp.

Early one morning I’m polishing my badge and Billy is in the next aisle. Billy Berndt yells over the row of lockers,  “Hal, do you have a knife?”  I reply, “Yea but be careful; its sharp”.  Twenty seconds later, Billy asks, “Hal, do you have a bandage?” 

Yea, I had bandages too.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Driving part 4 of 3

By Hal Collier

I swear this is the last Ramblings of Driving!

This will be part 4 of a planned trilogy. I have been accused of being verbose (wordy) or loquacious (talkative). I had to look up both words. I started writing my Ramblings for cops, then found out that they were being forwarded to non-cops, which was fine with me. I learned to stop using cop vernacular and abbreviations that only a cop might know. I also got e-mails from former partners, ‘Hey Hal what about this or that?’, and occasionally I get, ‘Do you remember the time you drove over my foot?’ Come on, I only did that twice! Each of these brings an additional paragraph or two. This is the last Ramblings on driving, I think!

Pursuit driving is whole new ball game. You don’t get to pick the streets, the speed, or the chances you take. It’s a little like riding in the last car of a roller coaster—you’re just along for the ride. You can terminate a pursuit anytime you want. That decision is usually based on your experience and your will to see your kids move out of the house and get married.

I’ve been in a lot of pursuits and as I stated before, I hate them. Some were easy; some made me want to be an electrician like my dad. The risks you take are seldom worth the punishment the culprit will receive from a judge. Most cops’ biggest problem during a pursuit is tunnel vision and your ego. Ego first. The longer you’re a cop the smaller your ego gets! Ego kicks in when some dirt bag challenges your authority by failing to stop at your command. A young cop will chase this guy for as long as it takes, no matter how big the risks! Tunnel vision can be just as dangerous. All you see is the bad guy in front of you, you don’t know how fast you’re going, or how many close calls you just had. A few close calls wised up some of us, others ended up on the Los Angeles Police Memorial Wall!

On the LAPD, we deployed 2 man cars. This made driving easier. The passenger officer could handle the computer and the radio. He was also in charge of checking cross traffic at intersections and in some cases telling you to stop chasing this nut. One man cars were required to relinquish the pursuit when a two man car joined in. It was a challenge to drive, broadcast, and watch for that little old man who didn’t hear your siren—often he will turn right in front of you.

Other driving incidents that most people never think of, including some cops, is police vehicle vs suspect on foot? The LAPD often conducted what they called “Buy-Bust Operations.” It not what your think, It has nothing to do with paying a prostitute or a part of the female anatomy. “Buy Bust” was cop talk for arresting street narcotic dealers. A U/C (undercover cop) would make a buy from a street dealer. The U/C would then radio the dealer’s description and the chase cars would swoop in and arrest him. I was a chase car more times than I care to talk about.

Some days being the chase car was easy, the U/C made a buy and you were sitting in your B/W (black and white) a few blocks away. You got the go signal and drove a block and arrested the culprit. He was then taken to the station for booking. Arresting drug dealers in Hollywood was like fishing with dynamite. Once in a while a dealer objected to being arrested, duh! He would run when he saw the chase car approach—crap.

I remember once Dale Hickerson and I were sitting two blocks east of Hollywood and Western. We got the go word. I drove east on Hollywood Boulevard. I see our suspect running toward us in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard. He’s done this before and when he sees us he turns down a side street. He’s running down the sidewalk and I’m driving—see I’m not so dumb. I look ahead and see a driveway where I can cut him off. I zip into the driveway and cut him off. He dodges around the back of our police car. He might have bumped into the rear fender. Dale jumps out and starts to chase him on foot. Now Dale and I have over 20 years on the job and are too old to be chasing some small time drug dealer. Dale yells, ‘Stop or I’ll shoot you!’ Well damn, our suspect stops. He might have seen that Expert Marksman badge on Dale’s uniform. We didn’t even think he spoke English.

Another time our Sergeant wants to ride with us during a buy bust operation. We put him in the back seat where we place our suspects. We get the go to arrest another dealer. I’m trying to turn left into a parking lot. I stop and wait for traffic to yield. My sergeant jumps out, traffic clears and I move forward. Yep, I ran over my sergeant’s foot. Funny, he never wanted to ride with me again.

One last driving story. This didn’t happen to me but I had to laugh when I heard about it. Delongpre Park was only two blocks from the police station, but they still sold drugs in the park. We often did buy bust operations in the park. The U/C would give the go sign and officers would race into the park to arrest the culprit. The city even installed wheel chair ramps so the cops didn’t have to get out of their car to get into the park. We drive up the ramps into the park and arrest the drug dealer. Experienced officers learned to stay off the grass!!!! Have you ever watched a NASCAR race when a driver spins out onto the grass, the brakes are worthless? Well many a rookie learned that lesson in Delongpre Park. They would dive into the park, turn onto the grass and then brake. They would slide right into a park bench. A few officers paid to have those benches replaced with days off with no pay!

Being retired and driving the LA freeways you drive 70 in a 65 MPH zone everyone else flies by me and shows me that at least one finger is manicured. I’ve still got my driver’s license and I’m just not ready for a golf cart yet. Hal

%d bloggers like this: