Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

With all the crazy, funny, bizarre things that cops experience, some are right there in the station house.

BB Ballistics

I was working a radio car and along with my partner. We were in the juvenile office at the station. In custody, we had one defiant 12-year-old boy, one red Ryder model BB gun and one tube of BB’s. He was given to us by an angry motorist with a BB hole in his windshield who’d chased him down. The juvenile ditched the gun (which we found) but he still had the BB tube in his pocket. He denied everything but couldn’t explain the BB’s.

The juvenile officer, Leroy Goforth, also got a denial. Goforth directed me to bring him an office trash can. Goforth emptied it. Then he instructed me to place it across the room open end toward him. He fired one BB into the basket. I retrieved the basket while he rummaged in his desk drawer producing a large pair of tweezers and a Sherlock Holmes-sized magnifying glass. 

He asks the boy, “Do you know what ballistics is?”


“It is the scientific method the police use to tell if a particular gun fired a certain bullet. Understand?”

The kid shrugged.

“Well, we are going to do a scientific ballistics test on your gun.”

At this point, Leroy retrieves the BB from the basket. Holding the BB with the large tweezers, he examined it with the large glass for a good 10-15 seconds. 

He gave the kid a long look. Then back to the BB. Kid, BB, kid, BB, kid, BB. Finally, shaking his head sadly, he pronounced, “Without a doubt, there is no question that this gun not only belongs to you but also fired the shot that struck the car. I also know it was an accident, you are sorry and will never do it again. Right kid?”

The kid nodded, “Yes.”

The Wisdom of Age

Many years later, I was the uniformed watch commander and noticed one of my “old timers” with a quarter-sized hole in the front of his uniformed trousers. Knowing he was two weeks from retirement and not about to buy new trousers, I told him, “Charlie, do something about that. We can’t have you walking about with your chalk-white leg showing.”

“Ok, Elltee.” An hour later, as he entered the office the problem seemed solved.

I asked, “That looks much better, what did you do?”

He grins, drops his trousers and I see where he has taken a dark blue marking pen and colored his leg.


The Education of a Young Patrol Officer

Back in the day when we carried .38 revolvers, I held a firearms inspection. On command you drew your weapon, emptied the 6 rounds into your left hand which was held out for viewing. The pistol was held at “inspection arms” in the right hand.

One of my probationers held a bright shining revolver smelling of gun oil and an empty left hand. He also had a terrified look on his face. I quietly told him to see me after roll call.

“What was that all about,” I asked. 

In a tremulous voice, he replied, “I cleaned my gun the other day and forgot to reload.”

I calmed him down and told he was not in trouble. I asked if there was anything I could say that would make him feel any worse than he was feeling already?

He shook his head. “No.”

I told him he would have to come up with some gimmick to make him think of his gun. Was it loaded? That sort of thing.

Years later the probationer, now a detective, entered an elevator I was on. 

He stood next to me but did not acknowledge my presence. As he got off, he laughed, patted his gun hip and stated, “When the Elltee says stay loaded, I stay loaded.”

The Call Box

The Call Box: The Remorseful Rapist

lapd callboxBy Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

As a detective, I must admit to a small amount of envy…                                                                                                                                                                        

In the early 1960’s Los Angeles held the title “bank robbery capitol” of America.  At the time, one in every 10 bank robberies in the USA occurred in the LA area.  

The LAPD Robbery Division Bank Squad and the FBI Bank Squad were two elite units and they took down a good number of suspects. 

 Metro Division flooded banks with stakeouts, and also got their share.  OK, so why the envy?   Well with so many bank robbers running around sticking up so many banks. they were given nicknames to keep them straight.

 money-941228_960_720The “Counter Jumpers,” “Takeover Bandits,” “The .45 Caliber Bandit,” “Yellow Scarf,” “Gold Tooth,” and on and on. They, by God, had nicknames! How cool is that (did I just say cool)? Ok, so it’s obvious why a detective (me) working routine everyday run-of-the-mill robbers would be envious. I mean, none of my criminals had any panache, any flair, even any style. We had “Blue Chip (see post March 29, 2017),” but we got him on his first job and the only thing outstanding was his stupidity. We did have one I can remember, “The Buntline Bandit,” so named for the very long barrel of his revolver, and we got him after job number 9. 

Caspar_Milquetoast_Christmas_cardAnyway, the real subject matter of this piece is the sexual predator they named “The Remorseful Rapist.” The name attached to the will-o-the-whisp had sexually assaulted in excess of 50 women over several years. He was small in stature, wispy thinning hair, horn-rimmed glasses, every bit the Casper milk-toast character. Inoffensive in appearance, virtually invisible, ghost of a man, barely noticed. His hunting grounds were within three large LAPD divisions: Hollywood, Wilshire, and West LA; and one sheriff’s area: West Hollywood area. He would accost the victim as she entered her home displaying a small handgun. His actions indicated that he spent much time on surveillance. He earned his nickname due to the fact that after the assault he would be overcome with guilt, apologize to the victim, beg her forgiveness and vow, “Never again.”

With multiple detectives involved, a task force was established. Metro supplied the manpower for the rolling stakeouts, but the problems presented were many. No discernible pattern emerged as to location, days, and times. He chose his victims very carefully, and even after getting 25-30 victims together for a brain storming session we came up with nothing. We never got close—he was everywhere, and he was nowhere.

Then we got lucky. A woman resisted him, hit him in the face and snatched his glasses. He screamed like a 12-year-old girl, yelled something like “mama,” and fled.


Working with the prescription from the glasses and some other information we had obtained, he was finally arrested. 


Now the kicker…

 One of our detectives had married earlier in the year and “Remorseful” was one of his groomsman. There he was, in the wedding album, looking at the camera in all his “wimpiness.” The detective made very rude remarks when it was suggested that he leave the wedding album at the station for use as a “mug book.”

 Paroled many years later, “Remorseful” went right back to his old habits, but he was much easier to catch the second time around.


Afterthought: the weapon that he used in his original spree was a toy gun. Overcome with guilt afterwards, he would throw it away. Vowing never again, he lost count of how many toy guns he had to buy.


Read Thonie Hevron’s books: By Force or Fear, Intent to Hold,

and With Malice Aforethought are all available through Amazon. Malice coverCop loc auth close up

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: More Practical Jokes

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Practical Joke:  I never passed up a chance to lighten the mood and when an opportunity presented itself I usually jumped at it. Now, sometimes it takes planning and some logistics are involved.


Here’s my story. I was eating at a small Italian restaurant with my partner and we were joined by Steve and his probationer, Coleen. We were on our second cup of coffee when Coleen excused herself to go to the bathroom. Coleen had blond hair and blue eyes and was a real looker. It was said she had a crush on Steve but then a lot of probationers had crushes on their first training officer. Coleen came back from the restroom and being a trained police officer, I noticed she had an embarrassed look on her face.  


mens bathroom.pngI asked if everything was ok and she said well sort of. I have interrogated hundreds of suspects so I pressed her for an answer. She said, “I’ll tell you but you have to promise not to tell anyone else, I’d be too embarrassed.”

Ok, we all promised!

Coleen said she went to the restroom and common with most women, she had to sit to take care of business. She was sitting and holding her gun belt up off the bathroom floor when in walked a man. This bathroom didn’t have stalls, so Coleen calmly said, “I’ll be done in a moment.” 

The man excused himself. She then discovered she had walked into the men’s bathroom. Being a rookie, she missed the men’s room sign on the door and the fact that a urinal is seldom in women’s bathrooms, and well, she’s not detective material, yet!

We kind of laughed but also understood her embarrassment, except for Steve. He started telling other officers around the station. I noticed Coleen’s uneasiness and asked her if she wanted to get even with Steve.

She jumped at the opportunity. I set my plan in motion. As with any good practical joke you may need some help. I included my wife who was often a co-conspirator in my pranks. I had her get an old granny bra from her mother. I slipped the bra into Steve’s riot helmet bag and told my sergeant that we needed to have a helmet bag inspection. The sergeant thought the plan was perfect. 

granny-bra-lenouveausoutiengorge1906After roll call the sergeant had all the officers line up with their helmet bags in the station car port. The sergeant would inspect every other helmet bag. He finally came to Steve’s.  The look on Steve’s face when a woman’s bra fell out of his bag was worth the price of admission. He was speechless and Coleen smiled all day.

Hell, I could have bought an expensive Wonder Bra and it would have been worth it.

Back to the blood and guts of patrol!  


Ramblings by Hal

Rambling, Desk Duty, part 4 of 4, Let Me Entertain You

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 thought my last Ramblings about the desk was the final chapter, but I remembered some incidents myself and I was asked why I didn’t write about so and so. So here goes. You know it almost sounds like working the desk was all fun.


Remember these stories are spread out over thirty-five years. I could tell you about the times there were twelve people waiting in line to make a report or get their car out of impound. I could bore you with the time a citizen waited twenty minutes in line to be told he needed to talk to a Detective. The Detective interviewed him for thirty minutes and then walked him back out to the end of the desk line and told the desk officer to take a report. Ah!!! Why didn’t the detective just take the report when he was getting all the information? See? This was why patrol and detectives didn’t get along.


There were some pretty amusing stories also. There was a desk officer (JP) who raced out of roll call to be the first one at the desk. No one else rushed to work the desk. After some time the other desk officers discovered that he was placing a sign on the outside of the desk in front of his seat that said “Questions Only.” He didn’t have to take any reports.

It was also common for desk officers to throw items into a desk drawer that needed to be booked into property: found drivers licenses, credit cards, keys, and other items that are beyond description.


old grenadeAnother time a little old lady walked into the lobby, with a paper bag. She set the paper bag on the counter and removed a hand grenade. It was something her late husband had brought home from who knows what war. The lobby and the front of the station were evacuated and an hour later, the bomb squad determined it was safe. No reports taken during that hour. This happened more than once.


Some nights, there was entertainment at the desk. If Hollywood had a new lieutenant, one of the patrol officers would send “BJ” to the station to greet him. BJ was a well-endowed woman who lived on Yucca. First time I was introduced to BJ was at Yucca and Wilcox. My partner pulled into the parking lot at Playboy Liquor. I hear a female voice calling out, “Officer.” I look up at the balcony and see this woman. She says, “Hi, I’m BJ.” I hunch my shoulders at her and I hear my partner laughing. BJ flops out her boobs and wiggles them at me. Welcome to police work, Hollywood style.


Back to the new lieutenant. Some officer would send BJ to the desk and have BJ ask to see the Watch Commander. The new lieutenant would walk out to the desk and you guessed it, BJ would greet the new Watch Commander in the only way she knew how! I never sent BJ to the desk. I had a child on the way and really needed my job.


Flash forward a lot of years. I’m a sergeant and the Watch Commander for the day. It’s a Saturday. One of my senior desk officers tells me that a citizen wants to speak to me. Not unusual, people always want to speak to the Watch Commander. I go to the desk and this man says he has a video that he thinks I should see. This is post-Rodney King and we know what a mess that video caused. My heart is racing, I can feel my blood pressure rising, I should have called in sick. I ask him what’s on the tape. He only tells me it pretty disgusting and something needs to be done.


I take the tape, and tell the man to have a seat. I go into the captains’ office to watch the tape. I’m thinking, oh please not a video of a policeman involved in some deed of misconduct. I go over the list of notifications if it’s a Rodney King-type tape. If I miss one notification, it’s days off without pay for me. My kids are both in college and I’m broke.


RatsI hit the play button and hold my breath. It’s a video of the north side of the police station, near our trash dumpsters. At first, I’m looking for cops, then I see small furry rodents. That’s right—rats, dozens of them. They are living in the storm drain and come out to raid our trash dumpsters.


I know from experience they aren’t eating left over jail food. I can breathe again and the only notification I need to make is to the city to rid the station of these pests. Most officers thought all the Watch Commander did was drink coffee and play Free Cell on the computer.


Working the Hollywood desk had its moments, but for the most part, it was busy twenty-four hours a day. When I worked Southeast (Watts), the morning watch desk was run by one officer who watched VHS movies on a small TV most nights. The Watch Commander brought in the movies. They even turned off the lobby lights; it looked like we were closed. Different worlds.


coffee-readyThis last story is half desk, half Watch Commanders Office. We used to have a coffee machine in the Watch Commanders (W/C) office. It was one of those office machines where someone actually had to make a pot of coffee. No one wanted to make coffee, so a game was devised where you would pitch a quarter at white circle on the tile floor. The farthest quarter from the circle had to make the pot of coffee. You had to be careful that your quarter didn’t end up on its edge and roll into the desk area.


Next, it was decided that we would have three quarter pitches. First loser would make coffee; second loser had to buy coffee for everyone in the game. The last loser had to pour coffee for everyone. Soon the third loser had to wear a red waiter’s vest and hang a white towel over his arm as he poured. If you lost all three games, you made the hall of fame and had you picture taken. Sometimes if you had a lot of participants, it could cost you your eating money for the night, not to mention the embarrassment of wearing the red vest. Your tax dollars at work.


Working the desk was not a lot of fun, but it had its moments and of course these memories.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, part 7, Miscellaneous-Practical Joke Target

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. Lately I’ve used real first names. When I used a fake names, like John, I would get a dozen e-mails asking if that was officer so-n-so. My last couple of stories involved catching burglars and a car pursuit to Oxnard. This story will get back to the funny side of police work. I can talk about this now because I don’t have to have public approval for a raise.


Have you ever noticed that some people just beg to have practical jokes played on them? They get all excited, and are fun to watch as they swear revenge.  Some are just easy to fool with.  


This is the story of Chris, a Sergeant/Detective in Hollywood during the mid/late 70’s. Chris was a good cop and was always getting into pursuits and shootings. Some thought he was crazy, others believed he was a dinosaur who failed to evolve. Either way, Chris was the role model for a victim of practical jokes.  


brigham-acadian-pipeChris was a pipe smoker. He was always waving his pipe around as he talked. He was always looking for his pipe. He would set it down and then accuse someone of taking it. One day he set his pipe down and Randy palmed it. Randy, a Viet Nam Veteran, removed a small amount of gunpowder from a bullet and mixed it in Chris’s pipe tobacco. Chris picked up his pipe and lit it. The gunpowder flashed in Chris’s face. Chris chased Randy around the station twice, threatening to shoot him.


I remember one morning, yea, Morning Watch, Chris gets in a pursuit. Chris broadcasts that he’s southbound La Brea from Franklin. Great, I’m at La Brea and Fountain. I’ll wait for him to drive the six blocks and be first in line to join the fun. He’s now passing Hollywood Boulevard, then Sunset. I can hear the siren but I don’t see him. He broadcasts that he’s passing Fountain. I look at my partnerwe’re at Fountain and we don’t see him. Oh crap. He’s not on La Brea he’s on Highland four blocks east of us. The pursuit ended when Chris used the pit maneuver, twenty years before it was approved by the department. That’s just Chris being Chris.


Another time, Chris parked his black and white in the captains’ parking spot. Someone opened Chris’s car door and tied a huge plastic blow up whiskey bottle from his rear view mirror. The Captain came to work early and could be heard asking Chris why he had a whiskey bottle in his car, and if was just recently promoted to captain?


Flash forward a year or two. Chris is now working Detectives, but not out of reach of practical jokes. Randy’s partner, Gary is the master practical joker. Remember the rocks in the hubcaps and ball bearing in the door panel? That was Gary.


thZE4DK00ZIt started out innocently enough. You recall the old style phones where you could unscrew the earpiece? Every day, Gary would unscrew the earpiece and put a layer of scotch tape over the inside of the ear holes of Chris’s phone. By the end of the week, Chris was screaming into the phone: “I can’t hear you, speak up.” It was funny to watch. The other detectives were not as amused.


Now, Gary could also pick locks, especially the lock on Chris’s desk drawers. Once he placed a homeless man’s dirty underwear in his drawer. The coup-de-grace was the day Gary opened Chris’s desk and removed all his papers and personal items. He gave them to the Detective in charge. He lined Chris’s desk drawer with a plastic trash bag. Gary filled the drawer with water. He carefully closed the desk drawer and relocked it. Good thing Gary didn’t have any goldfish. Now half the officers and supervisors are in on the practical joke. The Detective squad room is packed with uniformed officers who suddenly have business with Detectives.


In walks Chris. He hangs up his coat and stands in front of his desk. The squad room gets quiet. He puts his key in his desk drawer lock. Everyone is looking at Chris. Chris turns and walks away to get a cup of coffee. Everyone takes a breath and acts as if they are working. Chris returns to his desk. 


I’m surprised a big city detective like Chris didn’t notice that all these uniforms in the squad room. Detectives and uniform cops don’t usually like each other. Detectives complain that uniform cops make crappy arrests. The uniform cops complain that the detectives won’t get off their butts and investigate the arrests they make. 


Ok, everyone, myself included, is anticipating Chris opening his desk drawer. He returns to his desk, sets down his coffee cup, and pulls out the drawer. Water slouches out onto Chris’s shoes. Chris has that “what the F—” look on his face. He pulls the drawer all the way out. All the water lands at his feet. The Detective squad room breaks out in laughter. A few run and get a mop and clean up the mess. Chris is sitting at his desk an hour later, staring blankly. A smile comes over his face as he appreciates the humor, but then a stern look creeps across his face as if to say “Why me?” Time for me to get lost before the bullets fly. Chris later retired and runs a gun shop in Simi Valley. 


Your Tax dollars at work. You know before everyone got so touchy, about race, religion, sexual orientation, and suing everyone, this was fun place to work. It relieved stress and built camaraderie. I still miss the good old days. 

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Miscellaneous, part 5-A Smart Burglar


 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. In my last Ramblings I bragged a little ok, a lot about my best arrest. This story is about a business burglar who fooled me. The name of the suspect is real. It’s funny that I can’t remember the name of my best arrest, but this guy’s name is always on my mind. It’s probably because I had him and I let him slip away.


I’m working A.M. Watch and I have been studying the Daily Occurrence (D/O) sheets for crime in my area. I patrol the central area of Hollywood which is largely businesses along Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. I notice a pattern of burglaries in small businesses. Some don’t have alarms and the items taken are small. I find myself driving through rear alleys and parking lots along Hollywood Boulevard. I jump on any alarms that are dispatched but don’t have any luck. The crimes continue and I’m getting frustrated. 


dark alleyHollywood is unique in that there are always people out in the middle of the night. Most cities don’t have pedestrians walking the side streets and alleys at 3 AM. I remember once I’m working with Frank, who just transferred into Hollywood. I’m driving down Hollywood Boulevard at 4 A.M. and Frank yells, “Stop. Turn around; go up that side street.” My adrenalin starts rushing. I whip the police car around and I just miss hitting a homeless man. I figure we got us a crime in progress. Maybe the Watch Commander will get off my back for not writing enough tickets.


Frank directs me to stop this pedestrian. Ok, we got him stopped. I ask Frank, “What do we have?” Frank looks at me like it’s my first day on the job. He says, “You’re kidding, right? We have this guy walking up this dark side street at 4 A.M.” In all fairness, in the Hollenbeck where Frank came from a guy walking up a dark side street is suspiciousin Hollywood nothing”. Remember Hollywood never sleeps.


Back to my burglar. I hear a broadcast of a burglar alarm in my area on Hollywood Boulevard. I’m only a block away. I immediately drive to the back. I approach this common courtyard which serves about ten businesses. This guy exits the courtyard. We grab him, I’m sure we got our burglar. 


The questioning goes something like this. “What’s your name?” 

“Steven Cox.” 


“What are you doing back there?” 


“I know it’s wrong but I had to go to the bathroom. Go ahead look under the fire escape”. 


I have my partner fill out a Field Interview card. I check under the fire escape and sure enough, someone has defecated. It’s fresh. I won’t go into a description of how I know it’s fresh, just trust me. I check the rear doors and windows of the business where the alarm was activated. Nothing. I look around at the other businesses. I can’t find any evidence of a burglary. We run him for wants and warrants over our police radio. No wants or warrants. I’ve run out of ideas. We release him.


burglar by aneta.orgTwo days later, I have the burglary detective yelling at me. Steven Cox is a wanted business burglar and he wants to know why I didn’t arrest him. The detective says that Cox has a warrant. He’s calling me all kinds of names because I didn’t check him. I explain that I did run him for warrants and the detective cools down. His boss is on his case because Cox is stealing Hollywood blind. The detective wants to know why I didn’t recognize Cox. I arrested him two years earlier inside Mike Smith Volkswagen on Cahuenga. He used the name Mark Johnson then. Hell, the detective had to look at my nametag to see who I was and I have worked with him in the same station for years.


Cox was caught a few weeks later and sat down for an interview. He was one smart burglar. He pre-planned his crimes. He would case the business during the day when they were open, then come back at night. He always urinated or defecated somewhere close to where he was breaking in. That way he would have an excuse for being at the rear of a business. He would take two swigs of alcohol before going out and act drunk if stopped in an alley. He would breathe in an officer’s face and stagger around. He fooled two Metro Officers that way when they caught him at the rear of a Mercedes Dealership. He would take out a whole windowpane so it didn’t look broken. He would go inside a business run around and see what property he wanted, then exit and wait for the police to check out the business. If the cops left, he knew he had all the time he needed.


Cox discussed the time I stopped him. He panicked and gave me his real name and date of birth. Why his warrant didn’t show up when I checked him is anybody’s guess. He admitted he fooled me and was burglarizing a business five doors away from where the alarm was activated. I still have the tape of Cox’s interview. Cox was one smart burglar. 

Sometimes even when you’re lucky you miss a big one.

Ramblings by Hal

When Are Cops Really “Off Duty”?

 By Hal Collier

When are cops off duty and when can they relax?  My answer, never!  Ok, I don’t take a gun into the shower at home like one officer said he did, but I’ve been retired for eight years and I’m still looking around for trouble.  No, I’m not going to take police action but I’m certainly going to protect my family.  Then you never know when that cop buried in you will rise above your control.


I’ll bet there isn’t a cop alive who hasn’t run into some dirt bag he’s arrested, but now you’re off duty.  Did he bring his gun? Did you bring yours?  You both make eye contact and immediately your mind races, where do I know him from?


I once walked into the lobby of the Hollywood Police Station and an attractive lady was sitting on the bench.  She smiled and said hi as I walked by.  I snubbed her although her face was familiar.  I’m thinking have I arrested her?  I sit down in the report writing room and Alan, a fellow officer says, “Hal, how was your night?”  That real dim light comes on in my brain.  Shit, that lady was Alan’s wife. I knew her from our softball games.  I darted out her and apologized saying I had a bad night.  I never told her or Alan that I couldn’t place her face and thought she might have been a prostitute I encountered.  On duty, of course!


So ask yourself when is a cop really off duty?  Do you ever let your guard down and if you do will it cost you your life?


August 21, 1975, LAPD Officers John Hall and J.J. Bryan are having Code 7 (eating off duty) at the IHOP at Sunset & Orange in Hollywood.  Coincidentally I’m eating six blocks away at the Copper Penny at Sunset and Hudson.  Hall and Bryan finished eating and as they enter their police car an emergency call comes out.  They sped out of the IHOP parking lot.  It saved their lives.



Sara Jane Olson
Sara Jane Olson

Kathleen Soliah, aka Sara Jane Olson, a member of the SLA [Symbionese Liberation Army], had placed a large pipe bomb under their police car.  The bomb failed to detonate by 1/16 of an inch.  The bomb would have killed both Hall and Bryan as well as a large number of patrons in the restaurant.  My police car might have been targeted but I was sitting in a window seat and could see my car on the street.  Up until the day I retired, thirty years later, I looked under my police car for bombs before driving away.  See my Ramblings about the time I found a hand grenade in my police car.


November 29, 2009, four members of the Lakewood Washington Police Department were doing paperwork in a coffee shop prior to work.  All four officers were shot to death as they worked on their lap tops.

 Detective Thomas C. Williams


October 31, 1985, Tom Williams, LAPD Detective was shot and killed while off duty.  Williams was picking up his six year old son from school.  He was targeted because he was testifying in a court trial.  Williams was protecting his son from gun fire when he was shot nine times. 


Stacy LImJune 9, 1990, off duty LAPD officer Stacy Lim is driving home when potential car-jackers shot her in the chest with a 357 Magnum handgun.  Lim returned fire and killed her attacker.  Lim barely survived her injuries and is still an LAPD Officer.  I worked with Stacy Lim in Southeast Division. She is one tough lady.


October 9, 1990 Russ Kuster an off duty Hollywood Homicide Detective was at a local restaurant.  A man was creating a disturbance and the owner warned the man that Kuster was a cop.  The man produced a handgun and shot Kuster in the chest.  Kuster returned fire and killed the suspect.  Kuster died from his wounds after solving his own homicide. 


I was once on my way home when I noticed a car behind me.  It seemed to be following me.  After five miles of surface streets it was still behind me.  I drove past my street and thought about driving to the local police station. I had placed my gun between my legs miles ago.  I turned down a side street and the car went on by.  For months after I drove different routes home, I even cleaned the rear view mirror of my truck.


One Hollywood officer was driving away from the police station after work.  Four blocks away, a local gang member stepped into the middle of the street and pointed a handgun at him.  The officer shot at the suspect through his own car windshield.  After that I carried my gun between my legs to and from work.  


I don’t carry my gun everywhere any more but let the bad guys guess when I have it!  I still sit with my back to a wall and watch the front door at restaurants.  I still open doors with my non-gun hand and am constantly looking around for danger.


Am I paranoid or just a product of my environment?  I don’t know but I’m still collecting my pension!!   Hal

More Street Stories

Chain of Command

Who does what?

As with any para-military organization, there must be leadership. Although it is often portrayed with fair accuracy in the entertainment media, I still find lots of discrepancies in the roles played. For instance, a Hallmark Movie Channel series Mystery Woman, the lead character’s counterpoint is a police chief. Granted, this is a small town with a small department. However, a police chief should never do his own investigation. A chief’s job is administrative–glad-handing politicians to keep his budget intact and being the all-around nice guy in which the public can put their trust.

Chiefs or Sheriffs   

Bishop Police Chief Chris Carter
Bishop Police Chief Chris Carter

Chiefs or Sheriffs will have a Bachelor of Science degree at the minimum with an emphasis on Criminal Justice or Business Management. State certificates including the POST Management Certificate, the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society Leadership Development Program help the career climber as well as the POST Executive Development Course, POST Command College and the FBI National Academy. A masters of science degree in the above subjects is typically encouraged at this level of management.

Deputy Chief, Undersheriff or Commander

Under the chief or sheriff is a deputy chief or undersheriff. In very small departments the deputy chief is often called a captain or commander. At this level, these administrators are involved in managing whole divisions such as patrol and administrative services. If you are writing a story that is set in a small town, troll the internet for a department of a similar size. Usually you can find the structure which will give you an idea of the hierarchy. It matters–this past year, Kyra Sedgwick ended her seven year tenure on the series called The Closer. As the Deputy Chief, she should have been writing reports and recommendations for the chief and city council, making decisions on personnel issues and obtaining grants instead of solving crimes. As much as I like watching Sedgwick, the show was so unrealistic that I couldn’t watch it.


Santa Rosa Police Department, Ca, Lt Craig Schwartz
Santa Rosa Police Department, Ca, Lt Craig Schwartz

A lieutenant is assigned to a team, generally. Teams work the same days, thereby enhancing the team concept. A lieutenant is found at all shifts in large departments although in smaller agencies, usually only day shift and swing (afternoons). The night shift or graveyards are handled by “Watch Commanders” who are either lieutenants or acting lieutenants. This is a sergeant who is on the promotional list for lieutenant or has been assigned by an administrator.



Sergeants are the line commanders. As in the army, sergeants get most of the work done. A good patrol sergeant will listen to radio activity so he knows who is doing what. They should be available for back-up but not tied up on a lengthy report call. They need to be on hand for patrol or dispatcher direction. Administrative or detective sergeants has a different role in some ways but still are the “go to” person for line officers and civilians. They will also handle preliminaries of personnel problems, give direction and approve crime reports. Corporals are subordinate and have limited report-approving powers.


Detectives are promoted patrol officers. In larger departments, a detective may be a sergeant rank. There are also levels of detective ranking depending on promotional testing, merit, and interviews. 

Ft Bragg, Ca Police Department
Ft Bragg Police Department-California

Again, all these structures are varied by department. There are few hard and fast rules but there are some that are never violated. The chain of command is respected–or it should be–to maintain a successful resolution. “Jumping the chain” is a phrase that is often used to describe those employees who go directly to the power when they have a problem. A good leader will refer the employee to their immediate superior.

However, back in the day, it was common to jump the chain. Going to your brother in law to talk about a problem with your supervisor was normal. It led to accusations of “good old boy” systems from outsiders and can smack of favoritism, depending how the contact was handled.

If you aren’t sure how an issue would be handled, check for a “model” agency and call the appropriate ranking person. Most cops love to talk to writers about their job. Your problem may be how to shut your source up!

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