Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Boy, that was close!

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Did you ever have an incident happen to you that made you think, boy, that was close? I’m sure that I’m not the only one who just barely escaped death. Soldiers from any of the recent conflicts could probably give you lots of incidents when they just missed being a sad memory. Well I’m living proof that you can survive an almost “Ah shit,” right here in America!


1983_Ford_Sierra_dashboard_(base_model)The closest I came was early one morning when Neil Diamond saved my life! I was working day watch and I liked to get my workout in before roll call. I would get up at 4 AM, shave, grab my lunch that my wife made me and get on the road. Now I only lived eleven miles from work so my commute was about 20 minutes. Very little traffic that time of the morning, mostly big rig trucks and few other knot-heads like me who start early. Oh, there were a few who were on their way home after a night on the town!


A semi-truck is in the #3 lane next to me. I’m about to cross under the 5 freeway when Neil Diamond comes on my truck radio. He was singing Brother Love’s a Travelling Salvation Show. I loved that song and turned up the volume. I was in a better mood and hoping for a good workout.


Neil Diamond
Neil Diamond


I’ve been driving this route to work for about 30 years and know that the #3 lane next to me funnels into my lane around the corner. I figure I’ll move over 1 lane so the semi-truck will have a lane to move into. It saved my life. I no sooner changed lanes when a car driving the wrong way comes around the corner and passes between the semi and me. I didn’t even have time to swear. I look over at the semi driver and his eyes were as big as mine. My heart was pounding and I figured my workout will never top the blood now flowing through my veins.


I never heard if he crashed or was caught but, even now, I always turn up Neil Diamond on the radio.


This was not a lifesaving event but then you never know. I was driving a plain detectives’ car but we were in full uniform. We were chasing the prostitutes on Sunset Boulevard. We had stopped at the intersection of Sunset and La Brea, in the left turn lane, heading for a cup of Winchell’s coffee. The light turned green and we waited for on-coming traffic to clear.


I suddenly heard a car racing up behind me! I look in the rear-view mirror and see this large sedan barreling toward our rear bumper. I only have time to yell to Randy, my partner, “hold on.”

At the last instance, the car swerved to the left just missing our rear bumper. The sedan slammed into another car head-on going the other way. The crash sent car debris flying all around us. I took a big breath and asked Randy, “you ok?”

Randy replies, “I think so.”

We get out of our car and check on the drivers. The sedan driver is DUI (drunk) and the other driver has moderate injuries. Boy, that was close for us!  I know of two other Hollywood officers who were rear ended by a drunk driver and had to be pensioned off with severe back injuries. I was too young for a pension!


The third incident happened when I was working a super-undercover assignment. We were plain clothes and worked the entire West Bureau of the LAPD. We had worked in Wilshire Division that night and just finished our shift.

LAPD Crown VicWe were standing in the parking lot of the Wilshire police Station and we were debriefing the nights activities.  Ok, we were standing behind the open trunk of a car drinking beer. That’s a big no no in the LAPD Manual. We had been debriefing for about one beer, oh, I mean 20 minutes when a shot rang out and whizzed past my head! We all ducked as a reaction but since the bullet has already missed us, a late response.

We don’t have a clue where the bullet came from and didn’t want to answer questions of why we were violating a department rule. We all got into our private vehicles drove home. I wonder who recovered the beer we left behind in the parking lot.

A day later one of our group asked a Wilshire officer about the shooter. He replied, “Yea, don’t hang around in the parking lot. There’s some nut who takes pot shots at cops every so often.”

My question was how could a LAPD police station allow someone to shoot at the police and ignore it?



The Call Box

The Call Box: Doin’ Hard Time


By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

It is July and I have just turned 22. I am a recent graduate of the Los Angeles Police Academy, a highly trained law enforcement officer, a former marine and I can run forever and I am assigned to the Lincoln Heights Jail—operating an elevator.

First let me tell you about the Lincoln Heights or Main Jail. Built in 1931 in Art deco style (whatever that means). It is five stories of cement in Lincoln Heights, an area just north and over the river from downtown LA. Railroad tracks were squeezed between the jail and river (just barely). At night when the trains went by they usually sound their whistle. It was sort of, “I’m out here and you’re not.”


The first floor is given over to administration, two very large courtrooms (division 30 and 31), the “Gray Bar Grill” (our in-house restaurant), the front desk information section together with the bail bond windows. Actually, I only got stuck with the elevator job a couple of times but I just wanted to bitch.

Floors 2, 3, and 4 are cell blocks for those serving time, generally short sentences of 30-60 days etc. Floor 5 is the Women’s Section, the only place in the entire city where you can book a female.

The front or information desk was where the action was, it was busy enough that usually four or five officers were assigned to answer the phones and handle the public. We maintained the index for all prisoners in the city and we stayed busy. This was before computers.

My first brush with celebrity

Even working nights, we stayed busy. One night, standing at the counter was Broderick Crawford (Academy Award winner for “All the King’s Men”) together with some studio functionary. He had just begun a new series ”Highway Patrol” and looked every inch the movie star—camel hair overcoat with up turned collar, fedora with down turned brim, dark glasses (indoors at night) and it would not have surprised me if there was an ascot under the coat. The functionary inquired about a prisoner, “Yes, we have him.”

“Where is the car he was driving?”

I gave him the information and they left. I later found out Crawford had been arrested for DUI so many times he lost his license, so the studio supplied him with car and driver. The driver later was arrested for—you guessed it—DUI. All they wanted was the car, forget the driver. Sort of “Leave the gun, bring the cannoli.”

I never did figure why Crawford was there. He never spoke a word….

Part 2 on Wednesday, September 21, 2016

More Street Stories

LAPD Remembers: All Is Not What It Seems

By Ron Ray, retired LAPD

Around 1980-81 my partner and I are working a T-car (traffic) and looking for dui drivers. We are in Hollywood Division driving west on Santa Monica Boulevard west of Cahuenga Boulevard. A car ahead of us is weaving all over the road and makes a left turn into a parking lot cutting off opposing traffic. The parking lot belonged to a low class nudie bar which had the reputation of having some of the ugliest dancers to ever get up on stage. If this guy was going in there then he was probably already drunk.


I get him out of the car and my suspicions were correct. The guy reeks of booze, he can barely stand, his words are slurred, and he generally looks like something the cat drug in. As I am about to give him the F.S.T. (field sobriety test), I notice the passenger in the car trying to get out to talk to my partner on the right side of the car. My partner tells the passenger to stay in the car. The passenger replies very loudly, “You can’t tell me what the hell to do,” and proceeds to get out of the car. My partner and the passenger start snarling at each other and I know things are going to go south.

I quickly handcuff the driver so I can go help my partner in the fight that I know is coming. As I walk around the back side of the car I can see that the belligerent passenger can hardly stand up by himself. He is rocking back and forth shifting his feet constantly to maintain his balance. He looked like a fisherman standing on a deck in rough seas. As I get close the guy takes a swing at my partner who ducks and then grabs the guy by the front of his jacket. In a smooth motion my partner picks the guy up, turns him upside down and slams him to the pavement much like you would see a pro-wrestler do to his opponent………and breaks the guy’s back.


The guy is bent in the middle with his legs up and around both sides of his head. It appears that my partner has turned this guy into a paraplegic. The guy is screaming and my partner tells him to shut up and quit sniveling. As I watch this I thought of two things. First, that my partner was much stronger than I ever imagined and that secondly, we had to get our story straight. This is the kind of thing that today would probably get us sent to Federal Prison.


As the guy continues to scream I notice a pair of single pole crutches  along side the front passenger seat. They were the kind that have a handle and a u-shaped support for around the back of the arm. We come to find out that all is not lost and that my partner was not as strong as it first appeared.

My partner had just body slammed a double amputee. He was missing both legs mid-thigh and his prosthetics (not the high-tech ones of today) loosened and popped off.


Later after getting another unit to transport the amputee home and us booking the driver in jail, I teased my partner about what had occurred. I said, “My my, body slamming a poor little double amputee,”

He calmly replied, “That guy will never mess with me again.”


Ron Ray LAPD Retired.

More Street Stories

The Decoy Story

This post from Ron Ray, retired LAPD

Ok, here goes—

It was the late seventies. I was working Hollywood morning watch. My partner had just finished writing a ticket at the intersection of Santa Monica and Western. We were in a parking lot across the street from a local dive bar and since it was close to closing time we decided to sit and wait and snag a DUI driver leaving the bar.

We did not have to wait long and saw our future arrest come staggering out of the bar and start walking to his car parked at the curb. As he walked to his car we noticed that he was placing his hands on other vehicles for support as he walked. He gets in a late fifties Cadillac, starts the engine, cranks the wheel, and punches the accelerator. The car makes a sharp U-turn from the curb, tires are screeching with rubber burning and it goes blasting east on Santa Monica to the entrance to the Hollywood Freeway.

The guy has a lead on us and my partner does some driving to catch up. We are south bound on the freeway about three miles or so before we get the guy stopped and pulled over on an off ramp. We get him out of the car and one thing is readily apparent.

He is old. His driver’s license says he is 89.

One other thing becomes apparent. He is not under the influence. No booze on his breath, no nystagmus in his eyes, and his speech was clear and distinct. We asked him if he had been drinking and he said he had not had a drink in fifty years. We asked him what the hell was he doing in a bar then. He replied that he lived in an apartment down the street from the bar and went there because he was lonely and he could talk to people. We asked what the hell was up with his driving.

He replied, “I was sitting there in the bar when someone come in and says that there is a black and white parked across the street. Someone else asks, ‘Hey, Pops you want to earn some money?’”

“They pass the hat, everybody kicks in a few bucks—I think twenty to twenty-five. They say, ‘Take this money and go take the cops on a wild goose chase’……so I did.”

We kick the old guy loose. I am laughing, my partner is fuming. We race back to the bar and of course find it locked up tight.

All the cars gone, not a soul around.





Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Court 5

By Hal Collier LAPD, Retired

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

I thought my last court Ramblings was the end. Then I was reminded that I didn’t cover Traffic and Juvenile court. The following stories are true and my own experiences. I didn’t write a lot of tickets that went to court but I did arrest a lot DUI’s. Juvenile arrests were the kiss of death as far as court was concerned.

A lot of my friends were motor cops, a rare breed and often under appreciated by the Department. I’ll talk about BCMC (Big City Motor Cops) in a later Ramblings.

Traffic Court: I’d rather visit the dentist for a root canal than go to traffic court. The reason I hated traffic court is because it just didn’t seem fair. I only wrote obvious violations and few people took me to court. Even so, when I did go to court I knew the ticket was good, the violator knew he committed the violation but the judge, or most times a commissioner, would let the violator go free.

Maybe if I wrote more tickets I’d have been used to losing, but I hated being in court on my own time and having some dirt bag smile at me as he walked out of the court room.
An example: I’m stopped at the red light northbound Las Palmas at Hollywood Boulevard. It’s about 3 A.M. My light turns green and I start into the intersection. I have to brake suddenly for a cream colored VW that sails through the intersection eastbound Hollywood Boulevard. I think he might be drunk being that late on a red light. I stop him, he’s sober and admits to running the red light. I write him a ticket. No sweat, right? A few weeks later I get a subpoena–he’s taking me to traffic court, contesting the ticket.

I’m sure all my motor officer friends are laughing. They see this all the time. Me, I write three tickets a month and when someone questions my judgment I take it personally. For the court date, I show up in my best suit. Ok, again it’s my only suit (but I do have two shirts and three ties, all father’s day gifts). Also it’s my day off. Anyway, I testify that I had a clear unobstructed view of the violation and that the violator admitted the violation.

The violator gets up and denies that he ran the red light and denies that he admitted running the red light. I want to jump out of my seat, but I’m wearing my good tie and shirt. I don’t want to be held in contempt of court and placed in the lock up. The Commissioner looks me in the eye and says we have conflicting stories and dismisses the ticket. I walk to the elevators and refuse to get into the same elevator with this lying piece of road kill vermin. See, I still carry a grudge.

Traffic Court was at 1945 S. Hill Street. A beautiful new building that handled most of the LA Metropolitan area. They had nice underground parking, elevators to the officers’ waiting room. No walking the streets answering all those questions, no walking to your car in the rain or 100 degree heat. Then why did I hate it so much? If you had a subpoena on a drunk driver you could count on spending at least half a day. For tickets, you checked in then waited an hour and walked into the court room where your case would be heard.

They had a nice officers’ waiting room, lots of comfortable seats and some cots for the A.M. watch officers who worked all night. One day I’m really tired from working all night. I get to the waiting room early, check in and grab a cot. I’m just drifting off to sleep when a gaggle of motor cops stroll into the waiting room. I’m not sure what a large group of motor cops are called. Gaggle, pod, heard, flock. Either way they are noisy. They yell greetings to each other because they haven’t talked in two or three days.

One cops says, “Did you hear about Joe? He went down the other day.” To a motor officer, going down means crashing. The cop says, “Joe went down under this semi-truck. The semi slammed on the brakes and Joe and the semi skidded to a stop at the same time. Joe was ok but he had tires marks on his leather jacket, it was that close.” The other motor cops are laughing. Me, I’m thinking Joe is lucky to be alive.

My best traffic court story I wrote about in one of my earlier Ramblings, but I going to repeat it since my reading audience has increased.

The best ticket I wrote was a lady who made a left turn without using the left turn lane. I stopped her and hadn’t decided if I was going to write her a ticket. I approached her window and she started in on me. “Don’t you have anything better to do than harass tax-paying citizens? Now you know why people like it when cops get shot”.

Ok, she’s getting a ticket. I write the ticket and when I ask her to sign, she says, “I hope you die in a gutter, and I hope your wife and children die a horrible death in a house fire.” I tell her to drive carefully and have a nice night. Ok, I said it sarcastically.

About a month later I get a Subpoena for traffic court. That’s right, this tax-paying citizen wants to fight the ticket. Ok, I’ve been working all night and now I have to go to court to explain why I wrote this upstanding citizen a ticket. I walk into traffic court and during my early days a City Attorney (CA) would represent the officers. The CA says to me that she’s thinking of dismissing the ticket and wants to know if I have an objection. The CA says the lady had an emergency at home. Of course I object and explain the ladies statements about my family. Court begins, I get sworn in and describe the violation.

Ok, here’s where it gets good. The lady, who is now as sweet as a newborn baby gets to ask me questions about the ticket. She starts out, “Good morning officer.”
I check to see if her blouse is buttoned up.
She asks me, “Do you remember what I said when you stopped me?”
I replied, “You mean when you wished death on me and my family?”
The back row of the traffic court was usually filled with motor cops waiting to testify on tickets. They all burst out in laughter, I glance over at the Judge. He had a grin that I remember to this day. The violator was found guilty. I was proud, pretty sharp for a cop who had been up for the last 18 hours.

My last Traffic court story involves a commissioner hearing other tickets. I’m in court early and sitting in the back row surrounded by motor cops. This lady walks into the court room. She is dressed in a nice business attire and might I say quite a looker. The motor cop next to me leans over and wants to bet that she’s found guilty. He says the commissioner is gay and finds all women guilty.

They start hearing cases and the commissioner is letting half of the violators go free. It’s the lady’s turn; she is well spoken and not confrontational. Even the officer admits that it was a minor violation. Commissioner, GUILTY. I think some of the motor cops were collecting money to pay her fine.

I suspect my next appearance in traffic court will be to fight a ticket I didn’t deserve and got just because some motor cop had to fill his quota.

Just kidding.


Writer's Notes

Under the Affluence of Incahol

Under the Affluence of Incahol

Guest Post by Gerry Goldshine

The one thing that police officers can count on coming across at least once during a shift is someone under the influence of alcohol, otherwise known as “The Drunk”. The over consumption and abuse of alcohol is a serious problem in this country. According to the National Institute of Health, 17.6 million adults are alcoholics or have serious drinking issues. The US Department of Justice says that alcohol is a factor in over 40% of violent crimes and where domestic abuse has occurred, that figure jumps to over 90%. One third of all traffic fatalities involve someone driving while intoxicated. Most of my Law Enforcement career was in Traffic; that included traffic accident reconstruction, traffic law enforcement as well as the detection and apprehension of intoxicated drivers. Of all the traffic fatalities I investigated, only 6 did not involve someone who had consumed alcoholic beverages. Consequently, I developed quite a knack for spotting the inebriated motorist and getting them off the road. While I want to clearly acknowledge that the abuse of alcoholic beverages is a serious issue, not to mention the deadly ramifications that result when a motor vehicle is involved, some of the most memorable and often humorous encounters I had as a police officer came about during an arrest of a suspected drunk driver.

Since I’m going to be talking about Driving Under the Influence (also known as Driving While Intoxicated and abbreviated as either DUI or DWI) it would usually follow that some aberration in how a person was driving caught my attention. I say “usually” because there were occasions when I came upon a car completely stopped in the middle of a street, engine running and no obvious malfunctions that would explain why the. More often than not, these sort of occurrences happened around 2:30 in the morning, which is shortly after the bars and clubs in town closed. Since a car stopped in the middle of a main thoroughfare is a clear traffic hazard, especially if it is within an intersection, I needed to check and see if anything were amiss. I’d pull in behind it and turn on my patrol car’s emergency lights to warn other vehicles. As I made my approach to the car, invariably I would see that the driver was staring straight ahead, his face a mask of intense concentration almost as if he were paying serious attention to his driving. After checking for any obvious visible officer safety concerns (such as guns, machetes, rocket launchers and such) the first thing I would usually do is to have the driver put the shift selector in park, if it was not already. Then the ensuing conversation would go something like this:

“Good morning, sir. Officer Goldshine, Petaluma Police. Are you having some type of problem with your car?”

“Uh, no. I’m just driving home.”

“I see. You are aware that you’re stopped in the middle of the street?”

The driver would, more often than not, get this incredulous, almost goofy expression, as if he didn’t believe me, even though I was standing next to his car. He would check his mirrors and swivel his head around, looking at other traffic passing by, as if just at moment he had become aware of their surroundings.

“Well, that explains…that certainly explains how you caught up to me on foot!”

Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Keep in mind that person, while stopped when I came across him, had driven his car to that spot. Call it luck, kismet or divine intervention, but whatever the reason it was fortuitous that his slightly pickled brain made him think he was still driving at the same time it was telling his foot to remain firmly planted on the brake pedal.

Seattle PD DUI test
Seattle PD DUI test

Another night, not surprisingly around the same time, I was dispatched to investigate a hit and run accident that had just happened. I knew something was amiss when I turned a corner and came upon over a dozen damaged parked cars along the right side of the street, all seriously banged up. Some were pushed into the car parked ahead while others were knocked askew into the street or up onto the sidewalk. Glass, undercarriage debris, bumpers and other debris littered the roadway. As I drove down the street, the mess got only worse. I followed the trail of damage which began to include the remnants of shredded tire, fluids and gouge marks in the asphalt for nearly a quarter mile until I abruptly came upon what could best be described as a wrecked hulk stopped dead in the middle of this residential street. Billowing clouds of stream swirled up and around from what was left of the engine compartment reflecting back the hues of red and blue from my emergency lights. As I got out of my car, I could hear a loud clanking noise a result of the engine fan banging against what was left of the radiator as the engine coughed and sputtered in its death throes. Assorted fluids were pooling beneath the wreck. All four tires were either completely shredded or flat. One of the front rims had gouged itself deep into the road surface. The passenger side door was sprung off its hinges held in place by the door latch. There probably wasn’t a square inch of the car body that didn’t have some type of damage.

By then, a fairly large group of bystanders had gathered, some of them the unhappy owners of the damaged parked vehicles. I had not walked halfway from my patrol car to the wreck when that unmistakable odor of someone who had imbibed far too much liquor or beer assailed my nostrils. By the time I reached the driver’s door, the smell was overpowering. Despite this, I make a quick check to make sure the driver had not sustained any visible injury. Seeing nothing obvious, I asked if he was okay. Still seat-belted behind the wheel, he just stared at me with eyes so bloodshot that they could have passed for pages in a Rand McNally road atlas. A half minute or so passed while he slowly turned his head to survey the scene and what was left of his car. From the blank expression on his face, it was clear he hadn’t a clue as to what he’d done. Then he turned to me, swaying unsteadily in his seat. Sounding just like the late comedian Foster Brooks and totally matching the Hollywood stereotype of the quintessential drunk, the driver finally says, “Good…good evening…offisher. I’m fine…just fine. How…how are you? May I ask why…why have you stopped me? Is there…a problem? Have I committed some…some infarction of the law?”

Though I realize we have narrowly averted a serious disaster, I cannot help groaning inwardly at the hours of report writing I now face. About then, the driver tries to get out of the remains of his car; however he forgets that he has his seatbelt fastened and it is all that I can do to keep from laughing as he struggles vainly to throw off his restraints.  When at last he finally does, he nearly does a faceplant right in front of me.

Fortunately, I catch him and lean him against the side of his car, where he inspects the wreckage. With the most uncomprehending shocked facial expression I had ever seen up to that time, he then says to me, in all earnestness, “Offisher! Offisher! I do believe…someone has wrecked…wrecked my veh…hicle!”


Traffic Officer Gerry Goldshine circa 1985
Traffic Officer Gerry Goldshine circa 1985


Gerry was born in Providence, Rhode Island but raised in Southern California. 

Upon graduating from California State University, Los Angeles, Gerry enlisted in

the Army and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. After leaving active duty

in 1979, he worked for Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. From 1980 until his retirement

in 1996, he was a patrol officer, traffic officer, and a trainer at Petaluma Police Department.

Gerry is married, has a daughter and lives in Sonoma County, California.

Next week, we return to Pahrump, Nevada for the “Cadet Diaries” — see how new recruits are trained in the basics of law enforcement.