Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings Reprise: The Art of Kicking Doors

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

This was originally posted 2/15/2015. It’s a good one–aren’t they all–so I’ll post it in its entirety. Normally this would be split up into several post but Hal, Ed, and I are taking a break. From October 23 until November 6th, Just the Facts, Ma’am will be on hiatus.

To the best of my limited knowledge, what I’m about to describe is not taught in any police academy. That is the art of kicking doors! Admit it, you can’t watch a cop show without the star kicking open a door at least once. It amazes me how easy it looks, sometimes they just lean on the door with a shoulder.

Please, all you’ll do is hurt your shoulder.


When I went through the Los Angeles Police Academy, they taught you when you can legally kick a door without violating some citizen’s civil rights, but not how! My initial experience was watching my partner kick in a door on my first day out of the academy. The door flew open and we raced in to save an attempted suicide victim.


I learned my first valuable lesson watching cartoons. That’s right. The Big Bad Wolf huffed and puffed and blew down the house of straw and wood but couldn’t blow down the house of brick. I know what you’re thinking: Collier is getting fitted for one of those long sleeve shirts with the buckles on the cuffs. No, what I learned is what door you can kick in and what doors you’ll just hurt you.



I learned the hard way. Let’s start with the door itself. Is it a solid wood door or hollow core? Is the frame also wood and how many locks does it have? I know—who has the time to analyze the structural integrity of a door? Well, you had better or you’ll waste your time and energy.


Smart cops will never try to kick a metal door with a metal frame unless you have a big red “S” on your chest. You’ll just pull a hamstring and look foolish. I once had a welfare check on a family in an apartment building. The police had been out there twice but couldn’t get in. The manager didn’t have a key so we finally called the fire department. The fire department had to cut the metal door and frame open. It was a murder suicide including the three young children. I’ll never get over that one.


My partner Gary and I once had a welfare check call on an elderly woman high up in the Hollywood Hills. She hadn’t been seen in days. It was an older house built with solid oak wood doors and frames. We knocked on the doors and then began looking in all the windows. We found a window where we could see the woman lying on the floor.  OK, we’ll kick the door and rescue the woman.


As I said the house was well-built and we kicked that door for fifteen minutes. First one kicked, then both of us at the same time. It almost got comical—this poor lady laying of the floor and Gary and I saying, “Ready 1, 2 ,3, kick, 1,2,3, kick.”  We finally got in and discovered that her dog was protecting her. You’ll never see that on prime time TV. We finally rescued her and the dog.


Hollow core doors?  They are usually interior doors, like bedroom or bathroom doors, but not always. This incident happened in the early 70’s. Hollywood cops got a “Rape in Progress” call. We all arrived and the person reporting (PR) said the girl next door is yelling for help.  We knock and the woman screams, “Help Me”


My partner, Jim Moody says, “I’ll kick the door.”  He steps back and plants a size 10, double E right in the middle of the door. It was a hollow core door so his foot gets stuck. Moody’s standing there on one leg, the other stuck in the middle of the door. We laughed as we rushed by and rescued the woman, leaving Moody outside.


That brings up where to kick a door. You kick next to the dead bolt lock. That’s where the door will burst open. Be careful not to hit the door knob. That is worth at least a sprained or worse, a broken ankle. Both will give you desk duty, a curse among patrol cops. A cop’s worst nightmare is a 2 inch deadbolt.  It may take 3 or 4 kicks before the door frame gives way.  If you’re securing your own house, use 2 inch deadbolts, even the cops have trouble getting in. Bad if you’re the one laying on the floor!!!

Another rookie mistake is not checking to see if the door is locked before you kick it open. Don’t laugh—it happens. I once watched an officer kick a door twice before someone realized it was unlocked.



Kicking doors takes practice and a strong leg, but it’s usually the smallest officer who pushes his way to the front and proclaims, “I’ll kick it.”  I usually let them try, that’s how they learn.  I once had a sergeant who insisted that the mule kick was the best. He would position himself on the floor with his back and butt toward the door. Then he would kick backwards like a mule. It worked for him but I didn’t like being on the floor with my back to the door.


Kicking a door doesn’t always turn out as planned. The Department has a term, “Called the wrong Door.”  That’s when cops kick the wrong door. I’m sure your wondering how could such highly trained cops make such a mistake? Easy—poor communication, egos, “me first,” and last, poor leadership. We once had an incident high up in the Hollywood Hills at a party where professional gambling was taking place. The sergeant led the charge and kicked the door across the street from the party. The residents were not impressed with their tax dollars at work. The sergeant was transferred to day watch where he could be better supervised. True story


Another time Mike and I were driving around when we see large billows of smoke coming from a four story apartment building. Oh crap, we have to save all those people. We run into the lobby and are met with smoke filled hallways. We start banging on doors and if no answer we kick in doors. After kicking two doors, we run to the fire escape window and suck in some fresh air. The smoke is burning our lungs and eyes. Residents are running into the streets as the fire department arrives. Hell, Mike and I will get a medal for saving all these people.



Guess what? No medal. The smoke was from a trash dumpster behind the apartment building. It was coming in through an open hallway window. I pulled a hamstring and had to get treated for smoke inhalation. Ever been treated for smoke inhalation? They stick a big needle in your wrist and draw blood from an artery not a vein. Arteries are down deep in your arm.


Every once in a while an opportunity comes along to practice kicking a door.  I had one such opportunity as a sergeant.  A four story apartment building on Argyle was being remodeled and all the tenants were evicted. The construction foreman told me there are squatters in some of the apartments, you can kick any door that’s locked. My eyes light up. I grabbed every rookie that was working that day and had them kick a few doors. I also kicked a half dozen doors myself, it was like a present from the police gods.


Like I said kicking doors is an art only learned after years of experience. There will also be a few wrong doors and failures that come with that experience. One last kick door story. I got a welfare check call for service on another elderly lady. Her porch light has been on day and night for days. Her mail and newspapers are piling up and the neighbors think there a strange smell coming from the house. These are all bad signs. I do my usual check of all doors and windows. Oh crap. I see flies on the windows—another bad sign. I won’t explain what the flies on the windows might indicate. My partner, a smaller officer, wants to kick the door. (See above!) I tell him we’ll call for an ambulance first. The fire department arrives and they said, “We’ll kick the door.”  Now everybody loves the fire department and firemen!



The firemen kicks the door we all rush in and guess what?  No one’s home. The smell and flies were from a plate of food left on the kitchen counter. A few days later I get a call from an angry elderly lady who wants to know why I kicked her door while she was visiting her sister in Florida. She wants me or the police department to pay to have her door repaired.  I told her we didn’t kick the door the fire department did. Here’s the kicker, no pun intended. We kick the wrong door and the police department has to pay to fix the door. The fire department kicks the wrong door they don’t have to pay.

The firemen are still loved!

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: About Firemen

 By Hal Collier




The following story is true.  I didn’t change the names because I never knew their names.  If you remember, I spent most of my career at Hollywood Division.


Right behind Hollywood Police Station was Los Angeles Fire Station # 27.  Fire station #27 is a battalion station, which means it has 2 engine trucks, a hook and ladder truck, 2 paramedic trucks, a haz-mat truck and a battalion chief.  That’s as big as it gets in the inner city.  I once heard that #27 was the busiest fire station in the world.


Remember Hollywood never sleeps.  I use the term firemen because I’m not sure what’s the politically correct name for firepersons.  No offense intended, I’m just a dinosaur.


Police officers and firemen are brothers in arms.  When a policeman gets shot or hurt, it’s a fireman who saves his life.  Our pay, benefit and contracts with the city, are usually fought together.  Our pensions are similar but most important we have the same views of dirt bags and celebrities.


Firemen have taught me valuable lessons in life.  If you’re at a fire, conducting crowd or traffic control and a fireman drops his fire hose and runs, try to keep up with him.  If it’s a big fire and their cantina lunch truck shows up, it’s your lucky day.  Firemen eat good.


Recently, there was big news about an L.A City fireman who sued his department because he said he was discriminated against, because he was black.  He was fed dog food as a practical joke, because he claimed he was the “Big Dog”.  After a civil trial he was awarded 1.5 million.  During the trial he admitted he participated in practical jokes against other firemen.  Firemen and police officers have been playing practical jokes since the earth cooled.  I have some first-hand knowledge with firemen and their practical jokes.


The first incident I was not involved in but learned from other officers.  There’s a fire station on Mulholland Drive near Laurel Canyon.  It’s a small station and not that busy.  A Hollywood Senior Lead Officer was known to frequent the station house and play ping pong with the firemen.  He was usually accompanied by a rookie officer and showed up around lunch.  The firemen would welcome the rookie into the fire station and usher the rookie into a seat at a table.  The seat was rigged with a small waterline that would squirt water onto the crotch of whoever was sitting at the table.  Your tax dollars at work!



The next incident involved a homeless man living in the hills in the Cahuenga Pass.  He was preparing his dinner, BBQ pigeon over an open fire.  A resident called the fire department, concerned about a brush fire.  Fireman are fun loving people until you mess with them about fire.  The homeless man was quite a ways up the hill and it was a hot day.  The fire department has those water dropping helicopters and one just happened to be in the area.  The helicopter told the homeless man over his loud speaker to put out the fire.  Homeless are not your touchy-feely sort of people and generally men of few words. The homeless man gave the helicopter the one finger wave.


The helicopter again warned the man to put out his fire.  The homeless man gave a two finger wave this time, one finger on each hand.  The helicopter dropped thousands of gallons of water on the man and his camp.  Fire out, campground closed due to flooding.


LAFD Truck 27
LAFD Truck 27

Have you ever noticed that all fire trucks have big numbers on them? Those numbers indicate which station the fire truck comes from.  #27 comes from fire station 27, etc.  Now, I spent a lot of time conducting traffic control at fires.  See, firemen park anywhere they need to fight the fire.  I understood that, but what bothered me was that it took them longer to pick up their hoses and clear the streets than to fight the fire.  Sometimes they would stand around and BS with a friend from another station.  I couldn’t leave until they did.  Back to those numbers, they are metallic.  You can change 27 to read 72 or put them upside down or sideways if you wish.  Just don’t get caught.  Firemen are obsessive about of their equipment.


I was walking past the rear gate to FD #27 one day and saw a firemen lying on his back.  He was washing the underside of the fire truck.  I guessed that only an unfortunate pedestrian would notice and remark, “Wow, the underside of that fire truck is clean.”  I envy firemen’s equipment. I had to bribe our garage attendants to wash my police car once a month.


If the above seemed juvenile, let me tell you about the fishing pole.  The new #27 fire station was a two story beauty right behind the back door to the police station.  On warm summer evenings the firemen would sit up on the roof, smoking expensive cigars and watching the coming and goings of police officers.  They especially liked nights when we ran prostitution task forces.  They would sit up there with binoculars watching the girls as they were marched through the back door in their skimpy outfits.


OK, back to the fishing pole.  There was a 10 foot wall that separated the police station from the fire station.  On the police side, we had a carport and a narrow driveway.  The firemen would tie a 3 inch rat-looking piece of material to the end of the line.  They would then cast it over the wall between parked police cars and wait.  When an unsuspecting officer walked toward the back door they would reel in the line until the rat ran across the officer’s feet.  As the officer jumped around and sometimes screaming the firemen would burst out in laughter.  They particularly liked female officers. They screamed the loudest and had the best moves.


Another variation was tying a $5 bill to the fishing line and when an officer attempted to pick up the bill they would reel it away.  I once watched a young officer chase that $5 bill for 30 feet, 1 foot at a time.  I made it a practice to check the roof top of the fire station when entering the police station parking lot.


And you thought I was slow.  Again, your tax dollars at work.


Practical Joke


As you saw at the beginning of this story, not all practical jokes turn out good.  One night Fire Station #27 was assigned two female paramedics.  They were classmates and it was their first shift together.  It was during the midnight to dawn shift that they got bored.  They were driving around Hollywood and spotted two Hollywood officers parked.  They thought it would be fun to throw water balloons at the officers.  Instead of balloons they threw saline IV bags.  Everyone laughed and drove off in different directions.  Only, the officers wanted revenge.


LAFD ambulance
LAFD ambulance

The officers contacted their Sergeant.  A dozen eggs were bought and a deserted parking lot was found.  A request for an ambulance was made and the two female paramedics arrived. Ok. Eggs were thrown and everyone agreed that payback was a bitch.  At 3 A.M., the paramedics drove back to the station and began washing the ambulance.  Unfortunately, the Battalion Chief woke up and wanted an investigation.  The female paramedics admitted their guilt and were punished.  The involved officers were never identified.  Before any of my former partners check the statute of limitations, I was working that night but wasn’t there.


I love firemen, just like my fellow officers.  Were different but very much the same.  Police officers will run to gunfire but won’t go near a burning building.


In future stories, I will discuss the 3 days I spent with firemen during the riots.  Yea, I said riots, I was there and trust me it wasn’t civil unrest!



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