Welcome to “Street Stories.” We’ll be adding stories from law enforcement veterans from time to time. Hal Collier’s Ramblings was the first guest I posted on this blog so it’s fitting that the re-launch is another story from him. Regular Mystery Readers Only and Writer’s Note will arrive every Friday along with guests Ed Meckle and Mikey. You can check out their previous post in The Call Box and Roll Call columns under “Street Stories.” If you subscribed to thoniehevron.com in the past year, you might re-add your email address (if you want to continue getting these posts). I’ve changed site servers–Thonie
By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD
You probably know about first responder heroes that make breaking news. These heroes sometimes get interviewed on TV or they have a ceremony where they give them a medal. Being a hero is something that usually happens in seconds or maybe minutes. When you think back, the actions were more of a reaction than a well-thought-out plan. I’m about to describe a true first responder hero.
My first responder hero is someone who was there not for minutes but for days, years and even decades. I’m talking about wives, spouses, partners. They are the real first responder heroes. I’m going to write mostly about my wife, but it applies to many. Even their children make sacrifices.
I was married to Terri for two years before I went to the police academy. I sometimes wonder if she knew what she was getting into with me becoming a cop. I guess love outweighs fear!
It started out preparing for the test to enter the profession. It usually involves a written exam and working out for the physical tests that are part of the application. It usually takes up some time on the first responders’ part.
While in the police academy your uniform needs to be dry cleaned and sweats need to be washed almost daily. It takes months of study just to get through the academy. My wife took care of all the laundry as long as I spent my free time studying and sleeping. After graduation from the Academy the real work started.
I’m sure all spouses of first responders can relate to what I’m about to describe.
The first is worry. The worry of a dangerous job—you never know if that kiss at the door will be your last. The worry when they break into your TV show and talk about a cop, fireman or other first responder being hurt or killed. They will sit glued to the TV for news hoping for information or dreading the thought of a knock on the door. Unlike their heroes, these worries aren’t gone in minutes but last for years. For some the worry ends with retirement. Others the worry never ends because they know what some other spouse is going through. Finally, the worry continues because a son or daughter has decided to follow in your footsteps.
The worry is the worst part but not the end. A first responder never has regular hours. He/she will miss family celebrations, children’s plays or games. How about the anniversary dinner where you fell asleep because you worked overtime? The holidays are almost always a workday. Friendships with non-first responders soon disappear, and the spouse will spend the day trying to keep the kids quiet because daddy or mommy is sleeping. Speaking of sleeping, cops who work nights spend a lot of time in court during the day. They often come home late afternoon grab a few hours sleep and go back to work. It’s the first responder’s spouse that has a meal fixed on short notice and wakes you in time to go to work.
My first responder hero kept my truck gassed, my uniforms picked up from the cleaners as I dashed out the door after a few hours of sleep.
After thirty plus years I retired. But the real hero had to deal with my job related injuries and worst of all the never ending dreams which come being a first responder. My hero was often woken up in the middle of the night as I ordered a suspect into a felony prone position. On a few occasions I punched the bedroom wall as I fought with a suspect. These first responders deserve a medal. I was once given a medal for two minutes of stupid panic on my park.
My wife should have been given a medal for fifty years of being a hero to me!
Thanks for stopping by ThonieHevron.com! There are a few changes coming up that should have a positive effect on your reading experience. My blog on WordPress will soon by my website/home as I say good by to the attractive but less than efficient site I’ve had for the past five years. The new address will be www.thoniehevron.com–the same as before. Information from the old site will transition over so you’ll see “Books By Thonie,” “News and Events,” “About Thonie” and a Contact page.
As for my blogs, they’ll be a combination of weekly guest blogs from authors writing about their new books (Mystery Readers Only) or their craft (Writer’s Notes). I’ll be posting news about my mystery series, Nick and Meredith Mysteries as it becomes available.
In the “new” site, you’ll find all the previous years’ posts under Street Stories from LAPD alums Hal Collier (Ramblings), Ed Meckle (The Call Box), Mikey Diaz (Roll Call), and Ron Corbin (When Pigs Fly). There are additional stories from Gerry Goldshine (Petaluma, Ca. PD), John Schick from Calif. Department of Corrections, and several other law enforcement veterans who share their career exploits.
To kick things off, tomorrow’s post is from Ramblings’ Hal Collier, a 30-plus-year veteran of Los Angeles Police Department. Hal talks about First Responders’ Heroes in Street Stories.
This will be the last you hear from me on this site. As with
all good things, Just the Facts,
Ma’am (JtFM) will come to a close. It’s not for lack of stories, to be
sure. A dearth of time is the culprit. I have a book to finish. And after
almost losing the mister last year, family has become that much more precious.
They only ask my time.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank LAPD alum Hal Collier—the guy who started it all. His stories emailed to other LAPD retirees became the bulwark of JtFM. Thank you to Gerry Goldshine, an early contributor. Mikey sent us his memories once a month. Sometimes we laughed; sometimes we cried. Thanks, Mikey for your moving words. Ed Meckle became the most prolific writer in the JtFM and has earned my gratitude. Ron Corbin came to the party late but gave us all a lot to laugh about. Thanks, Ron. There were other writers, to be sure. Take a moment to scan through the posts for some interesting stories from the guys who’ve been there, done that.
For two years, I hosted Writers Notes. Other authors posted themed stories with links to their work. I met some terrific folks who I’ll continue to call friends. There are some great writing tips in those posts–available for another year.
As for me, I’m still putting the finishing touches on what
was Felon with a Firearm but is now Felony Murder Rule. It is off
to beta readers already. My list of readers reads like a who’s who of local law
enforcement: Mike Brown, retired captain and homicide detective and Will
Wallman, retired sergeant (Coroner’s Office) both from Sonoma County Sheriff’s
Office and Mike McBride, retired Marin County District Attorney’s Investigator.
Also, Karen Lynch, retired
Homicide Investigator from San Francisco Police Department and author of Good
Cop, Bad Daughter. These fine folks promise an authentic reading
Once I get their feedback, it’ll be more keyboard time to
make corrections and such. It looks like I’m closing in on the final draft of
the fourth Nick
and Meredith Mystery. Boy, is it a good feeling! So you won’t see me on my
blog Just the Facts, Ma’am anymore
but I will be at work. I’ll continue to email quarterly notes about the
progress of my books, appearances, and so on. If you’re interested, sign up at www.thoniehevron.com.
Thanks for your loyal readership. It’s been great.
The brass ring for pretty much any rookie officer is that final day or night in their department’s field-training program. They’ve gone through the hiring process, completed the academy and are now at the end of twelve to fourteen weeks of having their FTO painstakingly scrutinize every citizen interaction, every arrest, every citation and every report. As a Petaluma officer, I finally grabbed my brass ring on a Saturday night in December of 1980. At that time, the Petaluma Police Department’s field-training program was about 12 week long, broken down into three, four-week phases. The last week of the program was known as “Plain Clothes Week”. During this phase, your training officer wore street clothes and was along only to evaluate you; they were not to assist you in any way though you could ask other officers for help. In essence, this was the police department’s final exam to determine your abilities to solo as a police officer.
Officer Dave Long had been my training officer for my final phase, working the Swing Shift, which ran from 1630 hours (4:30 PM) to 0230 hours (2:30 AM). On this memorable Saturday night, the swing shift sergeant had called off sick. Since Dave was the senior officer working that night, he had to fill-in as the acting Watch Commander. Dave asked Officer Tom Swearingen, another FTO, to take his place as my training officer. Dave then assigned us the busy downtown beat just to make sure I had an “active” final night of training.
As I recall, it was definitely very busy that night but one incident in particular still stands out in my memory; the party on Elm Street (no, not that Elm Street). Somewhere close to 0200 hours -2:00 AM- I was beginning to let myself think about finally reaching the finish line when I heard dispatch sending units to investigate several anonymous reports of a loud, disruptive party in the beat next to mine. A few of the people calling, complained that there were more than a hundred attendees and that some of them were tossing beer bottles and cans into the yards of neighboring houses. Other callers said that there were minors consuming beer and hard liquor. I knew officers, an hour or so earlier, had already warned the people throwing the party to quiet things or we would have to order it shut down.
A few minutes later, Officer Long requested all available westside units to respond to the Elm Street situation and meet up with him. The first clue I had this was not going to be a simple operation, was the legions of parked cars lining both sides of the street and throngs of people making their way down the sidewalks to the party, several blocks before I got even close. I pulled in behind a line of double-parked police cars, in time to see other officers putting on their riot helmets. I wasn’t exactly sure what had transpired before I got there, but I had a hunch that the first requests to shut the party down had been met with less than enthusiastic compliance.
There were about a half dozen of us standing out in the street, waiting for Officer Long to tell us the plan of action when a car drove up and parked in the driveway of the party house. Now you would think a bunch of police officers wearing riot helmets, in front of that same house, might be a clue that something was amiss. Apparently not to the occupants of this car, because the passenger, later identified as ““Stu Pidteen”, got out of the car holding a glass containing some type of beverage. Given the circumstances, Officer DJ Phimister, who was nearby, suspected the beverage might contain liquorand asked the young man to wait a moment. Ignoring DJ, ““Stu”” continued walking towards the front door, which, under the circumstances, seemed to be a rather impolitic course of action. DJ then ordered the teen to stop and in response, “Stu” sent the glass he had been holding, hurtling at DJ’s head, before running inside the house. Happily, it missed Officer Phimister, who took exception at coming close to testing the efficacy of his riot helmet. Naturally, he ran after “Stu” and since I was close by, I followed behind.
Just before making entry, I distinctly remember looking back at Officer Swearingen; he was, after all, my training officer that night. He had one hand raised, as if he were about to offer some sage FTO advice but then realized it was too late. Following DJ down a hallway towards the backyard, I couldn’t help from noticing the scores of people crammed inside that house; in fact, it was standing room only. I remember thinking that more than a few of the young men I ran past appeared to be on the very large and athletic side – as it turned out they were members of the Petaluma High varsity football team.
DJ managed to lay hands upon “Stu” just as he was about to scale the back fence. No sooner had DJ put the “habeas grabus” on him than one of the nearby partygoers decided he wanted a “piggyback” ride…on DJ’s back. Not prepared to play horsey, DJ reflexively let go of “Stu”, who attempted to make a beeline back to the inside of the house. I was close enough to grab “Piggyback Rider”, pull him off DJ and throw him to the ground. He lunged back up at me and I drilled him in the solar plexus with my baton, ordering him to stay down on the ground.
DJ was less than amused and “Piggyback Rider” suddenly found himself the focus of his attentions. As DJ was handcuffing “Rider”, I watched his back to prevent a replay because there were now about twenty very unhappy belligerent people moving to surround us; not a particularly good sign. While this was happening, some other officers managed to snag “Stu” just before he made it inside and he was quickly hustled out to the front yard.
So much was happening; I began to feel as though I were in a three-ring circus especially when I caught sight of another officer turning in a circle, spraying mace at about six or so people who had him surrounded. As if that weren’t enough, I saw another officer holding his 36-inch long riot baton in such a way to keep another portion of the crowd from moving past him to prevent DJ from arresting “Piggyback Rider”. At the same time, he was trying to keep an avenue of escape open to us. From out in front of the house, Officer Long asked over the radio what our status was in the backyard.
It was then that this officer holding back the crowd with his riot baton immortalized himself as a master of understatement. He calmly replied over all the noise and tumult, “It’s building!”
Finally, someone made the wise decision that was time for us all to “get the heck out of Dodge City” and make our way back out front. Officer Phimister somehow maintained custody of “Piggyback Rider” as we made our way back through the house. I think we were fortunate there were so many people crowded inside that house because none of them realized what had just taken place in the backyard.
A cacophony of noise greeted us when we got out front again. Sirens filled the night air, as units from the California Highway Patrol and Sonoma County Sheriff arrived to help us shut down the party. Up and down this section of Elm Street, you could hear the clipped voices of dispatchers and officers blaring from the various portable and car radios. Adding to the hubbub was the loud animated voices of the partygoers themselves, as they poured out of the house and into the surrounding neighborhood. In the resulting confusion, “Stu Pidteen” got into a scuffle with yet another officer and made his escape into the night, though he was thoroughly sprayed with Mace for his efforts.
In the midst of all this, I heard Officer Long calling me on the radio.
“Lincoln 36…Congratulations…You’ve successfully completed training…Now I need you to hold over for two hours.”
I quickly looked down at my watch and saw that it was 0240 hours; Swing Shift had officially ended! I was at last, exactly where I wanted to be. I wisely resisted the temptation to respond with a loud, ‘Yahoo”!
Epilogue: Since several officers knew “Stu Pidteen’s” identity from prior encounters, the District Attorney filed an assortment of charges and the Court issued a warrant for his arrest. In a town of just slightly over 30,000 people, it didn’t take long for us to find him and serve the warrant. With the passage of time, “Stu Pidteen” eventually became a far wiser adult.
As for the phrase “It’s building!”, for several years after, it became almost obligatory to describe any situation, large or small, that seemed to be spiraling out of control.