Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Thanksgiving on the Job

I thought it fitting to give you Hal Collier’s Thanksgiving post on Thanksgiving. I’ll have a little something about being thankful on Sunday, November 26th.


By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Our_(Almost_Traditional)_Thanksgiving_DinnerThe normal scenario for celebrating Thanksgiving Day is to skip breakfast and wait for the Thanksgiving dinner. Then put on a pair of loose pants or something with an elastic waist band. Then head to Grandma’s house or maybe your parents’ house. As you got older it might be your turn to cook the turkey.

But there’s a difference if you’re a first responder. Someone has to work even while everyone else is loosening their belts and watching football.

In the LAPD you had a holiday wish list for days off. You had a choice of five holidays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. If you were a rookie you probably got Arbor Day.

Now, even when I had over 30 years’ experience I didn’t get all five days off. So, I had to choose which days I preferred. Of course, I preferred Christmas Eve first. Christmas Day second, New Year’s Day third, News Year’s Eve fourth and Thanksgiving last. Funny but those were also my wife’s choices.

So, I worked almost every Thanksgiving. No big deal, I wasn’t that fond of turkey. Sometimes our family would celebrate Thanksgiving on Friday or maybe Saturday to work around every one’s schedule.

Trust me, I’ve cooked turkey almost every way conceivable. I’ve cooked bird on a rotisserie, in the oven, in a brown paper bag in the oven—very moist—and I’ve deep fried turkeys in boiling peanut oil. The deep-fried turkeys were good, but then we were reminded that our son is allergic to peanuts. Lately, we have served Honey Baked hams. Did you know they deliver to your front door?

BP-Breakroom-092415My point is on Thanksgiving Day my Thanksgiving dinner was usually something fast food in a paper bag after talking into a clown face. For the majority of my career I worked graveyard, that’s 11:30 PM to first dawn. I’d leave for work around 10 PM and as I walked in the back door I was overcome by a tantalizing smell of turkey. I made my way up the stairs as the smell got stronger. Just before I entered the locker room I looked into the break room—two turkeys were sitting on the table. Actually, the cop came out in me and I investigated—let me be clear: there were two turkey carcasses on the tables. Picked clean. Oh, there were side dishes, too, but they didn’t have a carcass just empty pans.

I dressed and asked the Watch Commander where all the food came from? He smiled, said the local businesses always take care of the cops in Hollywood. I reminded him that I was a Hollywood cop, just working the wrong hours. Looks like another Thanksgiving meal in a paper bag.

You want turkey fries with that?

One year, I was off on Thanksgiving and thought about cops eating out of a paper bag. I deep fried two turkeys and took one to the station. Feeding Hollywood cops was my way of saying thanks. turkey-23435_960_720


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: More on Scheduling Days Off

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

So you carefully plot out your days off for the following month. You submit your request and hope you get something close to what you asked for. The rookie sergeant has the entire watch’s days off requests. That’s usually about thirty to thirty-five highly trained officers, all with loaded guns. You don’t want to piss them off.


The first thing the sergeant does is put everyone days off on a master sheet. He is given a “haves” and “needs” for each day. “Haves” are how many officers show working that day by their requests, the “needs” show what the bare minimum number of officers you need to work. You almost always have too many officers working mid-week and never enough asking to work weekends. The master sheet would look something like this: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, you had 30 “haves” and only 20 “needs.” Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, you had 10 “haves” and 20 “needs.”  Let me do the math for you. To balance the days off, you have to take away 10 officers weekends and give them a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. That’s just one weekend.


Some brand-new sergeants who didn’t spend much time in the field and is only working patrol until he/she gets off probation. He/she didn’t care if the officers got crappy days off. They only want to get back into the building to network with the brass. If the new sergeant takes the short-cut, he just takes away officers’ days off requests. Some officers get nothing they asked for and end up with a bunch of singe days off. Nothing worse than a single day off on Morning watch (graveyard). An officer could end up with days off that go something like this: work 2, off 3, work 1, off 2, work 10, off 1. The sergeant who did those days off was likely to have a flat tire on his personal car.


The new sergeant, who was pretty proud of himself, submitted the days off to the Watch Commander (W/C) for approval. 10 minutes later, the sergeant got them back to do all over again. The W/C probably saved the sergeant’s life.

Writer's Notes

Ramblings, Hollywood Characters



By Hal Collier, LAPD, Retired

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

This story is true and the characters are real. I ran across many memorable characters during my 33+ years working Hollywood. Some of the background comes from other old time Hollywood cops. J.J. Brown worked the Hollywood Boulevard foot beat for years and is a wealth of information. J.J. was a legend in Hollywood and his contribution was invaluable. I’ll start with a short story and then describe a well-known Hollywood character, Tilly.


I’m working Day Watch, after fourteen years on A.M.’s, that’s graveyard, for my non-police friends. I would get up at 4 A.M. and drive into Hollywood and workout or go for a 3 1/2 mi. run.


arcoOn this particular morning, I noticed I was low on gas in “Old Blue,” as my truck was affectionately known. No problem, I’ll stop at the all-night ARCO gas station at Franklin and Gower to fill up. While pumping gas I was once offered sex for a few dollars by a woman with oozing sores on her face. Gas at that time was $2.00 a gallon and she was asking for five gallons worth. I always had my gun close by and a firm “no” was sufficient to make her go away.


I pulled up to the pump and began pumping gas. I heard a shopping cart approaching. A young hype-looking guy is pushing a shopping cart with a large brown paper bag in the cart. He approaches me and asks, “You want to but a stereo?” I look into the open shopping bag and see five car stereos, with the wires dangling. Ok, even a rookie just out from the academy knows these were just ripped out of car dashes. I tell the hype, “No, thank you.” He walks off. I make a note of his description and watch him leave.


This story is old and I didn’t have a cell phone. (Hell, I had to be dragged into the technology age. I now have a cell phone but I never turn it on and I don’t even know my cell phone number.)


I drive to the station and tell the watch commander about my encounter with the car burglar. He sends two officers out to search for my suspect. I complete my workout, shower, dress, and go to roll call. As I’m walking out the back door to go to work, I run into the officers with my suspect. I look at the suspect and ask, “Want to buy a stereo?” The “oh shit” look on his face was priceless. He admitted to breaking into eight cars and even showed the officers which cars. It could have been a TV episode of stupid criminals. You can’t make up this stuff.


Hollywood Characters:  Tilly


Any street cop that worked Hollywood in the 70’s and 80’s knew Tilly. Tilly was an original bag lady. She must have been in her 70’s. She wore a 3/4 length coat, day or night, winter or summer and a pair of black 3/4 top men’s work shoes. Tilly pushed around a shopping cart full of her worldly belongings. She didn’t beg but people felt sorry for her and gave her money. Tilly looked like everyone’s grandmother, only dirtier.


Sunset Strip
Sunset Strip

During the day Tilly would walk Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards pushing her shopping cart. At night when I was working, Tilly could be found at the “International Hot Dog” stand at Hollywood and McCadden. The “Hot Dog Stand” as it was known to Hollywood cops was an all-night dive, where you could buy dope, sex or discuss world events with a drag queen. I think they even sold hot dogs.


Tilly would stand in the corner and mind her own business. I remember once a guy offered to buy Tilly a meal. Tilly lashed out at this guy, telling him she didn’t need his money or charity.


old woman pulling shopping cartThe truth of the matter is that Tilly had money and according to some officers, she had lots. Once, J.J. a Hollywood foot beat officer, took Tilly to the hospital for a mental evaluation. They found $600.00 in small bills in her shopping cart. Another time an officer was in line at the Bank of America and Tilly was in front of him. Tilly deposited a handful of money into her bank account. Tilly could probably afford a motel room but like a lot of homeless people, she chose to live on the streets.


They tore down the Hot Dog stand in the 80’s and put up a strip mall. After that I would occasionally see Tilly sleeping on a bus bench on Sunset.  I didn’t even know her real name and like most Hollywood Characters, Tilly just disappeared.




Epilogue:  After I wrote this three years ago I received additional stories about Tilly from former Hollywood cops. Mike Castro mentioned the time he booked Tilly. She had $2,500 dollars in cash in her shopping cart. The officers almost threw it out with her trash.


Paul Anderson also related the following story:   Somewhere around the early 90’s I was driving westbound Beverly between Crescent Heights and Fairfax when I see this very nicely dressed elderly lady walking eastbound on Beverly. I abruptly stopped my black and white, backed up, and said to myself, “That looks like Tilly.” (Years prior she told me her real name was Mary Marlow). I got out of my car and walked up to her and asked, ‘Tilly?’” She says, “Sergeant Anderson, how are you?” I asked her why she left the Boulevards (Hollywood and Sunset) and she responded, “Someone told me it was dangerous, so I went to a retirement home.” This is coming from a “street person” of 10 to 15 years literally sleeping on the streets. Anyway, it was nice to see her and that she was alive and safe.


Another Hollywood success story. No wonder I loved worked Hollywood!


So I have to ask: any of you cop-types reading this have stories about your “characters.” Send a comment to this post and we’ll see how many characters we can accumulate!



Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Sleeping and the Job

Hal Collier’s next 5 posts will be on Graveyard Shift and how it impacts a the life of an emergency service worker: Dispatchers, Medics, and Firefighters all have to live this way. Firefighters can sleep on the job sometimes but my husband came home dog tired many times because he was up all night on fires or a multi-casualty incident (known as MCI’s in the biz…) of varying types. On another note: I never could split my sleep the way Hal describes. After work, I fell into bed and slept (mostly) 6-7 hours. I also never could have a beer at 7 am. But everyone has their method of coping with the conflicting body rhythms of a graveyard shift. Some don’t cope as well as others. At Petaluma PD one night, a new dispatcher–a cocky young man–insisted to his partners that he never slept on the job. That was until a co-worker tied his shoelaces together one night. The co-worker arranged to have one of the officers flip on his siren and open his mic at the same time. Well, that young dispatcher learned to be cautious of his boasting in the future.




By Hal Collier

I have been writing my Ramblings for over three years and get a lot of comments.  Some encourage me to keep writing, some suggest that I’m verbose (wordy).  Some suggest that I take up knitting.  Some claim that they never committed anything that might be misconduct and they always were professional.  Of course memories fade, I will always be 160 lbs.


I leave everyone’s memory of their career to themselves.  Me, I did some things for entertainment that the department might not like.  I didn’t commit any crimes but I played practical jokes that today would be considered a hostile work environment.  I also accepted a free cup of coffee or a bag of sunflower seeds.  I ate at restaurants that gave cops half price meals, all against Department rules.  I did wear my seatbelt and stopped at stop signs.  I was laughed at for stopping at the stop sign at the police academy.



Photo by  dreamstime
Photo by dreamstime

Working AM watch was living like an owl.  You work all night then sleep during the day.  At night, you go hunting for prey then return to your nest.  As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I worked a lot of Morning Watch as AM watch was called.  Of my thirty-five years on the LAPD I worked Morning Watch nineteen years.  In the beginning, it was the department’s idea.  Later, it was mine.  I fell in love a second time! 


I graduated from the Police Academy on a beautiful Friday.  Saturday night I was working Hollywood Morning Watch.  Morning Watch started at 11:30 P.M. on the day before you were scheduled to work.  It was confusing at first but I figured it out. But try explaining to a non-police person.  If you’re working on Monday the 2nd, you go to work at 11:30 PM on the 1st.  You are invited to a party on the 9th.  Don’t take the 9th as your day off, you have to take the 10th.  Got it? Some never figured it out.


My first day, I figured I needed to take a nap before work.  Last thing a probationer needs to do is fall asleep during his first day on the job.  I hope four hours will get me through the night.  Ok, I’m more excited than a five-year-old on Christmas Eve and I’m going to take a nap.  OK, I’m a rookie at sleeping in the daytime.  I lie down and toss and turn for three hours.  It’s no use-I’m wide awake.  I yawn on my way to work that night.



Copper Skillet
Copper Skillet

I found out that a Saturday night in Hollywood is not dull or slow at all.  We race from call to call, stop a kid from committing suicide.  At 4 AM I’m sitting in the Copper Skillet eating breakfast.  I drive home as the sun is rising and people are going to church.  I get home and take off my uniform.  I didn’t get a locker until I had been in Hollywood for over a month.


I’d spent an hour telling Terri, my wife, about every minute of my first night, including the pancakes I had for breakfast.  Then, I went to bed and spent a good four hours sleeping.  I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Later in the evening I got another two hours of sleep, and went to work.  This sleeping in the daytime might take some practice.


Two days later, I get a few days off. Yea, that’s right a Wednesday, Thursday.  You didn’t think a rookie was going to get a weekend off, did you?  So after work, you are tired but it’s your day off and you don’t want to sleep it away.  You try to stay awake but by 6 PM you’re asleep on the couch.  After seven hours of sound sleep, you now wake up well rested.  The only problem is it’s 3 AM.


I needed a new method.  After all those years, my system was take a four hour nap before work after a day off.  I sleep four hours after work with a day off ahead.  This worked for me and after a while I had no problem sleeping during the day.


Of course no system is perfect.  During the first year of my probation, Terri was working and I had the house to myself, except for my dog and the telephone.  The dog barked at the door to door salesmen, as well as the mailman. 


phone ringingThe telephone was a different story.  Non-police friends would call during the middle of the day and say, “Hey Hal, what are you doing?” 

“I was sleeping, I have to work tonight.” 

Non-police friends soon become non-friends.  They just don’t understand and who wants to go out on the town on Wednesday night?  Cops are accused of only hanging out with other cops and that’s part of the reason.


Another time I was exhausted and was in a deep sleep.  The phone kept ringing so I got up and answered it.  “Hello this is the LA Times and I’m offering you a 1 year subscription for half price.” I lost my usual congenial personality.  I told him where he could put his rag newspaper and if he wanted help, I’m off Thursday.


Another time I was sound asleep and I hear my 2 year-old-son running down the hallway toward our bedroom.  I hear Terri yelling, “Bob, don’t wake up your father.”  Bob runs faster than Terri and threw a metal Tonka Dump Truck, onto the bed. It hit an area 8 inches below my navel.  See if you can get back to sleep after a shot to your ????.


Next I’ll talk about court, days off, and split shifts of sleep.     Hal

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