Roll Call Street Stories

Young Memories, Old Bodies

By Mikey, Retired LAPD

Re-enacted Viet Nam Fire Support Base at March Field Air Museum

Annually, March 29th is National Vietnam Veterans Day. At the March Field Air Museum, we celebrate the day with an open house, open to all veterans, of all conflicts. This year will be no different but let me tell you about last year’s open house. 

In hosting the day, the museum brings on additional docents to assist the museum’s guests and answer questions. Nelly, one of our docents was asked to docent at the museum’s Vietnam support base exhibit. The area contains several helicopters flown in the NAM and the exhibit is configured to resemble a support base, but, on a smaller scale. Several hours had passed since the museum opened for the day and things were going smoothly when I saw Nelly enter the museum. Nelly was crying and when I approached her, she told me that she needed a little time to compose herself, but that she was ok.

Nelly and Mikey

Several of the vets who had gone to the support base entered the museum and I could tell that they had been crying as well. So, what happened? I proceeded to the support base but found nothing amiss, so I had to patiently await Nelly’s explanation. Nelly finally approached me in the museum’s hangar and somewhat composed, she told me the following story. 

Several vets had gathered around one of the museum’s Huey (Bell HU-1) helicopters and some small talk between the vets netted a couple of stories.  The vets were standing next to the aircraft when one of them shared a story about a lift mission his squad had experienced in 1967 as an Army grunt. He was standing at the opened cargo door looking at the passenger seat as he told his story. According to Nelly, who was standing near the vet, he named the NAM location and other information pertinent to the event. The mission started normally but as the chopper neared the landing zone (LZ), the machine took hits from ground fire and the landing went badly. Several of the soldiers were killed and some injured. As the vet continued with the story, another vet who had been standing in front of the chopper turned his walker and faced the rear of the aircraft intently listening to the story teller.

He walked toward the story teller and stopped next to him. The story teller noticed the vet standing next to him. Both men looked at each other. The vet with the walker asked some pertinent questions about the crash. The story teller told the other vet that he was on a Huey that crashed, and it sounded like his incident. The story teller said that an unknown soldier had pulled him from the burning helicopter, but he never knew who it was. The injured soldier was medevac’ed out before he found out the identity of his rescuer. The first vet asked the second vet to describe what he looked like at the time of the incident and the second vet described to him his appearance at the time. The first vet said, “It was me who pulled you out!”  They both went on, through tears and hugs to describe the event and its aftermath. 

Huey HU-1

According to Nelly, there was not a dry eye on that support base.  What were the odds for that chance meeting? 

“Welcome Home Vietnam Vets” took on a whole new meaning that day for Nelly and those Nam vets.

This year, I hope the two men attend this year’s celebration, I’d like to welcome them home personally.

Roll Call

Roll Call: LAPD’s First PIT Maneuver

By Mikey, Retired LAPD

During 2005, the department was training its officers on the Pursuit Intervention Technique or PIT maneuver. [The link here is for a recent PIT incident in LA. Looks to me ike the agency is primarily CHP with other agencies backing up. This is a 12+ minute video. The most illustrative moments are in the first 2 minutes. The rest of the video is interesting because it shows perfect police procedure for removing suspects from a vehicle.–Thonie]


The PIT was to be performed at speeds below 35 MPH and other rules and procedures were in cooperated in the pursuit training/policy. So, by May 21, 2005 there were a number of field supervisors and officers PIT qualified. Saturday, May 21, 2005 at 0100 Air 11, our Central Bureau air support reported the CHP in a low speed pursuit of a stolen vehicle leaving the freeway and entering Hollywood Area. I was the Assistant Watch Commander to my partner Don who was the Watch Commander. The CHP was asking the LAPD to take over the pursuit and as they were in Hollywood. That meant us.


The suspects attempted to run over a CHP officer and ram a CHP cruiser so these guys were crazy but not playing around. To really push the pursuing officers into the pissed-off spring-loaded position, the suspects would stop, then take off, stop get out of their vehicle and do vulgar things with their fingers and back side. You figure it out. As Hollywood units began to follow the stolen vehicle, the suspects pulled the same nonsense. One of the pursuing units asked permission to utilize the PIT maneuver. Reported speeds were never more than 25 MPH so the suspects met the first PIT criteria.

Now, I had just attended PIT and were told that to perform a PIT, the primary, secondary and third had to be driven by PIT qualified drivers. Then, and field supervisor also had to be PIT qualified. So, Don, not having gone through the school, handed the reins over to me.

One of the pursuing units broadcasted that there were two air units above the pursuit and stated he thought it was a news helicopter in addition to Air 11. I was the guy who was going to give permission for the PIT to occur so the with the aid of the air unit, I jockeyed the pursuit package into position. After what seemed an exhaustive period, we got all the players in their places and I gave the supervisor on scene permission to coordinate the PIT with the pursuing units. I told Don the pursuit was heading our way and we jumped into the Watch Commander’s vehicle and proceeded to intercept the package near the station. Everyone was doing their jobs. The air unit was coaching the officers on the ground to keep their units tight (all three) as the primary unit executed the PIT, he would pass the spun-around suspect vehicle and cars 2 and 3 would box in the bad guys. The primary would make a U-turn and complete the box.

The PIT went according to plan and high fives were being passed all around when I heard from the mystery helicopter, incidentally, one of ours. I heard Staff—-, a high-ranking department brass someone say, “Keep all of your assets there, I will be responding to your location in twenty minutes.” 

So now we are scratching our heads wonder who is responding and why? We were standing in the intersection of Argyle Street and Selma Avenue. I was surrounded by “my assets” when we observe a staff car pull up and the driver exit and begin walking toward our group. I then recognize Deputy Chief H and realize that I am standing by-my-self as my “assets” have withdrawn from my part of the street. 

“Hi Mike,” he says.

I respond, “SIR.” 

“Who authorized this PIT?” 

I replied, “I did, sir.” 

“I don’t recall it being OK’d to begin its deployment.” 

So, I told him how at PIT school it was “when you do this, you gotta do that, when you do that, this will happen and when that happens, all will be good and when all is good you will be impressed, have fun.” Nothing was said to the effect of a starting date, time, month, year, NADA! 

“So, sir, I took the initiative when I saw and heard that we were in policy. If anyone needed a PIT, it was these guys.”

His response; “I’m a Deputy Chief, I like what I see, good job.”

Then my “assets” quickly rejoined the Chief and me on my part of the street. That is when I realized Hollywood had performed the first LAPD PIT. We were so consumed with getting these guys and doing it right. As is always the case, we went for the fastest remedy and the PIT was that remedy. 

Two weeks later, I received a call from a watch commander friend of mine working the Valley. His division had just performed a PIT and he wanted to take claim as being the first LAPD patrol division to have employed the maneuver—until he found out about Hollywood Patrol.

Second ain’t bad; ask Buzz Aldrin.


The Call Box

The Call Box: Welcome to the 19th Century, part 3




By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Ward transferred to a staff job and Hal went to the day watch. Years later he would become one of the first helicopter pilots when “air support division” was formed. [see The Call Box August 16th for more on Ward Fitzgerald and Hal Brasher].  


3A15 was now “my” car [see The Call Box August 24th for more on 3A15].  George Flanders soon transferred to motors, and Frank (Isbell) and I worked with a succession of newbies. When we were together though, we were the perfect partners. Frank was a year or two older and from Corpus Christi, Texas, a former Marine (as was I) and an all-around good guy. He had a good sense of humor and was smart as a whip (he made captain before retiring). We developed an easy relationship when on the street.


Eye contact with each other was important because a certain facial expression conveyed a message. We had code words to pass information without alerting the person or persons we were talking to. Just a look conveyed a message. He was a great street cop and a great partner.


The police unit or patrol car

All cars in our division were two- or three-year-old four door Fords, Chevys or Plymouths. All were standard transmission. They actually had one unit with automatic transmission. The officers assigned had to do a report every week to see if it was suitable for police work. Honest.


At age two or three they had been on the street 24 hours a day unless pulled for service. And they were tired. They were the most inexpensive cars the city could buy. They also did not have seat belts. I think oversized springs was the only concession to street work.


The emergency lights were two round non-flashers mounted on the roof with a siren between them. Both were activated by pulling two buttons on the dash then operating the siren with the horn ring. The car was so under powered that as the pitch of the siren went up the car slowed down.


Again, honest.



Most of the cars had a string tied to the dash buttons running to the shift lever so they could be activated by pulling on the strings. Hi-tech. The “hot sheet” which was the list of stolen vehicles, was displayed by bending a paper clip and hanging it from the dash, where it swung freely.


Frank used to envision something like a TV screen in the cars that would give us up to date information. Yeah, right!!


This was when computers were in their infancy. After we left patrol we worked together several more times but that is for future stories.


As to the mystery building glued to the east end of the station, I never could find anyone to explain it. It was made of faux logs, was approximately 20’ by 20’, painted a bilious yellow, and it had once been a hamburger stand. It now served as the office for the Vice Squad.


More on that later…


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Revenge and FLIR

The following story is true and comes from the memory of an old retired street cop.  These incidents happened and all on your tax dollar.


Dale Hickerson and I are partners and were driving west on Sunset Boulevard when we receive a MDT (Mobile Digital Terminal, an in-car computer) message. “Look at the old bald heads in that police car.” Now, we take immediate exception, Dale has a full head of hair. We look behind us and see two very young female officers. By young I mean they are still pooping Range Burgers, available at the police academy café during recruit training.


Dale and I laugh and plan revenge. We have to be careful, practical jokes now days are considered sexual harassment, discrimination, or a hostile work environment. Neither one of us wants to tap into our deferred compensation retirement program to defend a lawsuit. The lawyers have taken all the fun out of police work.  The next lawyer I stop for running a red light is getting a ticket.


We drive around until we spot a dead pigeon in the road. Dale and I look at each other and thank the patron saint of police officers. We scoop up the pigeon and look for our prey. They are at the station. Perfect—we don’t want the citizens of Hollywood to see us breaking into a police car and calling the Watch Commander.


We place the recently deceased bird under the front passenger seat of their car. It’s just out of sight but close enough that when the brakes are applied it will roll out from under the seat. We’re too busy to follow them around, but I hear the scream could be heard for miles.


Ok, I just made sergeant and I’m assigned to morning watch in Southeast Division (Watts). I’m learning that being a supervisor is different than being a street cop. I respond to a robbery that just occurred. The responding officers just missed the suspect and the helicopter is overhead. The helicopter is equipped with FLIR. That stands for Forward Looking InfraRed. It detects heat (like body heat) sources on the ground. It’s great for finding bad guys hiding on a hillside or in a park. It’s also good for finding a warm car after a pursuit.


The FLIR system has a few drawbacks. I was once directed to a spot in the bushes and came face to face with a very angry coyote. Another time we ordered a suspect to come out from a small enclosure attached to a house. It was a water heater.


Ok, back to Watts. The helicopter detects a hot spot in the alley behind the store. I grab a cop and head to the alley. I’m directed to an ivy covered fence. I tell the cop I’ll lift the ivy and you cover me with your gun. I lift the ivy and am immediately am overcome with an odor that would gag a seasoned coroner. My suspect is a very decomposed dead dog.

Next time I’ll supervise and leave the searching to the street cops. 

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Hollywood Characters, part 5, Old Bill

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 was there. I’ll follow with a story about another Hollywood Character. I asked around for this character’s name or background. Everyone who worked Hollywood in the 70’s knew him but only two remembered his name and only Dale Hickerson remembered his background.


Ok, first the story. With today’s TV coverage of car pursuits and police tactics, everyone is an expert on how we stop felony suspects. The Helicopter reporters tell the viewers what the police should do next and they criticize the officer if it’s not according to their textbook. One of the problems is that different police departments have different tactics and policies.


Late one night a Hollywood police car spots a stolen car. The senior officer broadcasts that he is following a stolen car and requests a backup and a helicopter. The officer is southbound on Highland passing Sunset. I’m excited because I’m close and fall in behind the lead officer.


car stopIt must have been a slow night because two blocks later most of the cops in Hollywood division are behind us. The helicopter is overhead with its bright light shining down on the stolen vehicle. The lead officer turns on his red lights at Santa Monica and Highland. The suspect’s vehicle stops. I look behind me. We have about six police cars all with their red lights on and the entire street blocked. The helicopter is circling overhead.


The lead officer gets on the PA system in the police car and broadcasts to the suspect’s vehicle,  “This is the Los Angeles Police Department”  I hear a voice from an officer behind me,  “They know who we are.”


Picture this: fourteen officers crouched down behind their car doors, guns drawn, and adrenalin surging through their veins. Suddenly laughter breaks out. The lead officer is not going to let this stop him from conducting a tactically correct felony car stop. He orders the driver to throw the car keys out the driver’s window.

After a brief pause, the driver of the stolen car tosses a screwdriver out the window. More laughter from the officers.

The lead officer did everything by the book, but it was funny as hell.


Hollywood Character:  Baseball Pitcher—Old Bill


During the 70’s, there was a black man who would stand at the southwest corner of Santa Monica and Western. Other guys like me told his name was Bill. Just after first light Old Bill would be out on the corner with a baseball and a glove. I think he was in his 70’s or 80’s. Bill would bend at the waist and look in to get a sign from an imaginary catcher. He would wind up and throw an imaginary pitch. Sometimes he had runners on base and would throw an imaginary ball to first base.  I once looked at his baseball glove. It was similar to my dad’s glove that he used in high school in 1935, I know because I still have it.


Negro LeagueHollywood officers, including myself would stop and ask Old Bill, “What’s the score?” The Dodgers were always winning. The count on the batter varied but I don’t ever recall him giving up a home run. Another officer asked him once if any runner had ever stolen a base on him and Bill replied, “No I have a good catcher.” He was fun to talk to. I wish I had asked him more about his background. Dale Hickerson said he played some pro ball in the Negro leagues.


Last time I saw Old Bill was early one morning. I received a radio call of a man down at Santa Monica and Western. When I arrived, I was told that the man had been transported to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. I arrived at the hospital and Old Bill was lying on a gurney. A nurse was trying to pry Bill’s baseball and glove from his hand. Old Bill had a stroke and I never saw him again.

The Dodgers lost the best pitcher they never had and Hollywood lost a character.


Ramblings by Hal

Retirement Ramblings, part 1

By Hal Collier

I retired from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2005, after thirty-five years as a street cop. I spent most of my time working Hollywood Division, the Entertainment Capital of the World. It was entertaining to say the least.

I worked with some of the best cops and a few of the worst cops in the world. Together we laughed and far too often, we cried. We attended more cop funerals than we should have and we often hid our emotions. That’s just the way cops deal with the job. Some think that all goes away when cops retire. WRONG.

From your first day of work, you start thinking about the time that you can retire. You envision living on a beach or in a mountain cabin, sipping cocktails as the sun sets. Well the truth is a little different. It’s still good, but just a little more realistic. Some are more likely to find themselves drinking a warm beer while sitting on a Barca lounger chair.

I seldom let my neighbors know what kind of work I did. Example, a neighbor once knocked on my door late one night to settle a dispute with her boyfriend. I told her to call the police. My department frowns on me doing police work in my pajamas. Now that I’m retired I still watch strangers in my neighborhood, but I don’t do police work anymore—at least not when I’m awake. Asleep, I still chase bad guys and once solved the Black Dahlia case. Unfortunately in the morning I couldn’t remember the answer.


Shortly after retiring, I’m sitting in my Eagle Rock home and I hear some gunshots. Now I know the difference between gunshots and firecrackers. I also know the difference between an ambulance siren and a police car siren. When you pin on that badge and work for a period of time you become a cop for life. Taking off the badge for the last time does not stop the years of training and experience that cops developed.


I hear a lot of police sirens and soon the police helicopter is circling about six blocks east of my house. I know it’s something big. A different neighbor who knew I was a cop calls and asks, “what’s going on?” I tell her I’ll find out.

I live in Northeast Division and don’t know anyone in the Watch Commanders office who might know me, so I call the Hollywood Watch Commander. They can check the source of the call on the computer. I call the inside line and get the PSR, (Police Service Representative.) I’ve only been retired a few months but she doesn’t know me. I ID myself as a recently retired police officer from Hollywood and ask her about the shooting in Northeast. She tells me that she can’t give out that information to the G.P.

I ask who the Watch Commander is and she tells me. It’s a sergeant I worked with, he remembers me. Cool, I’m going to get the info. He refers me back to the PSR. She tells me again that since I’m retired, I’m GP and not entitled to the information on the shooting.

A few months earlier I was a sergeant and often the Watch Commander of one of the busiest Divisions in the city of Los Angeles. I made decisions that might cause me an early retirement, the departments choice not mine. Now I’m G.P.

I wasn’t familiar with the term G.P. so I asked what’s G.P.? She calmly and professionally told me your General Public!!! I knew that night that I was retired and no longer a cop. It was a hard pill to swallow. I discussed with my wife getting a tattoo “GP” but she objected.

Next I’ll discuss how cops deal with being “G.P.”



Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Foot Pursuit, part 2, Rules

By Hal Collier

The story you are about to read is true.  In my last Ramblings I talked about my worst foot pursuit.  If you remember, it involved slipping on ice plant, being clothes-lined, stepping in a rose bush and getting my hand smashed by the door of a police car.  I laugh when I watch cop shows on TV.  They are always running in good light, the cops take a short cut that leads to a tackle of the bad guy.  They never ruin a new uniform, which in the old days we paid for out of our own pocket.  The officers almost never lose a foot pursuit or get hurt and other police cars show up within seconds to assist.  All false.  The reality is that your often alone, running in the dark, through terrain that only a fool would attempt.

In my early years I was not a fast runner but I could run longer than a cheetah.  I would usually outlast the hypes and high school gym dropouts that I was chasing.  I used to brag that I never lost a foot pursuit.  That lasted about 6 years.  Then one night the inevitable happened.

My partner and I received a radio call of a car stripper in a car port.  We made the usual stealth approach, car lights out, radio turned down, car doors cracked.  As we approached the carport the suspect saw us.  He bolted southbound through the apartment buildings.  I’m confident that I’ll have him in custody in a short time.  I’m also sure that my partner, a heavy smoker, is right behind me.

We bound over a short wall behind the apartment building and run between two other apartments.  We zig zag between some parked cars as we cross the next street and run up the driveway of another apartment building.  He’s got a pretty good lead but I’ve never lost a foot pursuit.  I look over my shoulder–my partner is not behind me.  We run up a driveway and over another short fence.  I hear my partner; he’s in our car on the street we crossed ten seconds ago.  We cross another street and head up a driveway of a house.  In the back yard, the suspect jumps over a six foot wood fence.  As I approach the fence, I slip on something. I’ll bet it’s from a dog.  I get up and start to put my hands on the top of the fence.  I stop.  The fence is spiked with nails, all pointing up.  I’m not jumping over a fence with nails to catch a dirt bag that some judge will give probation as a sentence.  I’m either getting older or smarter.

My partner is one block north of me, as well as the helicopter and other policemen.  They’re looking for me.  This was before we had radios on our belts.  I look at the top of the fence, it’s got blood and some clothing stuck to the nails.  Ha, ha, he’ll pay for running from me.  For the next few weeks I looked at every dirt bag hands to see if he had puncture wounds.

I also had some foot pursuits that were pretty funny after they were over.  We’re responding to a radio call of a crazy man in the middle of Sunset Boulevard, west of La Brea.  We see him in the middle of the street.  We stop our police car in the middle of Sunset and order the nut to put his hands up.  I notice right away he’s a Democrat, because he gives us a one finger wave and runs northbound.  We broadcast that we’re in foot pursuit and chase him.  In the old days the only radio we had was attached to the car.

The suspect runs into a house–ok, not into the house like through a door but into the side of the house.  He bounces off the house, turns around and runs southbound down Formosa Avenue.  My partner is about ten feet behind me, another smoker.  The suspect goes about a hundred feet down the middle of Formosa and runs around a parked car and heads northbound.

He’s now heading right at my partner.  My partner swings his plastic flashlight at the suspect missing his head and hitting him on the shoulder.  My partner forgot his nightstick in the car.  The flashlight comes apart, I step on one of his batteries and land on my ass.  I’m pissed.  The suspect runs westbound through an alley behind a strip club which just happens to be letting out.

Ok, we’ve changed directions twice since my original broadcast.  I can hear the police cars and helicopter looking for us but they’re a block north of us.  I’m about thirty feet behind the bad guy and I see some patrons of the strip club.   I yell at them as I run past, “Call the police and tell them which direction we’re going.”  I hear one of them say, “Aren’t they the police?”  What do you expect from a guy coming out of a strip club in Hollywood?  The suspect runs southbound on Alta Vista on the sidewalk when I see something I’ve never seen before.  A guy in a Porsche pulls across the sidewalk blocking our suspect’s path.

The suspect makes a U-turn and runs right at me.  Ok, I have my nightstick.  I carried a 5 cell sportsman flashlight, good for light but not for hitting someone.  Kept me out of trouble that other officers got into that carried Kel-lites.   A Kel-lite was a metal flashlight which was sometimes used as a club.

As he nears me I raise my stick high and when he put his hands up to fight, I lower my stick and whack him across his legs just below the knees.  He goes down immediately.  We get him handcuffed and I look up to see the guy in the Porsche drive away. He’s giving us a thumbs up.

I look at my partner and ask “Who was that masked man?”  We walked our suspect back up to Sunset where a Sergeant says, “Where the hell have you been?”  He says you were supposed to be north of Sunset.  I look the Sergeant in the eye and tell him, “I guess our nut lost his script.”

That’s right he was crazy as a loon. You guess, if I’m talking about the Sergeant or the suspect.