Street Stories When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly: Tag-You’re It

LAPD 206 Bell Jet Ranger

By Ron Corbin

Pre-Flight Briefing:

Have you ever heard something that is so far-fetched, so unbelievable, that it makes you think, “Yeah sure, I’ll believe it when I see it.” Or when other common expressions of skepticism pop into your head like, “When Hell freezes over,” and, “No way … You are joking, right?”

Police officers are some of the biggest practical jokesters of any profession. Likely, their penchant for “punking,” or pulling pranks and being able to laugh, is a psychological means of coping with the negative things they encounter in their jobs on a daily basis. Whatever the case may be, following is a compilation of humorous accounts about air cops; police officers who fly helicopter patrol over their jurisdictions.

As a former helicopter pilot/instructor with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Air Support Division, I feel comfortable now in sharing some of these anecdotes. I’m guessing the statute of limitations for “Wasting Taxpayers Money” has passed. However, just in case I’m wrong, the names of participants will be either fictionalized or purposely omitted.

Also, rather than calling these stories “accounts,” possibly the term “legends” would be more applicable since some of them cannot be verified as actually happening. So, take a literary ride-along with some of the best police pilots in the world.

Tag … You’re It
Whenever there is a “slow night” for street patrol officers, the correlating effect for air support pilots and observers is usually the same. Also, because California law requires bars to close at 2:00 a.m., it can get very dreary for the few hours before the freeways become “alive” with morning commuters. During this dull time, it’s not whereas a helicopter can just stop flying and wait for something to happen like street cops can do in a black-and-white patrol vehicle.

Most police helicopter pilots fashion themselves as dashing fighter pilots (i.e., flamboyant jet-jockeys in flight suits that attract the opposite sex). Rather than just boring “lazy circles” in the sky with nothing exciting to respond to on the ground, a form of non-lethal aerial combat … “dog fighting” … became a favorite pastime of LA’s pilots assigned to morning watch.

The helicopter from the San Fernando Valley would sneak over the Hollywood hills and come up behind the other aircraft assigned to patrol the Greater LA Basin and metropolitan area. The Valley helicopter would get behind and above the LA ‘copter. Then a flip of the landing light switch by the pilot would illuminate the cockpit of the aircraft in front. The pilot behind would then key the radio and say, “Tag, you’re it”!
Quickly then, the pilot of the trailing Valley aircraft would turn-off the aircraft’s red-green navigation lights and the rotating beacon to become completely blacked-out. Diving and turning, zooming between and hiding behind high-rise skyscrapers in downtown LA, the Valley pilot attempted to avoid being seen by the crew of the LA ‘copter. If and when found, the LA aircraft would then try to maneuver behind the fleeing aircraft and get a “bead” on it. Once in “attack position,” a flip of the landing light switch, and “Tag, you’re it” once again came over the air-to-air radio frequency. Then the roles of both aircraft would reverse, and the chase was on again.

Sure, there was some minor FAA violations with the lights, but the “hard deck” never went below 500 feet AGL (Above Ground Level). No buildings, vehicles, or people were ever in danger. However, it didn’t take long for the Morning Watch sergeant back at the heliport in Glendale monitoring the coded radio comm to figure out that Air 70 and Air 80 were up to some shenanigans. Who knows, but maybe this was the impetus for the aerial sequence from the movie that came out a few years later, “Blue Thunder”, starring Roy Scheider.

What can I say … the original Maverick and Iceman of “Top Gun.”

Post-Flight De-Briefing:

According to Wikipedia, “When pigs fly” is an adynaton, a way of saying that something will never happen. The phrase is often used for humorous effect, to scoff at over-ambition. There are numerous variations on the theme; when an individual with a reputation for failure finally succeeds, onlookers may sarcastically claim to see a flying pig. (‘Hey look! A flying pig!’) Other variations on the phrase include “And pigs will fly,” this one in retort to an outlandish statement.”
These are just a few of the stories that have been circulated around LAPD’s Air Support Division for over a half-century. Through personal first-hand knowledge, some are partially true, some are fiction, most are hard to believe, but all are good for a laugh. These “pig tales” [sic] have become folklore taken from the actions or imaginations of those who carry a gun on their hip, and wear a badge and silver wings on their chest.

Bio of Ron Corbin, PhD

• U.S Army (1965-1969)
• CW2 Helicopter Pilot/Instructor Pilot
• 2 Tours in Vietnam as Combat Pilot
Law Enforcement & Private Security
• Las Vegas Metropolitan PD – Academy Training Manager (ret’d)
• LAPD – Policeman & Air Support Command Pilot/CFI Command Pilot/CFI (ret’d)
• Body Guard for Prince of Qatar (1984 LA Summer Olympics)
• Director of Security; Manufacturing Company

• AA (physical education)
• BA (child development)
• MS (elementary education)
• PhD (security administration)

Lecturer/Consultant & Trainer
• Personal Safety & Security
• Instructor Development; Master Instructor for Nevada P.O.S.T.
• Crime Free Multi-Housing
• CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design)
• Counterterrorism Security Procedures (DOE Nuclear Facilities)

After military service, Ron joined LAPD in 1971 with the ambition of becoming one of their helicopter pilots. He achieved this goal in 1974, working his way up from Command Pilot status to an Instructor Pilot. In 1976, he was involved in a training crash that killed his student pilot and left Ron with 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 70% of his body.
He was given a disability pension in 1977. During many months and years of hospitalization, post incident surgeries and physical rehabilitation, he finished his education earning a BA, MS, and PhD. He rebuilt his life around new careers, including being a school teacher and principal. However, law enforcement and security was still his primary love. Unable to do police work, he pursued various jobs in private security and training in personal safety, including being a body guard, director of security, consultant and trainer for security forces at DOE nuclear facilities.
He moved to Las Vegas in 1993 and joined LVMPD. On behalf of the Department, he served as a CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) expert consultant to various public and private entities in Las Vegas. He retired in 2011 after several years as the Police Academy Training Manager.
Ron has won sixteen awards for his writing skills from the Public Safety Writers Association. He has been married to his HS sweetheart for over 52 years, and has three children and seven grandchildren.

Roll Call

Roll Call: Northeast Vice and the 265 Pound Arrestee

By Mikey, Retired LAPD

February 4, 2018

Griffith ParkAt the time that I worked Northeast Vice, we owned Griffith Park and part of the Hollywood hills. Complaints about lewd conduct occurring in several areas of the park required the unit to enforce these laws so that the public could better enjoy the park, it’s many hiking trails and spectacular views of the city.

A particular trail which afforded a magnificent view was a hot spot for the ‘complained of’ activity. Accordingly, the unit focused its efforts on the location which sported an 80-foot drop from the trail to the ground below. The actual 80 feet distance had a slight angle to the bottom, so it was not a straight drop. At the time, one of the lewd conduct violations was the grabbing of one’s private part which was considered foreplay. Once that happened, the vice copper would identify himself and with the aid of his partner, effect the arrest. It was 1978 and if you aren’t old enough to remember, it was a very wet winter.

Wonder view trail Griffith ParkRick, my partner, and I were assigned to work that trail. I drew the short straw and would be the ‘trick.’ Rick hid in the bushes where he could cover me and be a witness to the violation while I stood on the trail, the bait. Soon enough came this rather large individual—about 265 pounds and about 6 feet. I was playing with a twig and my arms were chest level. The individual stood about 10 feet to my right and slowly worked his way toward me. Now, the deal was when the violation occurred, I was to step to the side, Rick would emerge from the bushes, we would identify ourselves, advise the guy why he was being arrested, hook him up and off to jail.

With his left hand the guy grabbed me so hard I grabbed his hand and yelled, “LAPD vice, you are…” He took a swing at me and as I tried to block his punch, we fell off the trail. We quickly traversed the 80 feet I was talking about earlier. Now, I was wearing combat boots and several feet from the flat ground we stop! I say we, because I had a hold of him. My right foot has wedged into a rut, remember the rain, and my foot was supporting us both.

rugged trail Griffith ParkI was laying on my back holding onto the guy when I hear Rick sliding on his butt down the hill, shouting for me to hold on. Then, I heard a “snap,” and I found myself looking at the ground, my left leg out to the side. I let go of the guy as the pain started to get serious. Rick sails past me toward the soon-to-be-arrested violator as I am attempting to dislodge my leg. The boot slipped out of the rut and down I went, landing on my left shoulder.

So, the guy has violated me, caused me to break my foot and screw up my shoulder. I was on the ground watching Rick attempting to place a choke-hold on the guy (we could it then). But Rick can’t get the guy in a seated-up-right position to affect the choke. I crawl over to the two, place my right hand on his left buttocks and my left hand between his thighs in an attempt to push with the right hand and pull with the left.

Rick chokes the man out, as the guy goes down, urinates.

Uh, huh. Groped, broken ankle, messed-up shoulder, wet left arm up to the wrist.

Foot still bothers me to this day.





Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, 9-11-2001 in LA


By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Ramblings: 9/11/2001 for June 26th, 2016

9-11-2001:  Just about everyone can tell you where they were on 9-11-2001 when four airplanes were hijacked and two planes slammed into the World Trade Centers. It was a Tuesday and the temperature was forecast for mid-70’s. I was scheduled to work the field on day watch as a supervisor. I was preparing for Roll Call when the first plane, American Airlines, flight #11 slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 5:46 AM PST. As usual the TV was on the news in the Watch Commander’s (WC’s) office, the off-going watch wanted to know if they will hit traffic on the way home. The WC’s Office soon filled with officers watching the horror on TV. Most were wondering what caused a plane to veer off course and hit a building in New York. At 6:03 the second plane, United Airlines flight #175 slammed into the South Tower. The wondering stopped.

We were at war with an unknown enemy! The speculation started on who could do such a thing. Some guessed correctly that it was the work of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

We went to Roll Call and the room was quiet. Hardened cops couldn’t believe what they were seeing on the television. We had an abbreviated roll call and hit the streets. We knew that what happened in New York was going to affect everyone. I headed to the bathroom, figuring it might be six hours before I had another chance.

When we cleared for patrol, we were immediately hit with a barrage of suspicious package

calls. People suddenly saw suspicious packages that they had probably passed a dozen times before on their way to work. I personally handled three bomb calls alone. One was an empty box on Hollywood Boulevard, another was a large cylinder attached to a power pole on Highland Avenue.

America was suddenly waking up to terrorism on our own turf. I raced from call to call for about three hours when I was directed to come to the station. The LAPD had gone in Tactical Alert and each division activated their command post. I was a member of the Hollywood Division command post cadre. I spent the rest of my shift in the command post.

Months and even years after 9-11 we responded to possible terrorist sightings. One Hollywood Hills resident saw a Middle Eastern man asking how to get to the Hollywood Sign, normally a common occurrence. We sent a police car to check him out. Nothing!

Because of terrorism, airport lines have caused hours long delays. It now takes longer to go through the screening process at the airport than it takes to fly to Las Vegas. You can’t even go to a baseball game without being screened.

Bombs have been around for a long time but now they are in the everyday activities of citizens.


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, A Practical Joke

By Hal Collier, LAPD Retired

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

One night, my partner, Bill and I were bored and happened to be driving through Ferndale Park.  Ferndale Park is on the fringe of Hollywood in the foothills below the Hollywood Sign. It is common to see deer, coyotes, raccoons, opossums and owls in the Hollywood Hills. I was driving and Bill suddenly yelled to stop. I slammed on the brakes and put my hand on my gun. We both exited the car, I’m looking for a crime, Bill is getting a pair of work gloves from the trunk of the police car. Next thing I know we’re running through the park in pursuit. Bill is in the lead because I don’t know what we’re chasing.

I soon spot the culprit, it’s a possum. Bill grabs it by the tail and holds it away, careful of its snarling teeth. I’m waiting for the adrenalin to stop rushing through my body. I’m a somewhat educated man, so I ask Bill, “What the hell are you going to do with that?” Bill replies, “Open the trunk.”  Bill drops the possum in the trunk and slammed it closed. Bill directs me to the back of a supermarket, where we rummage through cardboard boxes and crates. Bill finds the perfect animal container. I recognize it as a wood crate with wire, used to hold red cabbage for delivery. My previous job was delivering produce. I might need my old job if we get caught. It takes twenty minutes to get the possum out from behind the spare tire and into the crate.

Bill lets me in on to his plan. We have a lieutenant, who is not a building boy.  He completes the necessary paperwork, to keep the captain off his back then goes into the field. Street cops love this kind of leadership. We’re going to get a set of keys to the lieutenant’s car and place the crated possum on the front seat. My role was to delay the lieutenant until Bill could get the possum in the car.

I met the lieutenant at the back door and told him I need a day off. He said he had to get out of the station and to see him later. He walked out to his car as Bill was walking in. I think we got away with it.

Bill and I watched as he opened the driver’s door. We could see him looking across the car interior at the crate. By now that possum is a snarling fur ball ready to bite though the crate. The lieutenant tells Bill and me that if we ever want to have a weekend off again, to get that oversized rat out of his car.

Now before you call PETA or the SPCA we took the possum back to Ferndale Park and released him.

P.S.  The lieutenant got even about two weeks later. He called us into the station on a rainy night and told us to put on our old uniforms and boots. There’s a major mudslide in the Hollywood Hills and we need to check for survivors. We were half changed when the lieutenant got on the station P.A. system and said “Pay back is a bitch”.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Probationers

By Hal Collier, LAPD Retired

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

The story you are about to read is true, the names have been changed to protect the embarrassed. In thirty-five years as a police officer I have worked with hundreds of partners, some good, some not so good. Some have been great, some have caused me sleepless nights. This story will deal with probationers. All cops have worked with probationers, boots, and rookies. Hell, we were all probationers once. I was a training officer for over nineteen years, so I guess I could be a department expert.


My son is a training officer and he recently asked, “How much time will I get if I kill my probationer”? I told him, “None if you make it look like an accident.” 


My first night with a new partner was to get a little background. Not personal stuff, just looking for a common ground to talk about. If you spend eight hours in a police car with someone you need something to talk about. I would start out with “Why did you become a cop?” The following answers would amaze the department shrink. 


Female: “I’m looking for a husband, cops are clean and they have a good paying job.” 


Male: “This was the only job that paid close to my last job.” 


Female:  “I was making over a hundred grand a year but was bored with my last job.”   I heard that a lot from both male and females.  See? Money isn’t everything. 


Male:  “I want to right all the injustices done to my people.”


Male: I got into the wrong line at the civil service test. Ok, I made that one up but sometimes I think it applied.


I would ask what their hobbies or interests were to see if we had anything in common. One probationer asked what I liked and I said hunting. He said he didn’t think he could kill anything! Not what you want to hear from someone who might be asked to take a life to save yours or his. 


I had a female probationer with a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering. Nice girl but one night she didn’t talk for three straight hours. I like westerns, she liked science fiction. Her parents hated her because their culture didn’t like cops.


I had a female probationer, who sat in the car seat with her knee up on the seat and back turned toward her door, as if we were on a date. 


I had a male probationer who spoke five languages, unfortunately English wasn’t one of them.


I had a female, just off probation, tell me she felt sorry for the male probationers. I asked why and she said that all she had to do to make probation was sleep with her training officer. I wasn’t surprised because her reputation had preceded her.


In the early 70’s, I would ask, “Did you ever cruise Hollywood Boulevard?  Most would say “Yes.”  I’d tell them that my wife and I cruised Hollywood during our dating years. I would then tell them that they were now paid to do what they use to do for nothing, and if we saw something interesting we could stop and question that person. I remember they interviewed an officer on why you would become a police officer. He said, “They pay me $60,000 a year. They give me a gun and a club, a new car and tell me to go out and look for trouble. What a great job.”


Probationers come from all walks of life. Some were Vietnam veterans, some from small towns in the mid-west. Some were married, some divorced. Regardless of where they came from, most were about to become Los Angeles Police Officers.


What I’m about to tell you next is not news to anyone who ever wore the badge. Being a cop gets into your blood. It’s like an E-Ticket at Disneyland or a roller coaster ride. Hours of boredom, followed by thirty seconds of sheer terror. When there’s gun fire, most people are running away, the cops are running toward the shots. It’s not about the money, because most business people have better hours, and pay. 


Not everyone is cut out to be a cop—it takes a lot of desire and sacrifice. I heard of a recruit that said he had to have weekends off because he dated a lot. A probationer is lucky if they get one weekend off a month. They’ll work all the holidays, miss birthday parties, anniversaries and graduations. It’s a known fact that if you have five days off and a trip planned, you get a court subpoena for the middle day. The kiss of death is telling your partner you need to get off on time. 


The hardest to teach were the naive. They led a sheltered life and think all people have a little good in them. I remember a female probationer from Texas. She had a degree in interior decorating. She lost her job and came to L.A. One day at start of watch she asked her training officer why we keep dynamite in the trunk of the police car. Her training officer, trying to keep a straight face, informed her they were road flares.


Another male probationer went out in the middle of a cold night to sit in the police car while his training officer finished up some paper work. When the training officer got into the car the probationer remarked that the car heater was broken. The training officer started the car and the heater came on full blast. The probationer didn’t know that the ignition had to be turned on for the heater to work. I think he’s now employed as a Wal-Mart greeter in Bakersfield.


Being a training officer wasn’t easy but damn it was sure fun!


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, The Art of Kicking Doors

By Hal Collier, LAPD, Retired

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

Be sure to click on the links included for some funny illustrations of Hal’s techniques.
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.

academy trainingWhen I went through the Los Angeles Police Academy, they taught me when to 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!

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