The Call Box

Call Box: Detective Story, The Real Deal, part 2

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Badge_of_a_Los_Angeles_Police_Department_detective_(2434)If only it were that easy and glamorous.

Your average detective drowns in paper/computer reports. He/she is assigned a specialty such as homicide or robbery. Crimes are usually broken down by type, burglary (either residential or business), auto theft, theft from vehicle or forgery.

First thing in the morning:
You must check for arrestees assigned to your team. They are either questioned and released, held for further investigation with strict time constraints or submitted to the D.A. for charges to be filed.

You also may have to transport your own prisoner to a different lock-up.

You must read the overnight reports to see if anything requires immediate attention.

If you have a heavy case load you are probably in court several days a week.

You must find time to re-interview all victims and witnesses and serve all subpoenas for your court cases.

You must keep abreast of all deadlines for required reporting.

You must be prepared to respond to any and all calls for service.

f prints magnifierTelling the lieutenant, “That’s not my field/specialty/responsibility/job,” earns the response, “There is nobody else available, handle it. Like it or not, you are a good soldier. You do what you must.”

Not only does the fictional detective get the bad guy, he does it with time out for commercials. In real life, our clearance rates vary by crime but are never as good as the T.V. cop’s.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, More Sights I Can’t Unsee

By Hal Collier, retired LAPD


The sights:  I could write volumes on the sights I’ve seen but that’s not the way I deal with it. I’ve seen just about every way an individual can commit suicide. I seen gunshot wounds with just about every caliber of handgun and rife made. Hanging with ropes, clothing and even a choker dog chain. Jumpers from nineteen stories to freeway overpasses, jumping in front of oncoming traffic. None of them pretty. Homicides with guns, knives and even cars. I was a supervisor at a suicide scene where the victim put a shotgun to his head. I stood outside and the officers asked me if I want to see the victim. I said no, I sleep better when I don’t!

Additionally I’ve seen attempt suicides that will cause the individual more suffering then what they wanted to end.  I once had a young man who shot himself in the head with a 22 caliber pistol.  He only managed to blind himself. A year later he succeeded. I was at a hospital on an unrelated incident when a nurse showed me a women who sliced open her stomach in an attempt to kill herself. She survived. She was despondent because she had escaped Communist Russia and left her children behind. Sad!

Had enough?


This is how most cops deal with the sights, sound and smells we see:

Often at scenes of something horrific, homicide or traffic accident the news will show the cops standing around drinking coffee and laughing. Do the cops care? Of course we do, but we have something called “Gallows Humor.” Webster describes: Gallows Humor as humor about a very unpleasant or serious situation. We try to distance ourselves from the horror of what has happened. Don’t become too involved. It a little easier if you don’t know the victim or the family.

Some cops will turn to alcohol or drugs to help them forget what they experienced or saw.  Those methods only give temporary relief and usually lead to more serious problems like loss of job. [See below for info on this subject–Thonie]

Some quit the profession altogether because they can’t handle the stress or emotions. Others become hermits and withdraw from society.  These are danger signs that could lead to depression and suicide.

Some turn to professional help, but others refuse because they fear that they will be branded as crazy and have their gun and badge taken away. A lot just try to forget what we’ve just seen and move on. The big task is you have to turn it off when you go home. I would lie to my wife when she asked, “Anything exciting happen at work?” 

“No, the usual robberies, rapes and traffic accidents.”

We may hide our feelings and the scars don’t show, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Some nightmares don’t go away ever, even in retirement.

Two last cop ironies:  A cop writes you a ticket for texting on your phone, then he drives off while typing on his in car computer. Ironic

When the California Lottery first came out most cops said that if they won they would take the money, and not tell anyone. They would continue working as a cop because they love their job! Ironic


By Hal

June 1st is the launch of a new website resource for emergency responders having difficulty coping with the job: There will be more on this resource in upcoming posts. –Thonie

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Hollywood Homicide and Sergeant Frank


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. The following story is a little grim so if you’re queasy skip down to the practical joke section.  Of course if you watch any of the Law & Order, CSI or Bones on TV during dinner, your already numb to blood and guts.


My partner’s name was Bob. I was working A.M. watch with Bob. Our field sergeant, Frank, was a department mistake. He was nice enough but he could screw up anything you were trying to accomplish. An example: I was at a homicide scene. We had the crime scene tape surrounding the area we were protecting. Sergeant Frank kept walking through the crime scene disturbing the evidence. I reminded Sergeant Frank that he was walking through our scene and he would smile, oblivious to the fact that he was destroying evidence. When the homicide detectives arrived at the scene he asked what I had. I briefed him on the death of a low-life Hollywood citizen and my idiot sergeant kicking shell casings around the crime scene. The detective told me, if he walks through the crime scene one more time the detective will book the Sergeant’s work boots as evidence. Fortunately for Frank, he wised up. Anyone who wants the sergeant’s name this will be a freebee. His fame is renowned to anyone who worked Hollywood at that time.


My partner, Bob, was no rookie, and he was an outstanding street cop. In fact Bob is now a Deputy Chief with the L.A.P.D. I’m sure it was working with me that allowed him to promote so high. We get a radio call of shots fired deep in the Hollywood Hills. Most “shots fired” radio calls are false. Some are fireworks, cars backfiring or no evidence of shots fired. These types of calls in the Hollywood Hills are also hard to locate the source. Because of the deep canyons and echo effects, loud party calls can be over a mile away. 


We drive into Laurel Canyon with our map book open. Even an experienced Hollywood cop needs the map book in the hills. We find the PR (person reporting). He tells us he was awakened by a loud gun shot. He goes on to tell us that he is a hunter and avid shooter, so he knows the difference. He stepped out on his front porch and he could smell fresh burnt gun powder. We assumed that our PR knew what he was talking about. He said he thought the sound came from across the street. He advised us that a divorced mother and her teen age son lived in the house. Bob and I approached the house. I’m going to have to describe the house—the front had a carport and a solid wall. No windows; to the right, there was a small walkway with an eight foot tall wooden gate. The other side of the gate was a pool area which had sliding glass doors that led into the house.


Bob and I approached, using the solid wall for cover. We both felt that the PR knew what he was talking about so we used caution. There wasn’t any outside light so we were using our flashlights. We inched along the wall toward the gate, all the time listening for sounds of danger. I was the senior officer and taking the lead. I looked down and observed an oval object, six inches in length, lying on the ground. I shined my flashlight on it and said to Bob, “What the hell is that”?  Bob gave me that, ‘well, you’re the senior officer’ look.  We both stood there for a minute, our minds racing, what was that? It looked like a piece of meat.


We looked around and spotted blood on the eves above our head. We inched closer and could see where something had been dragged back through the gate. There were blood scrapes. Ok, we have a crime scene. 


We were going to need additional officers and a supervisor.  For my non-police friends, your first concerns are, is someone injured and in need of medical help, or is there a suspect inside, possibly barricaded? We radio for additional officers and a supervisor. Yep, you guessed it, we have Sergeant Frank responding. Our only hope is that he gets lost trying to find us. Bob and I look at each other and think how can we keep him from screwing up our crime scene?  We formulate a plan on how to get inside the house without a detective booking our boots.


Our additional officers arrive and we make up a search team. Sergeant Frank is three streets away and lost. We direct him to our location. I brief Sergeant Frank and ask him to go to the PR’s house and call the Watch Commander. Sergeant Frank trots away. Bob and I conduct a search of the house. We had to go around to the other side of the house. We find a female dead just inside the gate. The top of her head was missing, yep, that was her brain outside. The suspect was gone. I go back out front and tell Sergeant Frank that we have a homicide. I tell him to notify the Watch Commander and Detectives. Sergeant Frank agrees and trots off. Bob says to me, you’re treating that sergeant like your puppet. I was just trying to let him keep his shoes.


The suspect was a boyfriend, got into an argument with the victim. She tried to call the police, he shot Ma Bell (telephone) and she ran outside and through the gate. He caught her by the arm and the gun went off. He flew to Florida but forgot his passport and couldn’t leave the country. He plead guilty to manslaughter.


Practical Joke


I was a sergeant at Hollywood and we had a female captain who was a real diamond. Everyone like her and I never heard a negative word about her. The station needed a paint job inside and the city performs the work. The trim around the door frames and windows was painted a maroon color. The rumor was that the captain picked out the color. Most of the cops figured this was the captain’s female touch to the station. She was getting a lot of ribbing about the color, and well you know I can’t pass up a chance to play a practical joke.  Every day, sergeants are required to turn in a log, informing the captain on the day’s happenings or concerns. Well, I got a sheet of maroon paper and printed out my sergeant’s log on it. I started out with a note to the captain that the paper color would go with the new station decor. I got my log back with a message from the captain.  “Very funny, Officer Collier”. 

Message received.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings Reprise, Cop Funeral

This post is a reprise LAPD veteran Hal Collier’s post of December 12, 2012. America has lost four policemen in violent deaths this week and I thought it would be appropriate to recall Hal’s emotions as a pall bearer for his friend Duane C. Johnson in 1984. The emotions never change, just the date. —-Thonie


By Hal Collier, LAPD, retired

I’m about to describe the funerals where I knew the officer and in some cases the family. These still haunt me after four decades.

It was raining, just six days before Christmas, December 19, 1984. I was on a day off when the phone rang. It was Keith, a partner and he flatly stated, “Did you hear the news, Duey Johnson was shot and killed in China Town!” Duey and his partner had responded to a robbery alarm at a jewelry store.

I swear, it took me minutes to breathe again. Duey was a probationer that I had trained just two years ago. I had trained over hundreds of probationers, but I never lost one.

Duane C. Johnson, was a “Baby Huey” type of kid. He had a heart as big as he was. Duey had 3 loves, His wife “Cat” Catherine, the United States Marine Corps and finally the LAPD. Duey use to brag that he was in one of the Rocky movies. He was in the Marine Corps color guard in the boxing ring.

Unlike most probationers, Duey stayed in touch. We even talked about having dinner together sometime in the future. It was a few days after, that I got a call from some officer downtown that I was asked to be a pallbearer at Duey’s funeral. I had attended dozens of cop funerals but I was never a pallbearer.

I spent the next two days shining everything that was visible on my uniform and everything that was under it. I wanted to make Duey proud. Along with a few dozen other Hollywood cops, all in their finest dress blue uniforms, black elastic bands across our badges, we headed to the church.

I walked into the church and almost fainted. Duey’s twin brother, Dana, met me. He was in his Virginia Beach Police uniform and I swear he was the spitting image of Duey. Duey and Dana were both cops. They gave each pallbearer a pair of white cotton gloves. I’ll talk about those damn white gloves later.

The service at the church was very difficult for me and ride to the cemetery seemed to take forever. I don’t think I brought enough Kleenex. At the cemetery, you put on those white cotton gloves. The gloves look nice and have a dignified appearance. The casket is removed from the hearse and the pallbearers will now carry Duey to his final resting place.

As I mentioned earlier, Duey was large boned and the casket was heavy. I could hardly hold the polished handles of the casket with those damn white gloves. The graveside service was a blur, I remember the 21 gun salute and the folded flag from Duey’s casket being presented to “Cat”. The pallbearers then walked up to the casket and placed the white gloves on Duey’s casket and said good bye.

We left the cemetery and headed back to Hollywood. My shift started in 2 hours. I have never let a December 19 pass by without thinking of Duey.

October 9, 1990 I, arrived at work early to go for a pre-watch run. I saw the Hollywood Homicide Detectives already at work. They informed me that Russ Kuster had been shot and killed at a restaurant by a deranged Hungarian mobster. Russ was a renowned Hollywood Homicide Investigator and had handled many high profile cases. Russ had returned fire and solved his own homicide.

The drive to the cemetery was lined with citizens. Firemen had American flags draped from their hook and ladders. I attended the funeral with my current female probationer, she forgot her Kleenex, but no problem I had plenty. They played those damn Bag Pipes.

I have been a pallbearer at two other Hollywood officers’ funerals and attended a lot of others. They were all just as emotional. Joe Rios, 5-27-93, a Viet Nam Veteran who always said, “Hal, got a quarter for a cup of coffee for a Vet?”  Joe owed me over 10 dollars. James Pagliotti, 6-22-87 who I played flag football with on Hollywood’s team. Rob Cottle, 3-24-10, who I supervised at Southeast Division and later at Hollywood. Rob died in Afghanistan serving as a Marine reserve. He was a SWAT officer on LAPD. He always went out of his way to say “Hi Sarge!”

I don’t go to cop funerals anymore, I just can’t handle the emotions, some nights I don’t sleep very good with all the memories of lost cops!  I don’t know how their families live with it.

You might think I had dozens of those black elastic bands that go over your badge. No, the sad part is I just saved one and kept it in my locker and wore it every time we had a cop funeral. I still have it.

Still want my job? These scars don’t show on the outside.


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings Bizarre

By Hal Collier

The following stories are true and can be verified by three living cops whose names never appeared in the LA times.  These stories are a little bizarre and seldom made headlines in the Los Angeles area.

The first incident involved a radio call in Laurel Canyon.  You only needed a month in Hollywood to know that Laurel Canyon was home to politicians, celebrities, and nuts. Sometimes it was hard to distinguish the difference.  Some of their careers were on their way up and many on their way down.  It was known for parties and a little bit of illegal drug use. Ok a lot of drug use.   You just never know what you’ll find up in the canyon.

Laurel Canyon
Laurel Canyon

Most cops hated getting calls in the canyon.  It took a street guide and a half hour to find some street with a hand painted sign attached to a power pole.  It took you an hour to find your way back down out of the canyon.  The passenger had to read the street guide backwards to find your way out, not an easy task for a cop with a GED.  Police cars don’t have GPS systems and if they did it would be full of coffee spots and all night eating spots.

Late or early one night, depending on your point of view, a rash of radio calls came out on one of those winding mountain roads in Laurel Canyon. The radio calls described some nut running around naked.

Ok, it’s about 2 AM. You were about to do some really important police work, coffee at 7-11.   Damn, you have to drive up into the canyon to look for some nut, high on drugs.  You can’t find him so you drive back down toward the 7-11.  You just get to the bottom of the canyon and you get another call, same naked man, only now he’s west a block.  At least you know the way.  Back into the canyon, again you can’t find him, maybe you should have brought the coffee with you.  Did you ever wonder why police cars don’t have cup holders? But I digress.  We never did find the naked man, hopefully he went home.

Flash forward three months.  A young couple in their first home decides to build a fire on a cold winter night.  The house begins to fill with smoke.  They extinguish the fire and see that their chimney is clogged with a dead naked man.  That’s right–the drug intoxicated man climbed into the chimney and died. That explained the strange smell the couple couldn’t get rid of.

True story.  The fire department had to dismantle the fireplace to remove the body.  “Hello Allstate, does my home owners insurance cover a naked dead man in my chimney?”  I can hear the laughter and “Am I on Candid Camera?”

One bright morning a Laurel Canyon resident takes his dog to the Mulholland Dog Park.  His dog loves to run free with the other dogs and sometimes they chase each other into the hillside brush.  This fine morning, the man’s dog exits the brush with something in his mouth.  It’s a human jaw bone.  Now dead bodies are dumped all over the LA area, especially in the hills.  I once was told by a Park Ranger that he thought more bodies were in Griffith Park than Forrest Lawn.  Doubtful but close to the truth.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Jimmy Hoffa isn’t in Griffith Park.

So Hollywood Homicide is called and they search the area but can’t find a body.  Now everyone knows that a body in the hills can be scattered by the animals that call Hollywood their home.  The dog owner became obsessed and every once in a while he would call the police and claim to have found the body.  Once he found a pile of bones and was sure that it was the missing body.  It was a dead deer.  To my knowledge the body was never found and the case remains open.


This story has nothing to do with dead bodies but it would have made a great “Cops” episode.   I’m a new sergeant working Southeast Division (Watts) on Morning Watch.  It’s been another slow night and I’m looking forward to getting off work and jumping into morning rush hour traffic through downtown L.A.  A Domestic Violence radio call comes out just as the sun is rising over the Watts Towers.  The suspect is now on the roof of his house and refuses to come down.  Maybe he thought he was in New Orleans?

Pole vaulter photo by USA Today
Pole vaulter photo by USA Today

I arrive and can’t believe my eyes.  This nut is indeed on the roof of his house, but what they failed to tell us was that he was armed with a twenty foot pole.  He refused to come down and if the officers got too close he would pole vault to the house next door.  I watched him vault across three houses and then back.  This went on for over an hour.  I rated his technique as only a five!

Ok, you’re the supervisor at the scene. What tactic would you use?  If you use a taser or tear gas him and he falls off the roof, he’ll probably break his neck and die.  You don’t want to send officers up on the roof and fight this nut, the officers might fall off the roof.  You could call for a crisis negotiator but this guy is high and not very rational.  After Police Academy-taught negotiations fail, you lower your expectations.  Most of his responses are limited to about two words which are about my mother.

Well, patience paid off again.  We kept watching him and at times laughed at him.  This upset him so he tried one more vault, only this time his hands slipped and he fell off the roof.  He bounced once and was taken into custody.  If this had been in Hollywood it would have been covered by 5 news stations with commentators critiquing our tactics.  In Watts, a stalled big rig on the Harbor freeway was the breaking news.  I was just enough overtime that my drive home was traffic free.  I went home and went to bed but I couldn’t sleep because I kept laughing at the Watts pole vaulter.

Cops see some bizarre things not only in Hollywood but in every city. You just have to wait for the radio call.


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