Ramblings by Hal

Police Burglars, part 3 of 3

This post is part 3 of 3. Oh, except for the epilogue, which will be posted tomorrow. Because the end of this series is so lengthy, I’ve split it in two. For police personnel or civilian, Hal’s take on this scandal is worth reading. He was in the trenches and sadly, is still feeling the betrayal three decades old. –Thonie


By Hal Collier
My first Ramblings on the Hollywood Burglary Scandal dealt with a rash of business burglaries that occurred in Hollywood, most on my shift. My second Ramblings described the arrest of Venegas and Myers and how they were caught.

This Ramblings will describe the aftermath and the effect it had on not only me but the entire LAPD. This might take a few pages so get yourself your favorite beverage and sit back. Again, these are my observations and any resemblance to the opinions of the Los Angeles Police Department is purely coincidental. I’m already getting opinions and theories from other Hollywood officers who have read my first Ramblings.

So here goes:
The next night I go to work wondering what to expect. Venegas and Myers have been relieved of duty and we were told an investigation into their activities had been started.

Nothing earth shattering there. The rumors started and the dumb questions were asked. Is anyone else involved? Cops on other watches, some former partners would ask, “Do you have a Video Recorder for sale.” Not funny after the 50th time. Another officer and close friend asks, “Hal, did you know?” That question hurt. Maybe it was just me but it seemed like I was being watched and under suspicion by everyone. Supervisors showed up at more of my calls. I was beginning to spend a lot of time looking over my shoulder.

After a few weeks things seemed to calm down, then another officer was taken out of the field and assigned to the desk. A week later he was relieved of duty. Then another two officers were assigned to the desk. They also were relieved of duty. The Hollywood desk was getting crowded.

One night I showed up for work and see that I’m working the desk. I ask the Watch Commander if I was I being investigated. He assures me, “No, it’s just that were running short of officers.” All night I’m at the desk and I hear, “Oh, Hal, not you too.”

Some of rumors were beautiful, some we made up ourselves. It was common knowledge that one of the involved parties was cooperating with Internal Affairs Investigators. That’s fine as long as the person is truthful. What if he has a grudge against an officer? It could ruin an officer’s career.

In 1981, there was a cowboy craze throughout America. A lot of cops were wearing cowboy boots, hats and big belt buckles. Yea, I even had them. One day this officer comes up to me at change of watch. He says, “Hal, I hear they searched everyone’s house.” I was tired of the rumors. I said, “Yea, they took all my boots, belt buckles and my favorite cowboy hat.” It spread like wildfire, before I got changed to go home it was all over the station. I still have that cowboy hat!

Another rumor that was going around was that Morning Watch Officers would meet after work and divide the stolen property. We were also rumored to have prostitutes at after work bull sessions. After relieving so many officers, the department had to replace them. Any new officer was immediately believed to be a department plant to get information on us. You need to trust your partner, not be suspicious of him.

Those of us still left, became paranoid. I remember one day I’m on a day off and sitting in my kitchen. My wife yells at me, “Hal, Internal Affairs is across the street and they’re looking at our house.” I look out the window and sure enough that’s a four-door plain police car with two plain suit detectives. I don’t care if they have a search warrant, but I’m wondering did we make the bed this morning. I’ll plead innocent to the kid’s bedroom, I don’t know what’s in there. I watch them for a while and discover they are looking at the house next door which has a for sale sign. They are shopping on duty. Ok, now my wife and I are both ready for those long sleeve coats with the buckles that fasten in the back.

After a while, the interviews started. I.A. would show up at the station and just like the enemy, they attacked at dawn. They would bring in an officer, sit him down and ask him questions about radio calls he had been at months or even a year ago. Who was there, what did you do, what did you see, do you own any of these items? Hell, a year ago? I have my name and address in my underwear. You would think that they would ask all their questions one time and they would be through. Ha, every officer they interviewed gave them some information they didn’t know about and they would have to ask each officer about that incident. As near as I can remember, I had six separate interviews. They always said I wasn’t a suspect but I sure felt like “a person of interest” like they mention in the news.

After a round of interviews, new rumors would fill the station halls. Cops can spread rumors faster than TMZ! Soon, I’d get calls from friends in other divisions who heard the rumors. It became hard to avoid the distractions.

See Just the Facts, Ma’am/Ramblings tomorrow for the epilog to this story.

Ramblings by Hal

Police Burglars, Part 2 of 3

By Hal Collier


December 7, 1981. It was a Monday and I had the day off, which meant I spent the night in my own bed. I could live like a regular person for another day. Sleep at night; eat breakfast as the sun rose. I don’t remember what the weather was but it was about to cloud up and rain all over me for years.


My kids are getting ready for school when the phone rings. It’s Randy Witkamp a morning watch partner. Randy says, “Big things happening at Hollywood Station.”


“Ok, Randy what’s up?”


Randy says that Venegas and Myers were arrested by I.A. (Internal Affairs) for committing a burglary at a video store on Melrose Avenue. “On duty,” he said.


Now, I suspected that Venegas and Myers were goofing off (sleeping) at times and there was a rumor that they attended a party on duty in the Hollywood Hills. But committing a burglary? Come on, we’re cops. We stop crime, we don’t commit crimes!  At the time, I didn’t comprehend how this would affect me for years.


burglaryThe arrest went down something like this. A video store on Melrose had its alarm activated and Venegas and Myers responded. In 1981, video players cost over $1,000 each and the DVD’s were big disks, too expensive for most cops. I couldn’t afford one for years; my daughter needed braces.


The business back door had been pried open and money was lying about inside. The building was searched by backup Hollywood officers for possible suspects. A suspect wasn’t found so the other officers left Venegas and Myers at the store to await the owner and complete the crime report. That is standard procedure.


photo by laweekly
photo by laweekly

After completing the report, Venegas and Myers drove off.  They were stopped a short distance later and arrested. One of the officers had money in his pocket and another had a sling shot with marbles!? The money was covered in a powder that shows up under a black light. The money had been planted by I.A. All Hollywood officers working that night were checked for that powder residue.


Ok, I never had an opportunity to read the official file on the Hollywood Burglary scandal. What I’m about to tell you is what I’ve pieced together, from numerous interviews by I.A., talking with supervisors and other Hollywood cops. Some were rumors. I’ve been putting the puzzle together for decades; I think it’s pretty accurate.


The investigation began at the Canadian Border. Greg Cullins, an LAPD cop, and friend of Venegas and Myers was arrested trying to drive a stolen car across the border. As with most crooks, Cullins offered to give information about some corrupt LA cops for immunity or a lesser sentence. The FBI wanted to handle the investigation but then Police Chief Daryl Gates, said, “No, we’ll clean our own house.”


The arrest of Venegas and Myers was not the first attempt at a sting to catch the crooked cops by I.A. I unknowingly screwed up one attempt. As I said in my earlier Ramblings, I was trying to catch the burglars. Little did I know that I was sitting next to them in Roll Call!


Here’s what happened: An alarm is broadcast at Hollywood Sporting Goods on Hollywood Boulevard. It’s my area and I’m close. I arrive first and see that there’s a broken front window. It’s looks like someone threw a rock through it. It’s not big enough for anyone to enter and too far away from the display items to take anything. I request the owner to respond and secure the business. A few minutes later Venegas and Myers drive up. I tell them I already have the owner enroute and my probationer has started the report. They tell me they have other calls, so I tell them I’ll handle this call. My probationer needs some practice taking reports. They drive off and I sit awaiting the owner.


I’m sitting in my car outside the business waiting for the owner. After about thirty minutes I ask Communications if the owner has an ETA? I’m told to stand by. About 10 minutes later, I’m told to clear the scene, the owner is not responding! I’m thinking, you want me to leave a business unsecured? I verify they want me to leave, they said “yes.” I’ve never heard of that but I don’t want to waste the night sitting outside a business when I’ve got a burglar to catch.


After Venegas and Myers are arrested a light comes on in my small brain. I screwed up an I.A. sting! That’s right I.A. smashed the window and waited for corrupt cops to steal property. They just caught the wrong cop, me. I later heard that I.A. was watching me the whole time and they cleared me as one of the burglars. On another sting attempt, I.A. watched two real burglars break into a business.  They were arrested after leaving Hollywood Division.


MAn-in-handcuffs-007You might think the arrest of Venegas and Myers was the end of my story, actually it’s just the beginning.


Next the aftermath of the their ARREST.   Hal

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