Ramblings by Hal

Tricks of the Trade, part two

By Hal Collier

fingerprint cardI’m amazed when I watch TV and see the CSI shows where they ID a suspect or dead body with a portable fingerprint machine. It’s tells them within minutes who the person is and what he’s been arrested for. I really marvel when they get DNA results on the same day and I don’t know if they even have face recognition systems. These are sure not available on the street cops’ level. I had to resort to different tactics to ID my suspects. Wanted people seldom carried any kind of ID and if they did, it was false.

As I said earlier, you arrest someone and then fill out a (FI) field Interview Card. You get as much information as possible so you can positively know who you’re dealing with. Nothing stings worse than booking a guy for a misdemeanor and watching him released the next day only to find out he was wanted in another state for killing a cop.

I thought I was pretty good but no one was better than Don Bleier. Don could find out the entire criminal history of anyone including politicians. By the way, never run a politician or movie star unless you have them in custody. It sends a red flag to government agencies. Run the President of the United States for warrants and you’ll be introduced to a whole new set of police officers who have lots of questions, maybe on a U.S. base in Cuba.

Anyway, Don could do wonders with the computer in identifying a crook. How many non-cop’s know that your Social Security Number shows what state you signed up for a SS # or now days where you were born. If a suspect gives you a SS# from a state he’s claims he’s never been in, it’s a clue he’s lying.

imagesSE4FARGHI resorted to tricks when I hit a dead end. I had a suspect who I knew was lying but I just couldn’t ID him. I’d go into the burn box (shredder box) in records and pull out five feet of old printouts. I’d open the holding tank door and let the five feet of connected print out fall and say, “Well.” I’d tell my suspect that he had one last chance to come clean or I’d add lying to a police officer to his charges. Believe it or not, two out of three suspects would give me their true name and DOB. Remember I wasn’t dealing with the top of the food chain. After a while, I became known as the “Well” officer at Hollywood.

Another time I tried ‘Well” and my suspect didn’t flinch. I told him that it didn’t matter that he was going to be extradited to Texas on a murder warrant. I mentioned that Texas not only has a death penalty but they actually use it. Surprise, he gave up his real name faster than I could write it down.

handcuffed manI once had a suspect who gave me his name, DOB, prison ID (CDC) number. Everything checked out and when I printed out his rap sheet, I read the last entry. It said, “Deceased in Prison!” He looked pretty good for a dead person. My suspect admitted that he had memorized his former cellmate’s information. He confessed and gave me his true name; he was wanted for a parole violation. Another trick was to run the home address of your suspect for warrants. That will show you all the warrants filed at that address. Hint: never run 226 S. Main St LA. That’s the Union Rescue Mission downtown and will kick out warrants for hours on your computer. Most homeless people use that address when arrested or given a ticket.

One last story, I had a suspect who I couldn’t ID. I was about to release him when another officer walked in the back door of the police station and said hi to my suspect by a name I wasn’t familiar with. That officer knew my suspect very well and gave me all his names and that he was wanted! Luck also pays off.

Matching wits with the criminal element was easy for the most part but every once on a while you lose. It was many of the games cops and robbers play to find the truth.


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Stupid crime stories

Just about everybody is aware that criminals are not the smartest individuals on the planet.  If you doubt me just check out the web sites and TV shows that show crooks at their worst.  If you spent any time around the criminal element you’re not amazed, but you’re shocked when a jury returns a verdict of not- guilty. The jury’s reasoning is nobody’s that stupid. Really?

Well, let me tell you that after 35 years of working the streets, mostly in Hollywood, yeah, they are and they are reproducing at an alarming rate.  I’m going to describe some of the “stupid criminal” incidents I investigated.

I responded to a radio call of a taxi cab robbery on the eastside of Hollywood.  It was after midnight.  I drove up and the cab driver was standing outside his cab.  He told my partner and I that he picked up a fare in front of a bar on Hollywood Blvd.  The fare directed the cab driver to this residence and upon arrival, the fare/suspect told the cabbie, “I have a gun give me your wallet and any cash you have.”

The cab driver gave the suspect his wallet and money then watched as the suspect ran between the houses.  My partner began taking the report and I surveyed the crime scene.  I found a wallet in the back seat and proudly told the cabbie that at least he left your wallet.  The cabbie looked at the wallet and declared, “That’s not mine!”

I looked inside the wallet and found a CDC card with a picture.  “CDC” stands for California Department of Corrections.  That’s right—it was the suspect’s prison ID card. And his picture was identified by the cabbie as the guy who robbed him.

The suspect ran east between the houses.  Now, I’m not the smartest cop on the planet, but I did know that a halfway house was one block east of us.  A halfway house is a home for parolees released from prison.

We drove to the next block and the director told us our parolee had just come home.  He’s now looking at an additional 5 years of state aid by the state of California.

Duh, if you rob someone don’t leave your ID at the crime scene.

It was late into my shift and I needed to write a ticket.  It was the end of the month and my sergeant was on my case because I had written only one ticket all month.  I’ll admit that I hated writing tickets and only wrote enough to keep my sergeant from following me around all night.

Cop writing a ticket
Cop writing a ticket

I saw this car commit a traffic violation and I figured it was an easy ticket.  I won’t even have to go to traffic court on my day off.  My partner and I stop the violator and he gets out of his car.  The usual conversation occurs: he admitted the violation and produces his driver’s license.  Above the violator’s right ear is a hand rolled marijuana cigarette.  At the time, this was a felony so we arrested him.  During the booking process, I asked him why he smoked marijuana and he replied, “It makes me more alert.”

Except when stopped by the cops.

Crooks who drive are also just as dumb.  On more than one occasion a suspect would commit a Robbery and as the officers were taking the report the suspect would drive by.  It went something like this—Officer: “what kind of car was the suspect driving?”  The victim would look around and say it was just like that car. Wait that’s the car and the guy that just robbed me.”

Why cops don't eat white powdered sugar donuts
Why cops don’t eat white powdered sugar donuts

Most non-police people think cops eat a lot of donuts. If a cop does eat a donut you can bet it won’t be a white powered donut. Blue wool uniforms and white powder don’t mix. The public bases their conclusion on the fact that they see two or three cop cars parked at a Winchell’s, or Cooper’s Donuts—where we can get a quick cup of coffee. I just aged myself.

Today’s cops hang out at Starbucks, or Goldstein’s Bagel shop.  Most cops don’t eat donuts, but almost all drink coffee.  Be honest—just about everyone gets a coffee break. I won’t even get into some of today’s cops ordering a cup of coffee with the word latte in it, or with a squirt of this or a 1/2 and 1/2 of that. Ordering a cup of coffee shouldn’t take 12 words and what’s with that little sleeve to keep you from burning your fingers? Today’s cops are a whole new breed.

Ok, back to my Ramblings. I’m working A.M. Watch. You know, that 11 P.M. to 7 A.M. nightmare. We’re going to need some caffeine to get through the night.  After Roll Call, my partner and I drove to the Yum-Yum donut shop at Melrose and Highland. We pulled into the parking lot and are greeted by the baker. He’s yelling something in Spanish. My knowledge of the Spanish language is to tell a suspect to put his hands up and that his mother is a member of the world’s oldest profession. All I understand him saying is black guy and robbed. He pointed toward the alley. I guess our coffee break was going to have to wait.

We drove into the alley and saw two black guys pushing a car. They finally get it jump-started and hop in. We stop them. Yep, they had just robbed the donut store. Ok, not everybody I arrested was a Rhodes Scholar, but come on, don’t rob a place and then find out your car won’t start. Double dumb, the driver was arrested once before for robbing this same donut store. I think my commendation said that I have superior knowledge of crime trends, keen observation skills and outstanding tactics.

Reality, I just wanted a cup of coffee.

How many times have I arrested a suspect with a gun that wouldn’t work because he had the wrong ammunition?  Here’s a classic.  I was investigating a shooting where a suspect ambushed the victim in the dark parking lot behind an all-night hot dog stand.  The suspect shot the victim with a shotgun at fairly close range.  The victim sustained non-life threatening wounds to his left upper body and face.  The victim was shot with #8 shotgun shells.  That’s small birdshot.  Two days later, I arrested the shooter in a motel on Sunset Boulevard.  I’d like to tell you it was my superior investigated skills but the true is, a snitch told me where he was staying.  When I arrested him he had the shotgun and a bandolier full of shotgun shells.  My suspect was mad that he didn’t kill the victim.  The bandolier had shotgun shells that contained #4 shotgun shells.  #4 shot would have easily put the victim into the next world.  My suspect just didn’t know that #4 shot shells were larger than #8’s. Stupid, huh?

In 1993 I made a mistake and promoted to Sergeant.  I was transferred out of Hollywood and sent to South Central Los Angeles, AKA Watts.  I left the town of glamour, movie stars, and millionaires.  I spent the next 15 months watching the sun rise over the Watts towers. Impressive but not Hollywood.

One of the favorite crimes in Watts was stealing cars and taking the engine and transmission.  The culprits would then roll the car a few blocks away and abandon the car.  The cops would then follow the oil trail back to the thief’s house and arrest the occupant with the oil on his clothes and an engine in the living room.

Not only are the crooks stupid but sometimes I suspect that cops are in competition.  Hollywood had an officer who married a “reformed” prostitute.  He showed up for work late one night and saw his bride handcuffed to the hallway bench along with the rest of the soiled doves.  He released his wife out the back door of the station without the proper paperwork.  I believe he’s now a greeter at Wal-Mart.

We had another JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena-suggesting he wasn’t a rocket scientist) reject who wanted to book a suspect for possession of a controlled substance.  The officer displayed the drugs to the Watch Commander in the suspect’s prescription bottle in the suspect’s name.  The W/C explained that if he had a prescription, it was not a crime.  Our brilliant officer scratched off the suspect’s name and went to another supervisor and obtained booking approval.  The former officer was later observed selling magazine subscriptions.

It’s not just the junior officers who do stupid things.  I had a Captain who was arrested by an outside agency for making and selling pirated DVD’s.  She was arrested at Hollywood station and walked out the back door in handcuffs.  How about the Hollywood Sergeant who owned a big sail boat.  He bought a million dollar home at a marina only to discover that his boat was too big for the boat slip at his new house that just cleared escrow.

Last stupid cop story.  My partner and I are having a cup of coffee at the Winchell’s at Melrose and Vine.  We were about 2 sips into our coffee break when a hot shot radio call comes out.  I toss my almost full cup of coffee and jump into the driver’s seat.  My partner takes his coffee with us. I’m racing northbound on Vine Street and as I cross Santa Monica the road rises and then drops.  My partner screams out in pain.  He was cradling his hot coffee over his lap. Think about jumping on a trampoline with a hot liquid poised over your privates.  By the way the coffee was free.  Saving a free cup of coffee verses cleaning a uniform or possible burns to your groin area, stupid.  Footnote:  The officer recovered and later had children.

They’re out there and they’re reproducing.  I won’t even get into politicians.

%d bloggers like this: