The Call Box

The Call Box: The 450 Lb. Sumo Wrestler

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1This tale was told to me many years ago by Dick Moody, a friend and classmate. While assigned a Central radio car (downtown L.A.), he and his probationary partner received a call, “390-415,” (drunk disturbance) at an upscale restaurant in “J” town—the Japanese version of Chinatown—and a major tourist attraction. It is directly across the street (s) of the Police Administrative Building. Upon arrival, they found an honest to God Japanese sumo wrestler destroying the restaurant. His weight was later determined at 450 pounds. Even without knowing his exact weight, Dick was worried as the sumo weighed more than the two officers combined.


When confronted however, the sumo became very respectful and compliant and accompanied them to the sidewalk. Where he began to take off all, and I mean all of his clothes. He then climbed naked to the top of the police car and squatted cross legged behind the “roof reds” Any attempt to stop his actions, he just “brushed” off.


sumo wrestlerBy now, a growing crowd of mostly Japanese tourists had gathered to watch the spectacle. It is my sincere belief that there is a hard and fast rule stating every Japanese tourist must have at least one camera with which to photograph any or all moving objects—or stationary objects—or each other—or any combination of the three. At a moment’s notice, the incident had now become the ultimate photo op.


A sergeant and several more cars had arrived and all were conferring. The crowd stayed respectfully quiet, politely applauds any and all movements by sumo or police. It had become sidewalk theatre at its best.San Diego lightbar Someone (hopefully in jest) suggested since the jail entrance is only several yards away, they leave him in place and drive very carefully to the booking area. That suggestion is soon shot down and the decision is made to have half the officers push with the balance pulling. It works, accompanied by many “ohhs” and “ahhs”’ from the crowd.

The restaurant produced a tablecloth as a makeshift sarong. The sumo bows, returned by the crowd. Due to the fact that his arms were too heavy, officers could not get them behind him. His wrists were also too large for cuffs so the entire bunch followed by the applauding crowd marched several hundred yards to the jail.


Never a dull moment.

The Call Box

The Call Box: More Deuces Wild

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

I am now three years older and smarter (?) and working Vice with my regular partner, Frank Isbell. We find ourselves behind Hollywood’s exaggerated version of a deuce: curb to curb, then on the sidewalk, slowly through a red light then stops on green where he immediately falls asleep. Needless to say, working Vice, we are “dressed down” trying not to look “cop-like.” Our car however, is the cheapest version made and wouldn’t fool a child. Yet, it fooled the deuce.

We really, really didn’t want to get involved here but you do what you gotta do. Out of the car, he is a friendly and happy drunk. He asked who we were and when told, asked, “Are you sure?”

When asked to walk the line, he got to the end and took off running, yelling for help. With him in the back seat, we pulled into the station parking lot and he asked where we were going. When told it was the police station, he asked, “Are you sure?”

We walked into the watch commander’s office to get booking approval and he told the sergeant he didn’t think we were really the police and he was being kidnapped.

jailBy now, Frank and I realize we have not only a happy drunk but also a funny one. In the small holding jail, he got serious and asked me, please, not to book him for 502 V.C. (Drunk Driving) as he had several priors. I promised I wouldn’t but told him he was being booked for 23102 V.C. I didn’t, however, tell him the vehicle code had been completely re-written. 502 had become 23102.

Then he asked the jailer who he was. His response to the jailer was, “Are you sure?”

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Desk Duty, part 2 of 4–Fun in the Jail

By Hal Collier

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



The following story is true. The names and the stories are to the best of my memory. This is the second of four parts of working the Hollywood desk. The desk was next to the infamous Hollywood Jail. A door led from the desk to the jail. This made it easy for bailouts to leave and cops to get in on a fight. Sometimes when things were slow at the desk I’d walk into the jail to see what was going on. This leads up to my story of things you will never see on TV.


I would open the jail door and asked Fitzgerald, our grumpy jailer, “Hey, Fitz. Anything going on?” 


One day Fitz says, “Hey, go back in the misdemeanor section.”


I walk back and everyone is awake. It’s about 3:30 in the morning. I announce to no one in particular, “What’s going on?”


One of the guys in a cell says, “Hey officer, watch this guy.” He points to a cell. There’s a guy sitting alone in the cell. He is shirtless and his head is wet. He’s sitting on the cell floor, cross-legged, with his hands in a prayer motion in front of his face. 


I said to him, “Ok, show me what you got.”


He stands up, walks over to his toilet, firmly places his hands on the toilet bowl rim, and does a perfect handstand. I’m impressed. He lowers his head into the toilet bowl water, maintaining his handstand. The drag queen in the next cell reaches through the cell bars and flushes the toilet. Everyone cheers and the man stands up, returns to his sitting position on the cell floor.


flushing toiletI congratulate him on his strength, poise, and balance, then ask him, “Can you do it again?” Without a word, he returns to the toilet and completes the above described task. I give him a 9.7. I deducted some points when I saw a little wobble on the handstand.


Only in Hollywood.


I show up for work one night after spending the whole day in court. My plan is to leave roll call and head to Pinks, because I haven’t eaten since the day before. Back in the old days our vending machines only contained candy bars and peanuts left over from the ‘65 riots. In roll call, I’m informed I’m assigned to the desk. I’m starving and they didn’t make food runs for the desk officers in the old days. 


About 3 A.M. I poke my head in the jail and ask Fitz if he would put an extra jail breakfast in the oven for me. All arrestee’s are fed three times a day. The meals are similar to a TV dinner, kept in a freezer, and cooked in a large oven. The breakfast meal consisted of a small sausage patty and a slice of French toast and something resembling eggs. Trust me these were nothing like the Swanson TV dinners you had in the 50’s and 60’s. They served it with coffee, not Starbucks, but some instant coffee made with warm water from the tap. The coffee foamed up when you poured the water in. 


Jail mealFitz tells me my breakfast is ready. Two bites and I understand cruel and unusual punishment. I was always taught to never leave food on your plate but I did that day. I rushed home and had a bowl of cereal with my kids while watching cartoons. Never again was I tempted to eat jail food. 


I worked with an old timer at the desk, Gerst, who lived in his car with his dog. Yea, he was a cop and I think he had the first dollar he ever made. I’m not saying Gerst was cheap but I think he considered underwear a frivolous luxury. He would go around the jail and gather up the uneaten food. He said it was for his dog, but I wasn’t sure. I felt sorry for the dog.


Once a woman came into the station to pick up her juvenile grandson. He was in a holding tank, yelling, and screaming about how he was picked on because he was black. He was going to sue everyone. The arresting officers wanted to kick his butt but remained professional. His descriptions of police officers would make a sailor blush. 


His grandmother and guardian, a polite Southern woman, heard him yelling and asked if we would release him now. Her grandson walked out into the lobby. He was about a foot taller than his her. Grandma promptly slapped him across the face and said, “Nigger, shut the f–k up.” She then apologized to the officers and grabbed her grandson by the ear. She led him out the lobby doors, still holding on to his ear saying, “Just wait until I get your black ass home.” As she walked him to her car, she was kicking him in the butt every few steps. I was glad she didn’t live in Hollywood. I know there was a child abuse call about to occur. It brightened everyone’s day at the desk.  


Old lady on phoneMrs. Croft used to call the desk all the time. I never met her in person but it was obvious she was lonely. If I had the time, I would talk to her. After a while, she would ask for me by name. Once she promised to buy me and my wife a new Cadillac. I knew that wasn’t going to happen because she lived in a flop motel on Western. She was nice, just down on her luck.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Complaints, part three


By Hal Collier


IA logo

The following story is true and my last chapter on complaints.  I spent thirty-four+ years on the LAPD and received my share of complaints.  Some I did, most I didn’t do, and a few I was accused of, I wasn’t even there.


Serious complaints were handled by I.A. (Internal Affairs).  They were cops just like the rest of us but some I.A. guys thought of us as the enemy.  Almost any cop who wanted to promote did a tour of I.A.  It looked good in their personnel package.  I don’t know if they were rated on how many complaints they sustained (officer found guilty) but some of their tactics were suspicious. 


I was a young officer and arrived at work one night after a few days off.  In roll call, I discovered I was assigned to the jail.  Officer Gary Hines thought he was working the jail and dressed for jail duty so we swapped assignments and I worked the desk.


Months later, I was told that I’m a witness on a very serious excessive force complaint.  The I.A. cops always told you: “you’re just a witness,” or in today’s language, “a person of interest.” To I.A. it was synonymous with accomplice.


IA interviewSergeant Carlson comes to Hollywood to interview me.  He takes me into the captain’s office and sits me down.  He doesn’t smile and opens his briefcase, inside is a tape recorder.  He shows me a work sheet that shows I’m working the jail on the night in question.  I check my officer’s notebook and I see that I marked jail on said date.


Sergeant Carlson turns on the tape recorder and begins the interview.  The complaint was that Officer Jack choked out an arrestee in the jail during the booking process.


Now, anybody that knows me very well, knows that I have a very good memory.  For the life of me, I can’t remember the incident.  Sergeant Carlson looks at me like I’m the biggest liar in the L.A.P.D.  The old Hollywood Jail wasn’t that big and if anybody got choked out I would have known.


After numerous questions and my denial of any knowledge of the incident, Sergeant Carlson pretends to turn off the tape recorder.  He then asks me, “Is there anything else you want to tell me about the incident?”  This time, he’s smiling like were old friends.  I stick to my story and plead ignorance, not a big stretch for me.  As I’m walking out of the captain’s office I look back and see Sergeant Carlson turn off the tape recorder.


A few weeks later, I run into Gary Hines in court and he reminds me that we switched and he worked the jail that night. One month later Sergeant Carlson promoted to Lieutenant and transferred to Hollywood. 


We never trusted each other.


My most serious complaint involved a pimp name “Bobo” and two other black men who picked up a drunk white valley girl at a club.  They took her to their apartment on Beachwood Drive in Hollywood.  After repeated sexual assaults and beatings, the girl escaped and ran into the street, screaming.


Dave and I were working the Hype car and our hours were 8 PM to 5 AM.  We responded to the screaming women call and were told that the suspects were last seen northbound on Beachwood in a car.  We stayed with the victim as other cops searched the area.  As luck would have it, the suspects drove back down Beachwood and were arrested right in front of us. 


Dave and I drove Bobo and his accomplices to Hollywood station.  We found the victim’s keys under the back seat of our police car.  We tucked Bobo and his friends in a holding tank and went home.


A week later, I went to court and testified about recovering the keys in our police car.  For the next few months I was subpoenaed and attended every court hearing.  The jury found Bobo and friends guilty and sent them to prison.  The presiding judge had a question about why Bobo and accomplices were bloody in their booking photos and ordered an Internal Affairs investigation.  Bobo and his cell mates were interviewed and all pointed me out in a photo lineup.  They claimed that I beat them up in the police car on the way downtown to be booked.  That was hours after I went home.


Two I.A. sergeants come to Hollywood station to interview me.  They show me the face sheet of the complaint and point to a “PF” initial in the corner.  It represents where the D.A. has said if true there’s a prima fascia case against me for assault under color of authority.  In laymen’s terms that means if I’m guilty, I go to prison.  I can’t go to prison, my son hasn’t graduated 6th grade yet.


The sergeants read me my Miranda Rights, which was then unheard of.  They show me pictures of Bobo and his friends after booking.  They have bloody shirts, swollen eyes and fat lips.  When I left them in the Hollywood holding tank they were wearing clean shirts and no visible injuries.


Now, I’d like to tell you these two sergeants were smart, but I can’t.  They asked me if I beat them up.  I asked when they were booked at Jail Division.  They said after 10:00 A.M.  I showed them a copy of my daily log and pointed out that I went home at 5:00 A.M.  I then pointed out a photo lineup of the three suspects taken at 8:00 A.M. by the investigating Detective.  Bobo and friends are not beaten up.


I look these two I.A. Investigators in the eye and ask, “Do you think I waited around 5 hours on my own time to beat them up.”  They then ask, “Well then, who beat them up?”  I’m exasperated and answer, “How the hell would I know? I’m home in bed.”  These two rocket scientists are going to interview my partner, Dave Balleweg who is off IOD (injured on duty) and living near Yucca Valley.  They call ahead and get directions and set up an appointment.  An hour after the appointment time is past, they call Dave and are lost somewhere near Indio, Ca.  These two are going to keep Dave and me out of Prison. They can’t find Yucca Valley with a road map and directions.


Jail-Fight-e1321280138991Later, I was told that Bobo and his accomplices got into a fight in the holding tank and beat each other up. I’m not going to prison, so I don’t have to bulk up to protect myself from a cell mate named Peaches.  They picked me out of the photo lineup because I attended every court appearance.


Two short complaint stories.  “Mike” responded to a “burglar there now” radio call.  They detained a couple of guys as suspects.  One was acting like a complete “asshole.” He was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car.  After interviewing everyone and determining that no crime occurred, Mike said, “I guess I’ll have to let this “Knucklehead” go. 


Well, the “Knucklehead” complained that he was insulted by the remark.  That’s right, I was assigned to interview eight to ten witnesses and spent dozens of hours investigating this terrible miscarriage of justice.  I tried to rationalize that a “knucklehead” was a motorcycle and not misconduct, but the department wouldn’t buy it.  Mike received a reprimand.


photo by
photo by

Last one: this officer stopped this nicely dressed lady for running a stop sign on her way to work.  She didn’t want the ticket and wanted to make a complaint against the officer for using profane language.  I was called to the scene.  This particular officer was known for using swear words in a normal conversations.  I was a little worried for him. 


When I interviewed the lady she was very prim and proper and obviously well-educated.  Of course, she denied running the stop sign but was more concerned with the officer’s language.


I next interviewed the officer and he smiled and said, “Sarge, I have everything on my tape recorder!”  I listened to the tape and this was no lady, she swore like a drunken sailor.  The officer was very professional, he didn’t even call her a knucklehead.


I played the tape for the violator and she blushed at first then want to make a complaint against the officer for taping her conversation.  I told her the Police Department encouraged officers to carry tape recorders to avoid just such complaints.  She called me a bad name and drove off.


Chief Parks was not asked to come back for a second term and some of the complaint procedures were changed.  Frivolous complaints were made into short form.  One day, I stayed home and completed eight short form complaints in four hours and got paid for eight hours.  I didn’t even have to dress and shave for work.  I was also able to write off my computer on my taxes.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Promoting, part two

My last Ramblings described why some officers promote and others choose to remain street cops.  Here’s my story.  I was a young twenty-one year old kid who was going to save the world when I graduated from the police academy.  I spent five months having law, physical fitness and street survival crammed into my small brain.  I was taught when to shoot, when not to shoot, if you get in a fight, win or you die.

Ok, I graduated on a Friday and worked my first patrol shift on Saturday night at 11:30 P.M.  I spent three nights working patrol and enjoyed it.  Then I came in on my fourth night and discovered I was working Station Security.  What the hell is Station Security?


Symbionese Liberation Army photo from
Symbionese Liberation Army
photo from


This was 1971 and the Viet Nam War was on the news every night.  The anti-everybody groups, like the Black Panthers, Weathermen Underground and SLA were targeting cops everywhere. Anti-war groups were demonstrating in front of any government building.


Ok, I’m a member of the finest police department in the world and after three entire days of patrol experience they put me out in front of the police station.  I’ve got my six-shot revolver, no radio, but a very sharp #2 pencil.  About two hours of standing in front of the station, I’ve got it figured out.  I’m an early warning system.  I start shooting and the desk officers have time to take cover.  I suspect the Watch Commander will be locked in the captains’ bathroom. It happened once–come on, even lieutenants don’t go to the bathroom for three hours!


Another night, I’m assigned to the desk. Oh boy, another fun assignment for a young cop who’s going to save the world.  I spent the night bailing out criminals that couldn’t have committed the crimes they were charged with, according to the family member bailing them out!  I also take a lot of reports with my sharp #2 pencil.


Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, you get assigned to the jail.  You now spend all night fingerprinting drunks, drag queens and DUI’S.  Near the end of your shift you get to feed them a delicious TV dinner which some compare to cruel and unusual punishment.


Being on probation, you do what your told and don’t complain. The pecking order for cops in Los Angeles was, P-1 probationer, if there’s a dirty job a P-1 gets it.  After a year I’m automatically promoted to P-2.  You were called “P-2 dogs” and if a P-1 was not available, guess who got the dirty job?  P-3 was a training officer.  To be a training officer you had to take a test and then pass an oral.  You were then placed on a department list and when a training officer spot opened you took another oral for the job.  As a P-3 you were given probationers to train, not always an easy task.  You were assigned a regular patrol area with another P-3.


So I have about two and a half years of street experience and I’m bouncing around, from car to car with different partners every month.  One five day working period, I’m assigned to Station Security twice, the desk once and the dreaded Jail twice.  The LAPD is wasting my talents.  The P-3 test is coming up and I want to promote.  I start studying and every time I want to take a break, I think of standing outside the station at 3 AM on Station Security.  How am I going to save the world if I’m always at the station?


Probationary officers  photo by
Probationary officer
photo by

I pass the written test and do well enough on the oral to get into the outstanding pool for P-3.  As luck would have it, Hollywood was expanding from six basic patrol cars to nine.  That meant six new P-3 spots.  I was swept into a training officer spot and was allowed to stay on graveyard which I wanted.  Graveyard was where the real police work was done in Hollywood.  Did I mention that I also got a 5% raise?  No more Station Security, Desk, or the Jail.  I did get a brand new probationer every few months, some almost got me killed but that’s another Ramblings.


So I’m a P-3 and happy on graveyard shift.  I stay for 14 years, I could have promoted 10 years ago.  I pass up all the sergeant tests. My reasoning–I’m not done being a street cop.  I need to get it out of my system so I don’t find drunks in alleys to hand over to the P-2 dogs.  P-3’s can also work vice or become a detective trainee. Neither of those two assignments appealed to me.  I once had a Captain ask me, “Hal, did you ever consider being a detective?” I told the captain, “I hate working inside and I don’t like talking on the phone all day.” The captain replied, “Hal, your right, stay in patrol.”


The next step up the LAPD promotion ladder is P-3+1, a senior lead officer or SLO.  A P-3+1 is another 5% pay raise but the drawback is you can’t work graveyard.  The other plus is I can still be a street cop and my wife will get off my back about always working graveyard.


I take another oral and get the promotion.  P-3+1 is just below the rank of sergeant.  One day, I have fourteen years’ experience and no one asks for my opinion.  The next day, I’m sitting in the supervisors meeting and the Captain asks what I think.  I’m also asked to instruct at training days.  Now this is where I excel, training.  I can sell sand in the desert which comes in handy as a SLO.  A SLO is a link between the police and the community.  I had monthly meetings where I had to explain why the police can’t be on their street every half hour.  I was a SLO for nine years and my wife happy. I’ve been working day watch and sleeping at home at night.  She now has someone to nudge in the middle of the night to check out that strange noise.


I’m in my early 40’s and believe it or not, I’m thinking of my retirement even though it’s fifteen years away.  Sergeants make more money than P-3+1’s and I’ve given up the thought of winning the California Lottery as my retirement plan.  Your pension is based on your final salary.  It’s 1991 and I take my first sergeants test.  I studied for months and pass the test and the oral.  With my seniority points, I place pretty high on the sergeants list. The only thing that will hold up my promotion is a promotional freeze due to budget cuts.  Guess where I sat, on the list, three away from promotion for almost two years.


My last year as a SLO, all the SLO’s were pulled out of patrol and assigned to Community Relations.  At first I resisted, but they let us team up and go into the streets every day.  I still dressed in my uniform and I could make all the arrests I wanted as long as I went to my community meetings.  Then I found out I could schedule my days off and if a fishing trip came up, I could change a day off and go fishing.  Promoting might be a mistake.


In July of 1993, I’m going on vacation.  We’re going to Alaska to visit my sister and her family.  The Personnel Department calls me two days before we leave and asks me if I want to go to Sergeants school the following Monday instead of going on vacation.  She has obviously mistaken me for a building boy!  Gee fishing for king Salmon on the Kenai River or sergeant’s school.


In case you’re wondering what I did, I’m in Alaska fishing when my son calls me and tells me I made sergeant and being transferred to Watts.  That’s South Central LA, for you that are out of town.  That’s another 5% pay raise for my retirement.


Abandoned apartments in Watts, Los Angeles, Ca
Abandoned apartments in Watts, Los Angeles, Ca

I’m now a full-fledged sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department.  I’m even working graveyard.  One very slow night, I’m driving around Watts–you have to keep moving or they take pot shots at the police.  It suddenly comes to me, as a SLO in Hollywood I was making my own schedule for days off.  I was working all the movie premieres and off-duty jobs I wanted.  I had the captain’s ear and now I’m driving around Watts, “What the hell was I thinking.”  Oh by the way, in the LAPD when you promote to sergeant you lose seniority.  With over 22 years on the job I took a $300 a month pay cut. “What was I thinking?”  I spent fifteen months in Watts and it was a valuable learning experience and I got to work with some of the best cops on the LAPD.  I was transferred back to Hollywood and graveyard.  I’m happy, my wife not so much.


Promotion is not for everyone. On some small departments you only promote if someone dies, retires or gets fired.  Then you have to be related or know someone important. We use to get a lot transfers from smaller departments, because there’s was no chance of advancement.


Motor cops are a different story.  They only way they will give up their bikes is a serious accident or a doctors warning, “Stop riding or get a wheel chair ramp for your house.”


The best promotion I got was March 22, 2005.  That was the day I retired from the Los Angeles Police Department.  No I didn’t take an oral but the test lasted over 34 years, 168 days.


What a ride!



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