Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Supervisors part 1 of 3

Part 1 of 3


I was recently asked by a close partner to give her some advice for her husband. He was getting close to promoting to sergeant and wanted to know what makes a good sergeant. Now, I’m not an expert and I’m not even sure I was a good sergeant. It would be a tossup between what the brass thought and what the field officers thought. The following opinions are mine and mine alone.


My background: I worked twenty-two years as a street police officer, my choice. I saw too many good cops promote too soon and miss out on all the fun. I promoted to sergeant only thinking of an increase in my pension. You can’t spend fun after retirement. I spent another twelve and a half years as a field sergeant and watch commander.


I’m sure the LAPD has different views but then I didn’t agree with everything they taught either. I attended a lot of leadership classes put on by my department and I actually took some notes. Most of these suggestions are from my own experience and my methods were not always accepted by the brass. The brass thought they were really in charge of the patrol cops.


First, what is the job of a supervisor? What a loaded question, but here goes: Supervise your officers, give the officers advice, but only when they need advice. Keep them out of trouble and that also includes jail. I thought the most important thing was to know your officers. I used to pride myself in knowing the officers on my watch. I knew who the hard workers were, who the slackers were and who had a tendency to take shortcuts or stretch the rules. I learned their first names and some of their backgrounds or hobbies. I was always looking for a common ground for communication. 


Before making sergeant I wrote down what I liked about a good supervisor and what I didn’t like about a bad supervisor. An example, I worked for a lot of good street cops who promoted too soon. They still wanted to do police work but the LAPD frowned on supervisors being street cops. By the way, the department told sergeants not to even write tickets. I remember one sergeant was told turn in your ticket book or turn in your stripes! Street cops hated a sergeant who made an arrest then handed it off. It’s like someone else catching a fish and giving it to you to clean. Whoopee.


I once had a sergeant drive through a dark alley and found a drunk sleeping in a doorway out of harm’s way. He called me to come book him downtown, he then had the nerve to tell me he was going to eat. After medical treatment and booking, I had to have my police car checked for crabs. I worked three hours overtime, itched for two days and no, I didn’t get to eat that night. See who your friends are when you stand naked in the locker room and ask some cop in the next aisle to look for bugs on you. 


I don’t begrudge the building boys, as we called them. They promote early, because they wanted out of patrol. My only problem was when they promoted they were then sent back to patrol to supervise us street cops. They often made poor tactical field decisions based of very little experience on the streets. I once had a new sergeant respond to a scene and when asked to make a decision she opened the department manual looking for the answer. It wasn’t there! She actually asked for another sergeant to respond and make the decision. I did respect the new sergeants and lieutenants who asked the senior officers for advice. It’s the supervisors responsibility but it’s good to have a veterans input. Sometimes the cops can keep the supervisors out of trouble. I was told in a leadership class, “You can delegate everything except responsibility.”


I saw a lot of supervisors who didn’t make a decision at all, for fear that it would stall their next promotion. If the lack of a decision was news worthy, like during the LA Riots, the supervisor’s career was over and forget about the retirement home in the marina. No more promotions and something they call “freeway therapy.” That’s where you live in northern LA County and your next assignment is in the southern most division in the city. Nothing like an hour drive or two, to and from work to get your mind straight.


More suggestions in part 2.     Hal

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: LA Riots, part 3

 By Hal Collier

The following story is true.  The riots are winding down.  Some calm has returned to Los Angeles and the politicians are coming out from under their expensive tax-paid desks.  The Mayor has a bandage on his index finger from pointing the blame at everyone but himself.  The media is blasting the L.A.P.D. and the jury from Simi Valley.   I’ll learn that this will be just the tip of the iceberg.  Politicians have appointed investigative commissions and the L.A.P.D., once considered the finest police department in the world, is about to be destroyed.  We are still recovering from the aftermath.  Think how politicians handle everything.  Appoint a group of liberal politicians who know nothing about what their investigating and come up with resolutions that only please the politicians and the ACLU.

Looters at a shoe store
Looters at a shoe store

Blocks of business were burned and it was a common sight to see armed businessmen standing on their rooftops protecting what wasn’t burned.  I can rationalize people taking goods they couldn’t afford, but why burn down the buildings where they work and shop.

During the first days, most businesses were closed, including restaurants. Even cops need to eat.  The Department began delivering box lunches.  They contained a cheese sandwich, an apple, and a cookie.  I’m guessing they were left over from the last riot in 1965. The local businessmen who were still open began delivering food to the station. We had stacks of bread, fruit, sandwich meat, and condiments.  We even had trays of cooked meat. The Spaghetti Factory was closed but opened to feed all National Guard soldiers and police officers one day.  The box lunches were given to the Salvation Army to feed the homeless.  No one went hungry.

A lot of officers were on fixed posts throughout the division.  I know that the Sears had a group of 8 to 10 officers. They were protecting what was left of the building and any inventory not taken by looters.  I remember one young officer had 200 rounds of ammunition stuffed in his pockets.  Custer’s men didn’t have that much ammo.  I prayed the officer didn’t fall into deep water.

Hollywood Division had its own small command post, to monitor incidents occurring in the division.  The command post was staffed with young officers and a senior Sergeant.  They remained in the station and never got their fingernails dirty.  One day, long after the dust had settled, they all went out in riot gear and had their pictures taken in front of burned out buildings.  I can imagine the stories they tell their kids. “What did you do in the riots?”

Hollywood Division was the only division that I know of that actively recovered looted property.  Officers drove U-Haul trucks around neighborhoods, when they spotted old couches and chairs sitting on the curb they would go into the apartment building and knock on doors.  Guess what, a brand new couch and table inside.  The new owners of this windfall gladly gave up the loot to avoid arrest.  The officers would take a couch downstairs load it into the truck, re-enter the apartment building and find 4 couches in the hallway.  It went on this way for days.  I heard of one incident where the officers took some property down in an elevator, loaded it onto the U-Haul truck.  They returned and punched the button for the elevator, it was already full of stolen property.  I just hope the citizens got their own furniture back.  Hollywood Division recovered more stolen property than any other division in the city.

National Guard in South Central LA WorldofStockphotography
National Guard in South Central LA

Early one morning I was southbound on the Hollywood freeway.  The sun was just rising. I saw a line of National Guard soldiers walking on the Western Avenue bridge above the freeway.

They were silhouetted against the sky, their rifles gleaming in the sunlight.  If I had a camera, I would have made a fortune selling that picture.  I made 4 hours of overtime a day for weeks, unfortunately it took the city 8 months to pay us our money.  Even the cops got looted, no interest.

I’m sure I’ll hear stories from other cops, with their experiences, and some contradictions.  This is how I remember the Second Annual Los Angeles Riots.  16 years later I was the Watch Commander in roll call, and telling stories of the riots. One of the senior officers sitting in the back row, asked, “Was that the ‘65 Riots, Sarge?  I was 16 years old during the ‘65 riots.”

I can’t get any respect. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

It was also a lot of fun.


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: LA Riots, part 2

By Hal Collier


The following stories are true and can be verified by more than a dozen people who have no ambitions to run for political office.  You know, politicians can’t be trusted to tell the truth.  As usual, I’ll only use first names and all incidents are true to the best of my fading memory.


My last Ramblings dealt with the first day of the L.A. Riots.  The L.A.P.D. was mobilized, which means all days off are cancelled and everyone works 12 hour shifts.  That’s 12 hours on the clock, it doesn’t count travel time to and from work, putting on your uniform.  I worked 13 straight 12 hour days.  I was one of the lucky ones.  I had a wife who cooked, did the shopping, banking, took my uniforms to the cleaners and acted as an alarm clock when I wanted to hit the snooze button.  After about the fifth day your body gets into a rhythm.  After the 13th day they gave me one day off.  It screwed up my rhythm and I couldn’t do anything but sleep.


Ok, back to the riots.  The first day, I was relieved at 7 P.M. and told to go home.  I had to be back at 6 A.M.  I wasn’t working at night but the following was told to me by officers who worked nights.  The Department set up a huge command post in south central L.A.  52nd and Arlington, if memory serves me correctly.  They sent a large number of officers from the night shift of each patrol division to report to the command post.  RTD (Rapid Transit District) bussed them to the command post.  Hollywood officers then spent the whole night sitting at the command post.   Nothing irritates a cop more than sitting, when there’s crime happening.


They were being held in reserve, for what, only the department command staff knew.  At the end of their shift they were bussed back to Hollywood.  These cops were angry, they weren’t hired to sit while the city burned.  The RTD bus was N/B on Vine Street at Lexington.  Amatron, a large electronics store was being looted.  A supervisor halted the bus and said, “Let’s go.”  Can you imagine the surprise of the looters, when 60 cops get off a RTD bus and with blood in their eyes and charged into them?

The next night as the bus was being loaded, our Captain, an old timer, saw the flames of burning buildings on Hollywood Boulevard, ordered the officers off the bus and told the officers, “Well, save Hollywood first.” That’s leadership.


After a few days, the National Guard was called in and some order was restored.  One citizen tried to run a National Guard roadblock, he was shot in the ass.  I guess the National Guard doesn’t care about the L.A. Times opinion.


Cops and Firefighters
Cops and Firefighters

The Calif. Highway Patrol (CHP) had been doing escort duty for the fire department. Yea, even the firemen, the good guys, were targets.  After the third day, the CHP left and I was assigned to escort the fire department.  Two police cars were assigned to a fire station for the whole shift.  Whenever the paramedics left the station, one of the police cars went with them, even if it was for lunch.  I followed a paramedic truck to Pink’s for lunch, then spent an hour as they cruised Melrose looking at girls.  It beat being shoed.  The other police car went with the engine truck.  I discovered that when following a fire truck code 3, lights and siren, the cars that do pull over, pull right back out when the truck passes.  I almost got hit four times in three days.


LAFD Truck 27
LAFD Truck 27

Most cops know that the firemen have nice break rooms with aircraft seats, not the small ones found in coach, but the big oversized recliners.  They have a large screen TV with surround sound.  They also have a fully equipped workout room.  These are all paid for by the firemen through their own station fund.  Although this was easy duty, it was boring as hell.  I took a book the second day.  I was assigned to fire station #27.  It was an old building, built in the 20’s.  It had fire poles where you could go from the second floor to the first in seconds.  Yea, I tried it once.  If you land too hard you get your knees shoved up into your neck.  Fire Station #27 is a Battalion Station.  A battalion is 2 Engine trucks, a Hook and Ladder, 2 Paramedic trucks, a Hazmat truck and a Battalion Chief.  That’s as big as it gets.


If you know firemen, you knoq they don’t just sit around waiting for a fire or medical emergency.  They take a perfectly good wood ladder, strip it down, sand it, then re-varnish it.  They wash the underside of their fire trucks and wax everything that doesn’t move. Ok, I’m sitting around the break room, killing time.  The firemen are always pulling the trucks in and out the doors for washing.  About mid-day Keith, calls out to me on the radio.

“Hey Hal, they’re all gone”.

I ask, “Who?”

Keith says, “The whole battalion, they’re gone.”


I ran downstairs and sure enough, we’ve lost a whole fire battalion.  How am I going to explain losing seven fire trucks including a hook and ladder truck?  This won’t go well when I take a promotional oral.  I know they didn’t get called out, because I’ve learned the bell and buzz sounds signaling a call for Station #27.  Remember the TV show Emergency?  After a few frantic moments, I found out they went to another fire station for lunch.

That was the end of my fire escort duty.



Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: LA Riots, part 1

By Hal Collier

The following story is true.  I’ll use first names unless there is a civil rights issue.  This story will deal with my experiences during the L.A. Riots.  I don’t usually put politics in my stories, but after 35 years of being politically correct in the L.A.P.D. I can’t be quiet anymore.  These opinions are mine alone and are in direct contrast to the opinions of the L.A. Times, but I don’t care!  We were told to refer to the riots as civil unrest. BS, there was nothing civil about what happened.

Rodney King video ignited LA riots photo courtesy photoblog600
Rodney King video ignited LA riots
photo courtesy photoblog600

In March of 1991, the CHP pursued a speeding car into the San Fernando Valley.  The car stopped and the passengers were arrested without incident.  The driver, Rodney King, resisted arrest and even charged the officers.  L.A.P.D. officers took over the incident because the CHP Officers were placing themselves in danger.  The arrest was videotaped and broadcast on all TV the stations for months.  The media conveniently omitted the first few seconds which show King resisting arrest.  King was described as a black motorist by the media when in fact he was a paroled convict and under the influence.  A trial was held in Simi Valley and the officers were acquitted.  On the evening of April 29, 1992 the city broke out in riots.

There were two riots that broke out in LA that day.  The riots that the media reported and the riots LA cops experienced. One based on a racial issues the other based on multi-racial people who saw an opportunity to get free stuff.  Again my opinion.

I was a Senior Lead Officer in Hollywood Division.  The Police Department mobilized, which means everyone works 12 hours shifts. I was assigned to A watch 6 A.M. to 6 P.M.

The watch started out slow, a few reports of looting in South Central L.A.  As we checked all the Hollywood business districts, we could hear that the looting was spreading north.  By noon the looting was sporadic in Hollywood.  As officers caught looters and took them to the police station, we had fewer resources to deal with newer looters on the street.

My partner and I caught two white guys throwing rocks at a business window.  So much for the race issue, they just wanted free stuff.  They ran but we caught them a few blocks away.  I was enroute to the station when I heard officers requesting help for widespread looting.  I figured these two guys would be plead out to misdemeanor attempt vandalism.  I released them and responded to the “help calls”.

(Published in special section May 12,1992) -- April 30, 1992-- The second day of the Riots on 3rd street I photographed this guy running past a burning Jon's market with a shopping cart full of diapers.  I affectionately call this image "A Huggies Run".
(Published in special section May 12,1992) — April 30, 1992– The second day of the Riots on 3rd street I photographed this guy running past a burning Jon’s market with a shopping cart full of diapers. I affectionately call this image “A Huggies Run”.

Up and down Western Avenue from Hollywood Boulevard to Beverly Boulevard were reports of looting.  Some businesses were set on fire.  A supervisor requested all available units to respond to Santa Monica and Western Avenue.  When we arrived, numerous businesses were on fire, there were thousands of people in the streets, mostly Hispanic.  A shoe store was being looted.  We formed up into a skirmish line.

Now I’ve had rocks and bottles thrown at me during demonstrations and at rock concerts at the Palladium. This group was throwing shoes from the shoe store on the corner.  I just dodged a ladies pump, the officer next to me got hit with a cowboy boot in the shoulder.  I’d never been shoed before.  We moved the crowd west until we reached St. Andrews.  Another few hundred people were gathered to the north.  We didn’t have enough officers to protect our flank if we continued west.  We had less than a dozen officers against thousands of people.  We stood our ground as rioters threw at us whatever was handy.  Most of these people were Hispanic, illegal immigrants, and I wonder if they knew who Rodney King was.

LA riots  photo courtesy of KoreAm Journal
LA riots
photo courtesy of KoreAm Journal

At one point I saw a guy in the back ground raise a handgun and fire off a shot in the air.  We were told that the Sears store a block away was being looted, our sergeant  says we don’t have enough officers. A few minutes later an unmarked police car drives up to me.  It was two policemen and the Deputy Chief and Commander from our Bureau.  The Commander, Bob, a great guy asked me is this all the officers you have, I reply “yea”.  They turned around and left.  About two months later, I was given a VHS tape taken by a news crew.  The tape shows the back door of Sears.  The two policemen and the Commander are chasing away the crowd.  The Deputy Chief is standing at the back door, he has a shot gun and is butt stroking looters as they flee Sears.  I’ll bet it was hard to carry a TV, run and be hit in the ass with a shot gun.  It was the only justice I saw that day.  Nothing politically correct, just old fashioned police work, taking care of business.

Another part of that tape shows a man standing outside a drug store on Hollywood Boulevard.  He had a handful of shopping bags and was stopping people walking by and giving them a bag, then directing them into the drug store to take whatever they wanted.

My next story will deal with some of humorous incidents that happened during the “RIOTS”.  It won’t be the stuff you see on the news or in the official L.A.P.D. documentary.



Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Police work was easier in the 70’s

Police Work Was Easier in the 70’s

By Hal Collier


Police work in the early 70’s was so simple.  You saw a crook and you arrested him or her.  If they resisted you overcame their resistance with a degree of necessary force.  On occasion a citizen witnessed the arrest.  Most times the witness stated, “What an asshole” and he was referring to the culprit.


Modern technology has changed police work forever.  I was watching one of those car pursuits on TV, you know the ones famous for Southern Calif.  Mainstream media is describing the pursuit and how dangerous they are and the fleeing suspect is endangering innocent citizens.  The media never mentions that the cops chasing this guy are also risking their lives.  I hated car pursuits. Of all the guys I chased only a few went to prison for their crimes.


The bad guy finally crashes and flees on foot. The cops chase him down and wrestle him to the ground.  Routine police work for the cops.  Wrong, the news media, has videotaped the entire incident. But on the 5 o’clock news, they only show the cops beating the suspect, who, by the way, was a choir boy.  If you look at the bystanders they all have cell phones and are taping the arrest.


The complaints come streaming in and the officers are under investigation.  The media is now critiquing the officers’ tactics.  The poor suspect has obtained a lawyer and is suing the cops, the city and the poor citizen who caused his crash.  Six months later, the officers are exonerated, but the media has moved on—they have other fish to fry.  Of course, years later a civil jury will award this thug millions of dollars because he was potty trained late.  This is nothing new to street cops.


Video cameras have become a very big part of police work.  Not all of it bad.  Wasn’t it video cameras that helped identify the Boston Marathon Bombers?  Now, the end of my career was near the beginning era of the video camera.  I didn’t have a cell phone until the 90’s. It didn’t take pictures or videos.  Hell, I now have a camera that takes videos but the instructions were on page 78 and I only read to page 36.


Everyone is familiar with the video of the Rodney King arrest, excuse me, the Rodney King “Beating” as the media called it.  Well, the media edited that tape to only show the police hitting King with their batons. They showed it over and over but only once did I see the part where King charged the officers.  When a jury saw all of the evidence they acquitted the officers.  The city broke out in riots.


During the L.A. Riots, numerous news agencies provided the Hollywood Detectives with video tapes of looting.  One particular tape showed an entire neighborhood looting the Sears store.  Two police cars arrive and the looters were streaming out the back door.  Most had stolen loot in their hands.  The tape showed a Deputy Chief butt stroking the thieves with a shotgun as they fled with arm-loads of goods.  He was from the old school of police work. Made me proud.


Videotaping cops
Videotaping cops


The fact of life is that now days, whatever you’re doing as a cop, there’s a chance that someone is watching you with a camera.  It’s a thin line between taking care of business and stepping over the line that will cause you to look for a new career, like maybe doing laundry in an orange jail jump suit.  More businesses have video cameras both inside and outside their business.  Police cars have video cameras in their cars as well as inside the stations. Hell, even parents video tape their babysitters.  I’m wondering if I should dress before going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  Some incidents are being shown on You Tube before the officer has finished writing the arrest report.



As I stated before, cameras can be good and bad for police work.  There was a Sears store in Hollywood that had video cameras throughout the store.  A security guard would sit in the control room and watch for shoplifters.  Some of the tapes were of shoplifters stuffing items in their own clothing and a few that really caught my attention. 


I watched one pair of crooks.  One approached a register to buy a pair of socks.  When the cashier opened the register he dropped the money on the floor.  When the suspect and the cashier bent down to pick up the money the second suspect grabbed the large bills from the open register.   The cashier didn’t even know that the money was taken.  The security guard had to chase the second suspect down Santa Monica Blvd and wrestle him to the ground.


Another time Sears was closed and it was the middle of the night.  A motion detector alarm kept going off and the doors were all locked.  After 2 hours of alarms we called the Sears security department.  They let us in and the security agent went to the video room.  We had a K-9 officer with his dog.  The Sears in Hollywood was 4 floors and had numerous stairways and elevators.  The Security agent advised that he would monitor the 4 floors and stairways on cameras while we searched.  The suspect was taken into custody hiding among some clothes.  He made a complaint against the officers for excessive force and dog bites.  The video tape showed the entire arrest and the officers were exonerated.


Security guard watching monitor
Security guard watching monitor

One of my favorite dispatches was, “See the security officer holding a lewd conduct suspect at Sears.”  My curiosity was piqued, lewd conduct in the middle of the day at Sears?  I walked up to the security office and the guard told me, “You have got to see this tape.”  I sit down and watch as the security camera followed a rather young attractive girl shopping in the clothing department.  As she stopped to look at clothes, this guy knelt behind her and sniffs her backside.  He pretends to be looking at clothes but after watching him sniff this girl’s backside 6 times. It’s obvious he’s not shopping for clothes.  The girl doesn’t notice because he never touches her. 


The suspect, I dubbed the “Sniffer,” then goes behind a sock bin and relieves his pent up tension.  All this in the middle of the day in one of the busiest Sears stores in America.  Only in Hollywood.  His lawyer plead him guilty after viewing the video tape.


It’s a nice Saturday and I’m the Watch Commander at Hollywood Division.  I’m playing a game of Free Cell on the computer and my desk officer walks up and says, “Hey Sarge, I have this guy at the desk and he wants to see you, he has a video tape.”  Oh crap, this is post Rodney King and a cop’s worst nightmare is a video tape.  I run through my mind if this is police misconduct, where’s my list of notifications? If I miss one notification, I’ll get an unpaid 2 day vacation.


I take the tape and walk into the Captain’s Office, the only TV/VCR in the station.  I hold my breath and hit the play button.  The video shows the north side of the police station.  I’m intently staring at the screen.  I watch for 10 minutes waiting for the cops to appear.  They don’t.  This citizen was filming rats running from the storm drain to the station trash cans.  I counted at least a dozen rats, a problem—yes. My problem—no!  I called Police Facilities to handle the rat problem.  I’m used to dealing with a different breed of rat. I breathe for the first time in minutes, no days off without pay and I can get back to my Free Cell game.


Police work is harder now days and cops have to be careful what they do and say, or end up as the 5 o’clock breaking news story.  

Police work was easier before all this technology.      



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