Street Stories When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly: The View From Above

By Ron Corbin

When Pigs Fly

Flying for Air Support Division (ASD) is probably one of the premier job assignments for LAPD… other than for obvious reasons working “beach patrol” in Venice Division. It’s one of those cases where for a position to become available someone either has to die or retire. There could be a lot of reasons for this choice assignment, including good pay (Beach Patrol officers would probably work for free or even pay the Department for their assignment.). But most officers seeking to be a pilot or observer did it for the thrill and desire to fly. In any case, I’ll mention a few perks of the job.

If we had the time, slowly orbiting the perimeter of Dodger Stadium or the LA Coliseum on game nights was a frequent activity to check the score, and see if the “Boys in Blue” or Trojans of USC were winning. After a couple of orbits, we would have to depart the area to avoid a disgruntled fan’s complaint who thought we shouldn’t get to watch the game for free.

One of my favorite times to fly each year was PM Watch (swing shift) on the 4th of July. About a half-hour after the sun dipped below the Pacific’s horizon, I would climb up to about 1,000 feet above the ground, and slowly cruise over the LA Basin where I could also view the San Fernando Valley. As darkness appeared, a magnificent aerial display of fireworks began popping-up everywhere; at city and county parks, from hundreds of family backyards, Marina del Rey, the Rose Bowl, LA Coliseum, Dodger and Anaheim Stadiums. It was a memorable sight.

Naturally, it never seemed to fail that before the patriotic display ended, my observer and I would get a call of a palm tree fire. The typical cause was that juveniles had shot a bottle rocket into the dry fronds (usually on purpose), just to see how big a “torch” they could create. Their mischief’s glee was not only dangerous from embers landing on house roofs, but it also sent hundreds of rats scurrying down the palm tree from nests that were formed in the upper branches. People would scream and run as these rodents scampered into surrounding gutter drains and across neighborhood lawns.

Responding at 500 feet above the ground, which was the normal patrol orbit, someone would often shoot a bottle rocket at our helicopter. Being a federal crime (shooting at aircraft), this gave us probable cause to call for ground units to assist and arrest the “idiot” … er, I mean … suspect. All the arrestee’s fireworks were taken as evidence. Of course, the patrol officers were glad to respond, as many of the confiscated fireworks went home with them after end of watch for their own enjoyment.

In the movie “Blue Thunder,” starring Roy Scheider, it begins with him and his observer hovering outside a high-rise window … “observing”. Okay, okay…if you want to nitpick, they were peeping. I don’t know of any ASD crews who actually did this, but being the friendly “Mr. Policeman,” we would occasionally fly or hover beside a downtown skyscraper and wave to the office workers.

For responding to business burglaries and other calls for service in a commercial district, owners and/or occupants were encouraged to paint the address number of their building in large contrasting numerals on the rooftops. Even though the address code in LA requires “even numbers on the south and east sides and odd numbers on north and west sides of streets,” the helicopter observer could get to the correct street and block number of a call for service but finding the exact mid-block address was nearly impossible. Therefore, painting address numbers on rooftops assisted in this effort and considerably reduced response time.

Not many homeowners practiced this address ID technique. However, frequently aircrews would spot a different type of identifying number; a telephone number painted on the roof of a private residence. I probably don’t have to explain what this meant, other than there must have been some lonely females and cop groupies in “La La Land.” Usually, these houses also had a swimming pool, which meant nude sunbathers. Enough said. What can I say…it’s just a perk of the job.

One of the most famous private residences that aircrews would be sure to give extra aerial patrol was Hugh Heffner’s Playboy Mansion. A few orbits on each shift was to ensure that all was well and that his “guests” around the pool were safe and secure. Just because we were airborne cops didn’t mean that we couldn’t still hold to the Department motto…To Protect and To Serve, right? Besides, why should all those Beach Patrol officers working in Venice Beach have all the fun?

Police Helicopter Pilot … It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: I Saw A Woman Cry…

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Recently a short story on TV prompted this:

I saw a woman cry this morning. She was a young mother of two, sitting for a TV interview.

She was a nurse who has been working 12-hour shifts at a NY hospital. She hadn’t seen her family for weeks and had been staying over in the city for fear of infecting them.

She was crying because she was bone tired.

She was crying because she had seen so many around her die. She cried because her youth and inexperience with death of this magnitude had not prepared her.

She cried for the very young and the very old. She cried for those who had no one to cry for them and died alone.

She cried because she was confused, because she did not know which way to turn or what to do next.

I wish I had a happy ending for this tale, but I don’t. All I could do was cry with her because I, too, had no answers

Some people cry not because they are weak but because they have been strong for too long.

If you have never sweat, bled, or cried for someone you do not know, then you do not have even the faintest idea of what we are all about.

Some people spend a lifetime wondering if they “made a difference.”

First responders and LEO’s do not have that problem.

No, my friend you really didn’t have a “job,” it was a calling. Not 9 to 5 but 24/7.

You lived it, you breathed it, you loved it and would die for it.

It was your passion, your mistress even on the worst of days. Your time on the job were the “best/worst” days of your life. 

You were “alive.” You lived for the nights you can’t remember and for the friends you can’t forget.

It is not that we can while others can’t. It is because we did when others did not.

It was not the sweltering days, endless cold nights, nor working while others slept or celebrated. It was not the lies, the mindless hatred, indifferent public nor the verbal abuse.

It is not the misrepresentation by the press, nor betrayal of the politician. It is not the senseless violence seeing the unseeable, doing the undoable.

It is not running to the sound of the gun nor dancing with some dirtbag.

It is not walking into darkness seeking the unknown. Not for love of my partner, the high-speed chase the foot pursuit nor facing down an unruly crowd.

But it is how much we loved it and that dear God, that is what makes us who we were.

THE POLICE: Winston Churchill said it best. “Never in the field of human conflict, has so much been owed by so many to so few.”

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

With all the crazy, funny, bizarre things that cops experience, some are right there in the station house.

BB Ballistics

I was working a radio car and along with my partner. We were in the juvenile office at the station. In custody, we had one defiant 12-year-old boy, one red Ryder model BB gun and one tube of BB’s. He was given to us by an angry motorist with a BB hole in his windshield who’d chased him down. The juvenile ditched the gun (which we found) but he still had the BB tube in his pocket. He denied everything but couldn’t explain the BB’s.

The juvenile officer, Leroy Goforth, also got a denial. Goforth directed me to bring him an office trash can. Goforth emptied it. Then he instructed me to place it across the room open end toward him. He fired one BB into the basket. I retrieved the basket while he rummaged in his desk drawer producing a large pair of tweezers and a Sherlock Holmes-sized magnifying glass. 

He asks the boy, “Do you know what ballistics is?”


“It is the scientific method the police use to tell if a particular gun fired a certain bullet. Understand?”

The kid shrugged.

“Well, we are going to do a scientific ballistics test on your gun.”

At this point, Leroy retrieves the BB from the basket. Holding the BB with the large tweezers, he examined it with the large glass for a good 10-15 seconds. 

He gave the kid a long look. Then back to the BB. Kid, BB, kid, BB, kid, BB. Finally, shaking his head sadly, he pronounced, “Without a doubt, there is no question that this gun not only belongs to you but also fired the shot that struck the car. I also know it was an accident, you are sorry and will never do it again. Right kid?”

The kid nodded, “Yes.”

The Wisdom of Age

Many years later, I was the uniformed watch commander and noticed one of my “old timers” with a quarter-sized hole in the front of his uniformed trousers. Knowing he was two weeks from retirement and not about to buy new trousers, I told him, “Charlie, do something about that. We can’t have you walking about with your chalk-white leg showing.”

“Ok, Elltee.” An hour later, as he entered the office the problem seemed solved.

I asked, “That looks much better, what did you do?”

He grins, drops his trousers and I see where he has taken a dark blue marking pen and colored his leg.


The Education of a Young Patrol Officer

Back in the day when we carried .38 revolvers, I held a firearms inspection. On command you drew your weapon, emptied the 6 rounds into your left hand which was held out for viewing. The pistol was held at “inspection arms” in the right hand.

One of my probationers held a bright shining revolver smelling of gun oil and an empty left hand. He also had a terrified look on his face. I quietly told him to see me after roll call.

“What was that all about,” I asked. 

In a tremulous voice, he replied, “I cleaned my gun the other day and forgot to reload.”

I calmed him down and told he was not in trouble. I asked if there was anything I could say that would make him feel any worse than he was feeling already?

He shook his head. “No.”

I told him he would have to come up with some gimmick to make him think of his gun. Was it loaded? That sort of thing.

Years later the probationer, now a detective, entered an elevator I was on. 

He stood next to me but did not acknowledge my presence. As he got off, he laughed, patted his gun hip and stated, “When the Elltee says stay loaded, I stay loaded.”

Street Stories When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly: LAX Security, or “Lax” Security?

By Ron Corbin, retired LAPD and LVMPD

When flying for Air Support Div, the choices for taking CODE-7 (meal break) are minimal compared to those for patrol officers. If you don’t bring your paper bag lunch, but choose to eat at a restaurant, the accommodations are basically relegated to those at airport cafes. The positive side of this is that air crews rotated every two hours, so we had a longer time to eat and relax between flights that ground officers weren’t afforded.

One day my observer and I decided to land at LAX and find a restaurant inside one of the major terminals. Landing and parking on the ramp, we walked up one of the empty jet-way stairs for Terminal 5, and entered the passenger gate area. We continued walking toward the front of the building, exited onto the sidewalk, and went to one restaurant located in adjacent Terminal 6.

After finishing our meal, we reversed our route to return to our parked helicopter outside of Terminal 5. As we approached the passenger security screening area, there were a couple hundred passengers in line to be screened and have their carry-on baggage X-ray checked.

This was a time when hijackings were prevalent around the world and, compared to current practices and procedures, airport security was in its “infancy.” There was no TSA as we know it today. Security personnel were contracted companies and standards in personnel selection varied from airport-to-airport. LAPD provided LAX with an on-site sub-station and division of uniformed officers assigned as a regular 24/7 element for protection.

Being “uniformed” officers, we started to go through the passenger “exit corridor” in order to get to our gate’s appropriate jet-way where we left our helicopter. A female security agent stepped in front of us, held up her hand like a school crossing guard, and said, “STOP! You can’t go this way,” and pointed to a sign saying basically the same thing.

At first I thought she was joking and with a big smile, started to step around her. She moved her body in our path and said that we had to go through the body scanner that all passengers were required. Even after announcing that we were LAPD and pilots for our aircraft outside, she seemed oblivious to the guns on our hips, remaining steadfast in her demeanor.

Agreed, we weren’t in the typical LAPD blue uniform, but my partner and I had the standard uniform in those days for ASD aircrews: khaki pants and shirt with holstered gun and ammo pouches. Our shirt had ASD shoulder patches, our name tag, and of course due to “Dragnet,” probably the most famous and identifiable badge in the world was pinned to our chest.

Not having time to waste and needing to get back in the air to relieve our other airborne crew, we figured it wasn’t worth the effort to debate this issue with her. So, we went directly to the head of the passenger line and were motioned through the scanner without question or delay. Of course, the security person at this point apparently recognized we were legit and never flinched to allow us passage as the “lights, bells and whistles” of the scanner alerted to the revolvers on our hips.

“I think she must have worked security at Wally World when it was closed for repairs.”

Street Stories When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly: Snow Happens

By Ron Corbin, Retired LAPD

Like cops, firefighters apparently get bored, too. Sometimes, boredom turns into pranks. There once was an LA City fire station in South LA manned by firefighters who liked to “bomb” police officers who were making traffic stops nearby.

LAPD Air ship

It all started one day when some officers reported that they were being pelted by water balloons from an unknown source. Hearing this on the police radio, and it being an unusual call, Air-3, a police helicopter crew, flew to the scene hoping to assist in spotting the origin of the “aerial attack.” The air crew knew that there had been prior reports of this strange occurrence from previous roll call briefings.

Arriving overhead, the only uncommon activity the ‘copter crew observed was some firefighters standing on top of their fire house and waving with big, sheepish grins on their faces. Thinking that it was unusual for the firefighters to be up on their roof, it could only be imagined that these were the culprits. Other than that, the source of the water balloons could not be found. The air crew decided to fly away but radioed to another ground unit to park nearby and watch for any suspicious activity that might be coming from the fire station roof.

It wasn’t but a few minutes later that water balloons were observed being catapulted over the parapet of the fire house roof. Again Air-3 flew back over the scene and once again saw that the firefighters were standing and waving innocently. They didn’t know that they had been caught in the act.

Apparently, the firefighters had rigged-up some surgical tubing and made a huge sling-shot. For self-amusement, they would assemble water balloons and take them to the roof. There they would watch for police cars to stop within a block or two of the station. At that time, and hidden from view, they would commence their airborne assault. Now discovered by Air-3, the “air war” was on. It would be time for “payback,” LAPD vs. LAFD.

A few weeks later, it snowed on some of the higher mountains surrounding Los Angeles. The Air-3 crew decided it was time for payback. Sneaking a small, Styrofoam picnic cooler onboard, the crew of Air-3 flew up to the hills in the northwest part of Devonshire Division; landing on the helipad of an abandoned Nike missile site where it had snowed. The observer exited the ‘copter and quickly packed several snowballs, placing them in the cooler. Then Air-3 flew down to the fire station hoping that the “fire perps” would be outside. And, as luck would have it, they were; washing and polishing their beloved fire truck.

As Air-3 circled overhead, the pilot and observer waved, only this time, they were the ones with sheepish grins. When the firefighters went back to their task of cleaning, several snowballs came out of the sky, sending the firefighters scurrying for cover. As some snowballs pummeled the fire truck, a few of the firefighters waved back, only this time with one finger. The pilot came on the PA and yelled down, “For the Water Balloons…SNOW HAPPENS!”

A few days later, a photograph was received in the mail at Air Support’s heliport marked with “Attention to Air-3.” In it was a single picture without words. It depicted an LA City fire helicopter dropping its load of water … all 360 gallons. Thus, an undeclared truce was immediately put into effect.

“This is what I call a target rich environment.”

More Street Stories

Guest Post: Uniforms on Halloween

By Belinda Riehl
October 31, 2018

Halloween houseNot in costume or with satchels to Trick or Treat at 10 o’clock in the morning, the first uniformed officer rang our doorbell. We saw him on the porch through the dining room window. A younger, leaner uniformed officer stood in an “at ease” but ready position down three steps six feet behind the first officer on the walkway with his right thumb tucked in his uniform pants pocket just below his holstered weapon.

My husband, Danny, opened the front door. With a smile and a strong but friendly voice, he said, “What brings this show of force to my door?”

“We’re looking for Shannon,” the first officer said with a soft smile, his right arm bent at the elbow and the heel of his right hand casually resting on the butt of his holstered gun.

In Danny’s usual way, he didn’t offer what he knew about Shannon, the former tenant who’d lived in this house we’d recently rented.

“What crime did she commit?” His habit of answering a question with a question wasn’t muted by police officers at his door.

“We got a call from her family in Oregon.”

“This is a lot of manpower for a welfare check. I was a police officer for thirty-eight years. Good deployment of personnel, though,” Danny said as he looked beyond the front yard to the third uniformed officer on the sidewalk. There were no police cars in sight.

“Oh, you’re from L.A.?” a fairly obvious question given that Danny was wearing his blue LA Dodger cap. “What department?”

cop and policewoman“LAPD for twenty-seven years, then the L.A.D.A.’s office for another eleven. You probably know my son; he’s a Deputy D.A. here.” They exchanged names and laughs. The third officer from the front sidewalk moved up onto the front yard to hear the light-hearted conversation about attorneys and prosecutors. The officer with the sergeant stripes, the most experienced officer on the scene, appeared from a place of cover between our two parked cars in the driveway.

“You know why they bury attorneys eight feet down instead of six?” the first officer asked. “Because deep down they have a good heart.” They all laughed.

The young officer closest to the first officer casually rested his forearm on his holstered gun. Clearly, they weren’t going to need to deploy tactical force.

In my full-length robe and uncombed hair, I made myself more visible to the officer at the door, still behind Danny as he took up most of the space at the wide-open doorway. “We just moved in last week,” I said. Danny stepped aside slightly. “Shannon lived here before us. She told our landlady she was moving to Oregon where she’d bought property.”

“That fits what we know,” said the first officer. “We got a call from her family in Oregon that she never arrived.

“She also had a business here in town,” Danny said.

“We checked there too,” but offered no further information.

“I’d be happy to give you our landlady’s name and number,” I said. “She might have a phone number or email address, but I know she didn’t leave a forwarding address because we’re still getting her mail.”

“Thanks. That could be helpful,” the officer said.

While I stepped away to write down our landlady’s information, the two officers facing each other at the door continued their police banter. Danny, the confident, retired, equally strong dog had sniffed the butt of the confident, younger, seemingly capable first officer who’d gingerly sniffed Danny’s butt. The two watchdogs meant each other no harm and their tails wagged as they shook hands.

I handed the officer my note and said, “I hope she’s okay.” I didn’t step too far into the doorway. No need for the whole neighborhood to know I was still in my robe at ten in the morning.

“Thanks for the information,” he said.

Everyone said, “Have a nice day.”

After he closed the door, Danny said, “They’re looking for Shannon for something else.”

“What makes you think so?” I often accuse him of being cynical. Sometimes a bad driver is just a bad driver and not trying to piss him off; but, sometimes his suspicious nature is warranted. His career experience and wisdom have served him well.

“First, there’s no way they send a sergeant, and three officers to do a welfare check and park half a block away. The sergeant between our cars, the third officer a distance from the house on the sidewalk, another uniform behind the guy at the door—that’s pretty tactical deployment for a missing person. It was more in line with looking for a violent offender.”

“I heard the guy on the sidewalk say it was a training day when you said this is a lot of manpower.”

“I was going to tell the training officer he was standing too close to the door,” Danny said with his typical wide grin.

“What do you think? She left town with too much debt?”

“By the way she left this house and yard in such a mess, it’s hard to believe she could run a business. Looked to me like she left pretty quickly. I’m guessing check fraud or grand theft. Maybe a warrant. Even the neighbors said her tweaker boyfriend had brought her down. I don’t know why the police are looking for her, but I have a feeling she doesn’t want to be found. No forwarding address. Didn’t arrive where she said she was going. Family in Oregon looking for her. If the boyfriend is looking for her, that’s where he’d look too. Who knows?”

“They sure didn’t offer any information,” I said.

“I don’t usually tell people I’m a retired cop, but I thought they’d offer a little quid pro quo.”

“They definitely stayed tight-lipped,” I said.

“Did you hear what they said when the neighbor across the street asked what was going on when they were leaving?”

“No, but I’ll bet he was a little disturbed by his new neighbors bringing the police to his neighborhood,” I said. “What’d the police say?”

“One of the officers answered, ‘Somebody stole a baby stroller.’”

“Do they teach that in the police academy, how to never give a straight answer and redirect the conversation?”

Danny chuckled and said, “You tell ‘em what they want to hear. Don’t leave ‘em scared. They don’t need to know the truth. They might try to help and get themselves hurt.”

“I’d like to have known the truth,” I said.

“Need-to-know basis, Sweetheart…”

Belinda Riehl
Associate Editor 2018 Redwood Writers anthology Redemption–Stories from the Edge; author of “Security at the Inn,” a fictional story told in 2020 after surviving the 2017 Sonoma County Wildfires included in Redemption; author of “Lighter Load,” a 100-word poem about the loss of her beloved dog in RW 2018 poetry anthology Phoenix–Out of Silence, and then…; author of “Wallet Karma,” a true story published in Sonoma Seniors Today, January 2018 issue,; author of “Speak in Ink,” a poem published in online magazine,; winner of Redwood Writers 2015 Pullet Surprise for exceptional volunteer service to Sonoma County writers.
Please visit my blog: to read Occasional Musings by this writer.

The Call Box

The Call Box: Parker Center

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Parker-Center demo

Sentenced to die, it stands alone and empty awaiting its fate. It was loved and cherished by the many thousands who called it home.

Born in 1955 / Died 2018 / age 63. It opened as the Police Administration Building or PAB. It was renamed “Parker Center” after the untimely death of Police Chief William H. Parker, who served as chief from 1950 until 1966.

LAPD_-_Departamento_de_Policía_de_Los_Ángeles_ロサンゼルス市警察_-_panoramioParker Center was many things to many people but revered by those Chief Parker commanded. Standing alone at 150 N. Los Angeles Street, the building occupied the entire block with an imposing position in Civic Center.

Designed by Welton Becket and Associates (who also designed the Capitol records building in Hollywood) and built at a cost of 6.1 million dollars, it was considered state of the art and one of the first centralized police facilities in the nation. The main cantilevered entrance is supported by twelve columns and consists of eight stories of gleaming steel, mosaic and glass.

Specialized features included modern crime lab, lineup auditorium with special lighting, traffic mapping center, two-story jail and modern communications center.

The lobby was home to a free standing 36 x 6-foot mural, “Theme Mural of L.A.” by artist Joseph Young, and a second entitled, “The Family Group.” Closed in 2009, it was home to 6 chiefs and 5 interim chiefs over the 54 years of its use. Occupants included all senior administrators and staff, along with many support divisions, patrol, traffic, administrative, vice, and the elite Metropolitan Division. Specialized Detective Divisions included Homicide, Robbery, Burglary/Auto Theft, Bunco, Forgery, and Narcotics.

The jail housed short term arrestees while in the press room senior “crime reporters” played endless card games.

RFKDuring its life the building saw the likes of the Manson Family, the Night Stalker, the Hillside Strangler, Skid Row/Central Slasher, Lonely Hearts Killer, Mickey Cohen, O.J., the Onion Field Killers, the Remorseful Rapist, Robert Blake, the killers of Robert Kennedy and Sal Mineo, and so many, many more.

It saw the 1965 Watts riots, Black Panther, SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army) and North Hollywood shootouts. It weathered the debacle following Rodney King along with thousands of others.

It was a home to giants, WWII vets who bigger than life, became legends and forged the mystique of the LAPD, making it the paragon it became.

They, too, have passed into history. Hollywood may have its super heroes, but we had the genuine article. If ghosts could speak.

2010: The LAPD Memorial for Fallen Officers — at the New Parker Center, Downtown Los Angeles.
A project by David Herjecki and Robert Jernigan of Gensler, fabricated by Zahner.


That same period saw 98 Los Angeles Police Officers give their lives in the line of duty. Their names joined the many of the previously fallen on the black granite base and fountain memorial in front of the building.

Yes, it will die soon, a victim of progress; another warrior gone to Valhalla.


To quote Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night


Old age should burn and rave at close of day.


Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Rest in Peace Parker Center

With much Respect


Ed Meckle #7612, Lt II ret.

The Call Box

The Call Box: Baldwin Hills Dam 1963


By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

In 1947 the L.A. Department of Water and Power began construction on an earthen filled dam in Baldwin Hills. The location was in a low set of hills south and west of downtown L.A. surrounded by residential neighborhoods.

There was debate at the time as work proceeded, since they were building on an active earthquake fault line. Against expert advice and despite all concerns the project was completed, and the reservoir filled by 1951.

All went without incident until approximately 11:30 AM on Saturday morning December 14, 1963. A routine daily inspection disclosed a small leak near the base of the dam, increasing in size by the hour. The Department tried to stem the flow without success. Realizing it would take 24 hours to drain the lake, LAPD was immediately contacted, and an evacuation plan put into play. This was a Saturday and a lot of people would be at home instead of work. It was estimated 1600 people were in harm’s way.

Motor officers from all over the city were summoned as well as all available black and whites. Evacuations began at 1:30 PM.

Metro Division was alerted but could not be on the scene for several hours.

About 3:30 PM on that cold December day the unthinkable happened. At the point of the leak a large “V” shaped fissure appeared. An estimated 250-300 million gallons of water was released to flow northward through residential neighborhoods roughly bounded on the west by La Cienega, east by LaBrea and Jefferson on the North. 

The area was roughly several hundred blocks square. TV station KTLA had a helicopter up at the time of the breach and it is believed to be the first aerial coverage of its kind. It can be viewed on Google. 

The wall of water estimated at 50 feet high by several hundred feet across destroyed or damaged 277 homes in a matter of minutes. Five lives were lost along with 29 LAPD motorcycles as officers had to scramble to rooftops to escape, many to be rescued by LAFD helicopters.  It took an estimated 77 minutes to completely empty the lake. 

As a sergeant working Metro, we were on scene by late afternoon. The evacuations were a great success thanks to quick work by LAPD. 

Unfortunately, due to licensing issues, I cannot post photos of this horrific incident. For pictures, google “Baldwin Hills Dam disaster.” 

We were to be there for the better part of a week, twelve hour shifts to prevent looting and provide whatever assistance we could. 

If the Bel Aire fire 25 months prior had seemed a barren moon scape this was something beyond description.

I spent the entire week on the night watch. 6 PM to 6 AM. Always dark, always cold, always windy, and always damp. as I remember it. Lifeless everywhere you looked. Houses with no roofs, roofs with no houses. I remember a living room couch in a tree, a kitchen table and clothing in others.

As the water sought lower levels, it pushed cars ahead of it, sometimes leaving them stacked 3-4 high like children’s toys. 

The coroner had parked a refrigerated truck at the University police station but there were only five fatalities.

The cold and wetness seemed to accentuate the smell of death that hung in the air. So many dead pets and the occasional found body. A lot of the streets were not drivable, so we worked the perimeter. Within the flooded area were fixed posts, cold and desolate, most with trash can fires to keep warm. It was a scene from another time, another place, but where? The silence and sense of aloneness was downright eerie.

Destruction and devastation everywhere. It left a lasting impression on us all.

Many of the residents never returned to rebuild. The reservoir was never rebuilt and is now the site of a park.


Ramblings by Hal The Call Box

Ramblings and The Call Box: Police Cars

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Ed Meckle joined the LAPD in 1956 and I followed in his footsteps in 1970. Our careers over-lapped for about six years but we never met before attending a retired officers luncheon. We have become close friends even though some of our experiences were very similar as well as very different. This Ramblings is a collaboration of our experiences in patrol decades apart.

In Ed’s own words, he will describe what it was like working patrol in the 50’s. Times were different, and no one had video cameras or cell phones. The police were expected to keep the peace, no matter how. We will take you through what being a LAPD officer was like in different generations.

My experiences were a generation of change. I was lucky to have a little of both worlds. Unlike the dinosaurs, most during my era survived by evolving. You changed your tactics, or you looked for new work.


Police Cars

Ed Meckle 1956


vintage LAPD patrol cars Hermosa Beach St Pats Day 2011 labeled
Vintage LAPD patrol cars at Hermosa Beach St. Patrick’s Day 2011

Squad car, scout, cruiser, prowl, panda—whatever the name, they are the patrol/radio cars. The first line of defense, they are to the LAPD what the infantry is to the army.


The cars were tired. They were two- and three-year old Chevy and Plymouth 4 doors, the cheapest they could buy. Manual transmissions, yes, clutch and shift lever on the steering column. The division had one automatic transmission car for test purposes (will it be ok for police work?).

Bench vinyl-covered seats, no, repeat no seat belts. Two solid roof reds (mickey mouse ears) with a large growler siren between. Cars were so under powered that the siren operated by horn ring actually slowed the car down as pitch went up. No air conditioners and heaters never worked.

Basic, basic radio with a hand-held mike—red/green light for transmit/listen.


Hal Collier 1970

68 Plymouth Belvedere labeledWe were still driving two and year-old Plymouths. They were all automatic transmissions and the heater worked sometimes. No air or power steering in the beginning. The brakes on the ‘69 Plymouths only worked after heating up. I almost had a few accidents just trying to drive out of the station parking lot.

We also had the tin cans red lights as Ed described and I remember the growler siren on a few of the older cars. We had seat belts, but they were neatly tied in knots and stuffed under the seats. I considered Plymouths the best police car in my career. Most had over 100,000 miles and sometimes the door rests came off the door when you tried to exit, but the engines were strong. If you were in a fight for your life and requested help, you could hear the carburetor of that Plymouth open and the roar of that engine. You knew help was soon to arrive.

Later in my career we drove Fords, Chevys and even a few Matadors. They had air and power steering but not as fast as the old Plymouths. Just when I retired they switched to Ford Explorers. Lots of room—they needed it with the computer stuffed in the dash. No more bench seats and they removed the cup holders. Where will I put my latte coffee?


LAPD West Vly Sta 2007 labeled
LAPD Cruiser at West Valley Station photo taken 2007


My son, who is still on the job, says all the black/whites have the latest technology: light bar instead of the tin cans, MDT’s (mobile digital terminals-computers), some have dash cameras and even a few have FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared cameras). They even have a camera that reads license plates automatically. We’ve come a long way since Ed’s days!


Next, we’ll describe Police Stations from 1956 to 2005. Ed & Hal

–From Thonie, my error—I posted Police Stations back on January 21, 2018. Here’s the link in case you missed it.






Ramblings by Hal The Call Box

Ramblings and the Call Box: Stations


By Hal Collier and Ed Meckle, both retired LAPD

Each police station has a character all its own. As they are occupied 24 hours a day, they endure a lot of wear and tear. They’re expensive to build, renovate and add-onto, so they often live on well past their pull-date. Here Hal and Ed share some memories from their past stations.


Ed worked in Police stations that were built before the depression and had long outlasted their use. Hal was a little luckier, he enjoyed the charm of the old stations and learned to dislike the new modern stations.





Ed Meckle 1956/1976


I don’t know that I spoke much about the station houses, all large stone monoliths, probably built turn of the century. According to rumor, the University was “sinking.”


I do know it was out of plumb. Most of the interior doors would not close and round objects rolled off desks. The stairway to the second floor was separated from the wall and gave the illusion of floating in air. 


staircase freeBuilding and safety department was quick to handle the problem, though—with a sign telling you to use the outer edge of the stairs. The sign was there the entire two and a half years that I was.


All houses were two story, patrol and jail down, detectives and juvie up. All houses were two story, patrol and jail down, detectives and juvie up. We naturally did not have A/C, but we did have one thing that I don’t believe the newer houses had—trustees and a lot of them. They had a shoeshine stand, ran the coffee room, assisted the property man, swept and mopped up, pumped gas and helped the mechanics with repairs. They were all misdemeanor sentenced prisoners and were selected sometimes due to experience, mechanics, etc. 


Working with a new partner one night, I saw him hug the trustee who pumped our gas. I asked, “What?”


 “That’s my dad–doing 30 days on a deuce,” he answered. “Mom asked me to keep an eye on him, so I arranged to have him sent here to University.”




Hal Collier 1970/2005


I was lucky. My first station was the old Hollywood station, also built around the depression. The men’s locker room was in the basement. The locker room had drains in the floor and red painted curbs. It used to be where the 3-wheel motorcycles were parked. You walked down a ramp to get to your locker. The lockers were, I suspect, WW-II surplus. They weren’t secured to the floor and we often would slide a partner’s locker, moving it so the officer couldn’t find it.


I arrived at Hollywood just after the 1971 earthquake. During aftershocks, it was common for the watch commander to run out into the street in case the building collapsed. There was no air conditioning and during hot summer nights all the windows were open. The front desk had a PBX radio with the cords you plugged into the lite light. It was connected to the call boxes in the street. Antique to say the least! The jail was a classic old-time jail, which provided hours of entertainment—for the officers—not those incarcerated.


Next door across the patio was another building which housed Hollywood Receiving Hospital. Just one doctor and a nurse. The receiving hospital was good for sewing a few stiches and not much else. It was a blessing for the cops because, if you got in a scuffle with an arrestee and he needed medical treatment, you didn’t have to go downtown.


Around 1977 they tore down the old station and built a new state of the art police station.


North Hwd Police Station newPardon me while I try to keep that statement down. It was all cement, not a window to look out of. If you wanted to see what kind of a day it was you had to step outside. Once a month the city would come out and test the backup generator. The computers all had to be shut off during the power interruption. They’d run the generator for five minutes then shut it off.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne day—it was bound to happen—the power went out and the station went into darkness. The generator switched on and worked fine for five minutes then shut down. This modern, state-of-the-art police station was pitch dark inside. The only lights were the phone lights and they just told you that citizens were calling for assistance. The Watch Commander sent a rookie officer to Sav-on to buy all the candles they had. It seems that every month they tested the generator but forgot to refill the gasoline tank. Yep, it ran out of gas during a real emergency.


The first few years, the men’s locker room was huge. But the designers of the modern police station forgot one small detail. Women in police work. Soon the women’s locker room was too small. The city put a few lockers in an interview room in Detectives. The ladies needed a larger locker room which included a bathroom and showers. The city put Hollywood station on the bottom of the list and predicted we’d get an expanded locker room in 2 to 3 years. A few of the multi-talented officers sectioned off an area of the men’s locker room for the women.


Funny, the city then found the money and time to build the women’s locker room with a bathroom and showers.


There are newer stations as the LAPD expands but I’m not familiar with any of them.




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