Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, A Practical Joke

By Hal Collier, LAPD Retired

We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.

One night, my partner, Bill and I were bored and happened to be driving through Ferndale Park.  Ferndale Park is on the fringe of Hollywood in the foothills below the Hollywood Sign. It is common to see deer, coyotes, raccoons, opossums and owls in the Hollywood Hills. I was driving and Bill suddenly yelled to stop. I slammed on the brakes and put my hand on my gun. We both exited the car, I’m looking for a crime, Bill is getting a pair of work gloves from the trunk of the police car. Next thing I know we’re running through the park in pursuit. Bill is in the lead because I don’t know what we’re chasing.

I soon spot the culprit, it’s a possum. Bill grabs it by the tail and holds it away, careful of its snarling teeth. I’m waiting for the adrenalin to stop rushing through my body. I’m a somewhat educated man, so I ask Bill, “What the hell are you going to do with that?” Bill replies, “Open the trunk.”  Bill drops the possum in the trunk and slammed it closed. Bill directs me to the back of a supermarket, where we rummage through cardboard boxes and crates. Bill finds the perfect animal container. I recognize it as a wood crate with wire, used to hold red cabbage for delivery. My previous job was delivering produce. I might need my old job if we get caught. It takes twenty minutes to get the possum out from behind the spare tire and into the crate.

Bill lets me in on to his plan. We have a lieutenant, who is not a building boy.  He completes the necessary paperwork, to keep the captain off his back then goes into the field. Street cops love this kind of leadership. We’re going to get a set of keys to the lieutenant’s car and place the crated possum on the front seat. My role was to delay the lieutenant until Bill could get the possum in the car.

I met the lieutenant at the back door and told him I need a day off. He said he had to get out of the station and to see him later. He walked out to his car as Bill was walking in. I think we got away with it.

Bill and I watched as he opened the driver’s door. We could see him looking across the car interior at the crate. By now that possum is a snarling fur ball ready to bite though the crate. The lieutenant tells Bill and me that if we ever want to have a weekend off again, to get that oversized rat out of his car.

Now before you call PETA or the SPCA we took the possum back to Ferndale Park and released him.

P.S.  The lieutenant got even about two weeks later. He called us into the station on a rainy night and told us to put on our old uniforms and boots. There’s a major mudslide in the Hollywood Hills and we need to check for survivors. We were half changed when the lieutenant got on the station P.A. system and said “Pay back is a bitch”.

More Street Stories

NYPD’s Bratton Highlights Plan to Reinvent Policing

I’d love to hear your thoughts about Bratton’s ideas. Use the comments box below. 


By Leischen Stelter, editor of In Public Safety


At the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police annual gathering of police chiefs from around the state, police commissioner of New York City William Bratton provided his perspective on the current state of policing in the country.

“The last 18 months has been a time of extraordinary challenges and opportunities for the profession,” said Bratton. “We have a new world of issues that we need to deal with, but there’s an old world of issues that are resurfacing.”


Bratton, whose law enforcement career spans more than 45 years, encouraged chiefs to learn from the past and not allow the profession to repeat the same mistakes.

“The world I came into as a young officer in the 1970s was in great turbulence with civil rights and issues of racial inequality,” he said. “There was great political unrest and rising crime…It feels like déjà vu all over again.”

One of the primary mistakes law enforcement made during that time period was focusing on responding to crime rather than focusing on the causes of crime and trying to prevent crime. This shift from prevention to response, coupled with officers being taken off beats and put into cars to cover larger areas, all contributed to the disengagement of officers with the public. This approach negatively impacted community relationships and its impact became evident across the country with high publicity protests and riots.

During his keynote, Bratton shared a plan that will continue fighting crime, but also help bridge the gap between police and minority communities and rebuild police morale. Bratton highlighted five strategic areas, referred to as the “5 Ts”, which form the foundation and focus of this plan.

Rebuilding Trust
One issue that has publicly and violently resurfaced around the country is the issue of trust, specifically the lack of trust of law enforcement officers and agencies by the public. This loss of confidence in policing stems around issues of race and police practices, as highlighted in riots in Ferguson and Baltimore.

This lack of trust goes beyond a loss of confidence in local agencies, said Bratton. The public has lost trust in the criminal justice system as a whole. For example, many people do not trust that district attorneys will pursue police-abuse allegations appropriately.

All of this needs to change, said Bratton. He emphasized that police chiefs need to work hard to rebuild community trust. “Going forward we must gain trust by winning back the communities we lost or never had,” he said. Reinstituting community policing practices is a good start and can help build stronger bonds between officers and community members.

[Related Article: Strong Community Relations Among the Lessons of Ferguson]

Chiefs also need to look inside their own departments to rebuild internal trust and boost officer morale. “Our police officers feel damaged by all of this and the morale in departments has suffered significantly,” he said. “Chiefs must work to rebuild trust of the community, of political leadership, of the media, and of police officers themselves.”

Fighting Terrorism
Another area of focus involves law enforcement’s role in the fight against terrorism. “American policing now has to spend a lot of time on a new form of crime: terrorism,” he said. Bratton said the NYPD has tactically trained and specially equipped 400 of its officers to protect and prevent a terrorist threat “in the likely event of an incident,” he said.

With the upsurge in terrorist attacks throughout the country and around the world, Bratton is realistic about the likelihood of more armed terrorist attacks in the city. “We want to have the capability and resources to respond quickly,” he said. One of the keys to fighting terrorism is training officers to be able to constantly and quickly adjust to unpredictable situations.

Embracing Technology
The effective use of technology is another focus of the NYPD. “Technology keeps officers better informed in the field,” he said. Soon, all 35,000 NYPD officers will be equipped with smartphones and tablets that have custom apps so officers have instant access to information. “No officer will have to come back to the station to work on a computer—they can do it all from the car,” he said.

Bratton also discussed the use of body-worn cameras. “It’s not the panacea like we want it to be, but it’s a great boon to policing,” he said. This technology is helping verify officer’s actions. “Policing is going to benefit from this technology, but the public and the profession don’t fully understand it yet,” he warned.

Training and Tackling Crime
Bratton also discussed the last two “T’s” of his plan: training and tackling crime. NYPD has a focus on enhanced training for officers as well as a plan to tackle crime by re-establishing community policing strategies.

Bratton’s parting message to the New York chiefs in attendance was one of future sharing and partnership. “At the NYPD we consider ourselves one of the country’s largest laboratories for policing,” he said. “We have a lot of resources that we’ve never had before and we have the ability to work with the leadership to improve the performance of our department and we will share those findings with you.”

More Street Stories

Chain of Command

Who does what?

As with any para-military organization, there must be leadership. Although it is often portrayed with fair accuracy in the entertainment media, I still find lots of discrepancies in the roles played. For instance, a Hallmark Movie Channel series Mystery Woman, the lead character’s counterpoint is a police chief. Granted, this is a small town with a small department. However, a police chief should never do his own investigation. A chief’s job is administrative–glad-handing politicians to keep his budget intact and being the all-around nice guy in which the public can put their trust.

Chiefs or Sheriffs   

Bishop Police Chief Chris Carter
Bishop Police Chief Chris Carter

Chiefs or Sheriffs will have a Bachelor of Science degree at the minimum with an emphasis on Criminal Justice or Business Management. State certificates including the POST Management Certificate, the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society Leadership Development Program help the career climber as well as the POST Executive Development Course, POST Command College and the FBI National Academy. A masters of science degree in the above subjects is typically encouraged at this level of management.

Deputy Chief, Undersheriff or Commander

Under the chief or sheriff is a deputy chief or undersheriff. In very small departments the deputy chief is often called a captain or commander. At this level, these administrators are involved in managing whole divisions such as patrol and administrative services. If you are writing a story that is set in a small town, troll the internet for a department of a similar size. Usually you can find the structure which will give you an idea of the hierarchy. It matters–this past year, Kyra Sedgwick ended her seven year tenure on the series called The Closer. As the Deputy Chief, she should have been writing reports and recommendations for the chief and city council, making decisions on personnel issues and obtaining grants instead of solving crimes. As much as I like watching Sedgwick, the show was so unrealistic that I couldn’t watch it.


Santa Rosa Police Department, Ca, Lt Craig Schwartz
Santa Rosa Police Department, Ca, Lt Craig Schwartz

A lieutenant is assigned to a team, generally. Teams work the same days, thereby enhancing the team concept. A lieutenant is found at all shifts in large departments although in smaller agencies, usually only day shift and swing (afternoons). The night shift or graveyards are handled by “Watch Commanders” who are either lieutenants or acting lieutenants. This is a sergeant who is on the promotional list for lieutenant or has been assigned by an administrator.



Sergeants are the line commanders. As in the army, sergeants get most of the work done. A good patrol sergeant will listen to radio activity so he knows who is doing what. They should be available for back-up but not tied up on a lengthy report call. They need to be on hand for patrol or dispatcher direction. Administrative or detective sergeants has a different role in some ways but still are the “go to” person for line officers and civilians. They will also handle preliminaries of personnel problems, give direction and approve crime reports. Corporals are subordinate and have limited report-approving powers.


Detectives are promoted patrol officers. In larger departments, a detective may be a sergeant rank. There are also levels of detective ranking depending on promotional testing, merit, and interviews. 

Ft Bragg, Ca Police Department
Ft Bragg Police Department-California

Again, all these structures are varied by department. There are few hard and fast rules but there are some that are never violated. The chain of command is respected–or it should be–to maintain a successful resolution. “Jumping the chain” is a phrase that is often used to describe those employees who go directly to the power when they have a problem. A good leader will refer the employee to their immediate superior.

However, back in the day, it was common to jump the chain. Going to your brother in law to talk about a problem with your supervisor was normal. It led to accusations of “good old boy” systems from outsiders and can smack of favoritism, depending how the contact was handled.

If you aren’t sure how an issue would be handled, check for a “model” agency and call the appropriate ranking person. Most cops love to talk to writers about their job. Your problem may be how to shut your source up!

%d bloggers like this: