The Call Box

The Call Box: Every Day’s April Fool’s Day

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD


Our lieutenant was a very nice, elderly gentleman awaiting retirement who has been with us for a very short time and has no idea of whom he supervises.

He was the “victim” when, while during pistol inspection, he stood with an empty gun pointed at Tom Ferry’s “netherlands,” Sully set off a fire cracker behind him, convincing him for a few seconds he had just shot one of his detectives. Enough background.

This lieutenant and his wife were childless and the love of his life (besides his wife) was the family car. A 1950’s something Oldsmobile 88, red and white, polished to perfection and the object of his affection. In short, he loved his car.

While at home one night, it was stolen. He was almost inconsolable. He nagged the auto theft team every day about the car and talked of nothing else.

On day 4 or 5, I sat at the squad table across from Sully while we both worked on reports. To this day, I will swear I “heard” the idea formulate in his mind. I looked up and he sat there with a faraway look in his eye and the hint of a smile. I gave him the “what’s up” eyebrow and he nodded toward the door. I followed to the records room, teletype section.

Teletype_with_papertape_punch_and_readerTo the very young of you, a teletype was the then police method of reaching a lot of other agencies en masse.

Consulting the code book for proper and convincing numbers, et cetera, he composed something along the following lines:

From Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, be advised. On [date] 1st National Bank in Cedar City held up by following subjects.
Names of two made up persons with descriptions and CII (California Information and Identification-indicates a person has a rap sheet or criminal history with the state of California) numbers were here inserted.
The teletype went on to recount a gunfight in which bandits’ vehicle was riddled with bullets, a wild chase on back roads, minor collisions, more bullet holes until they were captured.
Particulars were inserted: weapons recovered and where stolen from; attention particular departments, suspects admit crimes your weapons, et cetera. Last: “Attention L.A.P.D. Wilshire dets (detectives) veh (vehicle) is your stolen, 1950′ Olds 88 red/white,” et cetera.
Veh impounded, many bullet holes, and damage. Please advise re: dispo (disposition) Not drivable.

Sully typed it–did not send, naturally, and took the only copy, inserting it into the lieutenant’s daily mail.

We sat back to watch.


1955 Olds 88_LI
1955 Olds 88-wrong color for Sully’s lieutenant but you get the idea.

When his “victim” read it, he stood and tried to walk in 2 or 3 directions at once, sat down, picked up the phone, put it back, stood up, sat down and just stared for a moment or two. The lieutenant suddenly turned and caught Sully and I watching him.
He pointed at us and nodded.


Then smiled. His car was eventually recovered undamaged.




Roll Call

Roll Call: Short Dogs #2

By Mikey, Retired LAPD

Ventura pursuit, the CHP and the spike strips

lapd cruiser rollingIt was early Summer ’93 and I was working Rampart Day Watch as the Watch Commander with the usual inside staff, a couple of desk officers, an assistant Watch Commander and eight units out on patrol. It was a Sunday, quiet and everything was going well until about 12:30 pm when a patrol unit broadcasted that they were in pursuit of a stolen vehicle northbound on Alvarado approaching the 101 freeway. The pursuit then proceeded onto the Northbound 101 and because traffic was light the stolen vehicle accelerated away from the officers.

I knew that we would lose communications with the unit if they got too far north so I asked for an air unit to respond. Communications said there were no air units available. I then called the CHP and asked if they had a unit with a spike strip that could intercept the pursuit and their watch commander told me that there was a pursuit coming south on the 101 freeway and when they were through with the southern pursuit, they’d assist us.

I told my assistant watch commander to handle the division, grabbed one of my desk officers, the watch commander’s cruiser and off we went. From the time I left the station until we got into Ventura all sorts of things went through my head. With no radio contact to keep me briefed, it really sucked! From about a mile out I saw my first view of the worst I could imagine, a column of thick black smoke! When we finally reached the scene there it was, the suspect vehicle, upside down, burning. My officers were standing at the rear of their unit watching the fire department extinguish the fire.

I asked the officers if they were all right and they said, “Yes.”

Then, I wanted to know how the driver got killed and asked, “What happened?”

The officers explained the pursuit and how they had a tough time staying up with the vehicle, how finally the CHP spiked the bad guys tires, how it went out of control, went off the road into the grass field and how it rolled a couple of times.

ktla car crash w lapdCrap. I was getting ill just thinking of the s—t storm this was gonna cause and making notifications. I asked, “How many people were in the car?”

One of the officers pointed to the back seat of his unit and said, “Just him.”

JUST HIM, the guy handcuffed in the back seat of the cruiser, the guy who didn’t get seriously killed, the guy who crawled away from the burning car, THAT GUY?
I was so fixated on the burning car that I didn’t see the suspect seated in the police car just inches away from us.

The ride back to Rampart was wonderful.


The Lieutenant and the new watch commander’s car

When you hear a LAPD officer refer to a “shop” he is talking about a police car. Each car is issued a “shop number,” meaning repairs in the auto shop were generated using this number. If the Air Unit was working a call with you and he wanted to direct vehicles on the ground he referred to the last three numbers of the shop. For example, “Shop 592, cover the intersection,” etc. So, in 1992, in Rampart, the PM Watch Lieutenant was out and about in a brand-new Watch Commander’s car when Northeast units go in pursuit.

The lieutenant was not fond of pursuits and if the thing sounds even a bit askew, he would terminate it.

lapd heloBut this was Northeast, not Rampart, in the pursuit. The pursuit wound its way through the hills of Northeast heading toward Rampart, so the lieutenant headed in that direction. The road narrowed and the lieutenant saw the air unit. He realized that the observer in the air unit was screaming, “Shop 592, the pursuit is coming at you; Shop 592, the suspect vehicle is approaching you, “Shop………………” Well, guess who driving shop 592? Yup, the lieutenant. He terminated the pursuit with a classic TC (traffic collision)!

Guess he hadn’t noticed the shop number of his “new” cruiser. For the next few days he wasn’t moving around the watch commander’s office as fast as he used to.



The Call Box

The Call Box: Where Were You?

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

This is a particularly moving story. You might have heard of The Onion Field, the movie or Joseph Wambaugh’s book. For those of you who don’t know, this incident was a game changer in law enforcement, as the reflection (see “kidnapping…”) link below will illustrate.

Some dates and incidents never leave us. March 10, 1963 is just such a date.

I was a uniformed sergeant working morning watch at 77th street division. The other sergeant on the watch is downtown or somewhere out of the division on business. The watch commander, an elderly lieutenant nearing retirement, just announced he is taking code 7(meal break) and left. I am doing what junior sergeants do: scut work—checking tickets, logs, reports, etc., etc. It is several hours past midnight on a Sunday morning after a typical Saturday night in the busiest division in the city. But things have since quieted down.


The drunks in the jail across the hall have finally gone to sleep and the sound of snoring can be faintly heard. The police radio is a quiet hum in the background. The reverie was broken with, “12A—”, officer involved shooting; 214 E. Manchester. Suspect down, request supervisor, code 2 (no lights, no siren, observe traffic laws, but get there quick).”  On the way out I told the desk officer he had been promoted to temporary watch commander. 


robberyThe scene was a small all night café, the only business open for blocks. A male, obviously deceased, lay in a supine position on the sidewalk, handgun nearby. The officers Art Flores and Rex Lucy, both good solid young “tigers,” tell me they were driving by the location and spotted a parked vehicle with a white towel covering the rear plate. They parked to obstruct the vehicles quick departure, looked through the café window and saw every officers “dream,” a stickup man, gun in hand, holding up the cashier. 

 They took up positions to avoid possible crossfire and confronted the bandit when he stepped out of the door, gun in hand.

He made a poor decision and immediately paid for it.

Procedure at that time was detectives were summoned, in this case Detective Headquarters Division (D.H.Q.) and the lab for photos/prints/schematics or whatever. The radio operator advised me “no one was available.” This had never happened to me before and I was puzzled. It took several hours to roust people out of bed to come to the scene.

a-lapd-onion-field-officersBack at the station, after several calls, I found out everyone had gone to a farmer’s field in Kern County near Bakersfield to handle the kidnapping of two Hollywood officers and the murder of one. While investigating two robbery suspects, Officers Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger had been taken at gun point to the field where Campbell was murdered. The suspects, Jimmy Lee Smith and Gregory Ulis Powell, panicked when Hettinger escaped into the darkness where he made his way to a farmhouse and raised the alarm. Powell drove off stranding Smith. While Powell was enroute back to LA, a California Highway Patrol (C.H.P.) unit heard the broadcast. The C.H.P. unit assumed correctly that Powell would head south. The C.H.P. unit drove at breakneck speed toward Interstate 5. 


Now, I have no idea how many vehicles pass at any given point on Highway 5, every 24 hours but it is the main north/south artery for the state of California. As the C.H.P. unit entered 5 southbound, they found themselves directly behind Powell. Smith was arrested the next day in Bakersfield.


I did not know either Campbell or Hettinger (both former Marines) but it left a very deep and lasting impression on me and, of course, the department. As I said, some things don’t go away.

Semper Fi



The Call Box

The Call Box: Vignettes, part 2

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Vignettes—are they funny, bizarre, ironic, poignant or maybe horrific? Why do some stories stay so vivid in our memories?

 Here’s another that won’t go away…

I am the day watch commander at Wilshire division, a fairly busy house and a good place to work. A “little old lady” has called the desk officer to report a suspicious vehicle parked down the street. She was sure the occupant was watching her house.

Would we please check it out?  I had the area car call in and gave it to him. I asked for a call back with the disposition so I could calm “little old lady” down.

Twenty minutes later, the patrol officer called and said he had found the car.

“Yes, and there was a man behind the wheel just like the lol said.”

“Yes, and—”

“Well lieutenant, he is dead.”

When the detective came back from the scene he told me he figured the body had been there about 48 hours or so. The death seemed like a “natural” but the unusual thing was there were two parking tickets on the windshield and the body was very probably there when both were written.


I asked the traffic control officer (civilian) about it and she replied she never made eye contact with any occupants to avoid confrontation. Ok, but how about ticket number two (both written by her)?

She said she never noticed him.


I guess we can’t all be detectives—

FYI: Just the Facts, Ma’am will be on hiatus through the holidays until January 15th, 2017. Can it already be 2017?? Look for Hal’s next installment on that Sunday and Ed will resume his stories January 18th, 2017. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanzaa and a blessed New Year to you all–whatever you celebrate.

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”.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, More Dave Balleweg

 By Hal Collier, LAPD Retired

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

More Dave Balleweg

Another chapter of Dave Balleweg, a true Hollywood Character: The following stories are true unless there’s a civil rights violation, then I made them up. I only worked with Dave for about seven years but we’ve been good friends for over thirty-seven. Some of these stories are from other Ramblings. 


Dave and I worked a radio car for a while but then landed a job as a speeder/SPU car. We dealt with the large population of methamphetamine abusers in Hollywood and the crimes they committed. We also addressed the crime problems of our watch. This included many stake-outs. 


Stake-outs on TV are fun. The star sits in a warm car eating a donut and drinking designer coffee with that sissy sleeve. In less than one minute the suspect commits a crime and the officers make the arrest and go home on time. If there’s a foot chase the officers run through well-lit streets and alleys, jump over four foot fences and catch the bad guy in seconds.


Most real street cops laugh. After a foot pursuit which can last blocks, the officer is out of breath, he’s stepped in dog shit, ripped a clean uniform and lost his police car keys in front of an asshole bar two blocks ago.


Most stake-outs involve hours and even days of watching before a crime is committed that’s worth chasing a dirt bag. When sitting on a roof or in a car you get bored and that’s when cops are most dangerous. They look for things to amuse themselves.


One of first stake outs with Dave involved sitting on the roof of the Pantages Theater in Hollywood in December. Our latest intelligence (a Ouija board, sometimes pronounced Weeji) said the parking lot guys were breaking into cars while the show was in progress. We climbed up twelve stories to the roof and settled in for a long night. The wind is blowing from the north and it’s cold. No problem, my lovely wife made us a thermos of coffee. No wait. There is a problem. My wife doesn’t drink coffee and when we poured out a cup, it was thicker than that crude oil that came out of that well in the gulf.


I have to pee.  No problem. Dave and I pee in the water trough for the air conditioning unit. I later conducted a scientific experiment. If you spit chewing tobacco off a twelve-story building it will parachute half way down and ruin your accuracy, but you hit more cars. On the other hand my wife’s coffee dropped like a Russian satellite. The only crime we saw involved employees from Capital Records who had their Christmas Party. Now that parking lot was busy.


The next night we got an office in the Capital Records building. It overlooked the same parking lot and was a lot warmer. Dave is sitting in some executive’s leather chair and I’m looking out the window. We already changed the radio station to Country Music and I hear Dave on the phone. That’s right Dave called the radio station and had a Johnny Cash song dedicated to Dave and Hal, LAPD, on a stake-out. True story.


It was some time in the winter. Dave and I got a call to meet another car in the back parking lot of a known dirt-bag hotel (Vine Lodge). We figured they needed our expertise with some speeder.


We pulled into the parking lot and the officers were standing at the back of their open car trunk. We got out and walked toward them. We were immediately pelted with snowballs. That’s right–snowballs in Hollywood. Ok, picture this—four LAPD officers running around a parking lot in the middle of the night, having a snowball fight. The officers found the snow on a car in the Hollywood hills. They took some and set up an ambush for us. We all laughed and decided the lieutenant should not miss out in the fun. Dave and I went to the station and coaxed the ell-tee to come outside. As soon as he exited the back door he was pelted with snowballs. He thought this was great fun and didn’t want his Assistant Watch Commander (A W/C) to miss out.


The ell-tee walked into the Watch Commanders Office, past the A W/C and closed the door. The A W/C looked up then turned toward us as we walked through the other door. He was suspicious because we all had our hands behind our backs. He jumped up and tried to go through the door the lieutenant was holding closed from the other side. The A W/C was pelted with eight snowballs. We cleaned up the best we could but the custodian wanted to know how the carpet got so wet. Non-cop friends might think this is juvenile, but it relieves the stress and improved morale. Beside how many can say they had a snow ball fight in Los Angeles, let alone in the Hollywood Watch Commanders Office?


Next, court, and a few characters Dave enriched with his wisdom.           Hal

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, More Character Short Stories

By Hal Collier LAPD, Retired

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

This is going to be a long character story so I won’t start with a couple of short cop stories, but then most of what I’m about to write about is short stories. Some of the stories have been included in other Ramblings but most are worth repeating. A few I’m going to tell for the first time because the statute of limitations has run out and Dave is retiring from his last job in Oklahoma. That’s right: Dave Balleweg


A little history. Dave Balleweg transferred to Hollywood in 1975, during the Massage Parlor crackdown. I’m not sure which side he was on, pro or con for the massage parlors.


Dave worked Wilshire Division before coming to Hollywood. He use to work PM watch and then go to radio station KGBS at midnight and work as a disc jockey for 6 hours. He would stay after to listen to the radio team of Hudson & Landry, an underrated comedy team.


Dave has the personality that charms people. All the years I worked with Dave, we never had to fight a suspect into jail. He even got suspects to come to the station and turn themselves in. One female hype, Dee, came to the station on Thanksgiving, with a turkey in the oven. Others he had arrested, called Dave to snitch on other hypes. Dave’s sense of humor will show itself in the following stories.


I’m working Morning Watch. Yea, oh-dark-thirty to sunrise. I walk into the roll call room at start of watch and the first thing I notice is someone is sitting in my seat. That’s right Dave is sitting in my spot. I’m not superstitious about sitting in a certain seat. I knew one cop, Stan, who thought he would be gunned down if he didn’t sit in his regular seat.

Bet you thought all cops were sane.


Now, I’m not an old timer, with only 5 years’ experience, but then we have a pecking order and I do have some seniority. Dave is senior to me so I sit right behind him so I can keep an eye on him. The next night I beat him into roll call and sat in my seat, welcome to Hollywood, Dave.  Ha ha.


A few days later we were assigned to work together. We hit it right off, it was love at second sight. After work that night my ribs hurt from laughing for 8 hours.  For the next 7 years we sat next to each other in roll call. 


Now after 35 years on the LAPD, I’ve worked with a lot of partners, some good, and some bad. Some made 8 hours seem like an 18 hour day, others the time flew by. I was fortunate to work with some great partners who became lifelong friends. Most of my stories are from working with friends not partners. For my non-cop friends, cops develop strong bonds with their partners. They spend long hours riding around and talking. Then, in an instant they are fighting for their lives or protecting each other from harm. It can be a strange relationship.


I had a lot of fun experiences with Dave and most would never make a TV cop show—no one would believe them. One night in the late 70’s, it rained harder than it has ever rained in Los Angeles. Streets flooded and Laurel Canyon turned into a river. Cars and people were swept away. I wasn’t working with Dave that night. I was assigned to a damage control car as the city went on Tactical Alert. I was asked to check on Dave and his partner, Dale, who were directing traffic at Mulholland and Laurel Canyon—and had been there for 6 hours. I snaked my up to their location. By now, all the cops are wet. Our blue wool uniforms are soaked and we smell like a wet dog, our underwear and t-shirts have a blue tint from our uniforms. I drive up and there are Dave and Dale in the middle of Mulholland and Laurel Canyon. They’re skipping around and singing like sailors. I learned that the actor, Paul Michael Glaser, had given the officers a bottle of brandy. It was the good stuff too.


The next night Dave and I are working a damage control car. We’re checking on residences that had to be evacuated due to mud slide damage, see if barricades are in place on closed streets, etc.  Cahuenga East is flooded and barricades were placed in order to keep cars from driving into 5 feet of water. Dave and I drive up and see the roof of a submerged car.


There’s a man bobbing in and out of the driver’s window. Our detailed investigation revealed the man was a Sheriff’s Lieutenant, who had been at a club in North Hollywood and was taking a younger lady to her house for a nightcap. 


Some kids moved the barricades as a joke and watched as the lieutenant drove into ‘Lake Cahuenga’ as Dave named it. The lieutenant was bobbing for the lady’s purse. We got the lieutenant’s car pulled out and drove his lady friend home. The lieutenant’s main concern was that the story didn’t get out to his co-workers. We promised silence, but two days later the lieutenant asked to meet us at Lake Cahuenga. He ratted on himself and his friends proclaimed him Commandant of Lake Cahuenga. He tried to bribe us with 2 bottles of Cognac. 


Part-2 next week will have more Dave Balleweg stories.


Writer's Notes


By Thonie Hevron

I’ve formally passed the one-third point in this novel. After several false starts, do-overs and life events, I’ve finally gotten back on the roll that becomes my stories. In the fall of 2014, I’d gotten rolling, cranking out pages that satisfied me and my critique group.

Then, I found Mike Brown. A Sonoma County Sheriff’s Lieutenant, (now retired) Mike spent several years as a Violent Crimes Investigations (VCI) Sergeant. One of my lead characters in WITH MALICE AFORETHOUGHT is a newly promoted VCI sergeant. When Mike said, “Yes, I’ll help,” to my plea for technical assistance, I was thrilled. His level of expertise and how he articulated it got me really excited.

Until he read my outline. Thank God I asked him to look at it.

His comments could be summed up with a “that couldn’t happen.”

Sheesh. Back to the drawing board.

At some point in fiction, the author has to feasibly “suspend disbelief” in the reader’s mind. Think about it—you’re reading along in a really good book and a character does something you KNOW is inconsistent or not part of the real world. But, the words are strung together in such a way that you think, it could happen.

It could happen. The suspension of disbelief.

This is very different from procedural inconsistencies. A wrong move could compromise an investigation and or prosecution. An investigator is paid for his/her knowledge to ensure a thorough and proper investigation (leading to a successful prosecution, hopefully). There are enough law enforcement and judicial officers in the reading public that an author who doesn’t pay attention to details can irretrievably lose credibility. Those who know what is feasible and what is not see errors. An author, no matter how good a wordsmith, cannot stretch “not right”. As a reader, when I encounter this, the book is tossed, literally and figuratively because the author’s trustworthiness has been destroyed.

Thus, I tossed most of what I’d written and started over. I must admit, following Mike’s suggestions have made this story much better.


What this post is really about, though, is to admit that I won’t make my self-assigned deadline. May 8 this the last day to enter the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA) Writing Contest. I’ve placed in two previous contests 2012, 2014) with PSWA and wanted my third Nick and Meredith Mystery to join the other two. Not gonna happen. With only five days left, I have just under half the story written.

While I’m dismayed about this, I won’t lose any sleep. I’ll just reassign a deadline, work to achieve it and find another contest.


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: More Characters–Mean Lawrence

By Hal Collier LAPD, Retired

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

The following story is true and the character is, or should I say was, real. He passed away years ago. Lawrence Mescher (sp)

First my story: I’m not the most computer-literate person in the Western Hemisphere. I’m always asking kids to fix some problem with my lap top. My generation didn’t grow up with computers. Hell, we had to read the instructions on a new calculator. Our kids taught us how to play the Atari games.

When I made sergeant in 1993, my new captain said that all paperwork shall be completed on the computer. The dumb ass that I am, I raised my hand and advised him that I didn’t know how to use a computer. He rolled his eyes and said we’ll teach you.

A little knowledge is dangerous. I got a ten minute lesson and dived into my first project. I deleted a whole page that took me an hour to complete. I missed the part where they teach you the save key.

My police department has a policy that anything you turn in is called “Completed Staff Work.” Completed Staff Work means no abbreviations, proper grammar, spelling, and everything else I forgot from English class. I signed up to be a cop not an editor for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

As computer dumb as I am there are some cops out there with less skill. Flash forward a few years. I’m learning to use the computer and I can even load paper and unjam the printer. I come to work one morning and after writing a report I press the print button on my computer. The printer is in the Sergeants room behind the Watch Commanders Office. My computer replies that the printer is not working. I check the printer and discover that the printer is jammed with paper. No problem. I unjam the paper and the printer begins to print commands that were sent to it hours earlier.

I figure I’ll look over the newly printed documents and return them to the author. I stumble across an e-mail by a Hollywood sergeant to another sergeant in another division. The e-mail describes his current lieutenant and what a waste of uniform and air this lieutenant is. He goes on to blast the Police Departments promotion process and if this individual ever makes a decision the sergeant might have a heart attack.

These kinds of comments about your boss are not career builders. I agreed with the sergeant’s assessment, but Jeeze, don’t write it down where it might fall into the wrong hands. I sneaked the e-mail to the sergeant and became an accomplice. The lieutenant promoted and the sergeant and I stayed in patrol, which is where we wanted to be in the first place. Sergeants name (RJ) available for a coupon for a car wash.

Hollywood Character: Lawrence Mescher

Lawrence won’t be known to a lot of the officers who came to Hollywood after the 80’s but some of the early cops will recognize him, not by name but by his reputation. Lawrence hated the cops and the feeling was mutual. He was a thief, a pack rat and often made complaints against any officer who questioned his behavior. Lawrence could be found standing in front of a news rack on Hollywood Boulevard, usually after midnight. Lawrence always had a stack of new newspapers under his arm.

I remember once I got a complaint from a businessman about some bum living in a car. I approach the car and it’s filled with junk. I mean the only place to sit down is the driver’s seat. There’s a six inch pile of papers on the dash. Lawrence is sitting behind the wheel. I ask for his driver’s license. Lawrence replies, “I want your business card and badge number.” I tell Lawrence, “It will be on the vehicle impound report when I take your car.” Lawrence pleads, “Don’t take my car.” I’m amazed when Lawrence pulls his driver’s license out from the middle of the pile of papers—and it’s valid. I won this one. Lawrence moved his car.

Later, Lawrence became a training tool for young probationers. A training officer would see Lawrence and advise the rookie that Lawrence was an arson suspect, which he was. He always seemed to be close by whenever there was a trash can fire. The idea was that Lawrence always gave the police a hard time, refusing to ID himself, demanding the officer’s business card and threatening to make a complaint. This was a good training tool for a rookie. The rookie learned that he was in charge and not to back down to someone just because they threatened to complain.

Lawrence was also a thief. He would stand in front of the news rack until he was sure that the police weren’t around then jimmy the coin slot and take all the newspapers. The newspaper guys couldn’t figure out why their racks were empty and no money was in the coin box.
Lawrence was found dead in a motel on Sunset Boulevard. The motel room was filled with unread newspapers. I’d tell you what Lawrence was doing when he died but it might not be appropriate.
I don’t think any Hollywood officers shed a tear.


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Stake Outs, part 1

By Hal Collier, LAPD, Retired

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


Stake Outs part 1

"Stakeout" from the 1987 movie with Emilio Estevez and Richard Dreyfuss
“Stakeout” from the 1987 movie with Emilio Estevez and Richard Dreyfuss

The story you are about to read is true. I’ll use the real first names of partners, unless I can’t remember them. This segment will deal with “Stake Outs.” Stake outs are depicted on TV and in the movies all the time. You see these two cops sitting in a warm car, drinking latte coffee and chatting about their latest conquests. I love TV cops–they never have to go to the bathroom and the perp (perpetrator) always shows up and an arrest is made, all within five minutes.

Fact: Most stake outs you sit on a roof top of some business in December for six hours and the only crime you see is a homeless man urinating on your police car. The Watch Commander says it’s a waste of manpower. That’s after you spent two weeks telling him that this stake out was a sure thing. Patrol cops as a rule don’t get to participate in many stake outs. There usually reserved for the elite SPU (Special Problems Units) which are comprised of young cops who still have a drawer full of their Academy T-shirts. I was never assigned to SPU, but I did get a couple of loans and I was also assigned to a hype car for six months.

Stake outs require a lot of preparation. You study crime reports, look for patterns, anything that will increase your chances of success. If you remember I spent nineteen years working Morning Watch, that’s 11 P.M. to 7 A.M. So you plan accordingly. What time of year–do you wear warm clothing? Do you bring binoculars, a thermos of coffee, sunflower seeds, chewing tobacco, a hand-held video game? Most important of all, who is your partner? I been on stake outs with some great partners and the time flew and I’ve been on six-hour stake outs with a partner similar to an in-law you can’t stand.

Once we had a rapist hitting residences in the southeast area of Hollywood. I was told to drive my personal truck and park on this side street for six hours and watch for a tall thin black man who can run faster than any cop. My partner that night was Ron, he was from New York and talked constantly. The constant talking wasn’t what was so annoying but his use of the term “Right, Buddy.” after every sentence. He once got out to pee and I thought of driving off and leaving him, yelling “Right, Buddy.”

Pantages Theater
Pantages Theater

I had a couple of memorable stake outs while working a hype car. My partner was Dave and we could sit through a hail storm and have a good time. The Pantages Theater parking lots were having a rash of car break-ins. We figured we would sit on the roof of the theater and watch the three surrounding parking lots. We arranged for the theater manager to allow us access to the roof. It was December and a little cool. No, it was damn cold with a twenty mph wind from the north. We wore dark, warm clothing and I brought along a pair of binoculars. We both drink coffee, so I had Terri, my wife, make us a thermos of coffee. Unfortunately, Terri doesn’t drink coffee and therefore the coffee poured out like the sludge from that leaking oil well in the Gulf. Sorry Terri, but you can’t change history.

Ok, were ready. We begin our trek up to the roof. The Pantages Theater is about twelve stories and we have to climb up a metal ladder for two stories. We have more equipment than Sir Edmund Hillary had on his climb up Mt. Everest. Of course Sir Edmund wasn’t going to spend six hours on top of Everest. We reach the top and scout the parking lots. We can see four parking lots. We begin our surveillance. The first hour and half flies by. The Capitol Records building to the north is having a Christmas party. What we see going on in the parking lot is not a crime unless you’re a divorce lawyer.

The cold wind makes us both have to pee. The air conditioner for the Pantages Theater is a water cooled-evaporator, with a large water trough on the roof. Well, you can figure out where we peed. Your tax dollars at work. We didn’t catch anything but a bad cold. By the way if you spit tobacco off a twelve story building, the spit turns into a parachute about 2 stories down. More spread, but not good for accuracy.

The next night we commandeered an office inside the Capitol Records building. The office belonged to some bigwig. One of us sat in his huge over-sized chair while the other looked out the window. We were warm and there was a radio which we changed to country music. An hour into our stake out I heard Dave on the telephone. Next thing I hear is the DJ dedicating a Johnny Cash song to Dave and Hal, on a stake out. True story.

I have a few more stake out stories, some of which actually result in the arrest of a bad guy.

Practical Joke

Vine Lodge Hotel
Vine Lodge Hotel

It was some time in the winter. Dave and I got a call to meet another car in the back parking lot of a known dirt bag hotel (Vine Lodge). We figured they needed our expertise. We pulled into the parking lot and the officers were standing at the back of their open car trunk. We got out and walked toward them. We were immediately pelted with snowballs. That’s right snowballs in Hollywood. Ok, picture this, four LAPD officers running around a parking lot in the middle of the night, having a snowball fight. The officers found the snow on a car in the Hollywood hills. They took some and set up an ambush for us. We all laughed and decided the lieutenant should not miss out in the fun. Dave and I went to the station and coaxed the lieutenant to come outside. As soon as he exited the back door he was pelted with snowballs. He thought this was great fun and didn’t want his Assistant Watch Commander (A W/C) to miss out.

The lieutenant walked into the Watch Commanders Office, past the A W/C and closed the door. The A W/C looked up then turned toward us as we walked through the other door. He was suspicious because we all had our hands behind our backs. He jumped up and tried to go through the door the lieutenant was holding closed from the other side. The A W/C was pelted with eight snowballs. We cleaned up the best we could but the custodian wanted to know how the carpet got so wet. Non-cop friends might think this is juvenile, but it relieves the stress and improved moral.
Besides, how many can say they had a snow ball fight in Los Angeles, let alone in the Hollywood Watch Commanders Office?

%d bloggers like this: