The Call Box

The Call Box: My Shadow World

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

As I write this I realize I live in a world that no longer exists. It is bits and pieces, fragments of memories and dreams, half-forgotten, half-remembered, faded photos of friends and events, of people and places of long ago, of adventures lived, tales told and experiences shared. It is of lives loved and lost, of friends long gone, the sights and sounds of a city, vanished. It is of sacrifices great and small, some known, most unseen. We marvel at where we have been, what we have done and who we have become.


The nights were dark and home to the unknowns. Only we stood at the gates. We shared the companionship of the finest people on this earth. I live with the knowledge that there may not be tangible proof of my efforts or even of my existence, but I rest knowing that I left something much greater behind. My service to my fellow man but mostly to my companions. I left it better than I found it. I was part of a select group to take part in a great venture that most never experience or even know exists.


I had a front row seat to the greatest show in the world. Who was I? A member of the world’s finest…


…the Los Angeles Police Department.


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Practical Jokes

By Hal Collier, LAPD Retired

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

The story you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the embarrassed. Everyone who was working at the Hollywood Police Station at the time, knows who the involved parties are. My past stories have been true police incidents followed by true practical jokes. The incidents I’m about to tell you will about cover the whole page, all involving the same officers. I will use a first name only to describe them. I did not personally participate in this practical joke but I was aware of it and didn’t object. Feel free to pass this story on, I checked with the ACLU and the statute of limitations have expired.


I’m going to have to go into a little background for my non-police friends who read my stories. Each police division is divided into areas. Each area is assigned a police or “A” Car. Remember “1 Adam 12?” Each ‘A” car has a Senior Lead Officer who is responsible for the activities of the “A” car on all three watches. Each “A” car will have its own Black and White (police car) assigned to it. That Black and White is supposed to only be used by the officers working that “A” car. Brand new police cars are always given to the “A” cars. Ok, if you are going to drive the same police car for the next six months to a year, you’re more inclined to take care of it. You keep it clean, inside and out and avoid dents and dings.


Here is where my story begins. Paul was a Senior Lead Officer in Hollywood and took pride in his Black and White. He made sure it was washed and serviced regularly. Paul’s downfall was that he cared too much about his car. If an officer on the previous watch was on overtime with Paul’s car, Paul would drive to his location to exchange cars. If an officer checked out Paul’s car who was not assigned to his car, Paul complained to the Watch Commander. I was a Senior Lead Officer for nine years and can understand Paul being protective of his car, but I also figured, the car belongs to the city. Paul was working Day Watch, that’s like 7 A.M. to 3 P.M.


Paul’s protective nature of his police car irritated some of the officers on the previous watch, that’s 11 P.M. to 7A.M. The first inkling that something was wrong was when Paul drove out of the police station parking lot and heard a clinking sound coming from the wheels. He drove to the police garage and had the hub caps removed. There were rocks in each hub cap. This went on for weeks. The officer, I’ll call Gary, who was putting the rocks in the hub caps either grew tired of that tactic or ran out of rocks.


This is not anywhere near the end of the story. Gary next placed a ball bearing inside the driver’s door. It must have been the size of a large marble. Now you might be thinking, what’s that going to do? Well, a ball bearing rolls. Inside a car door it rolls back and forth. Now just think of a two mile trip to the market. Every time you accelerate the ball bearing rolls to the back of the door. Every time you brake the ball bearing rolls to the front of the door. Each back and forth motion ends with a metallic clank. OK, now that you have the picture in your mind, imagine spending eight hours in a police car. That’s an average of 30 miles a day, every stop, “clank”, every start “clank”. How many starts and stops are there in 30 miles of city driving? I’m sure a Cal-Tech graduate could figure it out but to a street cop it amounts to a jacket with sleeves tied in the back and a rubber walled room. 


Paul took the car to the police garage and had the door panel removed but they couldn’t get that damn ball bearing out. About a year later I was driving this same black and white. I slammed on the brakes and that ball bearing rolled forward ending with a “clank.”  I think it had been stuck in the grime in the bottom of the door panel and I freed it. Oh crap, I wonder if those jackets come in extra-long sleeves? I honestly believe that somewhere in L.A. there’s an old taxi cab with a ball bearing inside the door waiting to be released.


This is still not the end of the story. One bright sunny Saturday, Paul got his vehicle keys from the equipment officer and walked out into the parking lot. After three trips walking around the parking lot, Paul couldn’t find his car. He suspected foul play, so he walked across the street to the police garage. Sure enough there was Paul’s police car sitting next to the gas pumps. It was sitting on four milk crates with tires removed. A note on the windshield said Paul “your tires are in the property room, have a nice day”.


I’m sure this was not the highlight of Paul’s long outstanding career, but I often think of Gary and the amount of work involved. Bringing all those rocks to work. How he got that ball bearing inside the car door and who jacked up that car. He took all four tires off. The tires were then rolled across the street and placed in the property room, which means he had to walk past the Watch Commanders office. Some practical jokes are a lot of work.


If I recall, the Watch Commander said “enough” and things returned to normal, if that’s possible in the Los Angeles Police Department at Hollywood Division.

Ramblings by Hal

Retirement Ramblings, part 1

By Hal Collier

I retired from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2005, after thirty-five years as a street cop. I spent most of my time working Hollywood Division, the Entertainment Capital of the World. It was entertaining to say the least.

I worked with some of the best cops and a few of the worst cops in the world. Together we laughed and far too often, we cried. We attended more cop funerals than we should have and we often hid our emotions. That’s just the way cops deal with the job. Some think that all goes away when cops retire. WRONG.

From your first day of work, you start thinking about the time that you can retire. You envision living on a beach or in a mountain cabin, sipping cocktails as the sun sets. Well the truth is a little different. It’s still good, but just a little more realistic. Some are more likely to find themselves drinking a warm beer while sitting on a Barca lounger chair.

I seldom let my neighbors know what kind of work I did. Example, a neighbor once knocked on my door late one night to settle a dispute with her boyfriend. I told her to call the police. My department frowns on me doing police work in my pajamas. Now that I’m retired I still watch strangers in my neighborhood, but I don’t do police work anymore—at least not when I’m awake. Asleep, I still chase bad guys and once solved the Black Dahlia case. Unfortunately in the morning I couldn’t remember the answer.


Shortly after retiring, I’m sitting in my Eagle Rock home and I hear some gunshots. Now I know the difference between gunshots and firecrackers. I also know the difference between an ambulance siren and a police car siren. When you pin on that badge and work for a period of time you become a cop for life. Taking off the badge for the last time does not stop the years of training and experience that cops developed.


I hear a lot of police sirens and soon the police helicopter is circling about six blocks east of my house. I know it’s something big. A different neighbor who knew I was a cop calls and asks, “what’s going on?” I tell her I’ll find out.

I live in Northeast Division and don’t know anyone in the Watch Commanders office who might know me, so I call the Hollywood Watch Commander. They can check the source of the call on the computer. I call the inside line and get the PSR, (Police Service Representative.) I’ve only been retired a few months but she doesn’t know me. I ID myself as a recently retired police officer from Hollywood and ask her about the shooting in Northeast. She tells me that she can’t give out that information to the G.P.

I ask who the Watch Commander is and she tells me. It’s a sergeant I worked with, he remembers me. Cool, I’m going to get the info. He refers me back to the PSR. She tells me again that since I’m retired, I’m GP and not entitled to the information on the shooting.

A few months earlier I was a sergeant and often the Watch Commander of one of the busiest Divisions in the city of Los Angeles. I made decisions that might cause me an early retirement, the departments choice not mine. Now I’m G.P.

I wasn’t familiar with the term G.P. so I asked what’s G.P.? She calmly and professionally told me your General Public!!! I knew that night that I was retired and no longer a cop. It was a hard pill to swallow. I discussed with my wife getting a tattoo “GP” but she objected.

Next I’ll discuss how cops deal with being “G.P.”



Ramblings by Hal

Police Burglars, part 3 of 3

This post is part 3 of 3. Oh, except for the epilogue, which will be posted tomorrow. Because the end of this series is so lengthy, I’ve split it in two. For police personnel or civilian, Hal’s take on this scandal is worth reading. He was in the trenches and sadly, is still feeling the betrayal three decades old. –Thonie


By Hal Collier
My first Ramblings on the Hollywood Burglary Scandal dealt with a rash of business burglaries that occurred in Hollywood, most on my shift. My second Ramblings described the arrest of Venegas and Myers and how they were caught.

This Ramblings will describe the aftermath and the effect it had on not only me but the entire LAPD. This might take a few pages so get yourself your favorite beverage and sit back. Again, these are my observations and any resemblance to the opinions of the Los Angeles Police Department is purely coincidental. I’m already getting opinions and theories from other Hollywood officers who have read my first Ramblings.

So here goes:
The next night I go to work wondering what to expect. Venegas and Myers have been relieved of duty and we were told an investigation into their activities had been started.

Nothing earth shattering there. The rumors started and the dumb questions were asked. Is anyone else involved? Cops on other watches, some former partners would ask, “Do you have a Video Recorder for sale.” Not funny after the 50th time. Another officer and close friend asks, “Hal, did you know?” That question hurt. Maybe it was just me but it seemed like I was being watched and under suspicion by everyone. Supervisors showed up at more of my calls. I was beginning to spend a lot of time looking over my shoulder.

After a few weeks things seemed to calm down, then another officer was taken out of the field and assigned to the desk. A week later he was relieved of duty. Then another two officers were assigned to the desk. They also were relieved of duty. The Hollywood desk was getting crowded.

One night I showed up for work and see that I’m working the desk. I ask the Watch Commander if I was I being investigated. He assures me, “No, it’s just that were running short of officers.” All night I’m at the desk and I hear, “Oh, Hal, not you too.”

Some of rumors were beautiful, some we made up ourselves. It was common knowledge that one of the involved parties was cooperating with Internal Affairs Investigators. That’s fine as long as the person is truthful. What if he has a grudge against an officer? It could ruin an officer’s career.

In 1981, there was a cowboy craze throughout America. A lot of cops were wearing cowboy boots, hats and big belt buckles. Yea, I even had them. One day this officer comes up to me at change of watch. He says, “Hal, I hear they searched everyone’s house.” I was tired of the rumors. I said, “Yea, they took all my boots, belt buckles and my favorite cowboy hat.” It spread like wildfire, before I got changed to go home it was all over the station. I still have that cowboy hat!

Another rumor that was going around was that Morning Watch Officers would meet after work and divide the stolen property. We were also rumored to have prostitutes at after work bull sessions. After relieving so many officers, the department had to replace them. Any new officer was immediately believed to be a department plant to get information on us. You need to trust your partner, not be suspicious of him.

Those of us still left, became paranoid. I remember one day I’m on a day off and sitting in my kitchen. My wife yells at me, “Hal, Internal Affairs is across the street and they’re looking at our house.” I look out the window and sure enough that’s a four-door plain police car with two plain suit detectives. I don’t care if they have a search warrant, but I’m wondering did we make the bed this morning. I’ll plead innocent to the kid’s bedroom, I don’t know what’s in there. I watch them for a while and discover they are looking at the house next door which has a for sale sign. They are shopping on duty. Ok, now my wife and I are both ready for those long sleeve coats with the buckles that fasten in the back.

After a while, the interviews started. I.A. would show up at the station and just like the enemy, they attacked at dawn. They would bring in an officer, sit him down and ask him questions about radio calls he had been at months or even a year ago. Who was there, what did you do, what did you see, do you own any of these items? Hell, a year ago? I have my name and address in my underwear. You would think that they would ask all their questions one time and they would be through. Ha, every officer they interviewed gave them some information they didn’t know about and they would have to ask each officer about that incident. As near as I can remember, I had six separate interviews. They always said I wasn’t a suspect but I sure felt like “a person of interest” like they mention in the news.

After a round of interviews, new rumors would fill the station halls. Cops can spread rumors faster than TMZ! Soon, I’d get calls from friends in other divisions who heard the rumors. It became hard to avoid the distractions.

See Just the Facts, Ma’am/Ramblings tomorrow for the epilog to this story.

More Street Stories

Officer Down Memorial

Officer Down-Officer Keith Lawrence of University of Southern California Department of Public Safety

Public Safety Officer Keith Lawrence with fiancee Monica Quan
Public Safety Officer Keith Lawrence with fiancee Monica Quan


Public Safety Officer Keith Lawrence was shot and killed along with his fiancee, Monica Quan, by a former police officer who was seeking revenge against law enforcement officers for being fired. The subject ambushed them as they pulled into a parking spot at their apartment complex in Irvine, California. Both were shot multiple times with a 9mm handgun.

The subject had been fired from the Los Angeles Police Department several years earlier and was seeking revenge against members of the Los Angeles Police Department who had been involved with his personnel case. Ms. Quan’s father had represented the subject in his personnel review hearings prior to his being fired.

Prior to ambushing Officer Lawrence and Ms. Quan, the subject the researched their backgrounds and was aware of Officer Lawrence’s employment as a police officer.

Several days after their murders, the subject engaged in a shootout with members of the LAPD who were protecting an individual believed to be targeted by the man. Immediately following the shootout, the subject ambushed and murdered Police Officer Michael Crain, of the Riverside Police Department. He then fled to San Bernardino County, where he remained at large for several days.

After being located, he engaged officers in a prolonged gun battle in which Detective Jeremiah MacKay, of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office, was shot and killed. The subject committed suicide after the cabin he was barricaded him became engulfed in flames.

Officer Lawrence had served with the University of Southern California Department of Public Safety for six months. He and Ms. Quan had become engaged only days earlier.


Please contact the following agency to send condolences or to obtain funeral arrangements:

Chief John Thomas
University of Southern California Department of Public Safety
3667 McClintock Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90089

Phone: (213) 740-6000

University of Southern California Department of Public Safety
University of Southern California Department of Public Safety


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