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.
Ed Meckle 1956
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
We 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?
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.