So you carefully plot out your days off for the following month. You submit your request and hope you get something close to what you asked for. The rookie sergeant has the entire watch’s days off requests. That’s usually about thirty to thirty-five highly trained officers, all with loaded guns. You don’t want to piss them off.
The first thing the sergeant does is put everyone days off on a master sheet. He is given a “haves” and “needs” for each day. “Haves” are how many officers show working that day by their requests, the “needs” show what the bare minimum number of officers you need to work. You almost always have too many officers working mid-week and never enough asking to work weekends. The master sheet would look something like this: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, you had 30 “haves” and only 20 “needs.” Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, you had 10 “haves” and 20 “needs.” Let me do the math for you. To balance the days off, you have to take away 10 officers weekends and give them a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. That’s just one weekend.
Some brand-new sergeants who didn’t spend much time in the field and is only working patrol until he/she gets off probation. He/she didn’t care if the officers got crappy days off. They only want to get back into the building to network with the brass. If the new sergeant takes the short-cut, he just takes away officers’ days off requests. Some officers get nothing they asked for and end up with a bunch of singe days off. Nothing worse than a single day off on Morning watch (graveyard). An officer could end up with days off that go something like this: work 2, off 3, work 1, off 2, work 10, off 1. The sergeant who did those days off was likely to have a flat tire on his personal car.
The new sergeant, who was pretty proud of himself, submitted the days off to the Watch Commander (W/C) for approval. 10 minutes later, the sergeant got them back to do all over again. The W/C probably saved the sergeant’s life.
It was the late seventies. I was working Hollywood morning watch. My partner had just finished writing a ticket at the intersection of Santa Monica and Western. We were in a parking lot across the street from a local dive bar and since it was close to closing time we decided to sit and wait and snag a DUI driver leaving the bar.
We did not have to wait long and saw our future arrest come staggering out of the bar and start walking to his car parked at the curb. As he walked to his car we noticed that he was placing his hands on other vehicles for support as he walked. He gets in a late fifties Cadillac, starts the engine, cranks the wheel, and punches the accelerator. The car makes a sharp U-turn from the curb, tires are screeching with rubber burning and it goes blasting east on Santa Monica to the entrance to the Hollywood Freeway.
The guy has a lead on us and my partner does some driving to catch up. We are south bound on the freeway about three miles or so before we get the guy stopped and pulled over on an off ramp. We get him out of the car and one thing is readily apparent.
He is old. His driver’s license says he is 89.
One other thing becomes apparent. He is not under the influence. No booze on his breath, no nystagmus in his eyes, and his speech was clear and distinct. We asked him if he had been drinking and he said he had not had a drink in fifty years. We asked him what the hell was he doing in a bar then. He replied that he lived in an apartment down the street from the bar and went there because he was lonely and he could talk to people. We asked what the hell was up with his driving.
He replied, “I was sitting there in the bar when someone come in and says that there is a black and white parked across the street. Someone else asks, ‘Hey, Pops you want to earn some money?’”
“They pass the hat, everybody kicks in a few bucks—I think twenty to twenty-five. They say, ‘Take this money and go take the cops on a wild goose chase’……so I did.”
We kick the old guy loose. I am laughing, my partner is fuming. We race back to the bar and of course find it locked up tight.
Here’s when things really changed. Around 1974/75, women were introduced to patrol. Now, I like women. My wife and daughter are women. Some of my favorite partners were women and I worked with a few women as captains and lieutenants. All great cops and people. My only complaint was that they showed their mother instincts when it came to code 7. They didn’t think that a juice dripping hamburger was all that healthy. Pink’s at 1 A.M. was out of the question and a Tommy burger was ok—but only once in a while.
What’s happening to my LAPD?
One more thing about eating with women. They usually took a doggie bag from the restaurant. Then we spent an hour driving around Hollywood looking for stray dogs or cats to give the food to. Once my partner spotted a kitten with a potato chip bag stuck on its head. There were two of LAPD’s finest chasing a kitten around the street trying to get the bag off of its head. Thank goodness this was before everyone had video cameras.
Now, when working Morning Watch (11:00 P.M. to 7 A.M.), your choices were pretty slim for fine dining on the hood of your police car. At that hour most of your food choices catered to the bar crowds. That’s when I started brown bagging. Once I brought in a big pot of my wife’s homemade chili. I shared it with my partner who said she enjoyed it but didn’t ask for seconds. The next night she made Matzo Ball soup. I declined seconds. We also ate in the police station break room, not fine dining! Before I knew it I was eating salads at Sizzler and potato skins were a no no! I was also taught to dip my fork in the salad dressing instead of pouring the dressing on my salad. Less calories. The change was probably for the better but every once in a while I feel the strong urge to eat something bad for me on the hood of my car.
The following stories all happened to me on code 7.
My first story didn’t have an interruption but had a real impact on my career! It was August 21, 1975, and I was dining at the Copper Penny at Sunset and Hudson. As preferred, I was sitting in a booth seat with a window view of my parked police car. Keep in mind this is when we only had radios in the car and if something big happened you didn’t know until you got back into the car.
After dining I get in my lowest bid official police cruiser and start the engine. The radio is abuzz with chatter. I detect an urgency in the dispatcher’s voice as she is directing units to block intersections.
The SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army-a domestic terrorist group) placed a pipe bomb under the police car of John Hall and James Bryan at the IHOP at Sunset and Orange, only six blocks from where I was eating.
See—another reason why I hated IHOP. I suppose it could have been under my car except I was seated where I could watch it. The bomb failed to detonate due to a stroke of luck. Both officers would have been killed instantly as well as quite a few diners.
For the next thirty years, I got down on one knee and looked under my police car for bombs. True story.
The following story is true and comes from the memory of an old retired street cop. These incidents happened and all on your tax dollar.
Dale Hickerson and I are partners and were driving west on Sunset Boulevard when we receive a MDT (Mobile Digital Terminal, an in-car computer) message. “Look at the old bald heads in that police car.” Now, we take immediate exception, Dale has a full head of hair. We look behind us and see two very young female officers. By young I mean they are still pooping Range Burgers, available at the police academy café during recruit training.
Dale and I laugh and plan revenge. We have to be careful, practical jokes now days are considered sexual harassment, discrimination, or a hostile work environment. Neither one of us wants to tap into our deferred compensation retirement program to defend a lawsuit. The lawyers have taken all the fun out of police work. The next lawyer I stop for running a red light is getting a ticket.
We drive around until we spot a dead pigeon in the road. Dale and I look at each other and thank the patron saint of police officers. We scoop up the pigeon and look for our prey. They are at the station. Perfect—we don’t want the citizens of Hollywood to see us breaking into a police car and calling the Watch Commander.
We place the recently deceased bird under the front passenger seat of their car. It’s just out of sight but close enough that when the brakes are applied it will roll out from under the seat. We’re too busy to follow them around, but I hear the scream could be heard for miles.
Ok, I just made sergeant and I’m assigned to morning watch in Southeast Division (Watts). I’m learning that being a supervisor is different than being a street cop. I respond to a robbery that just occurred. The responding officers just missed the suspect and the helicopter is overhead. The helicopter is equipped with FLIR. That stands for Forward Looking InfraRed. It detects heat (like body heat) sources on the ground. It’s great for finding bad guys hiding on a hillside or in a park. It’s also good for finding a warm car after a pursuit.
The FLIR system has a few drawbacks. I was once directed to a spot in the bushes and came face to face with a very angry coyote. Another time we ordered a suspect to come out from a small enclosure attached to a house. It was a water heater.
Ok, back to Watts. The helicopter detects a hot spot in the alley behind the store. I grab a cop and head to the alley. I’m directed to an ivy covered fence. I tell the cop I’ll lift the ivy and you cover me with your gun. I lift the ivy and am immediately am overcome with an odor that would gag a seasoned coroner. My suspect is a very decomposed dead dog.
Next time I’ll supervise and leave the searching to the street cops.
Hal is a thirty-five year veteran of LAPD. We are pleased he is sharing his stories with us.
The following story is true. Lately I’ve used real first names. When I used a fake names, like John, I would get a dozen e-mails asking if that was officer so-n-so. My last couple of stories involved catching burglars and a car pursuit to Oxnard. This story will get back to the funny side of police work. I can talk about this now because I don’t have to have public approval for a raise.
Have you ever noticed that some people just beg to have practical jokes played on them? They get all excited, and are fun to watch as they swear revenge. Some are just easy to fool with.
This is the story of Chris, a Sergeant/Detective in Hollywood during the mid/late 70’s. Chris was a good cop and was always getting into pursuits and shootings. Some thought he was crazy, others believed he was a dinosaur who failed to evolve. Either way, Chris was the role model for a victim of practical jokes.
Chris was a pipe smoker. He was always waving his pipe around as he talked. He was always looking for his pipe. He would set it down and then accuse someone of taking it. One day he set his pipe down and Randy palmed it. Randy, a Viet Nam Veteran, removed a small amount of gunpowder from a bullet and mixed it in Chris’s pipe tobacco. Chris picked up his pipe and lit it. The gunpowder flashed in Chris’s face. Chris chased Randy around the station twice, threatening to shoot him.
I remember one morning, yea, Morning Watch, Chris gets in a pursuit. Chris broadcasts that he’s southbound La Brea from Franklin. Great, I’m at La Brea and Fountain. I’ll wait for him to drive the six blocks and be first in line to join the fun. He’s now passing Hollywood Boulevard, then Sunset. I can hear the siren but I don’t see him. He broadcasts that he’s passing Fountain. I look at my partner—we’re at Fountain and we don’t see him. Oh crap. He’s not on La Brea he’s on Highland four blocks east of us. The pursuit ended when Chris used the pit maneuver, twenty years before it was approved by the department. That’s just Chris being Chris.
Another time, Chris parked his black and white in the captains’ parking spot. Someone opened Chris’s car door and tied a huge plastic blow up whiskey bottle from his rear view mirror. The Captain came to work early and could be heard asking Chris why he had a whiskey bottle in his car, and if was just recently promoted to captain?
Flash forward a year or two. Chris is now working Detectives, but not out of reach of practical jokes. Randy’s partner, Gary is the master practical joker. Remember the rocks in the hubcaps and ball bearing in the door panel? That was Gary.
It started out innocently enough. You recall the old style phones where you could unscrew the earpiece? Every day, Gary would unscrew the earpiece and put a layer of scotch tape over the inside of the ear holes of Chris’s phone. By the end of the week, Chris was screaming into the phone: “I can’t hear you, speak up.” It was funny to watch. The other detectives were not as amused.
Now, Gary could also pick locks, especially the lock on Chris’s desk drawers. Once he placed a homeless man’s dirty underwear in his drawer. The coup-de-grace was the day Gary opened Chris’s desk and removed all his papers and personal items. He gave them to the Detective in charge. He lined Chris’s desk drawer with a plastic trash bag. Gary filled the drawer with water. He carefully closed the desk drawer and relocked it. Good thing Gary didn’t have any goldfish. Now half the officers and supervisors are in on the practical joke. The Detective squad room is packed with uniformed officers who suddenly have business with Detectives.
In walks Chris. He hangs up his coat and stands in front of his desk. The squad room gets quiet. He puts his key in his desk drawer lock. Everyone is looking at Chris. Chris turns and walks away to get a cup of coffee. Everyone takes a breath and acts as if they are working. Chris returns to his desk.
I’m surprised a big city detective like Chris didn’t notice that all these uniforms in the squad room. Detectives and uniform cops don’t usually like each other. Detectives complain that uniform cops make crappy arrests. The uniform cops complain that the detectives won’t get off their butts and investigate the arrests they make.
Ok, everyone, myself included, is anticipating Chris opening his desk drawer. He returns to his desk, sets down his coffee cup, and pulls out the drawer. Water slouches out onto Chris’s shoes. Chris has that “what the F—” look on his face. He pulls the drawer all the way out. All the water lands at his feet. The Detective squad room breaks out in laughter. A few run and get a mop and clean up the mess. Chris is sitting at his desk an hour later, staring blankly. A smile comes over his face as he appreciates the humor, but then a stern look creeps across his face as if to say “Why me?” Time for me to get lost before the bullets fly. Chris later retired and runs a gun shop in Simi Valley.
Your Tax dollars at work. You know before everyone got so touchy, about race, religion, sexual orientation, and suing everyone, this was fun place to work. It relieved stress and built camaraderie. I still miss the good old days.
On my last Ramblings, I described trying to adjust to sleeping in the day time and working all night. Most cops hated Morning Watch, but I soon fell in love with the police work that can be accomplished while the city slept. It must be in the genes, my son has worked Morning Watch for the past 15 years.
On Morning Watch you didn’t have to deal with the regular city traffic, you just had to dodge the drunk drivers. You don’t have the petty disputes between neighbors, “her cat digs up my daises.” The best part, the brass was home asleep and not out interfering with the way you handled a radio call. I spent two years on Morning Watch before my captain could put my face to a name. That was a good thing.
Hollywood in the 70’s was a lot of fun. You hit the streets at 11:30 PM. You cleared for radio calls and immediately got five calls, the max. Apparently the PM watch officers had been submarining to get off on time. They only had a two hour window before the bars closed.
In between racing from call to call, a few “hot shot” radio calls would come out. To non-police friends, a “hot shot” call was an emergency call demanding immediate attention. Robbery, rapes, drive by-shootings, you know the usual dull stuff.
On a slow night, usually midweek, you could sneak in a cup of coffee at Tiny Naylor’s. Tiny Naylor’s was a drive-in restaurant where you got car service—you know tray on your car window. I can’t tell you how many times I had to set the tray on the ground because we got a hot shot radio call.
Weekend nights were very busy and we rushed from call to call until about four A.M. When it slowed down, you had a chance to catch up on your log. Again for the non-police friends, a log documented when you got the call, when you handled the call and what time you cleared the call. It also documented what you did and who you talked to. Now during a busy night your log was written on a small 3×5 inch scratch pad and you had to transfer it to your log later. Many a busy night the whole night’s work was on small scraps of paper.
Working Morning Watch in Hollywood was like always being in the front of the line at Disneyland rides. Sometimes after work it would take an hour for the adrenaline to leave your body. I can’t believe they are paying us for having this much fun. There were some draw backs—ok, a lot of draw backs. Some cops couldn’t sleep during the day. Hell, some couldn’t stay awake for the ride home. Many a Morning Watch officer owes his life to the guy who invented the freeway lane dots known as Botts Dots. They woke him up just before he drifted off the freeway.
The biggest curse was probably court. Work all night, change into your Brooks Brother suit—you know the one with the C&R tags and drive downtown. You could wear your uniform, but then you became an information officer. Officer, can you tell how to get to? Sometimes citizens lined up to ask you directions or questions.
In the early 70’s court was in the old Hall of Justice. I remember walking past Charlie Manson’s girls during his trial. Soon after, they built the Criminal Courts Building (CCB) across the street. The new court house had a check-in and officer waiting room. If you got there early, you could lay down on the two couch like seats. If you got there late, you had to sit in a stiff upright chair. Now, some cops could sleep anywhere. They removed their suit coat, shoes, gun and laid down for a nice nap. Me, I found out early, no matter how tired I was, don’t lie down and close your eyes. After an hour asleep I was like a drunk at a Led Zeppelin concert.
Court could be a thirty minute visit or an eight hour ordeal. Ok, spend all night working, leave work for the drive downtown to court. Spend eight hours waiting for your case to be called, only to be told at 4:30 PM come back tomorrow. No problem, I’ll race home in rush hour traffic, eat a drive thru hamburger and grab a quick three hour nap and go back to work. This was not a rare instance but a regular occurrence.
I once had a partner, Mike Brambles, who had been up for two days between work and court. He fell asleep in Judge Lang’s Court, Division 38. Not just asleep, but he fell out into the center aisle, passed out on the floor. Judge Lang put him to bed in his chambers until end of the day and then sent Mike home.
Another time I had worked three nights in a row with court. I walked out of court as the sun was setting. I walked the three blocks to the Music Center where we had to park. I was in a daze and couldn’t remember which level I parked my truck, eight hours earlier. I found it after walking down two levels and everyone else had already gone home.
Just about every Morning Watch cop had a court story that the general public doesn’t know about. Next I’ll write about “Hitting the Hole!!
This is the conclusion of Hal’s Foot Beat Stories, for now. He might have another one cooking that he will share with us soon. Next week, we’ll look at Hal’s take on different types of calls for service. Leave us a comment if you care to ask Hal about his life in LAPD. And as always, I’m here to answer questions, too. –Thonie
I never expected the foot beat chapter to be this long but once I started, all these memories flooded my brain. Don’t panic, I’m not ready to climb up on roof like those knuckleheads in Louisiana. The fond memories even pushed out the thoughts of the ugly daily news.
I asked for and was given a Morning Watch Foot Beat. I don’t think any other division in the city has a Morning Watch Foot Beat, but then none looked like Hollywood in the late 70’s. When all the other night and strip clubs closed up Hollywood was just getting started.
My Lieutenant didn’t want me making a bunch of misdemeanor arrests, like lewd conduct in the porno theaters or drunks in a bar. That was a job for vice.
I had almost 8 years on the job but felt as if I was on probation. We had to produce or go back to a radio car, handling barking dogs, loud parties and explaining to citizens why we took 3 hours to handle their call for service.
We would clear roll call at 11:30 and park our police car in a taxi zone right next to the Hot Dog Stand. Well, we were sort of a taxi, we just made one-way trips and didn’t charge a fare. We would walk one round of the Hollywood Boulevard foot beat boundaries. La Brea to Vine. After Midnight there wasn’t much open on the east end and a waste of energy and shoe leather. We would spend the next 6 hours in a 3 block radius of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland.
I learned some interesting tactics while walking a foot beat. First, most crooks look up and down the street for a police car, they seldom look on the sidewalk for a foot beat cop. I often could walk right up behind two guys on the Boulevard and look over their shoulder and see them exchange dope for money. I also discovered I could walk right by two suspicious characters, turn down the next corner and circle back through the alley and watch them break into someone’s car.
We did some of our best work walking through dark alleys and parking lots behind Hollywood Boulevard. Another foot beat tactic was dodging vomit, urine and used condoms. Still want my job? I often questioned the wisdom of putting carpets in the Watch Commanders Office. No cop washes the bottom of their shoes before entering the station.
We often saw an empty car alone in a parking lot even when there was lots of free street parking. Run the license plate for wants and bingo, it was stolen. Other times we looked at the ignition, punched ignition meant it was stolen and not reported. Now comes the hard part, you had to keep your eye on the stolen car, go get your own car and then hide it someplace where the suspect won’t see it.
Any cop who spent more than a day in patrol, knows how hard it is to hide a Black & White police car with a light bar. It’s easier to hide a face pimple on prom night.
One of us would stay in the car, and the other was watching the stolen car, usually hiding behind a trash dumpster, with urine and vomit under your feet.
I won’t tell you about all the arrests we made walking a morning watch foot beat but we often led the watch in arrests. Of course, we seldom got tied up handling radio calls.
We often free-lanced and responded to crimes where the suspect might still be in the area. We also didn’t want to piss off the other hard working cops on our watch.
Yesterday’s radio car cop was my partner the next night. If things got busy we would jump into our police car and handle radio calls. I remember once the radio operator tried to assign me a radio call high in the Hollywood Hills. I agreed to handle the call but quoted a long delay, because I was on foot a mile and half from my car.
I was fortunate that I was given good partners to work with. Every once in a while I would get a cop who didn’t want to work or for that matter, walk the foot beat. One night I was assigned this cop who was known for being lazy. I noticed that every half block I found myself walking alone. I would look back and my partner was leaning against a closed business. Once he was sitting on a bus bench next to a homeless person.
His attitude changed when a suspect shot another drug dealer in the face with a shotgun behind the hot dog stand, 30 feet away from where we were standing. He stayed pretty close for the rest of the night. Two nights later we arrested the shooting suspect. I had a snitch who told me which motel he was staying in.
I had a lot of fun walking the Hollywood Boulevard Foot Beat and I got to work with some great partners, J.J., Dan, Stan, Bill, Cliff and a host of other good cops.
Mike Castro walked the Hollywood & Western Foot Beat, (6FB4) with Dave Smith and Ken Hobbs and said it was a great job. Other officers walked a foot beat in Ramp (Rampart) or Central Divisions and all agreed pounding a beat was a fun and rewarding job.
After 3 1/2 years, I was told that they needed my foot beat spot for a new radio car that would handle all the burglar alarms. It was called a code 30 car and was staffed with officers Jack Myers and Ron Venegas. That’s right, they became the famous Hollywood Burglars. They were the cops that broke into businesses to steal property–on duty. I’d hate to be the supervisor that made that decision. Walking a foot beat was the best of times, that later turned into the worst of times. That will be another Ramblings story.
Today’s Hollywood Boulevard foot beat cops ride bikes or drive around in their cars. It’s just a different time. I was one of the lucky ones who got a little bit of the good ole days.