By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD
The 1958 TV season gave us a show wherein the narrator intoned, “There are seven million stories in the Naked City. This is one.”
I am willing to bet out there in “Copland,” there are at least that many stories just concerning the courts—quirky judges, inept attorneys, naïve victims, witless witnesses and dumb defendants.
There was the “sleeping” judge who, liked a “taste” now and then. He tended to nod off while court was in session. Rumor had it that his bailiff stood close by and when an attorney made an objection the bailiff made the decision and would tap the judges leg–one tap “sustained” and two taps for “overruled.”
True? I don’t know but that was the story and everyone knew the judge was a tippler.
One of our detectives spent a lot of time trying to locate an important witness. The detective left his business card everywhere and did not get a call. The cards in addition to name, rank, phone number, etc., had a preprinted (case number) DR#– — —. The officer filled in the number so when the party called he or she could match up the report. The first 2 numbers were the year and the next 6 were the report file number. It might look something like this DR# 65 456 789. When the witness was finally found, and asked why he hadn’t called, he swore he tried but the voice on the phone kept-telling him the number he dialed, DR# 65 456 789 was not a working number.
True? I don’t know, but funny.
Then there was the female judge known for her flamboyant and bizarre behavior. [check out Hal Collier’s post about another/same or same judge] Her chambers were done in pink including drapes which her pink poodle had chewed to ribbons (saw this myself). She had dated a Los Angeles motorcycle officer and during one of their squabbles threatened to “give him a .38 caliber vasectomy.” That bit of information flew round the P.D. like a shot.
On another occasion an attorney failed to make an appearance. After discovering he was in federal court, she sent her marshal to arrest him in the federal courtroom. The federal judge did not take kindly to this and had his federal marshal arrest the county marshal.
After showing her that he was “the alpha dog,” he released her marshal.
No poodles, motor officers, nor marshals were injured during this story.
For several years there were numerous satellite courtrooms in downtown L.A. Most were in Chinatown, on obscure side streets with no parking, and most in double wide trailers. I got stuck in one for several days one summer. The air conditioner was working overtime and not doing well. It was HOT! The bailiff told me that the judge was able to manage so well due to the fact he wore only underwear under his robe and had a fan under his bench blowing up his robe.
I verified that when I saw his bare legs as he left the bench. Whatever works.
By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD
We learned of the law and evidence, physical training—and we ran. We learned traffic codes, penal codes and more codes—and we ran. We learned how to arrest, when to arrest and who to arrest and we ran some more. We learned how to shoot; when to shoot and who to shoot and we still kept running. We fired tear gas and as it drifted into the heavy brush, we watched as illicit “lovers” ran away crying and still we ran.
Thirteen weeks later, on May 4, against all odds, all 34 of us graduated and were turned loose upon the criminal element of Los Angeles. The LA of 1956 was a world apart from 2016.
In March of this year, 8 of the 11 survivors gathered to celebrate 60. Conversations were subdued as though we marveled at where we had been, what we had done, and who we had become. We raised a glass as I read the names of those gone before and toasted those present.
The feeling of camaraderie and sense of nostalgia was almost palpable as though we were surprised to be there.
So who were we and what had we done and become? We produced captains and lieutenants. One chief of police, (Culver City)] who became the longest serving chief in California. One of us became “Mr. Robbery” with over 50 years on the job, most of it as a robbery detective. We served in all capacities—some became famous, but most unsung.
Three of us got shot, one twice—what are the odds? We produced heroes and nobodies. We laughed and cried at our victories and defeats. We mourned fallen comrades and celebrated togetherness.
We were gray warriors living on memories of deeds past. We were the 8 percent. Did we really make a difference? I like to think so.