Roll Call

Roll Call: The Kitchen Knife and the 5150

By Mikey, Retired LAPD 

Dispatcher Charleston PDRampart Division, 1992, shortly after the riots things were settling down, different, but settling down. Just as this 19-year veteran of the LAPD thinks he has all figured out, reality back-hands you, square on the face. It was a PM patrol watch, business as usual, when a 5150 WIC (5150 Welfare and Institutional Code describing a mentally ill individual), is broadcast on a street in the south end of the division, boarding South West Division. The information we received was that the teenage son had torn the inside of his house apart, threatened his family with a 15” butcher knife and had fled the home with the knife. 

I responded along with several units and the inside of the house looked exactly as dispatch described. The mother and sister of the suspect were there. They were very afraid and the mother warned us that her son was out of control and they feared for their lives. Several minutes after we had arrived, a South West unit reported that it was following a stolen vehicle, armed and dangerous with four occupants, north bound toward Rampart and they needed back-up. The procession was headed in our direction and would be passing us in a matter of a few minutes. I told my officers that I would stay with the family and they should back the South West unit. 

Things were going well for about ten minutes when at the far end of the street, just east of the house I heard a gut-curdling scream. At the corner standing illuminated by a street light, was the teenage son, knife over his head clutched in his right and pointing in our direction. Mom and sister were standing behind me screaming at the teenager to put the knife down.

silhouette-of-hand-with-knifeWell, I joined the chant as well, as I unholstered my 9mm and told him to drop the knife. I broadcasted a “Help” call, “man with a knife.” The standoff lasted 30 seconds before the teen charged us, knife raised, in a full sprint. I yelled to him that I would shoot if he did not stop. From behind, me I heard the women yell, “don’t shoot him.”

Then it happened. One of the bravest, selfless acts of love I have ever seen. Both women ran toward the man, wrapped their arms around him put their heads down and waited to be brutally knifed or for me to take the shot. I’ll never forget that scene as they held him back from moving any closer to me. At that moment officers arrived and surrounded the trio, but I still had the shot. This is where it all came together for me, 19-years on the department, a tactics, self-defense instructor, Vietnam vet and now this reality.

I heard an officer yell, “Don’t shoot Sarge. He’s holding a twig.” The 15” knife went from a blade to a twig just as fast as the words came out of the officer’s mouth.

The women were pulled away from the man and he was taken into custody. What would the headlines have read and the evening television news described? In my mind’s eye, he WAS holding a 15” knife but in reality, it was a 9” twig. Even with the experience I possessed, the “power of suggestion” had me spring-loaded to the deadly force position.

I included the incident in subsequent tactics classes along with a 15” butcher knife and a 9” twig, the same one the teen used that night. 

cops talkingAnother sergeant was there as the man was taken into custody. The sergeant was a Vietnam veteran as well. He came up behind me and whispered into my ear, “Heard the pounding of the elephant, didn’t you, Mikey?” 

“Did I sound like it?” 

“Yes, you did Mikey. Yes, you did.”

Back on August 10, 2016, Ed Meckle wrote a post about the origin and meaning of this significant phrase. It’s worth your time to click on the link.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: More on Scheduling Days Off

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

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.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Cops’ Days Off

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

How many non-police folks think that days off can be a subject? In the business world, it’s weekends and holidays off. You can plan an anniversary dinner a year in advance if you’re still married in a year.

Cops are lucky to be able to plan a week in advance.

Well, let me tell you—figuring days off has become a science for officers in large departments. Some smaller departments have a mandatory watch rotation. Six months on days, six months on nights and six months on graveyard. They also have set working days, 3/12 (3 days of 12 hours) shifts will work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and have the rest of the week off. You could also work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for six months. Figure that into your child care—that is if you can find the time to make a baby! I barely got the next day off when my son was born. You sometimes have to make a reservation just to see your spouse.  Now days they have bonding where the father (cop) takes weeks off to bond with the newborn child.


Some bonding men went fishing without their child? Pigs!



I’ve almost lost you, huh? In the LAPD, a lot depends on what watch you work. If your working days or PM’s it a little easier to figure out what days off you have. If you have Tuesday, the 16th, then you have Tuesday the 16th off!  If you work grave yard and you have the 16th off, you go to work the night of the 16th. Huh? That’s right. When we were on eight hour shifts, Morning Watch started at 11:00 PM on the day before you show working. Back to the 16th. You get invited to a party on the 16th, you need to take the 17th off or leave the party early and no drinking of an alcohol beverage. Some officers never got it straight! I had a former retired partner, Leo, tell me that he still had cop nightmare dreams about submitting days off. Bet you thought that a shooting was stressful!


In the LAPD, you submitted a request for days off. You got nine days off for every 28 days you work and submitted your request a week in advance of your next work period. That’s right, you had to guess what you were going to do 28 days from now. I use to sit down with my wife and discuss what days we need off for the next month. We studied over school calendars, appointment calendars, birthdays and most important Court Subpoenas. Nothing worse than going to court on your day off.


Here’s another quirk: you submitted your days off with the other two members of your car and the other officers on your watch. You were asked to balance your car, which means two of you working every day. That only worked if the entire watch balanced their car. I never saw that happen in 35 years. Everyone wanted that three-day weekend. So you submit your days off after careful planning with your wife, doctor and vet. Oh, don’t forget your child’s preschool play that you can’t miss, again! You turn in your days off request and cross your fingers.

That never worked either.


Next—a rookie sergeant has the outcome of your next month’s days off on the eraser of his pencil.


The Call Box

The Call Box: Doin’ Hard Time, part 2 At the Gray Bar Grill

by Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

The Gray Bar Grill, as I mentioned, was our in-house restaurant. It did a big daytime business due to all the court personnel but was quiet at night. It was the only place to get a sandwich, soup or salad as the area was pretty isolated. The chef was of course a trustee who was selected by the officer in charge of placing prisoners in the right jobs. The fare was average at best but cheap (very cheap) but there were bright moments. Whenever the Department of Fish and Game made a seizure of illegal lobster, venison or whatever game, it was donated to the jail system. How about lobster bisque or lobster salad or tender venison for $1.50? Abalone anyone?          

Speaking of trustees, they ran the place. You heard right, they ran the place. All were lifelong alcoholics who spent most of their life behind bars. Some, when arrested and asked their occupation had it printed on their booking slip— “trustee, 3rd floor.” Each floor usually had only one or two officers but six-eight trustees, who knew the system, right down to the forms to fill out—which they did. I had an elderly trustee (all were in their 50s to 60s) who claimed to have done time in San Quentin with Caryl Chessman, the notorious “Red Light Bandit.” He also claimed to have secretly typed the manuscript for his novel Cell 2455, Death Row. His name was Knudsen and he was missing two fingers on one hand and typed as fast as anyone I have ever seen, all on a manual typewriter.


The first floor also contained the receiving section where busloads of misdemeanor prisoners arrived on a regular basis. They were placed in huge holding areas and then appeared in arraignment court (Division 30 and 31) They came through by the hundreds. Everybody knew their job and everything moved smoothly until…


A couple of officers on the AM shift thought it would be funny to hold court themselves. They opened the courtroom. One donned the robes. And they took guilty pleas and sentenced some of the bleary eyed drunks. It would have gone unnoticed until one prisoner the next morning objected to his real sentence of thirty days, claiming the judge last night only gave him fifteen days.

As you can imagine some tail feathers got burned on that one.

I did less than a year until I got a transfer to patrol. Looking back it wasn’t as bad as I made it sound. It sort of eased me into dealing with the “public,” so to speak.

Writer's Notes

Joseph Wambaugh’s WATTS, 50 Years Later

This is from Joseph Wambaugh: This was  1 of 3 riots in LA. Coming  will be the 1968 and 1992 down the road


Inside the unrest
First a warning at the station, then a tense patrol car ride.
AT 7 P.M. on Thursday, Aug. 12, 1965, about 2,000 people gather at 116th and Avalon. Tension is still high after the mob violence of the previous night following the arrest of an alleged drunk driver, but the people are not rioting.

A short time later, random shots are fired at a police vehicle on Imperial Highway, but there are no reports of massive rioting. Many of the officers in police divisions north of 77th Street Station listen on police radios and do not believe that the volatile unrest near Watts will spread to other parts of South Los Angeles.

The next afternoon, however, calls go out to officers at home, even those who work plainclothes assignments, ordering them to report to 77th Street Station in uniform. The nameless voice on the line adds: “Leave the necktie and soft hat but bring your helmet and baton. You’re about to witness anarchy.”

It’s 6 p.m. at 77th Street Station, and officers are arriving from divisions all over the city. A desk officer manning two phones waves them to the watch commander’s office. The WC only asks for a name, serial number and division as he sends the cops out into the field, telling them, “Pick up two boxes of .38 ammo from the sergeant. Make sure there’s one shotgun in your car and an extra box of rounds.”

Going down the roster, he mumbles two names to the most recent arrival and provides a car number. “You’ll be known as Twelve-Adam-45. Look for your partners in the parking lot.”

The WC is asked if all personnel are working three-man cars. He nods and says, “You’ll wish it was six.”

The three helmeted partners meet up in the parking lot. They don’t know one another or the geography in this part of southeast L.A. The oldest, a Korean War veteran, has a sudden gastrointestinal attack and has to run back to the station. While he’s gone, the two younger cops elect him to drive; nobody wants that job. One of them agrees to sit in back and navigate the unfamiliar streets with a map book.

The sun is still high and they are not three blocks from the station, passing mobs on both sides of Broadway, when a chunk of concrete smashes the rear window of their car. A cheer goes up from 100 people at the corner of 81st Street, daring them to stop and investigate. Another 100 yell and jeer from the opposite corner.

The cop riding shotgun turns up the radio and they hear the frantic female operators:

“Officer needs help, Manchester and Broadway! Officer needs assistance, one-O-three and Grape! Officer needs assistance, Vernon and Central! Looting, five-eight and Hoover!”

Another operator cuts in: “Looters, four-three and Main! Looting, one-O-five and Avalon! Shots fired, four-three and Main!”

And then something happens that none of the cops in the car has ever heard before. The stress overload gets to one of the operators and she starts sobbing.

A third female voice takes over the litany of chaos: “Officer needs help, Florence and Main! Looters, one-O-two and Central! Officer needs assistance, Slauson and Vermont!”

Littered streets. Debris everywhere. Screaming, chanting crowds everywhere. Mobs surge in human tidal waves, breaking plate-glass windows of commercial buildings, swarming inside. Men, women and children carry away anything of value.

It’s early evening now, and ambulances and fire engines roar past, but surprisingly few black-and-whites. The police are so vastly outnumbered that they are protecting one another instead of attempting to answer radio calls. It somehow feels cowardly to arrest a rioter and escape the streets for a quick booking. It seems akin to running away from danger instead of running toward it.

The older cop in the trio spells it out in Korean War terms: “The hell with dying on some nameless hill. Your first duty is to protect the guys in the trenches with you.”

The cop in the back seat closes the map book and says, wild-eyed: “So what’re we doing then? Why respond to calls? There’s a dozen felonies taking place everywhere you look! I’m sick of this! Just pick your spot where they got some coppers surrounded and let’s go all kamikaze!”

That’s when they see the first building explode in flames. Looting is no longer enough for the multitudes. The fires are starting. Soon the smell of fire permeates everything. The sun sets but the temperature rises, along with the fear level. The roar of the flames makes the raging mobs scream louder.

The nameless voice that ordered the cops to 77th Street Station that afternoon was right. They are witnesses to anarchy.

JOSEPH WAMBAUGH, a former LAPD sergeant, is the author of 21 books of fiction and nonfiction about police and crime. He was assigned to Juvenile Division in 1965; these are his memories.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Hollywood Sign and Georgia Jones

First, my apologies for the tardiness of this post. We’ve been out of town all week and hubby and I both came down with a nasty flu. Being sick in a motel room–no matter how nice–is awful. I’m just now feeling like I could return to the land of the living. So here you are!


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 and the character are icons in Hollywood. The character is very dear to my heart as well as any cop who worked Hollywood in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and into the 21st century.  Character: Georgia Jones


The subject of my story is known to everyone. Cops, non-cops, cops who worked Hollywood, cops who never worked Hollywood, people who never have been in Hollywood. That’s right that famous landmark the “HOLLYWOOD” sign. 


There are two major companies that protect their copyright infringement with a vigor that is unmatched. The first is Disney. They will take you to court in a heartbeat for any infringement of a Disney logo or character. Try buying a non-licensed Mickey Mouse piñata downtown. The other is the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce—try using a reproduction of the Hollywood sign without their expressed written permission.


All police stations have T-shirts, baseball caps and jackets with the division name and a logo. The station would sell them and use the profit for the station fund. Well, Hollywood Division had the Hollywood Sign on Jackets, T-shirts, coffee cups and whatever you can think of to sell. After a short while we were informed by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce that we had infringed on their copyright of the Hollywood Sign. They agreed to let us sell our T-shirts as long as we agreed to respond to their calls for police service. You can’t blackmail the cops.


I don’t know of a cop alive who worked Hollywood that wasn’t asked at least once by a tourist, “How do I get to the Hollywood Sign?” The sign itself is on a very steep hill just below Mt. Lee. It was recently replaced and is all metal. You can still see where graffiti is spray painted on the bottom of the letters which are 45′ tall. The sign is world famous and can be seen for miles away, even in the smog. 


Tourists think they can drive up to the sign and have a picture taken in front of which ever letter suits their whim. Trust me, I’ve been on that hill many times and it’s all you can do to keep from falling downhill a hundred feet. Hollywood officers often get calls that vandals are at the sign. The sign was originally Hollywoodland, a housing development in the 1920’s.


Over the years the sign’s letters have been covered up to reveal different messages, some approved, some just pranks. The following is a list and the meaning.


HOLLYWEED= The California legalize marijuana initiative




FOX= Fox changed to a network 1987




OLLYWOOD= Iran-Contra Hearings


OIL WAR= Gulf War


SAVE THE PEAK= To prevent a housing project from building near the sign—2010  

The sign is now surround by a fence and a motion detector system to prevent vandalism and trespassers. Hopefully, “Occupy LA” won’t take up residence. By the way, the view of Los Angeles from the sign is spectacular. 


Character: Georgia Jones


Georgia Jones was a fixture at Hollywood Station for over three decades.  Georgia was the property officer. All evidence booked by officers had to go through Georgia. To some this might not sound like a big deal, but think about losing a big case because evidence was not properly handled or booked correctly. Georgia knew all the rules and wouldn’t settle for anything less. As a young cop, I’d get a message go see Georgia in Property. I learned that it can’t be good, I must have screwed up. Georgia was pleasant and helpful unless you crossed her.


Georgia came to Hollywood in the early 70’s, when we were in the old station. The Property Room was in the basement next to the men’s locker room. If I remember correctly, the locker room and property room were separated by a make shift wall with chicken wire at the top for ventilation. Thirty years later I’m a grizzled old sergeant and Georgia admits to me that if she stood on her chair she could watch the officers dress!


I once arrested two burglars on Whitley Terrace. In the trunk of their car was a 6 ft. glass table top. I knew it was stolen—come on—no one takes their table top out for a midnight drive. I booked it into property during off hours. Georgia comes in the next day and is looking for me. I’m too big to hide in the report writing room.  She has no room for this damn table and tells me it should have been booked down town. I think Georgia liked me because she said it could stay until they found the owner.


They never found the owner and Georgia worked around that table top for a whole year. I know because I heard about it every few weeks. At the end of the year they clean out the excess property and take it downtown. The glass table top was dropped during loading and shattered. Now I hear about that damn table top every time I see Georgia.


My last few years I worked in the Watch Commanders office and every weekday morning Georgia would come in and collect the property that was booked during the off hours. Georgia would give me a list of the officers that needed to see her. I remember one young officer who disagreed with Georgia about the proper way to book evidence. I sat him down and explained book it Georgia’s way or expect to get everything you book, kicked back for the rest of your career at Hollywood.


As the Watch Commander, most mornings Georgia would bring me a handful of follow up reports where she fixed an error for some officer. Most officers didn’t know that she did took care of them but I knew.


Georgia was loved by everybody and when she retired a few years ago, Hollywood Division lost a legend as well a great friend.  Every time I hear Willie Nelson or Ray Charles sing “Georgia on My Mind,” I think of Georgia Jones, a true Hollywood Character.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Court 1

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

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

I’m going to shift gears from my Characters Ramblings. I received a lot of positive comments and I still have a few more Characters stories. I noticed that some officers were afraid that they might be remembered for an incident that they thought was long ago forgotten. Ha ha, no one is safe. I’m very careful about civil rights issues, statute of limitations, but revenge by another officer is forever.

The following stories are true. In the past I’ve talked about the fun and disappointments of working the streets. For every good arrest you make, there is a downside—court. The bad arrests never see a court room. Court is a part of the job that they don’t tell you about in those join the LAPD flyers. When you receive a subpoena to be in court, it’s never at your convince. You must appear.

It doesn’t matter what your work schedule is, or if you’re on a day off. Plan a four day trip out of town, have pre-paid tickets, non-refundable of course, and you’ll get a subpoena for one of the middle days of your trip. You work six days straight, you get one day off and then work another five days. You plan your day off, you’re going to sleep late and then sit around in your underwear all day. Wrong, you have court on your only day off in two weeks. Guaranteed, Murphy’s Law. Court was hit and miss. Some weeks you were in court four out of five days and other times no court for two weeks.

Court for four of the five watches is a nightmare. These are before the compressed work schedules. I spent thirty years under the old eight hour work day. If you work PM’s, you get off at midnight and have to be in court at 8:30 A.M. If you live sixty miles from the court house, do you drive home, grab a few hours’ sleep in your own bed, or do you try to sleep on a cot at the station for six hours and hope the desk officer wakes you?

If you work mid PM’s, you get off at 3:00 A.M. Do you try to sleep for four hours and then go to court or hope for three hours overtime? If you’re on AM’s you get off around 7 A.M., drink a couple cups of coffee, and then go to court. If you’re on day watch or mid days, you go to court on duty with a city car, have breakfast at the courthouse–it’s no sweat. You’re also not in as much of a hurry to get out early. If you’re held over after the noon break you can have a second meal on the city—that is, if you can afford two meals.

Speaking of money, they had a waiting room on the third floor for officers. Some officers would sleep if they just got off work. Some would read and a few would play cards. Not poker, just a friendly game of hearts. I watched one officer lose over a hundred dollars in a friendly game of hearts.

In the early days, if you’re off duty, you were compensated for three hours, no matter how long you were there. Some days you got out in thirty minutes and other days you help close the court room at 5:30 P.M. You only got three hours either way.

Court can be a one hour appearance or a nine hour marathon. Sometimes you can figure if you’re going to need to testify. You still have to show up or run the risk of getting a complaint. A failure to appear complaint can cost you days off without pay. Ouch. You also could have an angry judge issue a bench warrant for your arrest. Double ouch. When the judge is through with your butt, the department has its turn. It’s a kind of double jeopardy.

For over nineteen years, I’ve worked all night. I really want to go home and sleep before I have to go back to work. One of my last court appearances, I was working Day Watch. I walk into court and the DA isn’t there yet. I sit down and when the DA walks in, he declares, “I’ll take Morning Watch Officers first.” When he’s done talking to the sleepy cops. I walk up. I ask the DA, “Where the hell were you when I worked Morning Watch for nineteen years?” He tells me his dad was a cop and worked morning watch and knew that officers who worked all night needed to testify then go home and sleep. My kind of lawyer.

I show up for work after three days off. In Roll Call they give me a “be in court subpoena” for the next morning. Crap! My mind races, which dirt bag is this that I have to go to court for? Double crap, I remember this jerk, I found the evidence–I’ll have to testify. Triple crap, I didn’t bring my suit, I’ll have to go to court in uniform.

I’m proud of my uniform but walking to court in uniform, you become an information booth. “Officer, can you tell me where, this or that building is?” The questions were endless, I hated going to court in uniform. Some officers had an extra suit in their locker. I only owned one for weddings, funerals and court.

Once, I was in my suit walking to court. This guy comes up to me and asks for advice on a charge he was arrested for. He must have thought I was an attorney. Damn, I hate to think that I looked like one of those bottom feeders. I told him he needed to speak to his attorney or the Public Defender (PD). He persisted as we wait for the traffic light to change. I told him three times he needed to talk with his PD. Finally I told him, “I can’t advise you because I’m the officer that arrested you.” The snickers from the crowd around us were priceless. An hour later I testified against him. Dumb ass, no wonder he got arrested.

I worked with a sharp training officer during my probation. One time we were looking for a knife used in an ADW (Assault with a Deadly Weapon). I was searching on one side of the street and he was on the other side. He called me over and told me to look around here, pointing to the ground in front of him. I looked down and there was the knife. He smiled and said “you found it.” I was in court until after 3 P.M. He left after ten minutes. Valuable lesson learned—we both got three hours overtime.

Court parking was another story. All most all of my court was downtown. The first year or two I went to the old Hall of Justice. I remember walking past Charlie Manson’s girls during his murder trial. They had shaved heads and those swastika’s carved into their foreheads.

Parking changed over the years but free parking downtown for officers always involved a four to five block walk. Walk to court in the morning sun and walk back in the rain in the afternoon. The courts later moved to the Criminal Courts Building, a brand new building, but the wheels of justice didn’t turn any faster.

There are four different courts that I attended. Felony prelims, misdemeanor trials, felony trials, and civil trials. Prelims are a pretrial to see if there is enough evidence to hold a defendant over for trial. Misdemeanor trials are for minor offenses. Felony trials are for the real bad guys, robbery, murder, assaults anything that if convicted can send you to state prison for at least a year.

Civil trials can be something minor where one party is suing another party involved in a traffic accident you investigated. The other side is where someone is suing you for some act you committed or failed to commit. Being a defendant is not fun. Some officers had to homestead their house during a civil trial so they didn’t lose it to a low life who was suing them. Think about some career criminal sitting on your front porch smiling at your former neighbor’s daughter.

In my next court installments, I’ll describe some of the judges and court cases I was involved in. Some outside of law enforcement world think the court system is a well-oiled machine. My 1940 ringer/washing machine has more oil than our justice system. Yea, I really have one, pictures available for a minimal cash remittance. No checks or tokens to Angels Flight.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, “Let’s do something fun!”

By Hal Collier, LAPD, Retired

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

I’ve often said a bored cop is a dangerous cop! We’re used to living on the edge, adrenaline coursing through our veins—oh, I can’t believe I wrote that crap. We do have our moments but quite often we spend hours looking for something to do. Someone once described being a cop as hours of boredom followed by thirty seconds of sheer terror.

When the criminals, who really pay our salary, don’t cooperate, we invent our own entertainment. Have you ever left a puppy alone for a few hours and then wondered how he could get into so much trouble? Cops of any age are the same as puppies—entertain us or we’ll get into mischief. My apologies to dog owners everywhere.

I know you’re tired of hearing I worked Hollywood Division on the grave yard shift, the entertainment capital of the world. I’ll admit, most days it was the busiest division in the city of Los Angeles. Every so often, things got slow. Sometimes, it was due to the weather and sometimes, because of the misalignment of the planets. Heck, I don’t know, it just happens.

So you’ve spent a few hours looking for crime. You saw a car slowly moving down a residential street with its lights out. You stopped him and found it was the LA Times delivery man, again. That’s it. It’s too early to eat and we’ve already had six cups of coffee. Then one of you says, “Let’s do something fun!”

How cops amused themselves depended on where they worked and who it involved. You could amuse yourself, or involve other cops, or the citizens who think they pay your salary.

My experience in working different divisions was very limited. In a 35-year career I worked 33 1/2 years in Hollywood, and 15 months in Watts. I don’t know what officers in other divisions did for entertainment but I heard rumors. One famous story is two LAPD Officers drove to Las Vegas in the middle of the night and had their picture taken in front of Caesar’s Palace, police car and in uniform then drove back before end of watch (EOW).

Frederick's of Hollywood on Hollywood Blvd.
Frederick’s of Hollywood on Hollywood Blvd.

Let’s start with amusing ourselves. Hollywood had a lot of interesting businesses. Ever heard of Frederick’s of Hollywood? Hey, had a large display window with scantily clothed mannequins. It was first light and what better way to end a slow night than check out the new window display. February was the best month, Valentine’s Day. One morning as we stopped in front of Frederick’s we saw this old homeless man admiring the display. He was intently looking at a mannequin that was lying on her side. As we watched, he pretended to stroke her ribs down to her thigh. We laughed but decided we didn’t want to watch what he was going to do next.

Another favorite spot was Trashy Lingerie on La Cienega. They also had nice window displays. The city even assisted us when they built wheel chair ramps so we could drive right up on the sidewalk to get a closer look.

Laurel Canyon photo by
Laurel Canyon
photo by

In an earlier Ramblings I described how two cop cars raced from Sunset and Vine to Laurel Canyon and Mulholland. Why? To relieve the boredom. Another game I played was “Have you ever been on this street?” Randy Witkamp and I walked a foot beat on Hollywood Boulevard. We walked from 11:30 to about 5 A.M. After 5 AM even the prostitutes called it a night. We would grab a bite to eat then look for something to do. We’d both been in Hollywood for a long time and often found ourselves on obscure side streets. Some in Laurel Canyon were only dirt roads with one or two houses!

Whoever was driving would head up into the hills and find some small street and ask, “Have you ever been on this street. You got extra points if you remembered the house and the radio call you handled there.

Wild animals were always a nice diversion. We once caught an opossum and put it our Watch Commander’s patrol car. Another time I chased a coyote down the middle of the street with my police car. I probably saved a neighbor’s cat.

Sometimes we would watch a citizen run a red light and follow them for miles. We’d bet on how many times they would look in the rear view mirror. Loser had to buy breakfast. The expensive neighborhoods were the most fun. They were already thinking of all the important people they know to get out of a ticket. We never wrote them a ticket, just entertained ourselves.

Hollywood signSunrise was always a treat when watched from above the Hollywood sign. It took a while to drive up there and involved opening and closing locked gates. If you had a partner new to Hollywood you gave them the tour of the division. I had a much better map of the stars home than they sold on street corners on Sunset. Another favorite was the Bronson Caves, better known as the Bat Cave in the Batman TV series.

Another treat was driving up to the Sunset Ranch Horse stables in Beachwood Canyon right at sunrise. Keying the radio microphone just as the rooster crows. The dispatchers always enjoyed that!

If you read any of my past Ramblings you’ve heard of the practical joke cops play on each other. Rocks in the hub caps, a snowball fight in the watch commander’s office. Pigeons in my police car! Dale Hickerson and I once screwed a cops tennis shoes to the bench in front of his locker. How about the time a patrol cop lined the detective’s desk drawer with a plastic trash bag and filled it with water?


Any stories from long boring graveyard shifts out there?


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings Prostitutes, part 4

By Hal Collier

The fourth part of a planned trilogy.


If you missed the first 3 parts, e-mail me and I’ll send them to you free of charge.  Of course I live in California so I’ll have to charge you a tax of $12.96.


My last Ramblings talked about how to identify a drag queen. Now I’m going to tell you how I became a Department expert in a field so disgusting.  My background: I worked A.M. (graveyard) watch for the first fourteen years of my career on the LAPD.  The hours were roughly 11:30 P.M. to 7:30 A.M.  During those hours the prostitutes come out from under which ever rock they dwell.  It started out innocent enough.  I took a couple of reports when men dressed as women robbed their customers.  The suspect usually gave a first name to their new-found love.  Usually Steven was changed to Stephanie, Robert to Roberta etc. and there were always an abundance of Bambi’s, well, you get the picture.  After a number of reports where Roberta robbed Paul to pay Peter the pimp, I thought that Roberta was driving up Hollywood’s crime stats.  All I needed to do was ID and arrest Roberta. KISS—”keep it simple stupid.”


green recipe boxI began stopping drag queens who matched Roberta’s description. I filled out a field interview (FI) card and if possible took a picture.  After collecting a few dozen FI cards I needed something to store them in.  My wife bought me a green plastic receipt box.  It was the perfect size and became known as the “The Green Box.”  A few officers called it the “Drowning Rat File.”


Soon the “The Green Box” became two boxes, A thru L was the Green Box an M thru Z was a tan box.  Whenever possible, the suspects were taken to the station where we had a strip mug photo machine.  Just like you had at the carnival, four pictures for a buck.  The “Green Box” became popular not only among officers but the drag queens themselves.  If an officer was looking for a particular he/she, he would look thru the “Green Box.”  The drag queens wanted to see if we had a good picture of them. One even offered to go to the station for a better picture.  The Green Box evolved into two I-Card books.  Each individual had it’s own card with all it’s alias’s, DOB’s (date of birth), criminal arrest numbers and a small picture.  Once a homicide detective used my Green Box to ID a murder suspect.


I was the keeper of the Green Box or the drowning rat file books.  I guarded them with your tax dollars.  The information contained hundreds of hours of computer time as well as a who’s who in the drag queen hall of fame.  I once used the Green Box as a Christmas list.  I checked the current Hollywood drag queens for warrants.  I used the wanted queens as a shopping list.  Two days before Christmas I arrested and booked the “Ladies” who caused the most crime.  It was my present to Hollywood Officers who might otherwise have to take crime reports with drag queens as suspects.


Some of my non-police friends might wonder why I spent so much time and tax dollars on drag queens.  It was because of RD’s (Reporting Districts) and crime stats.  Each police car is assigned an area which is broken down into RD’s.  The officers assigned to an area are somewhat responsible for the crimes in their area on their watch.  Sometimes the Watch Commander (W/C) would say “Collier, why is your area leading the division in robberies?”  I’d say, “It’s the prostitutes, they’re robbing their customers.”  Wrong answer! The watch commander would counter, “Collier, what are you doing about it?”  Do you still believe it’s a victimless crime? My robbery statistics and watch commander didn’t say so.


My W/C said I had to do something, so I figured I would move two hundred drag queens out of my area and give my problem to the bordering car’s area. My area was Hollywood Boulevard from Highland to Vine, Franklin to Fountain.  I couldn’t drive them west, that’s where the Chinese Theater was.  Unwritten rule, no prostitution around the tourist attractions.  I’ll just get them to go east of Vine St.


I started telling the queens who frequented my area that if they worked east of Vine I wouldn’t harass them, I mean give them selective enforcement.  I even wrote up an east of Vine pass.  About a dozen of them started working east of Vine.  I would stop by and compliment them on their nice clothes and make-up.  I didn’t write them any tickets or check them for warrants.  My crime statistics dropped, and crime went up east of Vine.  Other officers started giving out RD (reporting districts) maps detailing which areas they could ply their trade.


From Hal's own library
From Hal’s own library

Some officers become department experts in narcotic sales and identification.  Me, I became an expert in drag queen recognition.  It started out one night when my partner and I saw this guy trolling for a drag queens.  We ran his license plate and it returned to a John XXXXX, legal owner, LAPD Credit Union. Oh, oh, my partner recognized the name as a classmate who was now working Rampart Division.  We looked at the driver and sure enough it was an off duty cop. After notifying a supervisor we kept an eye out for the cop.  A month later a Hollywood sergeant stopped the cop with a queen in his car.  He resigned but later requested a trial with a police review board.  That’s where I testified as an expert on the recognition of men dressed as women.  This was in the 70’s and cops supporting the oldest profession was a no no.


Last entry on drag queens and a kind of funny.  This is the very early 70’s and we stopped this young, I want to be a lady at a bus stop.  It was about dawn and the normal citizens were coming out and heading to work.  After a consent for drug search the queen took off his blouse and then took the dirty socks from his bra.  He removed his bra and shoes and placed them on the hood of our police car.  I noticed this little old lady sitting on the bus bench.  She was watching us and had a “Oh, my God look on her face.”  I walked over to her and advised her that it was a man, a prostitute and a drug abuser.


LOL waiting for busShe thanked us for protecting society and got on her bus.


More Street Stories

Melissa Kositzin guest blog

“I stabbed her with my rapier”

… “You stabbed her with your what?”

By Melissa Kositzin of Wandering Voiceless Blog

April 30, 2013

After nine years as a dispatcher, this is still my most memorable call.

It was a Tuesday evening in April, 2007. I had been a dispatcher for three years, and that night I was working as a call-taker.*

One of the things I love about my job is that I never know what is on the other end of the phone (or radio). I can be contentedly reading (“training”) or writing (more “training”), enjoying a cup of joe (or more recently a gallon of diet soda)… and then out of the blue, the phone will ring. Most of the time, even if it’s the 9-1-1 line, it’s pretty routine: a medical aid, a missing vehicle (more often towed than stolen), a missing child or elder. Once in a while though… you get one of these.

My first clue that this was a “real” emergency was the voice of the woman screaming “help me” from some distance away from the phone, accompanied by the noise of scuffling and a male’s voice screaming something unintelligible.

I immediately accepted a call for service at the address that had appeared on my CAD screen and called it a “415FAM” — the code for a disturbance between family members. To this day, I have no idea how I knew instantly it was a mother versus son. It certainly wasn’t clear from the first few seconds of the call. Even my notes in the call only say


At that moment of making a decision to get a call in as quickly as I possibly could at the highest priority possible, on instinct alone I chose that call type. (Perhaps subconsciously I had mentally processed both the male and female voice, and the possible ages of those voices.)

Initially neither of them answered my questions. Both of them continued screaming, huffing and puffing with the background scuffling noise, and occasionally the woman would be able to get out the word “help.”

Listening to a recording of the call now (to refresh my memory for this post), I can hear the woman say, “I’ve been stabbed.” I did not hear that when I initially was taking the call. (That actually happens quite frequently, where we can only hear part of what is being said until we play it back for training or to make a copy for the district attorney.) I heard her say something, and I responded with “I’m sorry, you’ve fallen?” (Because that would explain the scuffling and screaming, right? Good grief!)

She just kept saying “help” from time to time, while the male continued speaking unintelligibly. After about a minute there was some silence, and then what I finally heard at the time of the call was the male saying, after calmly confirming the address, “I’ve killed my mother.”

Honestly, I said “You did what to your mother?” (Yes, I’m a little slow sometimes. Don’t tell my kids.) He repeated, “I killed her.” I then calmly asked him his name, to which he only repeated the address.

I told him I had officers on the way, and asked, “How did you kill her?” He responded, “I stabbed her with my (unintelligible to me at the time), now, she’s dying, please send (what sounded like suicide pills).” So naturally, I asked “She took suicide pills?” (Let me be clear, this is not me at my call-taking best.)

After a bit more back and forth in which I’m trying to make sense of what he’s saying to me, he says slowly and carefully, “Shit, I killed her with my rapier.” Since I’m still not catching that word rapier, I ask him again, “Okay, how did you kill her; what happened exactly?” He answered with, “I don’t want to talk about it. Bring some pain medication for her so she dies more peacefully.”

There is yet more back and forth (where did you hurt her, what did you do, what are her injuries, etc.) as I try to get out of him what he did to her, because I just wasn’t understanding what he was saying. (So much for my instincts!) He finally gives up on me, and says, “Listen lady, good-bye. I’m done.” However, he leaves me with an open line instead of hanging up.

At this point, I have typed into the call


Throughout the rest of the call on the open line I can hear him speaking to his mother, but I can’t tell what he’s saying. I can still hear her faintly moaning. I listen in as the officers arrive and get him detained. When they are “code 4″ (the scene is secure), I release the line.

As I replayed the call in my mind over and over that evening, I was sure I must have asked him the same question in the same way about five times. It’s called “stuck in a loop.” Listening to the call again for this post, I didn’t really ever repeat the same question exactly; I did rephrase it, he just kept saying the same thing. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t hearing that word “rapier.” Perhaps, if I had heard her when she said, “I’ve been stabbed,” I would have put two and two together and been able to type into the call the weapon that had been used so officers would be prepared when they got on scene. As it was, they went into the house “cold” — without any clue what they would find.

I still didn’t know what had happened until a couple of hours later when one of the detectives came upstairs to tell us that the male subject had stabbed his mother 17 times with a rapier (a long sword) in a schizophrenic frenzy. When he was done, he felt no remorse, but wanted her to die peacefully, hence his request for “suicide pills.”

Collection of early modern swords (17th to 18th centuries) at the George F. Harding Collection of Arms and Armor, the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo credit Wikipedia.
Collection of early modern swords (17th to 18th centuries) at the George F. Harding Collection of Arms and Armor, the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo credit Wikipedia.


Collection of early modern swords (17th to 18th centuries) at the George F. Harding Collection of Arms and Armor, the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo credit Wikipedia.

Although it wasn’t my best interrogation, I had managed to keep him on the line and inside the house until officers arrived. For that, I am grateful.

The mother died shortly after she was transported to the hospital. I heard her last words on that call. I wish I had been able to comfort her more than I was able. I am more conscious now of using a more sympathetic voice with victims, and a more forceful voice when necessary with suspects.

The male was committed to a local mental institution. As far as I know, he’s still there. For that, I am also grateful.




*Allow me a moment to share some general background information: In our agency, we rotate through three positions: radio {dispatcher}, phones {taking calls} and CLETS {records checks and overflow phones}. CLETS stands for California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System. It is the electronic system through which we can check every available database managed by the California Department of Justice. We also access “NCIC” through this system which is a term heard on many television shows. It is the nationwide equivalent of CLETS. Through these systems we can tell if a person is wanted (has a warrant for their arrest), if a car has been stolen, etc. None of this CLETS info has anything to do with this story, but one thing led to another so there you are. At least you got it as a footnote, and not in the body of the story. :>


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