By Hal Collier LAPD, Retired
We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.
Ok, so what does scare a knight in armor? Be prepared to be shocked.
First and foremost, the number one thing that scares a cop is that radio call, “Go to the Watch Commander.” Really, how bad can that be? You’ve spend half a shift doing everything right—well, maybe mostly right. You and your partner immediately go over all the radio calls and traffic stops you made that night. Did we piss off some tax paying citizen and he’s making a complaint? Did the Watch Commander discover that I missed court to go on that three day water skiing trip? Whatever, it can’t be good.
When I was the Watch Commander I would monitor the patrol units to see who was working and who was goofing off. If I had a simple request for the transportation of an arrestee to court or the downtown jail for medical treatment, I would get on the radio, and in my best “oh shit” voice tell the goof-off unit to come to the Watch Commander immediately. The officers would come into the watch commander’s office with their tails between their legs just like your dog did the last time he got into the trash. I enjoyed that—they weren’t doing anything productive anyway.
So what else scares cops? You handle a call with a drunk or drug crazed individual and you end up in a fight for your life. These fights are never pretty. You win the fight and go home. The next day you discover someone filmed the fight and it’s all over the news and YouTube. You watch the news broadcast and discover the media has edited the fight and only shows you beating the guy who just seconds earlier tried to take away your gun. They show the clip over and over again. Even you begin to think you over reacted.
Soon a maelstrom of vocal people are calling for an investigation including the President of the United States. Later a jury sees the entire video and acquits you. But it’s too late, you have been tried and convicted by the media. Your career is over. I’ve seen cops arrested then later acquitted when all the facts were presented. Rodney King happened over twenty-four years ago and is still brought up regularly. This is happening all across the United States. That scares a cop. These types of incidents are usually followed by a large lawsuit filed against you, the city you work for, and the Chief of Police. I’ve seen police officers homestead their homes so they don’t lose them in the lawsuit.
“Officer Needs Help” calls scare a cop. In the 70’s some LAPD car radios had what we called cheaters. A cheater was a second radio that allowed everyone to hear an officers broadcast. This allowed an officer to know what other officers were doing and where they were doing it. The main point was you could hear the officer’s voice inflection. Was he excited or calm? Ok, the scary part—the cheater radio suddenly blasts out “Officer needs Help.” The officer is screaming into the microphone. Your adrenaline has jumped so high you can hardly breathe. It doesn’t matter how close or how far you are from this officer you’re going to break all department rules to go to his aid. If the officer adds, “Shots Fired or Officer Down” to his broadcast, you’re glad you wore your ballistic vest and you unlock the shotgun. Are you scared? Bet your ass you are! Scared for the officer, scared for his wife and family. It may take hours for the adrenaline to leave your body.
Here’s another one that scares cops. You’re on a day off or just off hours. You’re relaxing in your living room watching the ball game. They break into the game to announce, “Breaking News.” An LAPD officer has been shot in the division where you work. Of course it could be any division, we move around in LAPD. They don’t have much information and they hopefully don’t give out the officer’s name. So you sit there and rack your brain, who’s working today and what are my partner’s days off? Yea, you could call the station and try to get some information but you know their busy, so you just wait. You just wait and listen to the news men report what they don’t know. That scares you.
Even after they report the officer’s name, and if you don’t know him/her, you’re still scared. Is he or she married and a father or mother. How old are the children? It scares you because you know that could be you someday.
You finally retire and figure nothing is going to scare you anymore. Wait, your son or daughter has decided to follow you into the noble profession of police work. You’re proud but you know the dangers. Suddenly all the above fears come rushing back only with a few new ones. Now you know what your spouse went through all those years. A late night phone call or knock at the door will send chills up your spine. Ok, the phone call was a drunk asking if this is Madam Whoopee’s all night massage parlor, but try getting back to sleep after that. The knock on the door is never good, especially if the people on your front porch are wearing uniforms.
Ok, now you know some of the things that scare cops and I’ll bet I missed a few. Give me your fears and I’ll add them to my list. Oh by the way some cops really are afraid of snakes.