The Call Box

The Call Box: The Shallow End of the Gene Pool

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Somewhere recently I read or heard the phrase, “It is the ignorant that keep us employed.” I laughed and then began to think about it. There really is a lot of truth contained in that thought.

I will grant you police work encompasses so much more than dealing with the “rocket scientists” of the world. But they really prove the old saying, “It was a battle of wits and he came unarmed.” 

Every officer has a collection of “dumb crook” stories. They even have their own TV show. We have all heard the tales of the bank robber writing the holdup note on the back of his parole papers or holding up a store where he is known. In Wilshire, we had a holdup man take down Sears, run out the front door, past the police station next door, and into the middle of change of watch.

“I didn’t know it was a police station. I thought it was an armory,” he said. With a parking lot full of black and white cars?

But these people do supply us with an endless supply of stories and are an important outlet. Comic relief so to speak.

Here then, are several additions.


“The Predictable Bandit”

revolver-982973_960_720Working Metro, my partner Frank and I were directed to report to Robbery Division along with another team. They had a limited stakeout and needed two teams. The detective doing the briefing related the following:

A lone bandit had been hitting cabs and without provocation pistol whipping the drivers and, in several cases, causing serious injury. He had been working about once a week and had hit five times so far. He usually picked up the cab at or near the bus depot downtown and took them to one of two locations (you have to be kidding) either 32nd and Halldale (three times) or 27th and Denker twice. 

The detective concluded, “You know what to do and how to do it. Keep in mind he is armed with a revolver and is one vicious S.O.B. Decide between yourselves who goes where. Be careful and good luck.”  

We flipped, I won. He had done Halldale three times so is due at Denker. We took Denker.

It was a perfect spot to sit—a good spot to hide the car and plenty of cover. We wanted him out of the car and before he hit the driver.  We went over our signals and settled in to wait. We were like two kids awaiting Christmas morning. The anticipation was almost unbearable. It was every coppers’ dream. We had just been given a 50/50 chance of being handed an armed bandit. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Not thirty minutes later the radio tells us they got him at Halldale. Oh, so close, but no cigar, but that’s the way it goes; either chicken or feathers, but that one really hurt…


“The Somnambulant Burglar”


It was Metro custom to discuss successful assignments at the next roll call. We worked this one and had to listen to another team tell it.

We were staking out for a cat burglar who came in through the business sky lights. I believe it was in the downtown jewelry district.

He’d lower a rope ladder or knotted rope and was assumed to be very athletic. The toughest task was sitting in the dark and staying awake. 

Anyway, the lucky team heard the skylight being opened. Down comes the rope followed by Mr. Burglar. As he stepped off the rope the officers turned the lights on. 

Without missing a beat, he asked, “What time is it?”

They said he was so casual about the question they almost looked at their watches. He then claimed he was sleepwalking and used the same defense in court. No go.


Again, I defy anyone to tell me of any other job where you can meet the class of people we do and have nearly as much fun.



Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Driving part 3 of probably 4

By Hal Collier

I’ll bet that all the non-police that read this Ramblings never gave much thought to what it takes to drive a police car. Trust me, it’s more than leaving the police station and driving to the local donut shop. Most cops can relate to what I’m about to say. Let’s talk about checking out your police car before starting your shift. I’ve found a half-eaten chilidog under the front seat; it would have made a great junior high science project after being there for three days. I once found a WWII hand grenade on my front seat, left by officers of the previous shift. You have to make sure that any dented fenders were reported or you get the blame and maybe days off without pay.

Ok, you hit the streets. You’re looking for trouble. Take for example a simple traffic ticket. Say the driver is late for work and trying to make up a few minutes. He runs that red light by just by a second or two. The cop who sees the driver run that red light will commit three traffic violations just to catch him and give him a ticket. Even worse, he gets the lecture on how dangerous your driving was. Hint: don’t use that as an excuse in traffic court. Judges will still find you guilty! By the way, did you thank that cop for risking his life to give you that ticket? I didn’t think so and his parents probably are married.

Here’s an oxymoron for you. An officer gives you a ticket for talking or texting on your cell phone while driving. Look in his car and you’ll see a computer sitting next to the driver’s seat. I learned to drive, type and read messages all while driving on Hollywood streets. Quite a few officers have run into parked cars while driving and typing. By the way, some cops get days off, without pay, for traffic accidents that were their fault.

Another hazard is patrol! Yea, you’re driving around and looking for that arrest that will make your captain forget you missed court last month. You see an individual you think is wanted. You turn to look at him and don’t see that traffic in front of you has stopped. I had two of those in my career! At least I wasn’t looking at some underdressed woman when I rear-ended a car, honest.

Ok, let’s get down to real police driving-getting there in a hurry. I’m talking, the adrenaline pumping, heart in your throat; did I bring another pair of underwear? It’s not always a high-speed pursuit as depicted on TV.

lapd 69 plym BelvedereOne night I was driving a 1969 Plymouth—the finest police car ever made. My longtime friend Jim Moody was the passenger. A “shots fired” call came out on the very east end of the division. I was driving down Hollywood Boulevard—ok, I was speeding. We wanted to be first on scene. A car pulls out from a side street in front of me. No problem, I’ll turn the steering wheel to the right and tap the brakes, just as I was taught in driving school. Next thing I know the ass end of my police car is in front of my engine. Our police cruiser stops with the rear bumper ten feet from a closed bar. I look at Moody; his knuckles are white as he grips the dash. Our car has stalled, I think the car is amazed that we didn’t hit anything. I finally get it started and arrive last at the call. No shots fired. I learned a lesson that night.

North on La Cienega Blvd.
North on La Cienega Blvd.

Another time I was racing to a call on La Cienega. I was driving south from Sunset, traffic was light, and I’m sailing along. La Ciengega crosses Santa Monica—big deal, right? La Cienega is a very steep hill and levels off as it crosses Santa Monica then drops down again. That’s right my police car becomes airborne. If the tires are off the ground, the steering wheel and brakes are worthless. Again, I learned a valuable lesson—slow down and live to see retirement.

Next I’ll talk about pursuit driving, code 3 driving, and driving during buy/bust operations? Hal

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