Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Stupid Crooks, part 2 and Stupid Cops

By Hal Collier, LAPD Retired


How many times have I arrested a suspect with a gun that wouldn’t work because he had the wrong ammunition? 

Here’s a classic. I was investigating a shooting where a suspect ambushed the victim in the dark parking lot behind an all-night hot dog stand. The suspect shot the victim with a shotgun at fairly close range. The victim sustained non-life threatening wounds to his left upper body and face. The victim was shot with #8 shotgun shells. That’s small birdshot. Two days later I arrested the shooter in a motel on Sunset Boulevard. I’d like to tell you it was my superior investigative skills but the truth is, a snitch told me where he was staying. When I arrested him, he had the shotgun and a bandolier full of shotgun shells. My suspect was mad that he didn’t kill

the victim. The bandolier had shotgun shells that contained #4 shotgun shells. A #4 shot would have easily put the victim into the next world. My suspect just didn’t know that #4 shot shells were larger than #8’s. Stupid, huh?


In 1993, I made a mistake and promoted to Sergeant. I was transferred out of Hollywood and sent to South Central Los Angeles, AKA Watts. I left the town of glamour, movie stars, and millionaires. I spent the next 15 months watching the sun rise over the Watts towers. Impressive, but not Hollywood.


One of the favorite crimes in Watts was stealing cars and taking the engine and transmission. The culprits would then roll the car a few blocks away and abandon the car. The cops would then follow the oil trail back to the thief’s house and arrest the occupant with the oil on his clothes and an engine in the living room.


Not only are the crooks stupid but sometimes I suspect that cops are in competition. Hollywood had an officer who married a “reformed” prostitute. He shows up for work late one night and sees his bride handcuffed to the hallway bench along with the rest of the soiled doves. He releases his wife out the back door of the station without the proper paperwork. I believe he’s now a greeter at Wal-Mart.


We had another JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab) reject who wanted to book a suspect for possession of a controlled substance. The officer displayed the drugs to the Watch Commander in the suspect’s prescription bottle in the suspect’s name. The W/C explained that if he had a prescription, it was not a crime. Our brilliant officer scratched off the suspects name and went to another supervisor and obtained booking approval. The former officer was later observed selling magazine subscriptions.


It’s not just the junior officers who do stupid things. I had a captain who was arrested by an outside agency for making and selling pirated DVD’s. She was arrested at Hollywood station and walked out the back door in handcuffs. How about the Hollywood sergeant who owned a big sail boat? He bought a million dollar home at a marina only to discover that his boat was too big for the boat slip at his new house that just cleared escrow. 


Last stupid cop story.  My partner and I are having a cup of coffee at the Winchell’s at Melrose and Vine. Were into about two sips of our coffee break when a hot shot radio call comes out. I toss my almost full cup of coffee and jump into the driver’s seat. I’m racing northbound on Vine Street and as I cross Santa Monica the road rises and then drops. My partner screams out in pain. He was cradling his hot coffee over his lap. Think about jumping on a trampoline with a hot liquid poised over your privates.  By the way the coffee was free. Saving a free cup of coffee verses cleaning a uniform or possible burns to your groin area, stupid. 

Footnote:  The officer recovered and later had children. 


We’re out there and we’re reproducing.  I won’t even get into politicians.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Characters, Stinky Steve

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 stories are true.  The character unfortunately is also true. Stinky Steve

This is a tale of the malodorous smells that cops have to endure. I suggest not eating within an hour before or after reading this Ramblings. Trust me! There isn’t a cop alive who wore a badge that can deny that familiar smell of a decomposed human body. There are also a lot of cops who thought a live human smelled the same. Walk down skid row sometime, it smells like death.

There are a few calls that cops hate to get. The first is the call, “Go to the Watch Commander.” Nothing puts fear in a cop’s heart as fast as that detail. Your mind starts racing, “What did I do now? Who did I piss off? Was it that last guy I gave a ticket to or the dirt bag I told to do something anatomically impossible?” You and your partner start getting your story straight as you take the long way to the station. That means making up a lie that you both will stick to. If you’re working with a Forrest Gump type, you start thinking of job opportunities outside of police work. Maybe UPS; they wear shorts in the summer. I used to have the legs for shorts.

When I was a watch commander, sometimes I would broadcast for a certain car to, “Go to the Watch Commanders Office,” when I suspected they were not giving the city a full day’s work. It was nothing more than transporting paperwork downtown, but I wanted them to sweat a little. See? I could be mean when I wanted to. I could also broadcast, “Send any unit to the Watch Commanders Office,” meaning no one was in trouble. See post from May 1th, 2015 for more on “See the Watch Commander.”

Another call is possible DB (dead body). Notice I underlined possible. That’s means someone hasn’t seen a loved one or neighbor in days and suspects that the person may have passed away. Sometimes the days are actually weeks or even months. Cops hated a call that said the neighbor hasn’t been seen in weeks and there’s a smell coming from the apartment. Uh oh, it’s been hot for weeks. This can’t be good. I won’t go into third generation maggots, or flies on the windows. Bet you won’t see any of that on those CSI shows on TV.

Ok, my story. I’m working morning watch and after working all night the sun is just starting to rise in the east. I’m hungry and ask to eat (note: officers have to be cleared to take a meal break by dispatch who knows how many calls are backed up in the officers beat—or area of responsibility). Communications has different ideas. They give me the call from hell,  ”Possible Dead Body, see the manager. Resident hasn’t been seen in over a month, strange smell coming from apartment.” I reply, “Thanks,” instead of “Roger.”

I park in front of the apartment building and get two cigars from my duty bag. Most cops know that smoking a cigar will help with the smell of a decomposing body. I’ve watched many a female probationer smoke their first cigar at dead body calls. Burning coffee grounds on a stove is also another method used to kill the smell. The coroner has a spray that cuts down on the smell but it’s not in the police budget.

We meet the manager and he tells us that some of the neighbors have been complaining of a foul order coming from this apartment. They haven’t seen the resident, an elderly man in weeks. I’m wondering, can’t you call back in 2 hours, when I’m home in bed? If this guy’s dead he not going anywhere. Suddenly I’m not hungry anymore.

We walk up to the third floor with the manager. He hands us the keys and walks to the other end of the hall. I unlock the apartment door and crack it open just an inch. I take a very small sniff.  Experienced cops know never take a big whiff because the smell will stay in your nose for weeks. I smell nothing that resembles a dead body. I open the door a foot and take another small whiff of air. Anybody want my job with all the great benefits now? It smells like a trash dumpster but not a dead body. You know, I’m an expert on smells.

I turn to my probationer because he’s going in first. Rank has it privilege. Maybe not, he’s greener than a fresh Christmas tree. I open the door all the way. It’s a studio apartment with a bathroom and a kitchenette. From the hallway I can see the room is filled with trash, newspapers, magazines stacked to the ceiling. The bed is covered in trash and the kitchen sink has old food stacked two feet high. I spend ten minutes inside before I’m convinced that no one is in the apartment. It smells bad but not as bad as I was expecting.

We walk back out and tell the manager that his tenant is a pack rat but he’s not inside. I suggest that he evict the tenant. I saved two cigars and my probationers color is coming back. We get the ok to eat. I have a hearty breakfast. My probationer’s color is coming back but he only orders tea. He’ll learn, I hope.

Hollywood Characters: Stinky Steve

I booked Stinky Steve once and still carry the scars. Steve came from one of those Eastern European countries and I can’t remember his last name. I nicknamed him Stinky Steve, for obvious reasons. Steve did speak a word of English.

Every morning some apartment building tenant would wake up and leave for work. They would open their apartment door and be overcome with an odor that would make a coroner eyes water. Steve might have been wearing the same clothes that he came to America in. Steve had a scent that made some dead bodies smell like a bed of roses. It might have been a defense mechanism, somewhat like a skunk.

Stinky Steve would somehow make his way into a multi-story apartment building west of La Brea. He would curl up on the floor in the hallway and go to sleep. Every morning the first Hollywood police car to clear for radio calls got to evict Stinky Steve from the apartment building. Steve never argued, but then again he might never have understood the cops telling him to never come back.

After months of evicting Steve before my morning coffee, I determined that Steve need to go to jail. I finally convinced one tenant to make a citizen arrest of Steve for trespassing. This is where I pissed off the Hollywood Judicial System. My partner and I handcuff Steve, hold our breath in the elevator and put Steve in our police car. We roll down all the windows and race to the station with unauthorized red lights and siren. We clear out a holding tank, place Steve inside and get some incense to light outside his tank. Bet my non-police friends never thought the brutal LAPD used incense.

The Hollywood Jailer is not pleased but he owes me a favor and books Steve. Steve gets a cell all by himself. Steve refused a shower, go figure. I call the Hollywood Court Liaison, Kurt Rizzi and tell him that I don’t want Steve released for time served, as was the usual procedure. Otherwise I’ll be kicking Steve out of apartment buildings into the next century.

The next morning, I’m in the parking lot cooling off from my run. The jail bus is loading the prisoners to take to court. I pause as Stinky Steve boards the bus. The other jail birds on the bus won’t let Steve sit near them. I’m watching from up-wind.

The next day I hear from the Hollywood Court Liaison that the court sheriff’s hate me for sending Stinky Steve to their house. The Judge complies with my wish and prohibits Stinky Steve from being west of La Brea after midnight.

I didn’t have much dealing with Steve after that but I removed my name tag whenever I walked into Hollywood Court.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Radio Call from Hell

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 is true. I call this one, “The Radio Call from Hell.” 


In a recent Ramblings, I talked about the radio calls cop hate the most. Well, here is another I saved for your reading pleasure—“Death Notifications.” 


I don’t know of any cop who likes telling someone that a loved one has died. Sometimes it’s expected, like an elderly aunt or grandparent. Other times, it’s unexpected, telling someone about a spouse, or relative who died in an accident. These calls usually come in through the Watch Commanders office from a coroner in a distant part of the country or state. Another reason why cops hate “The go to the Watch Commanders Office,” radio call.


I’m working morning watch and it’s about 3 A.M.  “Go to the Watch Commanders Office.” Uh oh, I’ll bet it’s that citizen who wanted to make a hit and0 run traffic accident report and we told him to go to the station and wake the desk officer gently. We drive slowly to the Watch Commanders Officers. Maybe we’ll be hit by a drunk driver which will cause short term memory loss.


The Watch Commander tells us that a 28 year-old man was killed in a traffic accident in Bakersfield. We need to notify his wife. Whew, I almost confessed to a police department misdemeanor. We get the address which is on Beachwood Drive. I hate this call—wife alone, young. I hope she has family close by.


We drive to the address and park our car on Beachwood. Her apartment faces Temple Hill Drive, a cross street. We walk to the stairs and knock. The apartment door doesn’t have one of those peep holes to see who’s at the door and the windows all face the street.


A voice calls out, “Who is it?” 

I answer, “Police.”

She says, “I didn’t call the police. What do you want?” 

I didn’t attend the Ann Landers school of etiquette, but I’m pretty sure that shouting through a closed door at 3 A.M., “Your husband is dead,” is not the way to make this notification.

I reply, “I need to talk to you.”

“About what?”

This is not going well. I tell her, “I really need to talk to you in person.”

She says, “How do I know you’re really the police?”

Fair question. I tell her I’ll stand outside her living room window in the middle of the street.

I walk downstairs and stand in the middle of the street.  I’m in full uniform and looking pretty sharp, if I say so myself. I see her looking out her window at me. She again asks, “What do you want?” 

I didn’t want to tell her that her husband is dead through her front door and I’m definitely not going to yell it from the middle of the street.

She asks, “Where is your police car?”  Ok, that’s another fair question. I’ll go get it. I walk out to Beachwood, drive our official black and white police car and park it in the driveway across from her window. As I’m parking the police car I hear an emergency call for all Hollywood units, “Man impersonating a police officer Beachwood and Temple Hill Drive.” 

“Any Hollywood unit, handle Code 3.”

Oh crap, she called the cops on us! How could this get any worse?  I cancel the radio call. No use in another cop getting hurt racing to this call from hell.

I finally convince her to open the apartment door and let us in.  Now comes the hard part. I had five months training in the academy, I’ve got over seven years police experience working in the field and I’ve never been trained in telling someone that a loved one is dead. She has no family in California and doesn’t know the neighbors. There’s no easy way to say that your husband is dead.  I tell her the worst news she probably will ever hear. 

Her first reaction is denial, disbelief, and then anger. She’s now sobbing uncontrollably. There’s nothing I can say or do that will ease her pain. I won’t go into all the options we offered her but in the end we left her alone in that apartment. Boy, I hated my job that night. 

Now you see why cops hate death notifications. They are never easy. This one still bothers me thirty-four years later.




Hal’s “Character-Angelyne” will post tomorrow.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, What Scares Cops?, part 2

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.       


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Dorothy, the Button Lady, Characters 10

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 is true and the “Character” is real.  The character might still be out there, but I doubt it—Dorothy, the Button Lady

These stories involve naked women. Nothing can get a policemen hurt quicker than a radio call of a naked women. The radio code is “311 woman.” Male officers will race all the way across a division to see a naked women. I’ve handled a lot of naked men calls but none of them bring back any memories. Must be a guy thing. Female officers are smarter.

My thirty-five years’ experience taught me that most “311 women calls” were not worth the effort or risk. After reading two of the three examples of incidents I’m going to describe, you’ll probably agree.

Its early Day Watch and rush hour traffic has the streets of Hollywood clogged. Most of the cars contain business men and women on their way to a low paying, boring desk job. This story is old, before everyone was on their cell phone. The only entertainment was the car radio and what they saw on the way to work.

A call comes out of a 311 woman at Franklin and Beachwood. Let see, I’ve had my coffee, I’ve got nothing else to do, why not go see a naked women? I fight traffic and drive East on Franklin. I see a police car ahead. Traffic westbound is stopped dead. I get out of my car walk up to the other police car. Standing in front of a convalescent home is a 60+ yr.-old naked woman. She’s dancing around and flopping her shriveled up boobs at traffic. I look over my shoulder at the backed up traffic. There’s nothing but smiles or a bewildered look on their faces. In today’s cell phone world it would have been videotaped and on You-Tube before I got my second cup of coffee.

The officer in charge, Wendi Berndt, is ordering the female to turn around and put her hands behind her back. This lady could be from the convalescent home or high on drugs, it’s never easy to tell and both can be dangerous. Wendi again tells the lady to turn around. The naked lady complies, then shocks everyone within eye sight. She bends over and spreads her ample butt cheeks and moons everyone. If I’d had that second cup of coffee, I’d have peed in a clean uniform. Yea, she was from the home and refused to take her medication. I would have loved to hear some of the conversations in the office that morning. “You’ll never guess what I saw on my way to work this morning.”

The second incident also involved rush hour traffic. Radio call, “311 woman at Santa Monica and Highland; school kids in area.”  It’s my call so I respond. Yep, there she is, a 70 year old homeless women standing behind the bus bench. Her pants are around her ankles and she has relieved herself on the sidewalk. The traffic is stopped and everyone is watching us. I tell the lady to pull up her pants. She tells me to do something that is anatomically impossible. I tell her I’ll arrest her and she says, “Go ahead, I’ll crap in your car.”

Just then, I get a brilliant idea—something new to me. I tell her she will go to jail and I’ll throw away everything in her shopping cart. She says, “Officer, don’t do that.” She immediately pulls up her pants. I tell her to walk westbound on Santa Monica Boulevard to West Hollywood. I follow her into the county’s jurisdiction. Let the sheriffs deal with her.

This last one is the exception to the “311 woman” curse. I’m working Morning watch and it’s about 3 A.M. We finish handling a radio call and drive slowly down the street as my partner is writing in his log.

The only car on the street stops us and asks, “Are you looking for the naked lady?”

Huh? “What naked lady?”

The driver says there’s a naked lady running around on the next street.  OK, my interest is piqued and my partner has put down his log. We turn the corner and see something duck down behind a parked car.

I drive up next to the car and get out.  This twenty-something, drop-dead glorious young lady stands up. She’s not even wearing shoes or earrings. I’m a trained observer.

I ask her, “Why are you running around naked in the middle of the night?”

She says her parents don’t want her to sleep in the nude and she wants to feel free. She asks me my opinion as she stands in front of me, unashamed.

I just swallowed my gum.

I beginning to understand this young lady has some mental issues.  We put her in the back seat of our police car and drive around the corner to her house. We wake up mom who brings out a blanket and takes her daughter inside. Those are just a few of the incidents of naked women I’ve run across in Hollywood.

Character:  Dorothy, the Button lady

I became aware of Dorothy in the 80/90’s.  She got her name from the numerous buttons and pins she had on her coat.  I would see Dorothy walking westbound on Hollywood Boulevard early in the morning. She would sit on a bus bench in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater and wait for the first tour bus to arrive. When the tourists saw Dorothy they wanted to take a picture with her. She would oblige for a small donation. Dorothy preceded the costumed super hero’s that now clog Hollywood Boulevard.

For the most part Dorothy was not a problem, but if anyone tried to encroach on Dorothy’s territory, she would call the police. One morning, I’m a Field Sergeant and a radio call is broadcast. “ADW (assault with a deadly weapon) suspect in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Suspect is attempting to hit tourists with a chain.”  I drive up and Dorothy points to a male who is skipping rope. He’s a boxer and is doing the fancy rope skipping.

The tourists are taking his picture and not Dorothy’s. Dorothy wants him to leave. I tell Dorothy that he has every right to be there and I leave. I drive to the station and I’m in the Watch Commanders office when Communications Division calls and says that there’s a lady on the phone who wants to make a complaint. It’s Dorothy and she says that she called the police and the police (meaning me) didn’t do anything. I adjudicated my own complaint in five minutes.

Under Chief Parks it would have been a four week investigation.


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