Ramblings by Hal Street Stories

Ramblings: True First Responders’ Heroes

Welcome to “Street Stories.” We’ll be adding stories from law enforcement veterans from time to time. Hal Collier’s Ramblings was the first guest I posted on this blog so it’s fitting that the re-launch is another story from him. Regular Mystery Readers Only and Writer’s Note will arrive every Friday along with guests Ed Meckle and Mikey. You can check out their previous post in The Call Box and Roll Call columns under “Street Stories.” If you subscribed to in the past year, you might re-add your email address (if you want to continue getting these posts). I’ve changed site servers–Thonie

LAPD Police car

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

You probably know about first responder heroes that make breaking news. These heroes sometimes get interviewed on TV or they have a ceremony where they give them a medal. Being a hero is something that usually happens in seconds or maybe minutes. When you think back, the actions were more of a reaction than a well-thought-out plan. I’m about to describe a true first responder hero.

My first responder hero is someone who was there not for minutes but for days, years and even decades. I’m talking about wives, spouses, partners. They are the real first responder heroes. I’m going to write mostly about my wife, but it applies to many. Even their children make sacrifices.

I was married to Terri for two years before I went to the police academy. I sometimes wonder if she knew what she was getting into with me becoming a cop. I guess love outweighs fear!

It started out preparing for the test to enter the profession. It usually involves a written exam and working out for the physical tests that are part of the application. It usually takes up some time on the first responders’ part.

While in the police academy your uniform needs to be dry cleaned and sweats need to be washed almost daily. It takes months of study just to get through the academy. My wife took care of all the laundry as long as I spent my free time studying and sleeping. After graduation from the Academy the real work started.

I’m sure all spouses of first responders can relate to what I’m about to describe.

The first is worry. The worry of a dangerous job—you never know if that kiss at the door will be your last. The worry when they break into your TV show and talk about a cop, fireman or other first responder being hurt or killed. They will sit glued to the TV for news hoping for information or dreading the thought of a knock on the door. Unlike their heroes, these worries aren’t gone in minutes but last for years. For some the worry ends with retirement. Others the worry never ends because they know what some other spouse is going through. Finally, the worry continues because a son or daughter has decided to follow in your footsteps.

The worry is the worst part but not the end. A first responder never has regular hours. He/she will miss family celebrations, children’s plays or games. How about the anniversary dinner where you fell asleep because you worked overtime? The holidays are almost always a workday. Friendships with non-first responders soon disappear, and the spouse will spend the day trying to keep the kids quiet because daddy or mommy is sleeping. Speaking of sleeping, cops who work nights spend a lot of time in court during the day. They often come home late afternoon grab a few hours sleep and go back to work. It’s the first responder’s spouse that has a meal fixed on short notice and wakes you in time to go to work.

My first responder hero kept my truck gassed, my uniforms picked up from the cleaners as I dashed out the door after a few hours of sleep.

After thirty plus years I retired. But the real hero had to deal with my job related injuries and worst of all the never ending dreams which come being a first responder. My hero was often woken up in the middle of the night as I ordered a suspect into a felony prone position. On a few occasions I punched the bedroom wall as I fought with a suspect. These first responders deserve a medal. I was once given a medal for two minutes of stupid panic on my park.

My wife should have been given a medal for fifty years of being a hero to me!


Ramblings by Hal The Call Box

Ramblings and The Call Box: Police Cars

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Ed Meckle joined the LAPD in 1956 and I followed in his footsteps in 1970. Our careers over-lapped for about six years but we never met before attending a retired officers luncheon. We have become close friends even though some of our experiences were very similar as well as very different. This Ramblings is a collaboration of our experiences in patrol decades apart.

In Ed’s own words, he will describe what it was like working patrol in the 50’s. Times were different, and no one had video cameras or cell phones. The police were expected to keep the peace, no matter how. We will take you through what being a LAPD officer was like in different generations.

My experiences were a generation of change. I was lucky to have a little of both worlds. Unlike the dinosaurs, most during my era survived by evolving. You changed your tactics, or you looked for new work.


Police Cars

Ed Meckle 1956


vintage LAPD patrol cars Hermosa Beach St Pats Day 2011 labeled
Vintage LAPD patrol cars at Hermosa Beach St. Patrick’s Day 2011

Squad car, scout, cruiser, prowl, panda—whatever the name, they are the patrol/radio cars. The first line of defense, they are to the LAPD what the infantry is to the army.


The cars were tired. They were two- and three-year old Chevy and Plymouth 4 doors, the cheapest they could buy. Manual transmissions, yes, clutch and shift lever on the steering column. The division had one automatic transmission car for test purposes (will it be ok for police work?).

Bench vinyl-covered seats, no, repeat no seat belts. Two solid roof reds (mickey mouse ears) with a large growler siren between. Cars were so under powered that the siren operated by horn ring actually slowed the car down as pitch went up. No air conditioners and heaters never worked.

Basic, basic radio with a hand-held mike—red/green light for transmit/listen.


Hal Collier 1970

68 Plymouth Belvedere labeledWe were still driving two and year-old Plymouths. They were all automatic transmissions and the heater worked sometimes. No air or power steering in the beginning. The brakes on the ‘69 Plymouths only worked after heating up. I almost had a few accidents just trying to drive out of the station parking lot.

We also had the tin cans red lights as Ed described and I remember the growler siren on a few of the older cars. We had seat belts, but they were neatly tied in knots and stuffed under the seats. I considered Plymouths the best police car in my career. Most had over 100,000 miles and sometimes the door rests came off the door when you tried to exit, but the engines were strong. If you were in a fight for your life and requested help, you could hear the carburetor of that Plymouth open and the roar of that engine. You knew help was soon to arrive.

Later in my career we drove Fords, Chevys and even a few Matadors. They had air and power steering but not as fast as the old Plymouths. Just when I retired they switched to Ford Explorers. Lots of room—they needed it with the computer stuffed in the dash. No more bench seats and they removed the cup holders. Where will I put my latte coffee?


LAPD West Vly Sta 2007 labeled
LAPD Cruiser at West Valley Station photo taken 2007


My son, who is still on the job, says all the black/whites have the latest technology: light bar instead of the tin cans, MDT’s (mobile digital terminals-computers), some have dash cameras and even a few have FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared cameras). They even have a camera that reads license plates automatically. We’ve come a long way since Ed’s days!


Next, we’ll describe Police Stations from 1956 to 2005. Ed & Hal

–From Thonie, my error—I posted Police Stations back on January 21, 2018. Here’s the link in case you missed it.






Writer's Notes

Life Gets in the Way

By Thonie Hevroncropped-cop-loc-auth-close-up1.jpg

This week has been busy. I forgot my Wednesday post so today will have to make up for it. The big delay is because a dear friend and colleague (Maria, the dispatcher in By Force or Fear and With Malice Aforethought) lost her husband of suddenly in a home accident Wednesday afternoon. Greg had just beat cancer—full remission and had been cleared to fly his plane. He and Maria flew two weeks ago. Maria said his smile was practically permanent. A fall from a ladder ended his tomorrows.

Anyway, Maria is like a sister to me so I am spending time with her. Her family and friends have surrounded her with love but I’m there, too. I’m in full-dispatcher mode, taking names and phone numbers, contacting friends, taking care of business, and, of course, being there. This eats up my writing time and drains my energy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is the real treasure of life—being able to help someone you dearly love.

lapd callboxSo, this is my Wednesday post that will appear on Thursday evening. Hal Collier’s Sunday Ramblings will return in a week or so. Ed Meckle’s The Call Box will fill that slot.

About With Malice Aforethought—I’ve put off the regular status reports on my third book because it’s complicated. In July, shortly after signing the contract, my publisher at Oak Tree Press suffered a health crisis. The good news is she is recovering. The bad news is her recovery is longer than she hoped and she’s a one-man band. In the hospital, she has been able to hand off projects to work on but no one knows the drill like she does. She does expect to get back in the saddle. I’ve been using this limbo time to polish the manuscript and make it the best it can be. I am about two weeks away from sending her the final draft.

Don’t know how long it will take to get a publishing date but I’ll guarantee you this: you’ll read about it first here!

Oh, another news flash: my website— is up and running! Look it over for book info and buy links, synopsis and samples, bio and pictures, and the Just the Facts, Ma’am blog.

Writer's Notes

Takin’ a break

Just the Facts, Ma’am and Hall Collier’s Ramblings will be on hiatus until Sunday, September 6th.

If you’re getting lonely, visit Just the Facts archives for lots of laughs, tears, and even thought-provoking stories.

–Thoniesailboat on puget sound

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, Hollywood Characters, part 3


By Hal Collier, LAPD, Retired

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


Here we go again. Another short story, then a story about a Hollywood character. You might notice that I refer to these people as “characters” instead of “nuts”. That’s because I’m still politically correct on occasion. Hollywood was full of characters; some had crossed over the line and into the classification of long-sleeved jackets with straps and buckles on the cuffs. Some were on the border—only one missed dose of medication away from the aforementioned jacket.


Others just were amusing. Some were great training for your brand new probationer—you know the cop who still lives with his mother at home and believes that all people are good. If he gets the chance, he will change their lives around. Some cops mature at different times, and some never mature. Ladies, you’re welcome.


I used to think that the characters in Hollywood had a roll call just like the cops. They would meet at some unknown location and the head character (Watch Commander-like) would call roll. Then he would pass out assignments. The assignments might go something like this:

“Billy, you stand outside the Pantages Theater and when the show lets out, take off all your clothes, and kiss all the women with grey hair.”

Graumans theater“Joe you go to Grauman’s Chinese Theater and fill all the foot and hand prints with urine that Joe’s been saving for a week.”

They might even have an awards show at the end of the year, like the Academy Awards. Best Performance During a Police Tactical Alert, Longest Talk with a Negotiator, Most Cops with Ruined Uniforms During a Resisting Arrest Use of Force. How about having a cop give you a pat down search after you have urinated in your pants or defecating in the back seat of a police car? Those were always award winners.

Ok, you get the picture. Characters all come to Hollywood and wait until the cops are really busy then they go to work.

This first story is about a radio call that I handled that was pretty funny at the time. We got a call “Unknown Trouble” at an apartment building on Laurel Avenue. It’s about 3 AM and we knock on the door. This elderly lady opens the door and tells us to talk in a whisper.

“What’s the problem?” I whisper.

“The people who moved in upstairs are Russian spies and their listening to our conversation right now.”

I ask, “How do you know?”

old lady radioShe replies, “I can hear their listening device. It beeps.”

I wink at my partner and ask, “Why would the Russians be listening into your apartment.”

She says, “My deceased husband was in the army in Europe, during WW ll.”

We look around the apartment and I give her the usual cop out line, “OK, we’ll check it out.” We’re heading for the door when we hear the “Beep.”

Oh, shit what if she’s not nuts!

We look around the apartment again and then I hear the beep again. It’s her smoke alarm. I tell her she needs to replace the battery and her problem will be solved. As we leave, she wants to know if we’ll still check out the Russians. I tell her, “Yea, we’ll put a stakeout on them but you won’t be able to see them. Our stakeout teams are very good.”

She thanks us. Those damn Russians!


Hollywood Characters:  Jack Brooks  


Just about every cop who worked Hollywood knows Jack Brooks by one name or another. Jack was also known as Big Jack. He was about 6′ 8″ and wore a size 14 shoe. He was also known as the “Missing Link.”  Jack had a protruding forehead, which was prominent due to his large head, similar to a Neanderthal. Before you write a nasty note about my being insensitive, you should see Jack. Jack had three teeth, none of which touched each other.


If a training officer had a height deficient probationer, he would stop Jack and have the probationer conduct the search. The probationer would tell Jack to put his hands on his head to conduct a pat down search. At 6′ 8”, the probationer couldn’t reach Jack’s hands to conduct the search as taught in the police academy. Before you call the ACLU, Jack was in on the search and freely cooperated. The academy later changed search techniques for shorter officers.


Jack loved the cops and was rumored to have helped some cops in a fight. I knew of one cop who gave Jack money every so often. Jack was not a problem, except that he was a peeping tom. Jack would sleep in a park during the day and walk the streets at night. I was once working a stakeout for a complaint of a peeping tom. Jack was the suspect. I felt that I was well hidden until Jack came walking up behind us and asked, “What’s up officers?”


Crossroads of the worldI had a pretty good relationship with Jack until I caught him looking into an apartment bathroom window at night. I arrested Jack and he refused to speak to me for five years. Jack would talk to other officers but purposely ignore me. Later when I was a Senior Lead Officer, I was having a business burglary problem at the Crossroads of the World. One business owner asked me if I knew of a homeless man who might sleep on the property and watch the businesses and he would pay him. I thought of Big Jack. Hell, he used to sleep at the Catholic Church next door. I sent Jack over to talk to the owner. The owner gave Jack $20 up front. Jack never showed up. The next time I saw Jack I told him that was the last time I’ll help him.


Up until I retired, I would see Big Jack walking around Hollywood. He might still be out there. I’m sure other Hollywood officers have stories about Big Jack.


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

Ramblings by Hal

Hal’s reply to his email audience…

Good morning.

I was recently asked about my Ramblings and how long I had been writing them. I wrote my first in October 2009. In May 2013, I was introduced to Thonie Hevron who writes cop books–very good by the way. She started posting my Ramblings on her blog. If you’re interested, a lot of my older stories are on her blog. My Ramblings appear on her blog once or twice a week . Just click on the “Just the Facts, Ma’am” below. You might enjoy them.

Feel free to leave a comment.


Thonie Hevron
Writing the stories behind the badge
Author of INTENT TO HOLD available from Oak Tree Press in 2014
and BY FORCE OR FEAR available on

Contributing author of Felons, Flames and Ambulance Rides Anthology
Beyond Boundaries-Redwood Writers 2013 Anthology
Thonie’s blog
Just the Facts, Ma’am

Ramblings by Hal

The Story of Ramblings

I’ve been writing my Ramblings for over a couple of years now and have e-mailed out over a hundred cop stories.  Who knew my remembrances of a cops career would go this far? Hell, English was my worst subject in school.  Spell check has saved me the trouble of wearing out a few Webster’s.


I started out writing about my family life and watching our grandkids grow up.  I got tired of writing about changing diapers and watching the Doodle Bops.  I thought I would share some of the cop stories I use to tell at steak fries.  I sent out my first stories to a few retired cops that I worked with.  They forwarded them to other cops and friends and before I knew it my stories spread like a bad rash.  Soon, my stories were going to 4 different states.  I heard from old partners and that encouraged me to continue writing.  I guess my ego kicked in.


The New Centurions by Joseph Wambaugh copywrite 1970
The New Centurions by Joseph Wambaugh
copywrite 1970

Some of my Ramblings inspired numerous replies and others nothing.  I have always written true stories about incidents that I either participated in, or heard about from a partner.  I sometimes added a little embellishment and I always tried

to add some humor.  Not everyone remembers or participated in the practical jokes that I described.  Some didn’t approve, but then I didn’t like everything that Wambaugh wrote about either. 


I have been discouraged at times but every so often someone will write how they liked a story and told of similar experiences.  I recently got an e-mail from a retired cop who I didn’t even know.  He told me that he has gotten my Ramblings and forwarded them to other retired cops across the United States.  Now, my Ramblings have been forwarded to at least 19 states and three countries that I know of.  I’m sometimes asked when I am going to write about this incident or that subject.  I usually look at list of my bullets and pick a subject.  Sometimes a Ramblings is written in a few hours and other times its takes weeks.  I write the most while the grandkids are watching Sponge Bob or the Disney Channel.  I usually have 3 to 5 stories written ahead before I send them out.  My lovely wife edits my stories for spelling, sentence structure and grammar.  She also tells me to tone down some of my political sarcasm.


I was even asked if some of my Ramblings could be used in a cop book by an author in the San Francisco area.  I’m still thinking about that. (That would be Just the Facts, Ma’am blog—and obviously Hal decided to send his stories to me) Anyway, I’m going to continue to write Ramblings as long as my memory comes up with stories and incidents that cops can relate to.  If anyone wishes to be removed from my mailing list, let me know.  I’ve been told that my stories are verbose and loquacious and I admit that I use a lot of words to describe an incident.  In my defense, some of my stories are passed onto quite a few non-police recipients who are not familiar with police terms.  I can handle rejection—just look at my promotion record.


Thanks for your support and encouragement as well as criticism.  I still have some cop stories to write about, but I know that someday I’ll have to go back to writing about our grandchildren and our dog.  


Did I mention I have the smartest dog in Eagle Rock?


Be afraid.

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