Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Burn Barrels

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

During the first half of the 20th Century (through 1957 and who knows how long before) everyone–businesses included, burned their trash in backyard incinerators. Everyone had a burner. The residential ones were what you would imagine a “pueblo” bread oven or a pottery kiln to look like.

Residential burners were usual 4 to 5 feet square and about 5 feet tall. They had a front-door loader and a 5 to 6-foot-tall chimney. Business/commercial ones were monsters the size of a family sedan on end with a 10-12 foot chimney. Even today some still survive.

The many Indian tribes that inhabited the LA basin in centuries past referred to the area as “The Valley of the Smokes” due to the inversion layer holding the smoke close to the ground.

Why have I filled your head with this bit of trivia?

Because after burning was outlawed the incinerators became favorite hiding/disposable spots for stolen items, guns, knives and a good stash spot for narcotics. Even the occasional body.

Modern incinerator-note stack on upper right

I was a detective sergeant working Robbery out of Wilshire Division. We had been inundated with a series of brutal street robberies over a period of several months. Our victims, usually elderly women, were beaten and robbed of their purses. We finally were able to identify our suspect and put together a bulletin for the patrol units. Within a few days a radio car bagged him. Half a dozen of our victims made him in a show-up and after some lengthy conversation he gave it up and admitted to 20-plus robberies.

What about the purses? There was an abandoned and shuttered apartment building on his block. In the rear there was a commercial burner and by stacking boxes up he was able to reach the top and drop the purses down the chimney.

I felt a great deal of satisfaction as I pulled purse after purse after purse out of the burner door, clearing a case with every one. I even thought to keep them in order to match crimes reports by date. 

As I recall there were 24 purses, 3 or 4 not even reported. Our robber was cooperative to the point of showing us where he had sailed several onto rooftops.

I think any officer will admit that when you do something even as simple as this, that you not only make someone’s life a little better but it gives you a sense of satisfaction—a sense of why you do what you do. 

Some of our victims even cried when reunited with items thought gone forever. We always thought of them as “our ladies.”


Don’t forget to check out Thonie’s three thriller/mysteries: By Force or Fear, Intent to Hold and With Malice Aforethought. All three are currently available through She’s putting the last touches on Felony Murder Rule, the fourth in the Nick and Meredith Mystery Series.

By Force or Fear, Intent to Hold, and With Malice Aforethought
The Call Box

Call Box: Detective Story, The Real Deal, part 2

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Badge_of_a_Los_Angeles_Police_Department_detective_(2434)If only it were that easy and glamorous.

Your average detective drowns in paper/computer reports. He/she is assigned a specialty such as homicide or robbery. Crimes are usually broken down by type, burglary (either residential or business), auto theft, theft from vehicle or forgery.

First thing in the morning:
You must check for arrestees assigned to your team. They are either questioned and released, held for further investigation with strict time constraints or submitted to the D.A. for charges to be filed.

You also may have to transport your own prisoner to a different lock-up.

You must read the overnight reports to see if anything requires immediate attention.

If you have a heavy case load you are probably in court several days a week.

You must find time to re-interview all victims and witnesses and serve all subpoenas for your court cases.

You must keep abreast of all deadlines for required reporting.

You must be prepared to respond to any and all calls for service.

f prints magnifierTelling the lieutenant, “That’s not my field/specialty/responsibility/job,” earns the response, “There is nobody else available, handle it. Like it or not, you are a good soldier. You do what you must.”

Not only does the fictional detective get the bad guy, he does it with time out for commercials. In real life, our clearance rates vary by crime but are never as good as the T.V. cop’s.

The Call Box

The Call Box: Working Robbery

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1In early 1965, I got an offer I couldn’t refuse. Not from Don Corleone but from Captain Ed Jokisch. I had been at Metro for five years, the last two as a sergeant—an absolute jewel of an assignment and one highly sought after. Now, however, I was offered a chance to not only work for probably the best detective commander on the job but to work robbery as well. The two “big dogs” in detective land are homicide and robbery. Now I had a chance to work robbery. This was not to be offered twice if turned down once.

Each division/station was home to not only patrol (uniforms) but to detectives as well. At that time, the L.A.P.D. had I believe 14 geographical divisions. I was to be assigned to Wilshire Division which is due west of downtown.

Wilshire was a fairly busy house, home to three robbery teams. I was to be a part of that crew.


Dwight Stevens and Richard L. Sullivan were the “’business robbery team.” Tom Ferry and Jim Nichols were “rolling business,” being cabs, buses, (yes, buses) Helms Bread trucks. Helms sold fresh baked goods door to door ringing their bell as they moved through the neighborhood, like the poor push-cart ice cream vendor (also a favorite target). I swear if there had been trains and stagecoaches, they would have hit them too.

Dale Brown “Brownie” and I rounded things out by working “street robbery,” which included purse snatchers, street toughs, muggers, hugger muggers (hookers), drunk rollers, pick-pockets and anything that did not fit any other category.


Papa Bear and Detectives cropped.jpg

The division was fairly large and stretched from the edge of the downtown area west to the “silk stocking” district—poverty to fabulous wealth. Mom and pops to Saks, I. Magnin and Perinos on the miracle mile.


Captain Jokisch was a no nonsense WWII veteran, a Navy chief petty officer, who did not suffer fools gladly and passed out compliments like they were gold nuggets. “You did okay there,” was considered high praise. To his face he was Boss, Skipper or Captain. In our little world, he was “Papa Bear.”

As I have said before, the TV detectives have CEO size offices. In our 19th century building we were (all six of us) crammed into a room, approximately 8’ x 10’ (I may be overly generous with my fading memory). One long table, four phones, 2 or 3 file cabinets and one antique manual typewriter. The standing joke was, “it was so small that if you wanted to change your mind, you had to step outside.” We were separated from the even smaller homicide room by an opaque glass partition ending several feet from the ceiling.

Arrestees that came in overnight were parceled out to the various teams and interviewed as early as possible to determine charges, if any, and whether they merited further investigation. The overnight crime reports were read also to decide future action.

Standing between us and the captain, was our immediate supervisor, Lieutenant Bob “Red Jet” Helder. I’d known him for years; he was laid back and great to work for. “I don’t like to be surprised. Make sure I’m not and you will never know I’m here.”

A good number of our cases contained little or nothing considered useful in follow up. We did re interviews on cases with vague or worthless descriptions if for no other reason than to placate our victims. Maybe—just maybe—we’d come up with something. When we got that something to “run with” we were all over it. We loved slamming the door on the type of bad guy we dealt with. Many our victims were older, defenseless people, some treated badly by the suspects.

These people were our clients and we took satisfaction in bagging another bad guy. We stayed busy since the only thing we had more of than victims was crooks. We handled so many bodies (arrestees) and cases it seemed we lived in court. 10-12 even 14 hour days were not uncommon.

I worked with Brownie for two and a half years and look back with pride and satisfaction. I worked for Papa Bear for two and a half years and got a couple of “You did okay there’s.” I worked Wilshire robbery for two and a half years and never heard judge nor jury say, “not guilty.”

A I have said before, police work is intangible and you have to take pride in what you do. I worked Wilshire robbery until I promoted out. Did I make a difference?

I like to think so.

This column is dedicated to all the names mentioned above.

All good friends, all good men and all gone to soon.

More Street Stories

Guest Post: MPD Chief Edward Flynn: Share my confidence in your police

This article was re-posted by Craig Schwartz, Santa Rosa PD.

By Edward Flynn, Police Chief of the Milwaukee Police Department


As we enter the summer of 2015, on the heels of an unusually violent first half of the year in both Milwaukee and many of our peer cities, I write to provide some context that acknowledges the challenges we face, outlines your police department’s ongoing strategies to reduce crime and make our neighborhoods safer, and remind us all of the accomplishments of the men and women of the Milwaukee Police Department.

In a recent conversation covering the evolution of policing in the past 40 years, which covers the arc of my career, there was frustration that the same criticisms being leveled at the police today were being leveled at the police 40 years ago.

This is despite the fact that over the last 40 years, police have advanced and improved more than any other component of local government. We have become more technologically sound, have higher levels of integrity, are more restrained in the use of force, are more integrated, are more educated, are more carefully trained and are more selectively chosen than ever before. Yet we are hearing many of the same criticisms.

Did the police as a national institution fail? My answer is no. The police evolved. Fast enough, far enough, perfectly enough? No. More than the national narrative wants you to believe? Yes.

So why is there so much frustration and confusion? Because it became easy to delegate the social problems of America to the police. Over the past 40 years, there have been massive disinvestments in mental health care, social services for the homeless, for the disadvantaged, for those who are substance abusers. Our police have become the social agency of first resort for the poor, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Indeed, if one did not know better, one would think society had decided that no social problem is so complicated that it cannot be cured with more training for the police. That is neither accurate nor sustainable. We throw the young, idealistic, service-minded men and women of policing into a social meat grinder and we expect them to perform perfectly at all times. When they err, we do not treat them like soldiers in Afghanistan making a mistake under pressure; we treat them like criminals. This is wrong.

The code of conduct we adhere to in Milwaukee specifically calls on us to distinguish between mistakes in judgment and acts of malfeasance. We hold ourselves accountable under this code because it is the right way to behave and because if we choose not to hold ourselves accountable when we make mistakes or violate the law, no one will believe us when a bad thing happens despite the lawful and within-policy behavior of our officers.

We are data-driven, which sometimes means our efforts to produce and provide information about crime, safety and police activity in Milwaukee is used against us. We accept that reality, frustrating as it might be. While there is no declaration of victory in policing, those who deny progress and decry reforms do a disservice to the communities they purportedly support and the men and women who have chosen to serve their neighbors as police officers.

What are some of our measurements of accountability?

In 2007, there were nearly 500 citizen complaints filed against department members. Between 2007 and 2014, your officers engaged in nearly 1.5 million citizen contacts as part of their proactive policing work. The professionalism of our officers resulted in a 66% reduction in complaints from 2007 to 2014, from 488 to 168. During the same time frame, we reduced the frequency of our use of force by one quarter.

Since 2007, we have experienced a 24% reduction in Part I crime, which is defined by the FBI and includes homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson. From 2008 through 2014, we averaged 87 homicides per year, compared to an average of 108 homicides per year between 2001 and 2007.

A scientific survey was conducted last year to measure citizen satisfaction with police services, and I have asked for the survey to be repeated annually. What did we learn? Nearly three-quarters of the respondents were satisfied with their police department and 73% were satisfied with our visibility in their own neighborhood. There is room for improvement, and we are dedicated to making that improvement. We will continue to engage residents, neighborhood groups, churches, nonprofits, schools and every level of government agency in our community-based efforts.

While we have seen aggregate improvement in crime over the past seven years, there is a spike in crime. This brings pressure to revert to the failed conventional policies of the past. Why? Because there is nothing safer in government than failing conventionally. We know that if you stick with something innovative and you have a temporary setback, the pressure to go back to the failed, stale policies of the past is overwhelming. I will not do that. We have had measurable success, and we will continue to have success without sacrificing the support of the disadvantaged neighborhoods that rely on their police.

We cannot deny there is a national narrative of negativity regarding race and police, and that negativity — as righteous or exaggerated as it might be — has a detrimental effect on both the morale of our officers and on the perspectives of the public alike.

But the greatest danger to the healthy growth and development of young African-American men in our central cities is being murdered, wounded or maimed by someone who looks just like them. We are committed to dealing with that. We are committed to dealing with it justly. We are committed to doing it in a manner that holds us accountable to our professional standards. At the same time, we are not going to be intimidated into not doing our job.

No agency of government is more accountable for its role in accelerating positive social trends, retarding negative social trends and making a difference in the neighborhoods of a city. We are continuing to engage with neighborhoods to build their ability to advocate for themselves.

All of our officers, upon finishing field training, are strategically assigned to neighborhoods with high rates of violence in order to provide a strong and accessible police presence. We are continuing to use data to guide our deployments and we have launched a visible, enforcement-oriented presence in our high-crash areas to reduce the sharp increase in injuries and deaths we have experienced this year.

I am proud of this department and I am proud of the progress it has made. I have seen the work your officers perform. I have seen the pressures under which they operate. I have been at the scenes of terrible incidents where they are exposed to the worst human conduct imaginable, and I have watched them maintain their dignity, calmness and professionalism. I have proudly presented them with hundreds of medals for heroism, valor, lifesaving and restraint. And while I sometimes fear my pride in them comes across as arrogance, I am confident our continued work with the people we swore to protect is worthy of their support and esteem.

I am proud to serve this agency and this city, and I invite you to share my confidence in your police.

Edward Flynn is chief of the Milwaukee Police Department.

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 Miscellaneous 3: Just Lucky

By Hal Collier

 Hal Collier is a retired LAPD veteran of thirty-five years. He’s been gracious enough to share his “Ramblings” with us.


The following stories are true. I couldn’t make up this stuff. These stories are my experiences as a police officer. I only mention this again because some of my old partners who read these stories have fading memories. They get halfway through one of my stories and can’t remember if they took their morning pills. As I mentioned in one of my last Ramblings, sometimes good arrests just fall into your lap.


Most non-police people think cops eat a lot of donuts. If a cop does eat a donut you can bet it won’t be a white powered variety. Blue wool uniforms and white power don’t mix. The public bases their conclusion on the fact that they see two or three cop cars parked at a Winchell’s, or Cooper’s Donuts. 


I just aged myself. 


Today’s cops hang out at Starbucks, or Goldstein’s Bagel Shop. Most cops don’t eat donuts, but almost all drink coffee. Be honest just about everyone gets a coffee break. I won’t even get into some of today’s cops ordering a cup of coffee with the word latte in it, or with a squirt of this or a 1/2 and 1/2 of that. Ordering a cup of coffee shouldn’t take twelve words. And what’s with that little sleeve to keep you from burning your fingers? Today’s cops are a whole new breed.



Yum-Yum Donuts
Yum-Yum Donuts

k, back to Ramblings. I’m working A.M. Watch, you know–that 11 P.M. to 7 A.M. nightmare. My partner and I are going to need some caffeine to get through the night. After Roll Call, we drive to the Yum-Yum Donut Shop at Melrose and Highland. We drive into the parking lot and are greeted by the baker. He’s yelling something in Spanish. My knowledge of the Spanish language is to tell a suspect to put his hands up and that his mother is a member of the world’s oldest profession. All I understand him saying is black guy and robbed. He’s pointing toward the alley. I guess our coffee break is going to have to wait.


We drive into the alley and see two black guys pushing a car. They finally get it started and jump in. We stop them. Yep, they had just robbed the donut store. Ok, not everybody I arrested was a Rhodes Scholar, but come on, don’t rob a place and then find out your car won’t start. Double dumb: the driver was arrested once before for robbing this same donut store. I think my commendation said that I have superior knowledge of crime trends, keen observation skills, and outstanding tactics. Reality, I just wanted a cup of coffee.


I’m still working A.M. Watch. It’s been raining most of our shift. We’re driving eastbound Hollywood Boulevard, approaching Western Avenue. We see two black guys running across Western and into a parking patrol car at nightlot behind the Bank of America. Ok, running in the rain is not unheard of. Gene Kelly made a fortune dancing in the rain. It’s when one of the guys looks over his shoulder at us and they both duck down behind a parked car. Ok, we’re going to investigate.

I pat down one of the chaps and feel a large bulge in his right front pocket.

I ask, “What’s that?

He says, “My money, about $12. You can check if you want.”

I pull out a wad of crumpled up U.S. currency. It’s over a hundred dollars.

My partner, Cliff, looks at me and says, “What do we do now?

I tell him “We wait for the radio call.”

Three minutes later, ”Any Hollywood Unit, 211(Robbery) just occurred Hollywood and Western at the taco stand. Suspects two male blacks.”

With a grin as wide as a Cheshire cat, I pick up my radio and broadcast, “Code 4, suspects in custody”.

Again, the commendation said something about experience, tactics, blah, blah, blah.

Reality, luck, and right place at right time.


On TV, a burglar alarm at a closed business means a crime is in progress. In reality, 95 % of burglar alarms are false. It’s often employee error when closing, or the wind, or rain. One hot day, we had a power failure and it triggered every business alarm in a five block area. Yea, we had to check out every business per department policy. A.M. Watch is a little different. Sometimes the alarms are good. Most business burglars prefer to work when everyone is asleep.


I’m working A.M. Watch. Yea, I know, I’m always working AM’s. In fact, I spent nineteen of my thirty-five years working in the dark, maybe that’s why I now get up at 4 A.M. everyday. Anyway, a burglar alarm comes out at a business on Melrose. Doug, a good street cop, who succumbed to a promotion to Sergeant, responds. Doug, being a good cop, drives to the rear alley. Low and behold a business burglar. Doug has caught him red-handed. The only problem is that Doug is in the wrong alley. He’s north of Melrose and the alarm is on the south side. Well, Doug has caught some business burglars. The real alarm was false.


Hotel laundryWe got a suspect and the getaway car. We have to search the business. I’m on the perimeter when the officers search the building. It’s a commercial cleaners, drapes, curtains, and large items. Jim the senior officer comes out of the building and says he can’t find anyone but he has that feeling an experienced police officer gets. Jim feels that someone is in there. He says, “Hal, you take a look. I think someone is in there but I can’t find him”. I think Jim has read my above commendations, he knows I’m not good, just lucky.


I go into the building and look around. Nothing. I’m standing in the work area of the building. I don’t want to doubt Jim’s sixth sense. I noticed a large pile of drapes lying on the floor. I stared at them and they appeared to be breathing. Yep, the burglar was hiding under that pile of drapes. The Judge laughed out loud when I testified in court that the drapes appeared to be breathing.


See you don’t have to be good all the time, just lucky.     

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Stupid crime stories

Just about everybody is aware that criminals are not the smartest individuals on the planet.  If you doubt me just check out the web sites and TV shows that show crooks at their worst.  If you spent any time around the criminal element you’re not amazed, but you’re shocked when a jury returns a verdict of not- guilty. The jury’s reasoning is nobody’s that stupid. Really?

Well, let me tell you that after 35 years of working the streets, mostly in Hollywood, yeah, they are and they are reproducing at an alarming rate.  I’m going to describe some of the “stupid criminal” incidents I investigated.

I responded to a radio call of a taxi cab robbery on the eastside of Hollywood.  It was after midnight.  I drove up and the cab driver was standing outside his cab.  He told my partner and I that he picked up a fare in front of a bar on Hollywood Blvd.  The fare directed the cab driver to this residence and upon arrival, the fare/suspect told the cabbie, “I have a gun give me your wallet and any cash you have.”

The cab driver gave the suspect his wallet and money then watched as the suspect ran between the houses.  My partner began taking the report and I surveyed the crime scene.  I found a wallet in the back seat and proudly told the cabbie that at least he left your wallet.  The cabbie looked at the wallet and declared, “That’s not mine!”

I looked inside the wallet and found a CDC card with a picture.  “CDC” stands for California Department of Corrections.  That’s right—it was the suspect’s prison ID card. And his picture was identified by the cabbie as the guy who robbed him.

The suspect ran east between the houses.  Now, I’m not the smartest cop on the planet, but I did know that a halfway house was one block east of us.  A halfway house is a home for parolees released from prison.

We drove to the next block and the director told us our parolee had just come home.  He’s now looking at an additional 5 years of state aid by the state of California.

Duh, if you rob someone don’t leave your ID at the crime scene.

It was late into my shift and I needed to write a ticket.  It was the end of the month and my sergeant was on my case because I had written only one ticket all month.  I’ll admit that I hated writing tickets and only wrote enough to keep my sergeant from following me around all night.

Cop writing a ticket
Cop writing a ticket

I saw this car commit a traffic violation and I figured it was an easy ticket.  I won’t even have to go to traffic court on my day off.  My partner and I stop the violator and he gets out of his car.  The usual conversation occurs: he admitted the violation and produces his driver’s license.  Above the violator’s right ear is a hand rolled marijuana cigarette.  At the time, this was a felony so we arrested him.  During the booking process, I asked him why he smoked marijuana and he replied, “It makes me more alert.”

Except when stopped by the cops.

Crooks who drive are also just as dumb.  On more than one occasion a suspect would commit a Robbery and as the officers were taking the report the suspect would drive by.  It went something like this—Officer: “what kind of car was the suspect driving?”  The victim would look around and say it was just like that car. Wait that’s the car and the guy that just robbed me.”

Why cops don't eat white powdered sugar donuts
Why cops don’t eat white powdered sugar donuts

Most non-police people think cops eat a lot of donuts. If a cop does eat a donut you can bet it won’t be a white powered donut. Blue wool uniforms and white powder don’t mix. The public bases their conclusion on the fact that they see two or three cop cars parked at a Winchell’s, or Cooper’s Donuts—where we can get a quick cup of coffee. I just aged myself.

Today’s cops hang out at Starbucks, or Goldstein’s Bagel shop.  Most cops don’t eat donuts, but almost all drink coffee.  Be honest—just about everyone gets a coffee break. I won’t even get into some of today’s cops ordering a cup of coffee with the word latte in it, or with a squirt of this or a 1/2 and 1/2 of that. Ordering a cup of coffee shouldn’t take 12 words and what’s with that little sleeve to keep you from burning your fingers? Today’s cops are a whole new breed.

Ok, back to my Ramblings. I’m working A.M. Watch. You know, that 11 P.M. to 7 A.M. nightmare. We’re going to need some caffeine to get through the night.  After Roll Call, my partner and I drove to the Yum-Yum donut shop at Melrose and Highland. We pulled into the parking lot and are greeted by the baker. He’s yelling something in Spanish. My knowledge of the Spanish language is to tell a suspect to put his hands up and that his mother is a member of the world’s oldest profession. All I understand him saying is black guy and robbed. He pointed toward the alley. I guess our coffee break was going to have to wait.

We drove into the alley and saw two black guys pushing a car. They finally get it jump-started and hop in. We stop them. Yep, they had just robbed the donut store. Ok, not everybody I arrested was a Rhodes Scholar, but come on, don’t rob a place and then find out your car won’t start. Double dumb, the driver was arrested once before for robbing this same donut store. I think my commendation said that I have superior knowledge of crime trends, keen observation skills and outstanding tactics.

Reality, I just wanted a cup of coffee.

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 investigated skills but the true 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.  #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 showed up for work late one night and saw his bride handcuffed to the hallway bench along with the rest of the soiled doves.  He released 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 in Pasadena-suggesting he wasn’t a rocket scientist) 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 suspect’s 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.  We were about 2 sips into 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.  My partner takes his coffee with us. 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.

They’re out there and they’re reproducing.  I won’t even get into politicians.

More Street Stories

San Rafael robbery circa 1976

Photos by the best action photographer, Steve Moreno. “I carried my camera all the time. The is the Pharmacy Robbery on D street around 1976? And the last one is from the Flatiron Building Fire about the same time or a little earlier. Woody would take me for rides in the police car, one time I saw this kid running and I told Woody to pull out his gun and shoot him before he got away. My uncle said, “I can’t do that, he didn’t do anything.” I said he’s running so he did something. Never a call on it so Woody was right and I would have shot em just for being late for a date or something. However, he might have rather been shot then to face the date he was late for. Notice I broke the lines to get the money shot of the arrest. Without that it wouldn’t be complete?”

Hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait
Hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait

The sergeant giving direction
The sergeant giving direction

Woody in patrol
Woody in patrol

Running to trouble
Running to trouble

Well armed, I might add
Well armed, I might add

Hoke pix 1

Hoke pix 2
Getting equipment

Detective Woody Hoke giving direction
Detective Woody Hoke giving direction

Taking cover
Taking cover

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