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!


Writer's Notes

Just the Facts, Ma’am closes

This will be the last you hear from me on this site. As with all good things, Just the Facts, Ma’am (JtFM) will come to a close. It’s not for lack of stories, to be sure. A dearth of time is the culprit. I have a book to finish. And after almost losing the mister last year, family has become that much more precious. They only ask my time.

Thonie Hevron

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank LAPD alum Hal Collier—the guy who started it all. His stories emailed to other LAPD retirees became the bulwark of JtFM. Thank you to Gerry Goldshine, an early contributor. Mikey sent us his memories once a month. Sometimes we laughed; sometimes we cried. Thanks, Mikey for your moving words. Ed Meckle became the most prolific writer in the JtFM and has earned my gratitude. Ron Corbin came to the party late but gave us all a lot to laugh about. Thanks, Ron. There were other writers, to be sure. Take a moment to scan through the posts for some interesting stories from the guys who’ve been there, done that.

For two years, I hosted Writers Notes. Other authors posted themed stories with links to their work. I met some terrific folks who I’ll continue to call friends. There are some great writing tips in those posts–available for another year.

As for me, I’m still putting the finishing touches on what was Felon with a Firearm but is now Felony Murder Rule. It is off to beta readers already. My list of readers reads like a who’s who of local law enforcement: Mike Brown, retired captain and homicide detective and Will Wallman, retired sergeant (Coroner’s Office) both from Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and Mike McBride, retired Marin County District Attorney’s Investigator. Also, Karen Lynch, retired Homicide Investigator from San Francisco Police Department and author of Good Cop, Bad Daughter. These fine folks promise an authentic reading experience.

Once I get their feedback, it’ll be more keyboard time to make corrections and such. It looks like I’m closing in on the final draft of the fourth Nick and Meredith Mystery. Boy, is it a good feeling! So you won’t see me on my blog Just the Facts, Ma’am anymore but I will be at work. I’ll continue to email quarterly notes about the progress of my books, appearances, and so on. If you’re interested, sign up at

Thanks for your loyal readership. It’s been great.

Thonie Hevron

Street Stories When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly: Tag-You’re It

LAPD 206 Bell Jet Ranger

By Ron Corbin

Pre-Flight Briefing:

Have you ever heard something that is so far-fetched, so unbelievable, that it makes you think, “Yeah sure, I’ll believe it when I see it.” Or when other common expressions of skepticism pop into your head like, “When Hell freezes over,” and, “No way … You are joking, right?”

Police officers are some of the biggest practical jokesters of any profession. Likely, their penchant for “punking,” or pulling pranks and being able to laugh, is a psychological means of coping with the negative things they encounter in their jobs on a daily basis. Whatever the case may be, following is a compilation of humorous accounts about air cops; police officers who fly helicopter patrol over their jurisdictions.

As a former helicopter pilot/instructor with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Air Support Division, I feel comfortable now in sharing some of these anecdotes. I’m guessing the statute of limitations for “Wasting Taxpayers Money” has passed. However, just in case I’m wrong, the names of participants will be either fictionalized or purposely omitted.

Also, rather than calling these stories “accounts,” possibly the term “legends” would be more applicable since some of them cannot be verified as actually happening. So, take a literary ride-along with some of the best police pilots in the world.

Tag … You’re It
Whenever there is a “slow night” for street patrol officers, the correlating effect for air support pilots and observers is usually the same. Also, because California law requires bars to close at 2:00 a.m., it can get very dreary for the few hours before the freeways become “alive” with morning commuters. During this dull time, it’s not whereas a helicopter can just stop flying and wait for something to happen like street cops can do in a black-and-white patrol vehicle.

Most police helicopter pilots fashion themselves as dashing fighter pilots (i.e., flamboyant jet-jockeys in flight suits that attract the opposite sex). Rather than just boring “lazy circles” in the sky with nothing exciting to respond to on the ground, a form of non-lethal aerial combat … “dog fighting” … became a favorite pastime of LA’s pilots assigned to morning watch.

The helicopter from the San Fernando Valley would sneak over the Hollywood hills and come up behind the other aircraft assigned to patrol the Greater LA Basin and metropolitan area. The Valley helicopter would get behind and above the LA ‘copter. Then a flip of the landing light switch by the pilot would illuminate the cockpit of the aircraft in front. The pilot behind would then key the radio and say, “Tag, you’re it”!
Quickly then, the pilot of the trailing Valley aircraft would turn-off the aircraft’s red-green navigation lights and the rotating beacon to become completely blacked-out. Diving and turning, zooming between and hiding behind high-rise skyscrapers in downtown LA, the Valley pilot attempted to avoid being seen by the crew of the LA ‘copter. If and when found, the LA aircraft would then try to maneuver behind the fleeing aircraft and get a “bead” on it. Once in “attack position,” a flip of the landing light switch, and “Tag, you’re it” once again came over the air-to-air radio frequency. Then the roles of both aircraft would reverse, and the chase was on again.

Sure, there was some minor FAA violations with the lights, but the “hard deck” never went below 500 feet AGL (Above Ground Level). No buildings, vehicles, or people were ever in danger. However, it didn’t take long for the Morning Watch sergeant back at the heliport in Glendale monitoring the coded radio comm to figure out that Air 70 and Air 80 were up to some shenanigans. Who knows, but maybe this was the impetus for the aerial sequence from the movie that came out a few years later, “Blue Thunder”, starring Roy Scheider.

What can I say … the original Maverick and Iceman of “Top Gun.”

Post-Flight De-Briefing:

According to Wikipedia, “When pigs fly” is an adynaton, a way of saying that something will never happen. The phrase is often used for humorous effect, to scoff at over-ambition. There are numerous variations on the theme; when an individual with a reputation for failure finally succeeds, onlookers may sarcastically claim to see a flying pig. (‘Hey look! A flying pig!’) Other variations on the phrase include “And pigs will fly,” this one in retort to an outlandish statement.”
These are just a few of the stories that have been circulated around LAPD’s Air Support Division for over a half-century. Through personal first-hand knowledge, some are partially true, some are fiction, most are hard to believe, but all are good for a laugh. These “pig tales” [sic] have become folklore taken from the actions or imaginations of those who carry a gun on their hip, and wear a badge and silver wings on their chest.

Bio of Ron Corbin, PhD

• U.S Army (1965-1969)
• CW2 Helicopter Pilot/Instructor Pilot
• 2 Tours in Vietnam as Combat Pilot
Law Enforcement & Private Security
• Las Vegas Metropolitan PD – Academy Training Manager (ret’d)
• LAPD – Policeman & Air Support Command Pilot/CFI Command Pilot/CFI (ret’d)
• Body Guard for Prince of Qatar (1984 LA Summer Olympics)
• Director of Security; Manufacturing Company

• AA (physical education)
• BA (child development)
• MS (elementary education)
• PhD (security administration)

Lecturer/Consultant & Trainer
• Personal Safety & Security
• Instructor Development; Master Instructor for Nevada P.O.S.T.
• Crime Free Multi-Housing
• CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design)
• Counterterrorism Security Procedures (DOE Nuclear Facilities)

After military service, Ron joined LAPD in 1971 with the ambition of becoming one of their helicopter pilots. He achieved this goal in 1974, working his way up from Command Pilot status to an Instructor Pilot. In 1976, he was involved in a training crash that killed his student pilot and left Ron with 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 70% of his body.
He was given a disability pension in 1977. During many months and years of hospitalization, post incident surgeries and physical rehabilitation, he finished his education earning a BA, MS, and PhD. He rebuilt his life around new careers, including being a school teacher and principal. However, law enforcement and security was still his primary love. Unable to do police work, he pursued various jobs in private security and training in personal safety, including being a body guard, director of security, consultant and trainer for security forces at DOE nuclear facilities.
He moved to Las Vegas in 1993 and joined LVMPD. On behalf of the Department, he served as a CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) expert consultant to various public and private entities in Las Vegas. He retired in 2011 after several years as the Police Academy Training Manager.
Ron has won sixteen awards for his writing skills from the Public Safety Writers Association. He has been married to his HS sweetheart for over 52 years, and has three children and seven grandchildren.

%d bloggers like this: