Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Probationers

By Hal Collier, LAPD Retired

We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.

The story you are about to read is true, the names have been changed to protect the embarrassed. In thirty-five years as a police officer I have worked with hundreds of partners, some good, some not so good. Some have been great, some have caused me sleepless nights. This story will deal with probationers. All cops have worked with probationers, boots, and rookies. Hell, we were all probationers once. I was a training officer for over nineteen years, so I guess I could be a department expert.


My son is a training officer and he recently asked, “How much time will I get if I kill my probationer”? I told him, “None if you make it look like an accident.” 


My first night with a new partner was to get a little background. Not personal stuff, just looking for a common ground to talk about. If you spend eight hours in a police car with someone you need something to talk about. I would start out with “Why did you become a cop?” The following answers would amaze the department shrink. 


Female: “I’m looking for a husband, cops are clean and they have a good paying job.” 


Male: “This was the only job that paid close to my last job.” 


Female:  “I was making over a hundred grand a year but was bored with my last job.”   I heard that a lot from both male and females.  See? Money isn’t everything. 


Male:  “I want to right all the injustices done to my people.”


Male: I got into the wrong line at the civil service test. Ok, I made that one up but sometimes I think it applied.


I would ask what their hobbies or interests were to see if we had anything in common. One probationer asked what I liked and I said hunting. He said he didn’t think he could kill anything! Not what you want to hear from someone who might be asked to take a life to save yours or his. 


I had a female probationer with a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering. Nice girl but one night she didn’t talk for three straight hours. I like westerns, she liked science fiction. Her parents hated her because their culture didn’t like cops.


I had a female probationer, who sat in the car seat with her knee up on the seat and back turned toward her door, as if we were on a date. 


I had a male probationer who spoke five languages, unfortunately English wasn’t one of them.


I had a female, just off probation, tell me she felt sorry for the male probationers. I asked why and she said that all she had to do to make probation was sleep with her training officer. I wasn’t surprised because her reputation had preceded her.


In the early 70’s, I would ask, “Did you ever cruise Hollywood Boulevard?  Most would say “Yes.”  I’d tell them that my wife and I cruised Hollywood during our dating years. I would then tell them that they were now paid to do what they use to do for nothing, and if we saw something interesting we could stop and question that person. I remember they interviewed an officer on why you would become a police officer. He said, “They pay me $60,000 a year. They give me a gun and a club, a new car and tell me to go out and look for trouble. What a great job.”


Probationers come from all walks of life. Some were Vietnam veterans, some from small towns in the mid-west. Some were married, some divorced. Regardless of where they came from, most were about to become Los Angeles Police Officers.


What I’m about to tell you next is not news to anyone who ever wore the badge. Being a cop gets into your blood. It’s like an E-Ticket at Disneyland or a roller coaster ride. Hours of boredom, followed by thirty seconds of sheer terror. When there’s gun fire, most people are running away, the cops are running toward the shots. It’s not about the money, because most business people have better hours, and pay. 


Not everyone is cut out to be a cop—it takes a lot of desire and sacrifice. I heard of a recruit that said he had to have weekends off because he dated a lot. A probationer is lucky if they get one weekend off a month. They’ll work all the holidays, miss birthday parties, anniversaries and graduations. It’s a known fact that if you have five days off and a trip planned, you get a court subpoena for the middle day. The kiss of death is telling your partner you need to get off on time. 


The hardest to teach were the naive. They led a sheltered life and think all people have a little good in them. I remember a female probationer from Texas. She had a degree in interior decorating. She lost her job and came to L.A. One day at start of watch she asked her training officer why we keep dynamite in the trunk of the police car. Her training officer, trying to keep a straight face, informed her they were road flares.


Another male probationer went out in the middle of a cold night to sit in the police car while his training officer finished up some paper work. When the training officer got into the car the probationer remarked that the car heater was broken. The training officer started the car and the heater came on full blast. The probationer didn’t know that the ignition had to be turned on for the heater to work. I think he’s now employed as a Wal-Mart greeter in Bakersfield.


Being a training officer wasn’t easy but damn it was sure fun!


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Rain Stories


According to the Los Angeles Almanac, the 1977-78 El Nino dumped 33.44" of rain on Los Angeles. That's more than 18" above average rainfall.
LA River–’78 flood from Waverly Drive.  Photo Clarence Inman Collection, 1978. Shot from a backyard on Waverly Drive facing Atwater

By Hal Collier

The following stories are true.  I use to change the names to protect the embarrassed, but since I have not been paid to be quiet, I’m going to use real first names.  Of course some of these stories are 30 years old and my memory is only so good.



I figured since we’re in a dry spell, I would write about some incidents I had working in the rain.  Now, most of my non-police friends like the rain.  At night or on weekends, they would cuddle up in front of a fireplace or pull the bed covers up tight at night.  They would listen to the sounds of the rain and drift off to sleep.  Hell, they even sell machines that have the sound of rain to help people fall asleep.


To a patrol cop working during a storm, it can be a day from hell.  Southern Californians can’t drive on dry streets. Add a little water and the thought that they are going to be late and it’s a disaster in the making.  Traffic accidents increase and burglar alarms on every closed business are activated. 


These all cause a patrol cop to get out of his car and get wet.  Think about standing in a flooded intersection, directing traffic for thirty minutes.  The streets are blocked and some citizen pulls up to your flare pattern, rolls down his car window a 1/4 inch and says, “Can’t I drive through, I always go home this way?”  Your mind is racing: can I drag this dumb ass out through that 1/4 inch opening and will anyone see me if I do.


In the late 70’s, I was working A.M. Watch (grave yard) and we expected a storm.  My partner, Randy, and I loaded up on sunflower seeds and prepared for eight hours of being wet.  Only rookies wore a clean, un-mended uniform on a rainy night.  Sometime around midnight it started raining.  Then, it rained harder than I have ever seen it rain.  We had to a pull into an elevated parking lot.  The streets flooded. Worse yet, our sunflower seed source, Lime-Lite Liquor, had three inches of water inside.  This was getting serious.




A flood scene from last year
A flood scene from last year

The entire city went on tactical alert.  Laurel Canyon was a raging river.  There were reports of citizen being swept down the street.  We were designated as the Hollywood Damage control car.  We responded to calls of stranded citizens, houses sliding off their foundations and closed streets.  The damage was enormous.  Cars were stacked five deep at the bottom of Laurel Canyon.  They used a skip loader to move mud, rocks and cars to check for missing motorists. 


Two officers, Dave and Dale, were assigned to traffic control at the top of Laurel Canyon at Mulholland Drive.  They were standing in three inches of water at the top.  It was rumored that an actor gave the officers a small bottle of brandy to fight off the cold.  At 3 P.M., we were told to go home.  This eight hour day turned into a sixteen hour marathon.  When I took off my uniform, my white J.C. Penney’s t-shirt and underwear were LAPD blue.  I had to work that night so I was back at work at 10:30 P.M.  My boots were still soaking wet.


A few days later I was working with Dave.  We were assigned damage control and security for some of the abandoned houses due to slide damage.  There was one house high in the Hollywood Hills that was wide open in the rear.  The slide covered the back yard as well as knocking a two foot hole through the back of the house.  Actually, a hole was not an accurate description.  The two feet was all across the bottom of the rear of the house.  There was 2 feet of mud inside the house.



Myrtle Beach Storm
Myrtle Beach Storm

Dave and I were checking on the house to make sure no one was walking away with the resident’s valuables.  It was midnight and very dark as we walked through the side gate.  We were halfway in the back yard, ankle deep in mud, when I froze in my tracks.  I spotted a swimming pool filter in the corner of the yard.  Oh crap, somewhere under this mud there was a swimming pool.  I don’t know if mud over a water filled pool would make quicksand, but I didn’t want to be the “Breaking News” story.  We backtracked our steps and left.


A few nights later Dave and I were driving northbound Cahuenga Boulevard where it parallels the Hollywood Freeway.  There’s a section where the road drops down then rises to enter the 101 freeway.  Where it drops down, water collects if the drain is clogged.  The city put up some barricades so sober folks wouldn’t drive into Lake Cahuenga as we dubbed it.  The lake was about five feet deep and sixty feet across.


Dave and I drove up Cahuenga to make sure the barricades were still in place.  The barricades were missing and we could see the roof of a submerged car.  I hoped no one was inside, I was wearing my last dry uniform.  As we approached we could see this man bobbing in and out of the window of the car.  We called him over to dry land and he badged us.  That’s right he was a Deputy Sheriff with the L. A. County Sheriff’s Department.  A lieutenant at that.


flicker lafdDave and I fought to hide our amusement, but it was a waste of time.  The Lieutenant’s story went like this.  He met this girl in a bar in North Hollywood and he was giving her a ride home.  He was southbound on Cahuenga when he drove into Lake Cahuenga.  As the Lieutenant and his female companion swam out of their car they saw three guys laughing and driving away.  The guys had removed the barricades and stuck around to watch the fun.  The Lieutenant was bobbing for her purse in the front seat.  We arranged for a tow truck. 


The lieutenant asked us if we could drive the young lady home, which was two blocks away.  His bigger request was that we not tell anyone in the sheriff’s department.  We agreed.  A few days later we got a phone call from the Lieutenant.  He wanted to meet with us.  Uh oh, now what.  We met at the scene of the crime.  Lake Cahuenga had been drained by then, the fishing sucked anyway.


The Lieutenant showed us a large proclamation, promoting him to Commandant of a U-Boat in Lake Cahuenga.  He told on himself.  He asked about his lady friend and we told him that driving into the lake was the best thing that happened to him that night.  Oh yea, he tried to bribe us with two bottles of cognac.


Practical Joke


This might have been an honest mistake, but I have my doubts.  It had been raining on and off all night.   About dawn a short police pursuit occurred in Hollywood.  The suspects fled on foot and were hiding in the neighborhood.  The rain had let up and the sky was clearing.  We removed our rain coats and we were formed into search parties.  I was one of the senior officers and led my group.  The helicopter was overhead directing officers to likely hiding places.  The helicopter observer directed me into a back yard with a huge weeping willow tree in the corner.  He said the suspects might be under the tree.  I walked under the tree with gun drawn.  The helicopter dropped lower, I assumed to watch me.


Ok, do you know how much water collects in a weeping willow tree after a night of rain?  Have you ever stood next to your dog when he shakes after a bath?  The prop wash from the helicopter immediately dropped all the water in that tree—you guessed it, on me.  I might as well have taken a swim in Lake Cahuenga.  Another day with blue underwear. 



Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Females, Part 2–On Patrol

By Hal Collier

The following stories are true and again are only my opinions.  I’m sure that other officers of both sexes have different views of female officers in the LAPD.  I welcome hearing from anyone.

In the early 70’s, most people didn’t think women should or could be police officers.  Even Chief of Police Edward M. Davis was against women working patrol.  I worked with a lot of females throughout my career and they had a lot of different reasons for joining and diverse backgrounds.

Here are a few.

One female officer said she was looking for a husband, cops have a good steady job, they’re clean, (disease free) and they’re in good shape.  Another said she was an interior decorator in Texas and came to California for work. She found out that everyone in California was an interior decorator, so she applied to be a cop.  She was the one who thought we carried dynamite (road flares) in the trunks of our police cars.

I worked with one female who drove an expensive BMW and had expensive clothes.  In her previous job, she made double my salary, so I asked her why work for LAPD?  She said the money was nice but her job was boring.  She was looking for some excitement.  She found it on the LAPD.  Quite a few said it was the only job they could find with benefits.  We had one female probationer who arrived at work each morning, dressed like she just slid off the pole at a strip club.  She was not retained when it was discovered she was dating both her male training officers at the same time.  A few slept their way through probation and promotions.

LAPD women
LAPD women

I was a training officer for over twenty-one years and worked with a lot of probationers or “rookies,” as some called them.  As I stated in my first Ramblings, I worked morning watch with one of the first female police officers.  My wife didn’t like that I was working with a female, alone all night.  I discovered that my wife was not the Watch Commander at work, only at home.

The first thing I noticed was that on almost every call you had a back-up unit.  As I stated, we were a good old boys club and most men didn’t think females could do the job.  Some of the officers were there to save my butt, if need be, and others were there hoping the female would fail.

I’ll never forget my first fight with a female partner.  It’s Christmas Eve and we get a domestic dispute radio call.  Two brothers, drunk, get into an argument and one punches the other in the nose, breaking it.  The brother with the broken nose wants his brother arrested for battery.  No problem, right? A simple citizen arrest and report.  We might even get off on time.

We handcuff the brother and put him in our police car.  I’m driving, of course, and sitting in the police car.  My female partner is in the back seat with the drunk brother.  Just as I’m about to drive away the brothers’ mother comes running out and says, “You’re not arresting my son on Christmas Eve.”  She reaches in the driver’s window and grabs me by the neck.  I open the car door and knock the mother to the ground.  She’s about 110 pounds and I later learn, a 60 year old grammar school teacher.  I step out and she jumps up and attacks me.  I grab her arm and spin her around in a rear wrist lock.  I hear a familiar snap. Oh shit, I just broke her arm.

This can’t get any worse right, wrong.  The son, handcuffed in the back seat screams, “What are you doing to my mother?”  My partner comes to assist me in handcuffing the now one armed school teacher.  The son begins kicking the door window of our police car.  My partner subdues him with a few punches to the ribs.  Everyone goes to jail for Christmas except the son with the broken nose.

There were changes to be made and it wasn’t going to be the women who changed.  Think of it as a marriage, who changes?  First, the men had to stop swearing in roll call, although some of the females swore like a sailor.  Next, no more blond jokes or for that matter all female gender jokes were banned.  No more jokes on how many female officers does it take to screw up a crime scene.

LAPD officers
LAPD officers

Women as a rule were of smaller stature, which presented a whole new set of issues.  Some of the shorter women couldn’t close the police car trunk from the back bumper.  They had to step to the side fender where they could reach the trunk lid.  In the 70’s, all the police cars had bench seats.  Go ahead—let your 5 foot 3 inch partner drive and spend the night with your knees in the dash for eight hours.

I’m going to leave you with one more female cop story.  I’m not working with a female this night and a “robbery just occurred” call comes out.   A female officer arrives and puts out a crime broadcast.  She describes the suspect, male white, 6-0, 180 pounds last seen westbound Sunset in a fuchsia colored Ford.  It might have been the interior decorator.  I look at my male partner and ask what the hell color is fuchsia.    Most of us good old boys never graduated past the primary colors, you know the ones that make up a rainbow.  After 35 years as a big city cop, I still don’t know what color fuchsia is.

Next Ramblings, why I liked working with female partners.     Hal