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.

More Street Stories Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Court 4

By Hal Collier LAPD, Retired

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

This is the last installment about criminal court—I think. Sometimes after a nap I remember some incident that I think might be amusing. I had over ten years’ experience in criminal court when this incident occurred. I’d thought I’d seen everything.

I was once working a movie premiere when an Australian film crew asked me, “I’ll bet you have seen everything.” I looked the camera straight in the lens and said “I’ve worked Hollywood long enough to know that I’ll never see everything.” This court case proves me right.

I’m working with Dave Balleweg. Dave was one of those partners that just made police work fun. You couldn’t spend a night working with Dave without having your ribs sore from laughing. I don’t ever remember getting into a fight while working with Dave—he always talked the suspects into jail. I remember one Thanksgiving Day, a speeder called the station after finding out that we were looking for her. She agreed to come to the station where we arrested her. Not bad when they come to you on a holiday to be arrested. Believe it or not she had a turkey in the oven. It was delicious. Ok, I’m just kidding. It was dry.

Dave and I are driving westbound on Selma Avenue approaching Ivar about 3 A.M. We see this guy get out of a Mustang in the parking lot. He crosses the street in front of us wearing a blue “Puma” t-Shirt. He says “Hi Officers.” We’re waiting for the light to change and watch him walk northbound on Ivar. We wonder why he parked in a parking lot a block from Hollywood Boulevard when there’s closer parking spots on the street. Ok, our police instincts have kicked in. He walks up to Hollywood Boulevard and walks west.

We drive into the parking lot. I jump out and look inside his car. The ignition is held together with scotch tape. Crap, the car’s probably stolen. Now we have to find that stranger in the blue Puma t-shirt. We race up to Hollywood Boulevard and can’t find him. Ok, it’s 3 A.M. and not many places are open. Ah, the all night news stand at Hollywood and Cahuenga—they never close.

Sure enough, our suspect is in the porno book section in the back of the news stand. We grab him and now the fun begins. The car isn’t reported stolen. The registered owner lives in the San Fernando Valley. We have a valley cop go to the registered owner’s house. I hope we didn’t disturb the cops nap. The Valley was quiet then. It’s always fun when you knock on some guy’s door and ask, “Do you know where your car is?” He says, “Yea, it’s in my driveway.” Then he looks and screams, “Where’s my car?”

We arrest this Puma shirt guy and wait for our court subpoena. Because the car was stolen in the San Fernando Valley we get a subpoena to Valley court. I haven’t spent much time in court in the valley. Valley Court is where this story gets bizarre.

Dave and I show up in our best suits. Ok, they were our only suits, off the rack from C&R Clothier’s. We check in with the DA. He informs us that the defendant has some additional charges against him. He was on probation for stealing cars and he was not allowed to be south of Mulholland Drive after midnight. Huh. That’s right—every time he stole a car he would drive it to Hollywood. We caught him in a stolen car south of Mulholland. We had never heard of an adult being restricted to the Valley after midnight. Maybe Lindsey Lohan should be restricted to west of the 405 Freeway.

Dave and I are waiting for the judge to take the stand when we see another strange sight. The court reporter, a man in his late 50’s, is spreading paper towels all over his chair. He approaches us and asks if we are the officers testifying. He tells us that he is the last court reporter to take testimony in long hand. He told us that after the attorney asks a question, to wait until he nods to answer. This can’t be happening. He didn’t tell us, but the paper towels were for sweat. During the trial he sweated more than Clinton did denying he had sex with “that” women.

The judge takes the stand and informs the court that the defendant accidentally ruined his blue Puma t-shirt and has nothing to wear in court. Dave jumps up and offers to go to the Army/Navy supply store on the corner and buy the defendant a shirt. The judge agrees and said he’ll pay for the shirt. The judge takes out his wallet and gives us $20.00 cash. We consider going to lunch on the judge but reason prevails. We hustle over to the store and look for a blue Puma t-shirt. No luck, so we buy a shirt and race back to court.

The defendant decides to have his parents bring a suit–I’m guessing it’s his court suit. Can this case get any more bizarre? Just wait. We come back after lunch and I think were ready to go. Dave takes the stand and waits for the court clerk to swear him in. Only problem is that the clerk is not in the court room.

Dave tells the judge, “I can do this,” he raises his right hand and says, “I do solemnly swear, in the case now pending before this court to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”
The judge says, “It works for me. Any objections?”
No objections. How many cops who read my stories have seen this or sworn themselves in?

I’m guessing that a perpetual car thief who apparently gets caught a lot would have a good lawyer. The defendant’s lawyer must have been a family friend, or a DUI lawyer because I think I knew more about criminal law then he did. The judge was always admonishing him about proper questioning and court protocol.

I was testifying for the prosecution and told how we found a pair of channel lock pliers in the defendant’s back pocket. The defendant’s lawyer is now on cross examination.
He asks, “Officer, did you notice anything about the teeth on the pliers?”
Ok, I jump on the question, but only after a nod from the court reporter. “Yes, the teeth had a grey metal on them similar to the grey metal on a vehicle ignition.”
Defendant’s lawyer jumps up and yells, “Objection.”

The Judge looks at the defense lawyer and says, and I loved this, “You asked the question. You can’t object to your own question.”
I almost peed my court suit.

Defendant was found guilty. The court reporter sweated through a roll of paper towels, the judge got a t-shirt, defendant probably got more probation and Dave and I got three hours compensation and the memory of the most bizarre court case.

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