Roll Call

Roll Call: Rampart and the Baby Powder Caper

68 Plymouth Belvedere labeledBy Mikey, Retired LAPD

March 25, 2018



In the summer of 1973, as a rookie copper in Rampart Division, I was learning the ways of the LAPD. Every day was exciting for me. I was assigned morning watch, so I got to work at 2230 for a 2400 roll call.


One night, I was in the locker room talking with another copper when four sergeants swarmed into the room and began taking names and serial numbers. One of the senior officers asked what the deal was, and he was told that he would find out later.  At the conclusion of roll call our lieutenant told those of us who had had their names and serial numbers documented to report to the Area Commanding Officer’s (CO) office. 


In the hallway were five officers standing outside of the CO’s office. Just as I got in line, an officer exited the office, looked at us and said, “that was B**l S**t!” and stomped off. All the guys before me said pretty much the same as they exited.


Then it was my turn. A sergeant and lieutenant (LT) were in the room. The sergeant stood by the light switch and the LT was behind a desk. On the desk was a lunch box, the kind that is rectangle at the bottom and half oval on the top.  

The LT instructed me to approach the desk and put my hands out in front of me. He then told the sergeant to turn out the room lights. I heard the lunch box lid open and suddenly an ultraviolet light came up, illuminating my hands. Barely visible were some very little shiny “flakes.”  The LT called the sergeant over to the desk and told him to look at my hands.


 “What is that?” the L.T. asked.


 My response, “I don’t know, sir.” 


 “Well, it’s on your hands!”  


The sergeant turned the lights back on and I found them both eyeing me suspiciously. 


“What’s up” I asked.


Silence. Then, “you can go. What car are you working?” 


I replied, “2 Adam 3.”


Something told me I’d be talking to the LT again, very soon. My training officer asked me why I had been in the CO’s office, but I did not have an answer for him. 


Sure enough, 15 minutes later, “2 Adam 3, see the watch commander.” 


Back at the station, I reported to the watch commander and he told me to go back to the CO’s office and report to the LT. In the LT’s office, I was again asked me again what the flakes on my hands were. This time I had an answer for him.


In a somewhat weak voice I said. “Baby powder, sir.” 


“Baby powder?” 


 Johnsons_Baby_Powder_1,5_OZS_talc,_pic1I told him that in the summer I used it because I sweat quite a bit. 


The LT looked at the sergeant with that “ah, ha” look and said to me, “well then, it should be all over your person.” With that he told me to take off my uniform shirt. So, I removed my Sam Brown put it on the desk, pulled my shirt out and unbuttoned it. The LT told me to pull my T-shirt up and he instructed the sergeant to kill the lights. The UV light came back on and wouldn’t you know it, there were flakes all over the place.


Not satisfied with that, the LT had me take my belt off, and pull my pants down. Oh yeah; this is 1973 LAPD, no union rep, nothing. Just as he is working his way down to my knees, the door came open, I heard a hand being slapped and the light came on. From where my watch commander was standing behind me, how do you think it looked? The LT was practically kneeling down in front of me and my pants down to my knees? 


 “Young lieutenant, that’s disgusting!” My watch commander shouted. Then to me, “Diaz, get yourself put back together and get out on patrol!”  God, I felt so, I don’t know, used?


So, here is why this happened. There had been locker break-ins, so the CO’s adjutant had powdered several lockers with the secret stuff and had a couple of the lockers bugged to set off an alarm if they were disturbed.  The night I was there, the alarm tripped, the sergeants arrived, and the baby powder made the LT “hot” and all for nothing. 


The next night, my training officer brought in a super sized container of baby powder. All the guys powdered up their hands, banged on every locker, went to roll call to await the dreaded “swarm” of sergeants, but nothing happened.


I stopped using baby powder. Just saying.


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Supervisors part 1 of 3

Part 1 of 3


I was recently asked by a close partner to give her some advice for her husband. He was getting close to promoting to sergeant and wanted to know what makes a good sergeant. Now, I’m not an expert and I’m not even sure I was a good sergeant. It would be a tossup between what the brass thought and what the field officers thought. The following opinions are mine and mine alone.


My background: I worked twenty-two years as a street police officer, my choice. I saw too many good cops promote too soon and miss out on all the fun. I promoted to sergeant only thinking of an increase in my pension. You can’t spend fun after retirement. I spent another twelve and a half years as a field sergeant and watch commander.


I’m sure the LAPD has different views but then I didn’t agree with everything they taught either. I attended a lot of leadership classes put on by my department and I actually took some notes. Most of these suggestions are from my own experience and my methods were not always accepted by the brass. The brass thought they were really in charge of the patrol cops.


First, what is the job of a supervisor? What a loaded question, but here goes: Supervise your officers, give the officers advice, but only when they need advice. Keep them out of trouble and that also includes jail. I thought the most important thing was to know your officers. I used to pride myself in knowing the officers on my watch. I knew who the hard workers were, who the slackers were and who had a tendency to take shortcuts or stretch the rules. I learned their first names and some of their backgrounds or hobbies. I was always looking for a common ground for communication. 


Before making sergeant I wrote down what I liked about a good supervisor and what I didn’t like about a bad supervisor. An example, I worked for a lot of good street cops who promoted too soon. They still wanted to do police work but the LAPD frowned on supervisors being street cops. By the way, the department told sergeants not to even write tickets. I remember one sergeant was told turn in your ticket book or turn in your stripes! Street cops hated a sergeant who made an arrest then handed it off. It’s like someone else catching a fish and giving it to you to clean. Whoopee.


I once had a sergeant drive through a dark alley and found a drunk sleeping in a doorway out of harm’s way. He called me to come book him downtown, he then had the nerve to tell me he was going to eat. After medical treatment and booking, I had to have my police car checked for crabs. I worked three hours overtime, itched for two days and no, I didn’t get to eat that night. See who your friends are when you stand naked in the locker room and ask some cop in the next aisle to look for bugs on you. 


I don’t begrudge the building boys, as we called them. They promote early, because they wanted out of patrol. My only problem was when they promoted they were then sent back to patrol to supervise us street cops. They often made poor tactical field decisions based of very little experience on the streets. I once had a new sergeant respond to a scene and when asked to make a decision she opened the department manual looking for the answer. It wasn’t there! She actually asked for another sergeant to respond and make the decision. I did respect the new sergeants and lieutenants who asked the senior officers for advice. It’s the supervisors responsibility but it’s good to have a veterans input. Sometimes the cops can keep the supervisors out of trouble. I was told in a leadership class, “You can delegate everything except responsibility.”


I saw a lot of supervisors who didn’t make a decision at all, for fear that it would stall their next promotion. If the lack of a decision was news worthy, like during the LA Riots, the supervisor’s career was over and forget about the retirement home in the marina. No more promotions and something they call “freeway therapy.” That’s where you live in northern LA County and your next assignment is in the southern most division in the city. Nothing like an hour drive or two, to and from work to get your mind straight.


More suggestions in part 2.     Hal

Ramblings by Hal

Police Burglars, epilog

by Hal Collier

Epilog to the Hollywood Police Burglar scandal:

After the smoke cleared and believe me this took years, I pieced together the following events of the Hollywood Burglaries. Ron Venegas made a deal and cooperated with investigators. He resigned from the LAPD and last I heard he was driving a truck for the movie studios. He was sentenced to probation and never did any jail time. Jack Myers died in an automobile accident shortly after his arrest. It was ruled accidental, most speculated he committed suicide or was run off the road by an unknown officer to silence him.

Twelve officers and supervisors were either charged criminally or administratively. One sergeant was actually tried in court. The judge found him not guilty. The only evidence was Venegas’s statements and the Judge said, “Venegas is an admitted criminal and I wouldn’t believe him if he said the sun will rise in the morning.” All resigned and were never charged, one other officer got probation. Those of us left behind were on probation for decades. In an earlier Ramblings, I described ugly partners who tarnished the badge. There wasn’t enough Brasso to clean my badge because of these officers.

Venegas, Myers and others were responsible for over 100 Hollywood business burglaries. Some resulted from taking property after a business was already broken into and others they went “shopping.” Shopping involved businesses that had something the officers wanted. The officers carried a slingshot and marbles. They would smash out a window and wait for the alarm call. They would then request backup officers to search the premises for suspects. When the uninvolved officers left, they would take whatever they needed.

Some of the businesses they broke into baffled me. Lido Cleaners, where we all cleaned our uniforms! They broke into the cleaners a couple of times. They not only took cash but their clean uniforms. Some of businesses were video stores and they took video players and video discs. They broke into a couple of pharmacies and took prescription drugs. Hardware stores, auto repair shops for batteries or tools. Strange but IA couldn’t find out if they sold anything or pawned it. A lot of the stolen property was piled up in their garages.

In an odd twist, one sergeant was suspected of being a burglar and his house was searched. Nothing was found and Internal Affairs returned a month later and wanted to search again. They didn’t have a search warrant and ordered the sergeant to give up his civil rights. The sergeant sued the department and won a million dollar settlement. We all have to play by the rules!

One of the officers was rumored to be involved with a prostitute on the west side. She was later found dead in a motel. Last I heard her murder is still unsolved!

All supervisors were transferred out of Hollywood. Captains, lieutenants, sergeants, even if you’d never supervised the involved officers. The department was cleaning house! To some, it was a blessing. Hollywood was not a fun place to work anymore. Most were given the division of their choice, closer to home. Of course, in their new division they were looked upon as guilty, just not caught. Think about it, you transferred out all the supervisors, now you have to replace them. We get a bunch of new Hollywood sergeants, who probably don’t want to work in a slowly decaying division. I’m wondering who to trust and I’m questioning my own judgments on a person’s character. The new Captain, Bob Smitson and my Lieutenant, Tom Elfmont, were hand-picked by the chief to clean up Hollywood Division.

I remember one sergeant, Doug Campbell, who befriended me. He seemed like a good guy, but I’ve been burned and not very trusting. Doug turned out to be a great guy, a good street cop in sergeants stripes, and still my friend today. He made the transition much easier.

Last few paragraphs, I promise. The Department’s conclusion was that poor supervision led to the burglaries. That’s partly true since a few supervisors were involved in the thefts. It was also suggested that some of the officers, although not involved, should have known. As I said before I was looking for burglars, I just wasn’t looking in my own yard! I have received many responses from former Hollywood officers. They saw patterns after the arrests that might have made us more suspicious of our co-workers.

Most of the involved officers moved on with their lives and put their past behind them. I’d hear that so and so was working for this company and doing fine. I once was told that Ron Venegas was at a movie shoot in Hollywood, and asked if I wanted to see him. Now, Ron and I had been friends but I had nothing to say to him now.

I thought I was over the scandal when I attended a Department school for Watch Commanders. It was 1996, fifteen years after the scandal. I sat quietly in the back row of the class—I got there early. In the front of the classroom, this young sergeant was talking about police corruption and the Hollywood Scandal. I let him finish and when he asked for comments, I jumped up. I’d been silent for too long. There were two sides to this story and he was only telling the command staff’s side. I was there and this sergeant was still in High School when it occurred. After I vented, I sat down. A couple of old timers approached me at the break and thanked me for speaking up, but I still carry the scars of betrayal three decades later.

Lt. Dan Cook, LAPD spokesman at the time said, “We’ll recover from it but we’ll never forget it.” I’m not sure I’ll ever recover or forget.


Ramblings by Hal

Police Burglars, part 3 of 3

This post is part 3 of 3. Oh, except for the epilogue, which will be posted tomorrow. Because the end of this series is so lengthy, I’ve split it in two. For police personnel or civilian, Hal’s take on this scandal is worth reading. He was in the trenches and sadly, is still feeling the betrayal three decades old. –Thonie


By Hal Collier
My first Ramblings on the Hollywood Burglary Scandal dealt with a rash of business burglaries that occurred in Hollywood, most on my shift. My second Ramblings described the arrest of Venegas and Myers and how they were caught.

This Ramblings will describe the aftermath and the effect it had on not only me but the entire LAPD. This might take a few pages so get yourself your favorite beverage and sit back. Again, these are my observations and any resemblance to the opinions of the Los Angeles Police Department is purely coincidental. I’m already getting opinions and theories from other Hollywood officers who have read my first Ramblings.

So here goes:
The next night I go to work wondering what to expect. Venegas and Myers have been relieved of duty and we were told an investigation into their activities had been started.

Nothing earth shattering there. The rumors started and the dumb questions were asked. Is anyone else involved? Cops on other watches, some former partners would ask, “Do you have a Video Recorder for sale.” Not funny after the 50th time. Another officer and close friend asks, “Hal, did you know?” That question hurt. Maybe it was just me but it seemed like I was being watched and under suspicion by everyone. Supervisors showed up at more of my calls. I was beginning to spend a lot of time looking over my shoulder.

After a few weeks things seemed to calm down, then another officer was taken out of the field and assigned to the desk. A week later he was relieved of duty. Then another two officers were assigned to the desk. They also were relieved of duty. The Hollywood desk was getting crowded.

One night I showed up for work and see that I’m working the desk. I ask the Watch Commander if I was I being investigated. He assures me, “No, it’s just that were running short of officers.” All night I’m at the desk and I hear, “Oh, Hal, not you too.”

Some of rumors were beautiful, some we made up ourselves. It was common knowledge that one of the involved parties was cooperating with Internal Affairs Investigators. That’s fine as long as the person is truthful. What if he has a grudge against an officer? It could ruin an officer’s career.

In 1981, there was a cowboy craze throughout America. A lot of cops were wearing cowboy boots, hats and big belt buckles. Yea, I even had them. One day this officer comes up to me at change of watch. He says, “Hal, I hear they searched everyone’s house.” I was tired of the rumors. I said, “Yea, they took all my boots, belt buckles and my favorite cowboy hat.” It spread like wildfire, before I got changed to go home it was all over the station. I still have that cowboy hat!

Another rumor that was going around was that Morning Watch Officers would meet after work and divide the stolen property. We were also rumored to have prostitutes at after work bull sessions. After relieving so many officers, the department had to replace them. Any new officer was immediately believed to be a department plant to get information on us. You need to trust your partner, not be suspicious of him.

Those of us still left, became paranoid. I remember one day I’m on a day off and sitting in my kitchen. My wife yells at me, “Hal, Internal Affairs is across the street and they’re looking at our house.” I look out the window and sure enough that’s a four-door plain police car with two plain suit detectives. I don’t care if they have a search warrant, but I’m wondering did we make the bed this morning. I’ll plead innocent to the kid’s bedroom, I don’t know what’s in there. I watch them for a while and discover they are looking at the house next door which has a for sale sign. They are shopping on duty. Ok, now my wife and I are both ready for those long sleeve coats with the buckles that fasten in the back.

After a while, the interviews started. I.A. would show up at the station and just like the enemy, they attacked at dawn. They would bring in an officer, sit him down and ask him questions about radio calls he had been at months or even a year ago. Who was there, what did you do, what did you see, do you own any of these items? Hell, a year ago? I have my name and address in my underwear. You would think that they would ask all their questions one time and they would be through. Ha, every officer they interviewed gave them some information they didn’t know about and they would have to ask each officer about that incident. As near as I can remember, I had six separate interviews. They always said I wasn’t a suspect but I sure felt like “a person of interest” like they mention in the news.

After a round of interviews, new rumors would fill the station halls. Cops can spread rumors faster than TMZ! Soon, I’d get calls from friends in other divisions who heard the rumors. It became hard to avoid the distractions.

See Just the Facts, Ma’am/Ramblings tomorrow for the epilog to this story.

Ramblings by Hal

Bits and Pieces

By Hal Collier

The following stories are true. I’ll only use first names if I remember them correctly. These are bits and pieces of things that happened in my career. Hope you enjoy. I hope I don’t get sued.


Dale Hickerson and I are working together. Dale and I have been partners and friends since 1971. Partners come and go; friends like Dale are for a lifetime. Ok, enough mush, I’m going to drive today. We check out a black and white (B/W) from the kit (equipment) room. You never know who drove it last, does it have gas, does it have a half-eaten Pinks Chili dog with jalapenos under the front seat that’s been there five days!!! Anyway, you get your car keys, walk around the parking lot for twenty minutes, looking for your car, they all look alike. Ok, I found it.


I open the trunk and drop in my 25-pound equipment bag. Dale’s a few steps behind me. He was searching the west end of the parking lot. I open the driver’s door, lean in and put my baton in the door holder. I lean in a little farther to put my clipboard between the front seats.


I freeze. Sitting there between the seats is a pineapple hand grenade. Dale opens his door and I yell, “freeze.” Dale looks down and sees the hand grenade. Now anyone who’s been married for a long time knows that husbands and wives often think the same things and finish each other’s sentences. Now, Dale and I have been partners for so long that we both stand up and look for cops or a sergeant laughing at us. No one’s looking at us, so we check the fire department next door, (see earlier story about firemen’s practical jokes). Nothing. The hand grenade is wedged between the seats, all we can see is the middle part of the body.


Dale and I were young cops when the SLA and other subversive groups were targeting police officers. They planted bombs under police cars. We didn’t want our pictures on the wall in the station lobby. That’s reserved for officers killed in the line of duty. We called the bomb squad.


Any time a suspected explosive device is found, you clear a 300-foot perimeter. The entire police parking lot is shut down and it’s change of watch. Detectives are showing up. All they want is to park their car, go to their desk and have a cup of coffee.  Even worse, the previous watch wants to go home and climb into bed. None of that is going to happen until the bomb squad checks out our car. Dale and I look at each other; this day is starting out bad. Detectives are making a Starbucks run and the previous watch is asking if they get overtime because they can’t get to their cars.


The Bomb Squad arrives and checks out the hand grenade. Apparently, the thing is a dud. The bottom is drilled out, but we couldn’t see that. Two night watch officers found it in a parking lot, saw that it was a dud and put it between the seats of the police car. At the end of their shift, they forgot about it and went home. They got their asses chewed and Dale and I spent the rest of the day looking over our shoulders.


At one time, our police station parking lot had planters with some trees. The planters were next to parking spots where officers would have arrestees get out of the back seat of the police car. If officers were not watching, the bad guys would drop their dope in the planters. One year, we had a twelve-inch Marijuana plant growing in the police station parking lot.  The planters were removed when they built the new fire station next door.


This is a locker room story. It was a known fact that I was the first one in the locker room every day for almost 35 years. I even beat the probationers. I didn’t like being late or rushed. It was also well known that I always had chewing gum in my pocket and carried a sharp knife. I hand-sharpened my knives and liked to keep them very sharp. Early one morning, I’m polishing my badge and Billy is in the next aisle. Billy Berndt yells over the row of lockers, ”Hal do you have a knife?” I reply, “Yea, but be careful—it’s sharp”. Twenty seconds later, Billy asks, “Hal do you have a bandage?”

Yea, I had bandages too.

Ramblings by Hal

Rookie Mistakes by the Brass

By Hal Collier

The following story is true, the names have been changed to protect the embarrassed.  Rookie mistakes are not all made by new police officers.  Some of the biggest police blunders are made by senior sergeants, lieutenants, and captains.  Often they make these blunders because they haven’t worked in the field in years.  We call them “building boys”.  To my non-police friends, building boys work non-patrol assignments to further their careers.  I don’t fault them for their ambition to promote as long as they listen to those who have spent their time in the field.  As usual I’ll only use first names to protect their identity.   I’ve found most of my cop friends are willing to pay me to learn their real names.  Nothing like a little dirt on a supervisor to get your requests granted.  No coins this time guys.



We had a lieutenant–Phil, nice guy but a building boy.  LAPD policy dictates when you bring in an arrestee who has a large amount of cash, a supervisor has to do a money count.  This cuts down on complaints that the officer stole money.  Ok, the officer brings in the cash and asks the supervisor to count it.  The supervisor counts the money and initials a money envelope.  So this “building” lieutenant takes the cash out of the envelope, all bills and begins counting.  He licks his finger after every few bills to separate them.  After a few seconds of this, he asks the arresting officer who he arrested.  The officer stated he arrested a female prostitute in rather skimpy clothes. The lieutenant licks his finger again and asks the officer where she had the money.  The officer says, without missing a beat, she held it her love vault.  OK, if you need a further, more graphic description of a love vault, you need to get out more.  This same lieutenant bought some ocean view property in Hawaii, sight unseen.  Problem was no roads, electricity, and water, none planned for twenty years, but it had a nice view.


Couldn't find the Wrigley's ad Hal talks about.
Couldn’t find the Wrigley’s ad Hal talks about.

The second supervisor was again a nice guy, not a building guy. Hell, he’d get lost in a building with more than one story.  He sits in the Watch Commander’s office with the narcotics scale and weigh things.  I walked in one night and he asked for my badge.  He wanted to know if a sergeant’s badge weighed more than a policeman’s badge.  Duh.  He also weighed a pack of Wrigley’s gum.  At the time, there was a commercial on TV with a person walking around with a pack of gum under his arm.  This sergeant calculated that the pack of gum would be too heavy to carry.  Your tax dollars at work.  He was a sailor.  Always talking about sailing and buying a bigger boat.  His wife was a home decorator who made a good salary. They bought a home in the marina with a boat slip, closed escrow, and then found out their boat was too big for their boat slip.


The third rookie mistake is all mine.  I’m driving and responding to domestic violence radio call.  I drive to the location and park two houses away. That’s an officer safety tactic so you don’t get ambushed.  See, I’m cool and thinking.  We approach and hear arguing coming from the house.  We deploy, which means taking cover in case someone comes out shooting.  We knock and yes, there’s a family dispute in progress.  They really look surprised to see us and ask who called.  We never tell them.  We separate the parties and determine there is no crime.  We offer our expert advice and tell them we don’t want to return or someone will go to jail.  That always scares the shit out of them.  Yea, right.


We get in the car and I’m telling my probationer, John, “See, that’s how you handle these domestic calls.”   I drive to the end of the block and look at the street sign.  I’m on the wrong block, just like the song, “Silhouettes on the Shade”.  I drive to the next block and the right address.  Guess what–a domestic dispute.  Again, we handle a domestic dispute.  This time, I didn’t offer any advice to my probationer.  John didn’t make any comments which might have been the reason he made it off probation.


Practical Joke


I worked with a Viet Nam Veteran, a quiet unassuming guy.  He did his job and never talked about his war experiences.  If you spend 8 hours in a police car with someone you get to know the person. That’s why police officers are so close and protective of each other.  We found out that we both grew up in Eagle Rock and played in the same Little League.  I later found out that he was awarded the Silver Star for heroism. One day, were driving around and he says to me, “Hal, lets catch us a pigeon.”  I’m thinking, why? They’re flying rats, and my previous experiences with pigeons was not fond.  He tells me that pigeons are blind at night and you can catch them easy.  I remind him we’re working day watch and I don’t want some busy body citizen calling the Watch Commander, complaining about two policemen chasing pigeons.  I was the senior officer so I won the argument. At least that’s what I thought.


The next day, this mild-mannered officer was working with someone else.  I’m driving into the station as he’s leaving.  We smile and wave.  I go into the station for about 30 minutes.  When I come out to my police car I have 4 pigeons inside.  Not only are they on my head rest, front seat and MDT (that’s the computer in police cars), they have all relieved themselves numerous times.  Lesson learned, don’t ever trust the quiet guy.


This same quiet officer, had a habit of tying a fishing line to the inside police car door handle and to the siren switch.  When the unsuspecting officer opened his car door the siren would wail and the officer would relieve himself in the parking lot.  This officer later went to the Bomb Squad.


Your tax dollars at work.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Promoting, part one

By Hal Collier

Promoting!  This is a question that every police officer ponders once in a while.  By the way, these are my observations and certainly don’t reflect the opinions of the Los Angeles Police Department or officers everywhere.  These observations are based on a large city police department.  We all have different reasons for wanting to promote.  Actually, some think about it all the time and base their police decisions on, will this hurt my next promotion?  More on these individuals and my own reasons later.

March 23, 2007-Almost Sgt: Last week, Officer Kris Werner informed Arts District residents that he passed the LAPD Sergeant Promotional interview with flying colors--and that he may soon leaving his post of Senior Lead Officer. Standing By: Werner now reports that his "Sgt School" is delayed, so he will be sticking around. Seen behind Werner is the panel of a dancer in a digital mural called "Gabriela", at the Regent Gallery.
March 23, 2007-Almost Sgt: Last week, Officer Kris Werner informed Arts District residents that he passed the LAPD Sergeant Promotional interview with flying colors–and that he may soon leaving his post of Senior Lead Officer. Standing By: Werner now reports that his “Sgt School” is delayed, so he will be sticking around. Seen behind Werner is the panel of a dancer in a digital mural called “Gabriela”, at the Regent Gallery. photo by

There are many reasons for wanting to promote.  Everyone starts out on the bottom of the police food chain.  Some linger on the bottom longer than others.  Some of those on the bottom might have made bad decisions, or they just don’t have any ambition to promote.  Others planned their climb up the ladder from their first day in the police academy.

I’m going to break down some of the reasons for promoting.  Money, ambition, retirement, power and the urge to get out of patrol.  Some put off promoting because of the love of what they’re doing.  Some recruits in the academy thought they would someday run our department or another department.  Only a very few did, none in my academy class, and I was in a good academy group.

We all had ambitions as a young child.  I was going to be a professional baseball player until I discovered that I couldn’t hit a curve ball and when running, I was slower than a turtle.

Like a lot of my partners, I wanted to be a street cop. You know–wearing a blue uniform, driving a black and white police car, chases both on foot and in cars, hours of boredom followed by thirty seconds of sheer terror.  It gets into your blood, it’s addictive and hard to kick.  You make life and death decisions and enjoy the adrenalin rushes.  Your chest swells when you put a bad guy in jail due to your superior observations and tactics. Oh yea, luck entered in a lot.   In my 35 years on the LAPD I observed a lot of cops who pondered over the decision whether to promote or not.

I worked for a lot of good street cops who promoted too soon.  They still wanted to do police work but the LAPD frowned on supervisors being street cops.  By the way, the department told sergeants not to even write tickets.  I remember one sergeant was told turn in your ticket book or turn on your stripes!!  Street cops hated a sergeant who makes an arrest then hands it off.  It’s like someone else catching a fish and giving it to you to clean. Whoopee.

I once had a sergeant drive through a dark alley and found a drunk sleeping in a doorway.  He called me to come book him downtown, he then had the nerve to tell me he was going to eat.  After medical treatment and booking, I had to have my police car checked for crabs, not the Alaska kind.  I worked 3 hours overtime, itched for two days and no, I didn’t get to eat that night.    See who your friends are when you stand naked in the locker room and ask some cop to look for bugs on you.

Those with aspirations of being the Chief of Police got out of patrol as soon as possible.  Patrol produces complaints and complaints slow promotions.  Cops couldn’t take a promotional test until they had four years of seniority, but that didn’t stop them from transferring to an inside job.  We use to call them “building boys.”  The building boys would take a job in Manuals & Orders or Planning & Research, where the biggest danger was a severe paper cut.  They took two hour lunches and hobnobbed with the Department brass.  Now days, they call it networking.  They usually took a promotional test the day after they were eligible and most did very good.  Of course, they helped write the test.

I don’t begrudge the building boys for promoting–that’s what they wanted.  My only problem was when they promoted they were then sent back to patrol to supervise us street cops.  They often made poor tactical field decisions based on very little experience in the field.  I once had a new sergeant respond to a scene and when asked to make a decision, he opened the department manual looking for the answer.  It wasn’t there!  He actually asked for another sergeant to respond and make the decision.  I respected any new sergeant or lieutenant who asked the senior officers for advice.  It was still their decision to make but at least they asked.

I saw a lot of supervisors who didn’t make a decision at all, for fear that it would stall their next promotion.   If the lack of a decision was newsworthy, like during the riots, the supervisor’s career was over and forget about the retirement home in the marina.  No more promotions and something they call freeway therapy.  That’s where you live in northern LA County and your next assignment is in the southern most division in the city. Nothing like an hour and half drive to and from work to get your mind straight.

I use to think that the LAPD needed a promotion tree with two forks.  One fork was for the building boys who promote, they can stay inside and read policy books. The second fork was for street cops who had experience in patrol and knew what worked regardless of what the psychologists said.  I once expressed my two forked tree theory and found myself peeing in a cup and taking a Rorschach exam.  After that I kept my opinions to myself and the dog.

One of the problems with my theory was that the building boys made policy for us street cops and worse yet, they sat as jury on our discipline boards.  Swell, some building boy wearing a uniform that only needs dry cleaning once a month, is going to decide if the decision I made in a split second in a dark alley will determine if I’m employed next month.

Not all supervisors were building boys, thank goodness.  I also worked for some of the best street cops who promoted.  I remember one sergeant showed up at a scene where the suspect was acting up–ok, he was being an asshole.  The sergeant stood back, let me handle the uncooperative miscreant, then turned and walk away, saying, “Good job, Collier.”

Police range training Photo by
Police range training
Photo by

I also worked for two of the best captains the LAPD ever produced, Bob Taylor and Garrette Zimmon.  On more than one occasion they would take off their captain bars and work a patrol car, handling any radio call that came in. “Walk in my shoes.”  That’s leadership.  Most captains will ride around with a sergeant for an hour and never get their hands dirty.  Those two captains had the respect of the whole division.  They also showed up at shooting training days and went through the different scenarios, same as the street cops.  They showed the cops that they could shoot just as well as run the division.  If they hadn’t promoted, I might still be working Hollywood patrol.

My next Ramblings will deal with my motivation to promote or not to promote.


Next Ramblings will be the “why”–what made Hal want to promote?

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