Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: But I’m a Woman!

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

A short recap: I arrested a man dressed as a woman, commonly call a drag
queen, in the mid 70’s. When I was booking him in the old Hollywood jail, a
men’s only facility, he stated, “I’m really a woman and if you strip search me
I’ll sue you and make a personnel complaint to your Watch Commander.”

Now, I only had about six years on the job but I was first sued with only two and a half weeks out of the academy. I remember telling my wife that I was being sued
for a million dollars and she said, “Hal, we don’t have that kind of money!”
Hell, I knew we didn’t have that kind of money—some nights I lived on free
coffee and a jelly donut. Just kidding. My point, being sued and a
personnel complaint didn’t scare me.  My Watch Commander(W/C) was a different
story. He was a climber and worried that a complaint against him might slow
his climb to the top; which by the way, he never made it anywhere close to!

After talking to my arrestee, the W/C decided that we should take him/her
downtown to jail division and have a city doctor determine where this
individual should be housed. This easy arrest is turning into a nightmare!

I drive downtown and get in line at the jail dispensary behind the drunks
and DUI’s (drunk drivers) waiting to see the doctor. They were all well
enough to get drunk but too sick to go to jail! After an hour, it’s my turn
and the doctor tells my arrestee to strip. My arrestee tells the doctor if
you touch me I’ll sue you and everyone on the LAPD. This doctor must have
been on the same promotion list as my Watch Commander. He says take him/her
to USCMC (LA County Hospital Jail Ward) and have the sheriff deputies check
for his/her gender.

I’m about ready to let my arrestee escape and accept the days off without
pay for losing a prisoner! The jail ward at USCMC was a place where
seriously injured arrestees were treated and housed. It was never an in and
out trip. I often spent hours waiting for a doctor to look at my arrestee.
I once completed the whole five-page arrest report and got in a short nap
waiting for the doctor to spend ten minutes with my arrestee. Get my point?
The doctors were not in any rush.

So we take our arrestee up to the 13th floor where the jail ward is located.
We walk into the lobby and a sleepy deputy asks me, “What have you got?”

“I need a sex check.”

The look on his face showed he was in no mood for humor. I spent
the next ten minutes explaining why this rather ugly woman needs to have a
sex check. The deputy’s mood did not change. “Have a seat.
I have heard that before.”

Surprisingly, the deputy calls my name in a short time.  Up walks the cutest LASD female deputy I have ever seen. She’s has blond hair, deep blue eyes and a she has a smile that will melt the heart of any man. For the fifth time I explain what I need. The deputy takes my ugly woman into a small room and returns in about seven minutes. She’s not smiling as she tells me, “Our woman is still a man and hasn’t had any surgery whatsoever.” She even told me that my arrestee wasn’t Jewish!

The only one smiling now is my ugly woman!

I thank the deputies and walk out of the lobby. As I’m getting in the
elevator I look back at the deputies and notice that female deputy is still
not smiling. It’s a quiet ride back to jail division to book my arrestee as
a man.

I was pissed and sat down to write an extra-long arrest report, documenting
the four-hour delay in booking this ugly man dressed as a woman. I requested
additional charges for delaying officers. He subjected my partner and I as
well as a doctor and a few deputies to hours of delay in a simple booking.
A few days later I received a notice from the District Attorney that my
arrest was dismissed due to time served and in the interest of justice.

What Justice! 


More Street Stories Writer's Notes

4 Rules of Writing Cops: Avoiding The WRIAMY (Wouldn’t Read in a Million Years) Pile


re-posted from Lee Lofland’s The Graveyard Shift

If you have any accuracy pet peeves, add them to Lee’s list in the comment section below. I’d particularly like to hear from law enforcement officers, dispatchers, etc. What makes you want to throw a book across the room? –Thonie

1. Use caution when writing cop slang. What you hear on TV may not be the language used by real police officers. And, what is proper terminology and/or slang in one area may be totally unheard of in another. A great example are the slang terms Vic (Victim), Wit (Witness), and Perp (Perpetrator). These shortened words are NOT universally spoken by all cops. In fact, I think I’m fairly safe in saying the use of these is not typical across the U.S.

2. Simply because a law enforcement officer wears a shiny star-shaped badge and drives a car bearing a “Sheriff” logo does not mean they are all “sheriffs.” Please, please, please stop writing this in your stories. A sheriff is an elected official who is in charge of the department, and there’s only one per sheriff’s office. The head honcho. The Boss. All others working there are appointed by the sheriff to assist him/her with their duties. Those appointees are called DEPUTY SHERIFFS. Therefore, unless the boss himself shows up at your door to serve you with a jury summons, which is highly unlikely unless you live in a county populated by only three residents, two dogs, and a mule, the LEO’s you see driving around your county are deputies.

3. The rogue detective who’s pulled from a case yet sets out on his own to solve it anyway. I know, it sounds cool, but it’s highly unlikely that an already overworked detective would drop all other cases (and there are many) to embark on some bizarre quest to take down Mr. Freeze. Believe me, most investigators would gladly lighten their case loads by one, or more. Besides, to disobey orders from a superior officer is an excellent means of landing a fun assignment (back in uniform on the graveyard shift ) directing traffic at the intersection of Dumbass and Mistake.

4. Those of you who’ve written scenes where a cocky FBI agent speeds into town to tell the local chief or sheriff to step aside because she’s taking over the murder case du jour…well, get out the bottle of white-out because it doesn’t happen. The same for those scenes where the FBI agent forces the sheriff out of his office so she can set up shop. No. No. And No. The agent would quickly find herself being escorted back to her guvment vehicle.

The FBI does not investigate local murder cases. I’ll say that again. The FBI does not investigate local murder cases. And, in case you misunderstood…the FBI does not investigate local murder cases. Nor do they have the authority to order a sheriff or chief out of their offices. Yeah, right…that would happen in real life (in case you can’t see me right now I’m giving a big roll of my eyes).

Okay, I understand you’re writing fiction, which means you get to make up stuff. And that’s cool. However, the stuff you make up must be believable. Not necessarily fact, just believable. Write it so your readers can suspend reality, even if only for a few pages. Your fans want to trust you, and they’ll go out of their way to give you the benefit of the doubt. Really, they will. But, for goodness sake, give them something to work with—without an info dump, give readers a reason to believe/understand what they’ve just seen on your pages. A tiny morsel of believability goes a long way.

But if you’re going for realism, then please do some real homework. I say this because I started reading a book this weekend (notice that I said “started”) and I’d barely made it halfway through the first chapter when I tossed it into my WRIAMY pile (Wouldn’t Read In A Million Years). This was a ARC a publisher sent me to review, by the way.

It was obvious the author was going for realism, and it was also painfully obvious the writer’s method of research was a couple of quick visits to the internet and maybe a viewing of one or two of the Police Academy movies.

So, is there a WRIAMY pile in your house?

More Street Stories

Compassionate Cops? 5-31-14

Here’s another wonderful post about the good that police officers do. Courtesy of C.L. Swinney. Link to his blog is at bottom of post. –Thonie


Florida Officer Helps Boy Who Lost Birthday Present


A Jacksonville police officer gave a local boy the birthday that had been stolen from him, all because of an auto burglary.

According to the police report, someone broke into the boy’s mother’s van on Gilmore Street between 5 p.m. March 27 and 2 p.m. the next day and stole children’s clothing valued at about $2,000. That included his birthday present.

The mother had purchased the clothing with her tax refund, the report states. She told Officer Derek Pratico, who handled the auto burglary, that she did not have any money to replace the gift and didn’t know how she was going to give her son a birthday.

Pratico wrote up the police report and finished his tour of duty, then went to a store the next day and bought a new birthday present, cake and birthday card for the boy. He got a $100 gift card for the child’s mother to help her. Then he gave them their presents.

“I did not do this for any recognition,” Pratico said in a Sheriff’s Office Facebook post. “I just felt it was the right thing to do at that moment.”

Police did search the neighborhood for suspects in the auto burglary and did check the minivan for fingerprints, the report states.


http://Compassionate Cops? 5-31-14.

More Street Stories Tales from the Barking Muse

It’s The Little Things

It’s The Little Things

By Gerry Goldshine


I just ran across this in a recent Associated Press story on the tragic stabbing death of an eight year old girl in Calaveras County, California, “Sheriff’s officials say investigators collected fingerprints and what they believe is DNA from the home.” You’re now looking at the screen going, “Yeah, so?”

Well, first of all, crime scene investigators do NOT collect DNA. They collect hair, semen, blood and other type of physiological evidence from which a DNA profile may be extracted. The same applies to items such as cigarette butts, beer bottles, linen and the like. The DNA technician processes such evidence to extract a biologic sample from which a unique DNA profile is built. This profile can then be compared to a database to look for a matching suspect. DNA profiles can also be used to rule out possible suspect.

So this is about semantics, right? No, it’s about accuracy. One of the most valuable lessons I came away from the Army with was that “the little things” matter. Failure to pay attention to small details ultimately leads to larger systemic failures. As a traffic accident reconstructionist, I knew that major case, involving multiple vehicles and multiple victims, could hinge on a something as insubstantial as how the little coil of wire inside a single light bulb may have looked. Get that detail wrong and perhaps a vehicular manslaughter case collapses and a guilty person escapes justice.

The minutiae matter in establishing your veracity as a writer regardless of the genre. Give Captain Kirk a light saber instead of a phaser and regardless of how compelling your story happens to be, you’ve lost most of your readers. In the DNA situation, I start wondering what else the reporter doesn’t understand about police work, crime scenes and evidence collection. From that point it doesn’t become that much of a stretch to call into question the accuracy of the entire story.

With the wealth of information instantly available today because of the Internet, such lapses are inexcusable. As a writer, you have the same responsibility as I did as a traffic investigator to get the all the particulars correct, be they large or small.


Traffic Officer Gerry Goldshine aka T-36  Petaluma Police Department mid-1980's
Traffic Officer Gerry Goldshine
aka T-36
Petaluma Police Department mid-1980’s

Gerry was born in Providence, Rhode Island but raised in Southern California. 

Upon graduating from California State University, Los Angeles, Gerry enlisted in

the Army and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. After leaving active duty

in 1979, he worked for Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. From 1980 until his retirement

in 1996, he was a patrol officer, traffic officer, and a trainer at Petaluma Police Department.

Gerry is married, has a daughter and lives in Sonoma County, California.

Gerry is a regular contributor to Just the Facts, Ma’am. Check in weekly or so to see his newest posts.




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More Street Stories

Chain of Command

Who does what?

As with any para-military organization, there must be leadership. Although it is often portrayed with fair accuracy in the entertainment media, I still find lots of discrepancies in the roles played. For instance, a Hallmark Movie Channel series Mystery Woman, the lead character’s counterpoint is a police chief. Granted, this is a small town with a small department. However, a police chief should never do his own investigation. A chief’s job is administrative–glad-handing politicians to keep his budget intact and being the all-around nice guy in which the public can put their trust.

Chiefs or Sheriffs   

Bishop Police Chief Chris Carter
Bishop Police Chief Chris Carter

Chiefs or Sheriffs will have a Bachelor of Science degree at the minimum with an emphasis on Criminal Justice or Business Management. State certificates including the POST Management Certificate, the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society Leadership Development Program help the career climber as well as the POST Executive Development Course, POST Command College and the FBI National Academy. A masters of science degree in the above subjects is typically encouraged at this level of management.

Deputy Chief, Undersheriff or Commander

Under the chief or sheriff is a deputy chief or undersheriff. In very small departments the deputy chief is often called a captain or commander. At this level, these administrators are involved in managing whole divisions such as patrol and administrative services. If you are writing a story that is set in a small town, troll the internet for a department of a similar size. Usually you can find the structure which will give you an idea of the hierarchy. It matters–this past year, Kyra Sedgwick ended her seven year tenure on the series called The Closer. As the Deputy Chief, she should have been writing reports and recommendations for the chief and city council, making decisions on personnel issues and obtaining grants instead of solving crimes. As much as I like watching Sedgwick, the show was so unrealistic that I couldn’t watch it.


Santa Rosa Police Department, Ca, Lt Craig Schwartz
Santa Rosa Police Department, Ca, Lt Craig Schwartz

A lieutenant is assigned to a team, generally. Teams work the same days, thereby enhancing the team concept. A lieutenant is found at all shifts in large departments although in smaller agencies, usually only day shift and swing (afternoons). The night shift or graveyards are handled by “Watch Commanders” who are either lieutenants or acting lieutenants. This is a sergeant who is on the promotional list for lieutenant or has been assigned by an administrator.



Sergeants are the line commanders. As in the army, sergeants get most of the work done. A good patrol sergeant will listen to radio activity so he knows who is doing what. They should be available for back-up but not tied up on a lengthy report call. They need to be on hand for patrol or dispatcher direction. Administrative or detective sergeants has a different role in some ways but still are the “go to” person for line officers and civilians. They will also handle preliminaries of personnel problems, give direction and approve crime reports. Corporals are subordinate and have limited report-approving powers.


Detectives are promoted patrol officers. In larger departments, a detective may be a sergeant rank. There are also levels of detective ranking depending on promotional testing, merit, and interviews. 

Ft Bragg, Ca Police Department
Ft Bragg Police Department-California

Again, all these structures are varied by department. There are few hard and fast rules but there are some that are never violated. The chain of command is respected–or it should be–to maintain a successful resolution. “Jumping the chain” is a phrase that is often used to describe those employees who go directly to the power when they have a problem. A good leader will refer the employee to their immediate superior.

However, back in the day, it was common to jump the chain. Going to your brother in law to talk about a problem with your supervisor was normal. It led to accusations of “good old boy” systems from outsiders and can smack of favoritism, depending how the contact was handled.

If you aren’t sure how an issue would be handled, check for a “model” agency and call the appropriate ranking person. Most cops love to talk to writers about their job. Your problem may be how to shut your source up!

More Street Stories Writer's Notes

Who’s Responsible for What?

For writers, I have italicized common phrases used in cop culture conversation. Cops are like anyone else: they have their own vocabulary and lingo. Sprinkled throughout your manuscript, these carry the ring of authenticity. Also, for a not-quite complete but almost, list of California Law Enforcement Agencies search Wikipedia under that title. I only noted one agency missing-Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety!

Multi-jurisdictional Incidents

San Antonio Police set perimeter, keeping civilians away from potential danger

It should be noted in this post that overall responsibilities across jurisdictions (not within city limits) belongs to either the CHP or the local sheriff–depending on the event. The Highway Patrol takes the lead in incident related to traffic or hazardous materials on all state highways and unincorporated areas. They are often assisted by the California Highway Department, Department of Fish and Game, possibly a contract clean-up company and/or local fire district engines and personnel. Examples would be a pursuit on the highway (again, not within city limits), a natural disaster or a hazardous materials spill. As I said in previous blogs, city police handle municipalities and sheriff’s department handles crimes in all unincorporated areas. The exception is road rage incidents on highways (even within city limits).

Taking the Lead

Let’s say a bad guy decides to rob a convenience store in the city of San Rafael then crosses city limits to San Anselmo to hole up with a hostage. There could be a jurisdictional issue. The agency in which the event is currently occurring (hostage situation-San Anselmo) would probably take the lead on this call. However, there are variations because no two events are ever the same. What is to be determined is called primary investigatory authority. What if the bad guy robbed a bank–then the FBI would take the lead. Local police departments (PDs) would secure the scene. That starts with establishing a perimeter. No one wants soccer mom walking into a shoot-out so staffed barricades would be set up far enough away to keep the public safe. (Obviously, if needed evacuations would be done inside the perimeter as safety permits–sometimes it is safer to stay where one is.) But we will discuss the FBI in a later blog.

Washington State hostage negotiator

Back to our scenario: agency heads can hash out the “lead agency” and act accordingly. Why would San Rafael want the bad guy? What if he killed the convenience store clerk? Murder trumps everything–it is considered a capital crime and may be eligible for the death penalty. Clearly, the District Attorney would pursue a murder charge over false imprisonment (that is assuming the bad guy gives up without hurting his hostage.).  Even so, all violations are charged by the agencies involved. The DA will sift through the reports, talk to witnesses and decide which are the most prosecutable (read: bad guy has a good chance of being convicted) crimes.

Another variation: San Anselmo is a small department–less than 20 sworn officers; San Rafael PD is much larger–with 65 sworn–and more resources. It is feasible that a chief may hand over control to another solely because the event outstrips the logistical ability of their department.

Once the lead agency is assigned, it is rarely changed. I have never seen that at a primary event. However, should an officer shoot or get shot, the game changes. The lead agency remains the same but only investigates the instigating occurrence. Third party detectives would be brought in to an officer involved shooting (OIC) to insure investigative impartiality.

Mutual Aid

If needed, the Incident Command System(ICS) under the Unified Command System will be instigated and will request mutual aid. This is just what it sounds like: asking for help (usually staffing but can also be specific equipment or team such as SWAT, Bomb Squad or K-9). Most counties have pre-planned mutual aid agreements so there are no surprises. ICS streamlines communications during a major event. The Incident Commander relays needs to department liaisons to move resources. Top tier personnel make sure details are handled.


Once again, I’ve used up my word allotment on information I had not quite planned to write about. It seems that these things need to be said. Although there isn’t great detail,  just about every scenario has “qualifications”.  This bears repeating: no two incidents are ever the same, ever.

There isn’t a cop, commander or dispatcher out there who doesn’t think what is the worst thing that can happen…then plans for it.

But that is real life.

More Street Stories Writer's Notes

More jurisdictional lines…

Sheriff’s departments–at least in California–are charged with criminal, contract, correctional and civil matters. In addition to performing law enforcement duties, they must serve eviction notices, bank and property levies, and small claims. They also staff court security as well as county jails. Some counties, like Marin, require their deputies to work in the jail before being assigned to patrol. Deputies I’ve talked to about this have mixed reviews. Some like knowing who the criminals are before they get in a patrol car. Others don’t want to be confined all day themselves. There are the counties, like Sonoma, which is staffed by classified employees called “correctional officers”. Unless they test for deputy, they will spend their entire careers in the jail.

Even before the economy tanked, municipalities found themselves in fiscal trouble. Police protection is expensive for many reasons, not the least of which is that it must provide 24/7 service. In the past two decades, Sonoma County has provided contract police services with two cities-Windsor and, most recently, Sonoma. They serve in the same capacity as a municipal department but because of their resources, can often do it cheaper. Marin County Sheriff’s Department has taken over almost all police and fire dispatching.

Deputies in rural areas such as Mono County are called upon for coroner duties. Specific certification is required before assuming those responsibilities. Please note the difference here between a Coroner and a Medical Examiner. Often, a coroner is a deputy or an elected official and is mostly found in rural areas, while a medical examiner is at minimum a medical doctor, hopefully with a background in forensic pathology. Metropolitan areas can generate funding to support this pricey level of expertise, while boondocks agencies and thinner population bases cannot. If you write a story that involves a death-anywhere-it’s best to check a similar jurisdiction to see what kind of system they have. Nothing can shoot your credibility in the foot like a “local” medical examiner in the middle of Death Valley. FYI-Death Valley has one of the highest suicide statistics in the country-just because of its name. People travel from all over the US to do themselves in at Zabriske Point. Inyo County Sheriff patrols that area but relies on out of the area ME’s-such as Las Vegas, Nevada.

Trees on Sonoma County hill during helicopter recon for marijuana

Back to Sheriff’s Departments: Deputies are a different breed from city cops–as any city cop will tell you! They do things by their own rules, maybe even tending toward aggressiveness. I think there is a reasonable explanation for this. When I worked for Sonoma County SO, I knew that the logistics for patrolling 1,769 square miles (minus the 7 incorporated cities who have their own departments) with about 275 deputies (never all on at the same time) would be cause for delay if more units were needed. I often saw back-up cars with an eta of 30 plus minutes. Any deputy in a hot situation would need to be a bit of a “cowboy” to survive. If you cannot, you don’t belong in a patrol car on the Sonoma Coast or in the remote hills of the Geysers or the multitude of vineyards. If you want some interesting reading, check out the history tab of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department. Many stories, there!

This is one of the reasons I chose Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department as the setting for my first book. These are tough people who use the ingenuity that God gave them, sometimes with force.

They get the job done.

Next week, we’ll talk about Public Safety Departments, California Highway Patrol, State Police, the Marshal’s office and more.

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