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The Call Box

The Call Box: Parker Center

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Parker-Center demo

Sentenced to die, it stands alone and empty awaiting its fate. It was loved and cherished by the many thousands who called it home.

Born in 1955 / Died 2018 / age 63. It opened as the Police Administration Building or PAB. It was renamed “Parker Center” after the untimely death of Police Chief William H. Parker, who served as chief from 1950 until 1966.

LAPD_-_Departamento_de_Policía_de_Los_Ángeles_ロサンゼルス市警察_-_panoramioParker Center was many things to many people but revered by those Chief Parker commanded. Standing alone at 150 N. Los Angeles Street, the building occupied the entire block with an imposing position in Civic Center.

Designed by Welton Becket and Associates (who also designed the Capitol records building in Hollywood) and built at a cost of 6.1 million dollars, it was considered state of the art and one of the first centralized police facilities in the nation. The main cantilevered entrance is supported by twelve columns and consists of eight stories of gleaming steel, mosaic and glass.

Specialized features included modern crime lab, lineup auditorium with special lighting, traffic mapping center, two-story jail and modern communications center.

The lobby was home to a free standing 36 x 6-foot mural, “Theme Mural of L.A.” by artist Joseph Young, and a second entitled, “The Family Group.” Closed in 2009, it was home to 6 chiefs and 5 interim chiefs over the 54 years of its use. Occupants included all senior administrators and staff, along with many support divisions, patrol, traffic, administrative, vice, and the elite Metropolitan Division. Specialized Detective Divisions included Homicide, Robbery, Burglary/Auto Theft, Bunco, Forgery, and Narcotics.

The jail housed short term arrestees while in the press room senior “crime reporters” played endless card games.

RFKDuring its life the building saw the likes of the Manson Family, the Night Stalker, the Hillside Strangler, Skid Row/Central Slasher, Lonely Hearts Killer, Mickey Cohen, O.J., the Onion Field Killers, the Remorseful Rapist, Robert Blake, the killers of Robert Kennedy and Sal Mineo, and so many, many more.

It saw the 1965 Watts riots, Black Panther, SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army) and North Hollywood shootouts. It weathered the debacle following Rodney King along with thousands of others.

It was a home to giants, WWII vets who bigger than life, became legends and forged the mystique of the LAPD, making it the paragon it became.

They, too, have passed into history. Hollywood may have its super heroes, but we had the genuine article. If ghosts could speak.

-Los-angeles-police-department-memorial-for-fallen-officers
2010: The LAPD Memorial for Fallen Officers — at the New Parker Center, Downtown Los Angeles.
A project by David Herjecki and Robert Jernigan of Gensler, fabricated by Zahner.

 

That same period saw 98 Los Angeles Police Officers give their lives in the line of duty. Their names joined the many of the previously fallen on the black granite base and fountain memorial in front of the building.

Yes, it will die soon, a victim of progress; another warrior gone to Valhalla.

 

To quote Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night

 

Old age should burn and rave at close of day.

 

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Rest in Peace Parker Center

With much Respect

 

Ed Meckle #7612, Lt II ret.

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Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Bomb Squad, part 1

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

First the disclaimer.

I never worked the Bomb Squad, I never wanted to work the Bomb Squad; their black jump suits added ten pounds to my toned body. I didn’t like responding to any of the bomb calls.

There are two kinds of bomb calls. “Bomb threats,” usually a phone call or letter.  Now days, there might be emails or texts. The other is a suspicious package.  Suspicious package can be anything from a brief case to a back pack both can get you hurt if the call is good. I used to think about my wife worrying about me every time I left for a normal day’s work—whatever normal is! In the Bomb Squad, you get a call out in the middle of the night and your spouse knows you’re driving to danger. You can tell your spouse not to worry. “I’ll be careful,” but that only reassures them for a few minutes. I’ll bet after you leave they look for an all-night news station on TV. They know you might never come home again.

 

My first personal experience with explosives was with fire crackers that I smuggled across the border from Mexico. Oh come, on I was only twelve! I once lit a fire cracker in a model airplane that I built. Did I mention that I had put some gasoline in the plane? I light the fuse and after the explosion, I spent the next ten minutes putting out the small brush fires it started. “Stupid is as Stupid Does.”

 

I think that Bomb Squad officers are smart and professional and more than qualified to handle any suspicious package as most bombs were called, but every once in a while something goes very wrong. No “take overs” with bombs!

 

I remember a few early suspicious package calls both at the old Hollywood Police station. The first was where some good intended citizen placed a package at the back door to the station. The bomb squad blew it up with a water cannon. It was a chocolate Easter Bunny. The second was placed in front of the station and when blown up 500 pieces of a jigsaw puzzle were scattered across Wilcox Avenue.  Both of those might have been a test to see how we’d react.

 

My first real recollection of a true bomb was August 1975. That was the night that the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army) placed a bomb under a police car at the IHOP. I was eating six blocks away and thought it could have just as easily been under my police car. The bomb squad later placed that same pipe bomb under a car and set it off.  It would have killed both officers and a lot of IHOP customers. For the next thirty years, I bent down and looked under my police car to see if there was a bomb.

That’s tough on the knees especially when you get in your 50’s.

 

Next more bomb stories, including 9/11

Categories
Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Code 7 with Women

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Here’s when things really changed. Around 1974/75, women were introduced to patrol. Now, I like women. My wife and daughter are women. Some of my favorite partners were women and I worked with a few women as captains and lieutenants. All great cops and people. My only complaint was that they showed their mother instincts when it came to code 7. They didn’t think that a juice dripping hamburger was all that healthy. Pink’s at 1 A.M. was out of the question and a Tommy burger was ok—but only once in a while.

 

What’s happening to my LAPD?

One more thing about eating with women. They usually took a doggie bag from the restaurant. Then we spent an hour driving around Hollywood looking for stray dogs or cats to give the food to. Once my partner spotted a kitten with a potato chip bag stuck on its head. There were two of LAPD’s finest chasing a kitten around the street trying to get the bag off of its head. Thank goodness this was before everyone had video cameras.

Now, when working Morning Watch (11:00 P.M. to 7 A.M.), your choices were pretty slim for fine dining on the hood of your police car. At that hour most of your food choices catered to the bar crowds. That’s when I started brown bagging. Once I brought in a big pot of my wife’s homemade chili. I shared it with my partner who said she enjoyed it but didn’t ask for seconds. The next night she made Matzo Ball soup. I declined seconds. We also ate in the police station break room, not fine dining! Before I knew it I was eating salads at Sizzler and potato skins were a no no! I was also taught to dip my fork in the salad dressing instead of pouring the dressing on my salad. Less calories. The change was probably for the better but every once in a while I feel the strong urge to eat something bad for me on the hood of my car.

 

The following stories all happened to me on code 7.

My first story didn’t have an interruption but had a real impact on my career! It was August 21, 1975, and I was dining at the Copper Penny at Sunset and Hudson. As preferred, I was sitting in a booth seat with a window view of my parked police car. Keep in mind this is when we only had radios in the car and if something big happened you didn’t know until you got back into the car.

After dining I get in my lowest bid official police cruiser and start the engine. The radio is abuzz with chatter. I detect an urgency in the dispatcher’s voice as she is directing units to block intersections.

The SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army-a domestic terrorist group) placed a pipe bomb under the police car of John Hall and James Bryan at the IHOP at Sunset and Orange, only six blocks from where I was eating.

See—another reason why I hated IHOP. I suppose it could have been under my car except I was seated where I could watch it. The bomb failed to detonate due to a stroke of luck. Both officers would have been killed instantly as well as quite a few diners.

For the next thirty years, I got down on one knee and looked under my police car for bombs. True story.

Next typical code 7 interruptions.

Categories
Ramblings by Hal

Miscellaneous Ramblings, part 1

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.

 

LAPD 69 Plymouth Belvedere
LAPD 69 Plymouth Belvedere

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, whether it has gas, or has a half-eaten Pinks Chili dog with jalapeños 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 carthey all look alike.  Ok, I found it.

 

I open the trunk and drop in my twenty-five pound equipment bag. Dale is 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 see’s 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. 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. 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 desks, 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.

 

Hollywood StationAt 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 12-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; its sharp”.  Twenty seconds later, Billy asks, “Hal, do you have a bandage?” 

Yea, I had bandages too.

Categories
Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Promoting, part two

My last Ramblings described why some officers promote and others choose to remain street cops.  Here’s my story.  I was a young twenty-one year old kid who was going to save the world when I graduated from the police academy.  I spent five months having law, physical fitness and street survival crammed into my small brain.  I was taught when to shoot, when not to shoot, if you get in a fight, win or you die.

Ok, I graduated on a Friday and worked my first patrol shift on Saturday night at 11:30 P.M.  I spent three nights working patrol and enjoyed it.  Then I came in on my fourth night and discovered I was working Station Security.  What the hell is Station Security?

 

Symbionese Liberation Army photo from tamieadaya.com
Symbionese Liberation Army
photo from tamieadaya.com

 

This was 1971 and the Viet Nam War was on the news every night.  The anti-everybody groups, like the Black Panthers, Weathermen Underground and SLA were targeting cops everywhere. Anti-war groups were demonstrating in front of any government building.

 

Ok, I’m a member of the finest police department in the world and after three entire days of patrol experience they put me out in front of the police station.  I’ve got my six-shot revolver, no radio, but a very sharp #2 pencil.  About two hours of standing in front of the station, I’ve got it figured out.  I’m an early warning system.  I start shooting and the desk officers have time to take cover.  I suspect the Watch Commander will be locked in the captains’ bathroom. It happened once–come on, even lieutenants don’t go to the bathroom for three hours!

 

Another night, I’m assigned to the desk. Oh boy, another fun assignment for a young cop who’s going to save the world.  I spent the night bailing out criminals that couldn’t have committed the crimes they were charged with, according to the family member bailing them out!  I also take a lot of reports with my sharp #2 pencil.

 

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, you get assigned to the jail.  You now spend all night fingerprinting drunks, drag queens and DUI’S.  Near the end of your shift you get to feed them a delicious TV dinner which some compare to cruel and unusual punishment.

 

Being on probation, you do what your told and don’t complain. The pecking order for cops in Los Angeles was, P-1 probationer, if there’s a dirty job a P-1 gets it.  After a year I’m automatically promoted to P-2.  You were called “P-2 dogs” and if a P-1 was not available, guess who got the dirty job?  P-3 was a training officer.  To be a training officer you had to take a test and then pass an oral.  You were then placed on a department list and when a training officer spot opened you took another oral for the job.  As a P-3 you were given probationers to train, not always an easy task.  You were assigned a regular patrol area with another P-3.

 

So I have about two and a half years of street experience and I’m bouncing around, from car to car with different partners every month.  One five day working period, I’m assigned to Station Security twice, the desk once and the dreaded Jail twice.  The LAPD is wasting my talents.  The P-3 test is coming up and I want to promote.  I start studying and every time I want to take a break, I think of standing outside the station at 3 AM on Station Security.  How am I going to save the world if I’m always at the station?

 

Probationary officers  photo by niul.org
Probationary officer
photo by niul.org

I pass the written test and do well enough on the oral to get into the outstanding pool for P-3.  As luck would have it, Hollywood was expanding from six basic patrol cars to nine.  That meant six new P-3 spots.  I was swept into a training officer spot and was allowed to stay on graveyard which I wanted.  Graveyard was where the real police work was done in Hollywood.  Did I mention that I also got a 5% raise?  No more Station Security, Desk, or the Jail.  I did get a brand new probationer every few months, some almost got me killed but that’s another Ramblings.

 

So I’m a P-3 and happy on graveyard shift.  I stay for 14 years, I could have promoted 10 years ago.  I pass up all the sergeant tests. My reasoning–I’m not done being a street cop.  I need to get it out of my system so I don’t find drunks in alleys to hand over to the P-2 dogs.  P-3’s can also work vice or become a detective trainee. Neither of those two assignments appealed to me.  I once had a Captain ask me, “Hal, did you ever consider being a detective?” I told the captain, “I hate working inside and I don’t like talking on the phone all day.” The captain replied, “Hal, your right, stay in patrol.”

 

The next step up the LAPD promotion ladder is P-3+1, a senior lead officer or SLO.  A P-3+1 is another 5% pay raise but the drawback is you can’t work graveyard.  The other plus is I can still be a street cop and my wife will get off my back about always working graveyard.

 

I take another oral and get the promotion.  P-3+1 is just below the rank of sergeant.  One day, I have fourteen years’ experience and no one asks for my opinion.  The next day, I’m sitting in the supervisors meeting and the Captain asks what I think.  I’m also asked to instruct at training days.  Now this is where I excel, training.  I can sell sand in the desert which comes in handy as a SLO.  A SLO is a link between the police and the community.  I had monthly meetings where I had to explain why the police can’t be on their street every half hour.  I was a SLO for nine years and my wife happy. I’ve been working day watch and sleeping at home at night.  She now has someone to nudge in the middle of the night to check out that strange noise.

 

I’m in my early 40’s and believe it or not, I’m thinking of my retirement even though it’s fifteen years away.  Sergeants make more money than P-3+1’s and I’ve given up the thought of winning the California Lottery as my retirement plan.  Your pension is based on your final salary.  It’s 1991 and I take my first sergeants test.  I studied for months and pass the test and the oral.  With my seniority points, I place pretty high on the sergeants list. The only thing that will hold up my promotion is a promotional freeze due to budget cuts.  Guess where I sat, on the list, three away from promotion for almost two years.

 

My last year as a SLO, all the SLO’s were pulled out of patrol and assigned to Community Relations.  At first I resisted, but they let us team up and go into the streets every day.  I still dressed in my uniform and I could make all the arrests I wanted as long as I went to my community meetings.  Then I found out I could schedule my days off and if a fishing trip came up, I could change a day off and go fishing.  Promoting might be a mistake.

 

In July of 1993, I’m going on vacation.  We’re going to Alaska to visit my sister and her family.  The Personnel Department calls me two days before we leave and asks me if I want to go to Sergeants school the following Monday instead of going on vacation.  She has obviously mistaken me for a building boy!  Gee fishing for king Salmon on the Kenai River or sergeant’s school.

 

In case you’re wondering what I did, I’m in Alaska fishing when my son calls me and tells me I made sergeant and being transferred to Watts.  That’s South Central LA, for you that are out of town.  That’s another 5% pay raise for my retirement.

 

Abandoned apartments in Watts, Los Angeles, Ca
Abandoned apartments in Watts, Los Angeles, Ca

I’m now a full-fledged sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department.  I’m even working graveyard.  One very slow night, I’m driving around Watts–you have to keep moving or they take pot shots at the police.  It suddenly comes to me, as a SLO in Hollywood I was making my own schedule for days off.  I was working all the movie premieres and off-duty jobs I wanted.  I had the captain’s ear and now I’m driving around Watts, “What the hell was I thinking.”  Oh by the way, in the LAPD when you promote to sergeant you lose seniority.  With over 22 years on the job I took a $300 a month pay cut. “What was I thinking?”  I spent fifteen months in Watts and it was a valuable learning experience and I got to work with some of the best cops on the LAPD.  I was transferred back to Hollywood and graveyard.  I’m happy, my wife not so much.

 

Promotion is not for everyone. On some small departments you only promote if someone dies, retires or gets fired.  Then you have to be related or know someone important. We use to get a lot transfers from smaller departments, because there’s was no chance of advancement.

 

Motor cops are a different story.  They only way they will give up their bikes is a serious accident or a doctors warning, “Stop riding or get a wheel chair ramp for your house.”

 

The best promotion I got was March 22, 2005.  That was the day I retired from the Los Angeles Police Department.  No I didn’t take an oral but the test lasted over 34 years, 168 days.

 

What a ride!

 

Hal

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