The Call Box

The Call Box: Shootin’ Newton and 77th Street

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD


Back in the day, LAPD was divided into 12 geographical divisions.

The two with the highest crime rate were Newton Street, aka: Shootin’ Newton and 77th Street. As a Metro officer, I spent a lot of time in both and as a new patrol sergeant, I was assigned to 77th.

Remember the hand-drawn single panel puzzles in the back of some magazines? How many items/errors can you find etc.? There would be an upside down three-legged dog in the tree sort of thing. For some reason those always made me think of 77th. So much going on sometimes you didn’t know where to look. Sometimes it was right in front of you.

For a street cop it was like being a kid in a candy store. It was a place where the bizarre and unusual were the norm.

gun-on-groundThis is in the heart of Watts, an area of extreme violence. There was still some daylight left on arrival and we find a male on the sidewalk, deceased of gunshot wounds. His gun surprisingly was still in his hand. About 8 to 10 feet away was a considerable pool of blood indicating the deceased probably wounded his killer. The blood trail, heavy therefore very visible lead north on the sidewalk.

Leaving one team with the body to await detectives, two officers and I follow the spoor north on foot. One half block later, it turned left/west into an alley.

Still heavy bleeding.

Several hundred feet more—another blood trail from a north to south alley crossed ours. The blood looks fresh and now we are having a “what the hell is going on moment?” One of the officers with me stated that as we were leaving roll call, someone mentioned a shooting “up there,” pointing north. The officers were still at that scene and the “new” blood was probably theirs. At the next street our trail ended when our shooter entered a car.

Back at the scene, the missing shooter now has a name. A follow up took us to his residence, where his wife said, “Whenever he gets shot he always goes to County General Hospital.”

”Whenever he gets shot???” Honestly that’s what she said. He was found later passed out from loss of blood after a minor traffic accident. Whenever he gets shot. Don’t yah just love it?



Highland Park LAPD now museum
Highland Park Police Station in Los Angeles now a museum operated by Los Angeles Police Historical Society (LAPHS) in conjunction with the Museum of the Arroyo (MOTA). This is very typical of a “front desk” at police stations of the era. Photo by Kansas Sebastian


I cannot verify the following but heard the story several times attributed to the same officer, knowing him I can believe it.


At the 77th, late night and the officer (an old timer) is working the front desk. Into the lobby came a man and woman followed by an older male holding them at gunpoint.

Rather than confront him by drawing his own weapon the officer speaks very quietly. The older man lays the gun on the floor.

Both “captives” are wearing only sheets. The woman nude except for panties, the male, only shaving lotion.

It seems the man with the gun came home at an inopportune moment and discovered his wife and her “friend” in “flagrante delicto.” Rather than shoot them, he had them wrap up in the offending sheets (evidence, don’t you know) and brought them in for the law to deal with.  The officer then had the unenviable task of giving him the bad news.

Just another normal day at 77.


The end, thank you

Ramblings by Hal

Retirement Ramblings, part 1

By Hal Collier

I retired from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2005, after thirty-five years as a street cop. I spent most of my time working Hollywood Division, the Entertainment Capital of the World. It was entertaining to say the least.

I worked with some of the best cops and a few of the worst cops in the world. Together we laughed and far too often, we cried. We attended more cop funerals than we should have and we often hid our emotions. That’s just the way cops deal with the job. Some think that all goes away when cops retire. WRONG.

From your first day of work, you start thinking about the time that you can retire. You envision living on a beach or in a mountain cabin, sipping cocktails as the sun sets. Well the truth is a little different. It’s still good, but just a little more realistic. Some are more likely to find themselves drinking a warm beer while sitting on a Barca lounger chair.

I seldom let my neighbors know what kind of work I did. Example, a neighbor once knocked on my door late one night to settle a dispute with her boyfriend. I told her to call the police. My department frowns on me doing police work in my pajamas. Now that I’m retired I still watch strangers in my neighborhood, but I don’t do police work anymore—at least not when I’m awake. Asleep, I still chase bad guys and once solved the Black Dahlia case. Unfortunately in the morning I couldn’t remember the answer.


Shortly after retiring, I’m sitting in my Eagle Rock home and I hear some gunshots. Now I know the difference between gunshots and firecrackers. I also know the difference between an ambulance siren and a police car siren. When you pin on that badge and work for a period of time you become a cop for life. Taking off the badge for the last time does not stop the years of training and experience that cops developed.


I hear a lot of police sirens and soon the police helicopter is circling about six blocks east of my house. I know it’s something big. A different neighbor who knew I was a cop calls and asks, “what’s going on?” I tell her I’ll find out.

I live in Northeast Division and don’t know anyone in the Watch Commanders office who might know me, so I call the Hollywood Watch Commander. They can check the source of the call on the computer. I call the inside line and get the PSR, (Police Service Representative.) I’ve only been retired a few months but she doesn’t know me. I ID myself as a recently retired police officer from Hollywood and ask her about the shooting in Northeast. She tells me that she can’t give out that information to the G.P.

I ask who the Watch Commander is and she tells me. It’s a sergeant I worked with, he remembers me. Cool, I’m going to get the info. He refers me back to the PSR. She tells me again that since I’m retired, I’m GP and not entitled to the information on the shooting.

A few months earlier I was a sergeant and often the Watch Commander of one of the busiest Divisions in the city of Los Angeles. I made decisions that might cause me an early retirement, the departments choice not mine. Now I’m G.P.

I wasn’t familiar with the term G.P. so I asked what’s G.P.? She calmly and professionally told me your General Public!!! I knew that night that I was retired and no longer a cop. It was a hard pill to swallow. I discussed with my wife getting a tattoo “GP” but she objected.

Next I’ll discuss how cops deal with being “G.P.”



Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: LA Olympics, part 3


By Hal Collier

This is the the final installment of my experiences during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.  The stories are true and only first names will be used.  My three days working at the Village are over and I’m back to working patrol.  I’m still working twelve hours shifts, which means fifteen hour days away from home.


1984 Olympics  photo by business week
1984 Olympics
photo by business week

The competition is about to start and the TV stations are warming up for hours of coverage.  I’m going to miss most of the coverage.  I’m either going to be sleeping or working, with the exception of my days off.  I saw less of the 84 Olympics than any Olympics since I was 12.  A shame since it was in my own town.


Some good things came from the Olympic Villages.  The Department was concerned about terrorists so they placed sharpshooters, Counter Assault Teams, (CAT) on the roof tops throughout the village.  Now, most were men sitting on the roofs with a high-powered rifle, equipped with a scope and a radio.  They would sit up there for hours with nothing to do but look for trouble.


They found it looking into the windows of the dorms.  They soon learned which dorms held the women athletes.  Ok, they weren’t exactly peeping toms, but some of the European female athletes are accustomed to walking around naked.  Thank god the Russian and East Germans boycotted these Olympics.  Have you ever seen a naked female East German athlete!  If an officer observed a scantily dressed female athlete, he would radio to his partner on the next rooftop.


The problem came when the first officer tried to pinpoint to the second officer which window to look into.  The dorms were 12 to 15 stories high and 7 to 12 windows wide.  One officer devised a system.  Count down from the top and left to right.  3 down and 2 to the left meant, 3 floors down from the top and 2 to the left.  Brilliant isn’t it.  I’ll bet that officer never promoted, he was bred to be a street cop.  This system was later used and taught at the police academy to locate bad guys.  3 down and 2 to the right, I’ll bet you never read that in the L.A. Times did you.


The nights seemed long due to the lack of radio calls.  The citizens either didn’t call in the chronic noise complaints or our communication division did take them.  Either way we had plenty of time to drive around and wave.  I was lucky, I worked most nights with Chuck, another old timer.  Chuck and I would eat on the hood and use our lunch break to jog.  Eating on the hood meant a Pinks hot dog or some other fast food that we ate on the hood of our police car. A well learned clue, eat after you jog, especially Pinks.  Sometime during the middle of the night we would change into our workout clothes and go for a 3 1/2 mile run.  Chuck carried a 2″ revolver in a sock for protection. Those terrorists are everywhere.


We were allotted 1 hour for our lunch break.  One night a Sergeant approached us and said we took 65 minutes for lunch and that wasn’t acceptable. He was another building boy on his way up the chain of command.  We told him we could skip a shower after our run if he wanted, but he decided that 5 minutes was not that big of a problem.


Drunk Drag Queen  photo by
Drunk Drag Queen
photo by

I vividly remember an incident on Santa Monica near Western.  A call came out about a 390/415 women.  That’s drunk and disturbing the peace.  We’re close and respond.  Standing in the middle of Santa Monica in front of Sherries Restaurant is a drunk drag queen.  He has a beer bottle in his hand and is yelling obscenities at everyone.  The restaurant patrons have a free floor show, no cover charge.


I get out of our police car and order him to drop the bottle.  He says something about my family heritage as I approach.  I’m either going to knock the bottle out of his hand or knock him to the ground.  As I get closer I hear a popping noise and see the queen fall to the ground.  Chuck tased him from just behind me.  End of problem.  Chuck had the nick name of “Sparkey.”


The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics were a huge success.  The city made a lot of money, the media praised the LAPD for its handling of the Olympics.  It was a true highlight for the men and women of my police department.


The only dark spot was when a Metro officer, Jimmy Pearson, tried to be a hero by removing a bomb from an athlete’s bus at LAX.  The only problem was that he placed the bomb on the bus to gain attention to himself.


Lean years would follow for the LAPD with the media beating us up until the North Hollywood Bank shootout.  That was when everyone really got to see live on TV what cops do, we run to the gun fire when everyone else is running away.


Olympic Village pin photo by ebay
Olympic Village pin
photo by ebay

Anybody want to buy some Olympic pins?  I found out my dad had collected some.


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