Ramblings by Hal Roll Call

Ramblings and The Call Box: Patrol Areas

By Ed Meckle #7612 1956/1976, Retired LAPD


Fitzgerald House in Sugar Hill, Los Angeles


Our patrol area was known on the streets as “Sugar Hill.” Back in the 1890’s and turn of the century there were dozens of old mansions in our area—former homes of the rich and famous. All now fallen on hard times, some abandoned, or rooming houses, shooting galleries and just plain old flop houses. My partners knew every location and most of the street people.


We drove the main streets in the right lane with the flow of traffic, cruised the side streets and always the alleys, sometimes with lights out. All windows open regardless of weather. Sometimes late at night we would park, engine off and just listen.

We were there to see and be seen. Let both the good folks and the bad guys know we were there. 

Sometimes we ran from call to call with no patrol time. When we did cruise, we stopped and talked to suspicious people and sometimes were rewarded with narcotics, a gun or felony pinch.

We had no decent eating spots and always ate at a local greasy spoon. Food was free, with 25 cent tip. We ate what they put in front of you. 

Lots of coffee, drink and drive. More than one cup was tossed out the window to answer a hot call. 

It was a rare night without at least one cutting or shooting. When the relief checks came, and it coincided with a hot Saturday night, the area turned into Dodge City, a very violent place

The calls varied from reports, to assaults, to disputes and all I ca n say is I loved every minute of it.


Hal Collier #16336 1970/2005


Hollywood Boulevard from Kodak Theater

When on probation I was assigned a Basic A Car, first 6A17, the Beachwood Canyon car with little crime in the middle of the night. Two months later I was assigned 6A41 the basic car assigned to the Fairfax District, but again other than the occasional business burglary not much to patrol for. We spent most of our time on the busy streets like Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard. During the early morning hours, Hollywood was wide open. Even after the bars and clubs closed there was something going on. There were restaurants that stayed open all night to feed the rockers leaving the clubs. One restaurant on the west end of the division was known as “Rock and Roll Denny’s.” The drunk drivers were trying to negotiate the busy streets and the prostitute trade was just getting warmed up. I laugh whenever I hear someone say, “Prostitution is a victimless crime.” Ask all the johns who got robbed, wallets picked or just cut with a knife. The crime was when they tried to explain the loss to their spouse.


Like Ed, we also patrolled the side streets just off the main boulevards. I always had my window rolled down, not only to hear possible activity but if someone took a shot at you, it was possible to hear from what direction the shot came. I remember one cold winter night my training officer told me “Put some glass in that porthole.” I rolled it up half way. I once was driving down a dark side street with my lights out. We stopped a suspect and he told us “I knew you were the cops because I could see your rabbit ears on the roof of your car.” He was referring to our tin can red lights. I later decided to turn on my high beam lights which blinded my vehicle silhouette. You can always learn new tricks. 

free police picAs Ed mentioned, he would often park and shut the engine off. I seldom did that, but I found the hardest thing to teach a rookie cop was patience. Wait until the crime occurs before you jump in. An example: we got a call of a possible burglar at an apartment building. We did all the right things, approach with lights off, radio turned down and we quietly approached the building. We peeked around the corner of the building. We saw a suspect step into the bushes next to an apartment window, my probationer jumped out and yelled, “police freeze.” The DA refused to file charges, stating we stopped the suspect before he committed a crime. 

Hollywood was crazy with radio calls. Most nights, after briefing, you got five calls (the maximum). Some were hours old. I once got a call four hours old of a fight on a street corner. I told my partner of there still fighting after four hours I don’t want to tangle with them! We called it, “chasing the radio,” and seldom had spare time for investigative police work.

Like Ed, I loved every minute of it!

Next Ed and I will describe RTO’s from different decades.


The Call Box

The Call Box: Not Miami Vice, Part 2

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Also assigned to nights was a three-man prostitution squad, of which my old partner Frank Isbell, was the newest member. Whatever they were called, ladies of the evening, soiled doves, or my favorite, fallen angels, they were simply targets for the Hooker Squad. As conspicuous goes, they were the ultimate. They generated almost daily citizen complaints and no matter how many we busted, they proliferated. There were several small pockets around the division but the main attraction was Western Avenue from Adams south to Jefferson. This six block area supported 12-15 sporting girls each and every night. Sadly, this was “Sugar Hill” my old radio car beat.


Watching the cop shows on TV these days, the vice squad procures two or more hotel/motel rooms. One is the “command post,” the other is wired for sound and video. You would think they were after a Russian spy, not some street-walker. I’m sure they would find our method “quaint” and overly simplistic.


Using our own cars (no special insurance or waiver of liability), we drove up to the corner. When she approached, we waited for the magic phrase, “sex in exchange for money or something of value.” usually money of course. The pitch was usually street slang but the meaning was clear. After a short bargaining session to lend credibility, she got into the car and we said our magic phrase, “You are under arrest.” We drove them to a nearby location where the paddy wagon was parked, unloaded, and went back for more. It was all verbal, no witness, no fancy recording. It was all “He said, she said.”

Mostly to amuse ourselves, I suppose, we sometimes donned disguises. I had a white lab coat with stethoscope around my neck and a head mirror on. Now for those of you too young to know: it was a chrome disc on the forehead by means of a black strap. Doctors used to direct reflected light to a specific area. Some ENTs (Ear, Nose, and Throat docs) still use them.

Now to think, would a doctor wear one in the car? Well, I suppose it lent an air of familiarity. She even called me doctor.


One night, I got third in line behind two real tricks. She turned them both down and got in with me. When I busted her she said, “Damn. I turned down two live ones and get in with you. I look in and see them long legs, blue jeans, cowboy boots and hat and think I got me a date with “Cheyenne.”  Actor Clint Walker played Cheyenne Bodie on a popular TV show then running. The ladies were usually cooperative when hearing the magic words and very, very seldom ran or resisted. There were exceptions. One of our ladies threw a milkshake in Frank’s face. Part of it hit the inside driver’s window, running down inside the door panel and shorting out the electric windows. Another of our guys had his jaw broken when slugged by a Good Samaritan who saw the arrest and thought the lady was being kidnapped.


The Call Box

The Call Box: Welcome to the 19th Century, part 2

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Ward Fitzgerald and Hal Brasher were both WWII vets. Ward served with the Navy in the Pacific while Hal piloted B-26 Martin Marauder bombers in North Africa. They were both laid back, calm, quiet and had seen it all. Each old enough to be my father and they took the time and patience to teach me how to be a street cop. They knew everybody in their area and everybody knew them.


Normally, three officers would be assigned to each unit [car]. With one usually day off, etc, the other two partnered up. When all three of us were working, I was assigned to another unit. When that happened, I got to know the other guys on the watch and see different parts of the division. I recall one night, pulling up to the gas pumps prior to going on patrol with a new partner when I saw him hugging a trustee [each station was assigned jail trustees to shine shoes, clean the coffee room, pump gas, or whatever].


I gave him a questioning look and he told me the trustee was his father doing time for DUI and that his mother asked him to keep an eye on dad [shades of Mayberry].  My regular unit with Ward or Hal was “3 A 1 5.” The “three” being the designation for university, the “a” for a two-man patrol unit, and the “1 5” was us. There were a lot of other “3 As” but we were the only “1 5.” Our patrol area was the north west portion of the division. An area known then as now known as the Normandie/Adams area. In the late 1800s and very early 1900s the area was [slightly] elevated was populated by grand mansions inhabited by the rich and famous. It became known as “Sugar Hill.”



We were the Sugar Hill car. By now however, the area had fallen on hard times and some of the mansions sat vacant while others had been converted to boarding houses or “flop houses.” Some stood as though in a pose of embarrassment, resembling elderly matrons ashamed of themselves and their surroundings. We were a night watch unit and the division came alive with a different persona at dusk.


I was taught to slowly drive the darkened side streets with lights off and windows down. We cruised back alleys and sometimes would stop and just listen. I learned the difference between “looking” and “seeing” and “listening” and “hearing.” I learned how to talk to people, to read body language so it became second nature to me to “see” and “hear” things.  I was quizzed on things we had just done, and sometimes to see if I had picked up on the subtleties of something that we had encountered. I grew confident until the powers that be decided I should work with two younger guys. Thus Frank Isbell and George Flanders came into my life.

Next Wednesday, August 31st will post the last installment of Welcome to the 19th Century by Ed Meckle

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