Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: L.A. County General Hospital

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Opened in 1923, it was 20 stories of imposing granite and dominated the skyline in East L.A., 800 beds, the largest hospital west of Chicago. Its art deco interior gave the massive entry way a cathedral-like atmosphere. One of the largest public and teaching hospitals in the U.S. it also trained military doctors in trauma (gunshot wound) care. 

L.A. was able to supply plenty of those. One million ambulatory cases and 150,000 E.R. patients annually. Appearing in numerous TV shows and movies, it has, since 1975, been the “establishing shot of T.V.’s General Hospital. 

LA County General Hospital

A portion of the 13th floor was constructed as a jail ward, 50 beds for ill or injured prisoners. Run by the county it was officially “L.A. County General Hospital,” known in the medical community as, “The Great Stone Mother.” By the cops, it was, “County Generous.”

I was there that day with my partner Richard L Sullivan (Sully). We were detective sergeants assigned to Wilshire, Robbery Detail and there to interview/interrogate a bandit shot during a holdup. The questioning should’ve been brief—no more than 10-15 minutes. 

A word about Sully who has been my subject of stories several times in the past. Among his many attributes, besides being a very good detective, he was a world class practical joker. He would be my friend for 50-plus more years.

Most of the beds were filled but the nurses were nowhere in sight. As I finished my interview, I turned just in time to catch him as he pulled the sheet up over the face of the prisoner sleeping in the next bed. The prisoner’s head was back, mouth open, and snoring softly. 

Hospital ward

As we left, I retrieved my weapon, thanked the deputy who was reading a magazine and went straight to the elevator. Without any consultation I knew my role. Sully also picked up his gun and engaged the deputy in small talk until the elevator arrived. As I held the elevator door he said casually to the deputy, “Did you know you got a dead guy in there?”

The deputy scrambled as the door closed behind us. 

On the ride down, still the picture of innocence, he said, “The sad part is I never get to see the end of things like that.”

Another time, still Wilshire Detectives Robbery—

Sully had a middle-aged female victim of a robbery who, after having a gun stuck in her face was understandably reluctant and frightened about the pending line-up. Not in the least bit stymied, he convinces the somewhat cooperative and not terribly bright holdup man to identify the victim—a reverse line-up.

It played like this:             

The victim was on the far side of the room with several other women.

Robber was led in.

Sully: Do you see anyone in this room you recognize?”         

Robber: “Yes, that lady there.”

Sully: “How do you know her?”

Robber: “I robbed her.”

Sully: “Do you have anything to say to her?”

Robber: “Yeah lady, I’m sorry I robbed you and scared you with the gun.”

Imagine how powerful her testimony would sound in court when she related the above.

And that was just a very, very little bit of Sully.

The Call Box

The Call Box: Partners

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

Ask most street cops what they consider truly valuable: what is the most important part of their professional life, if forced to, the last he/she would consider giving up.

I feel the answer would be their partner.

Partner defined: “One associated with another, especially in business or action.”

“Associate or colleague.” OK so far.

“Either of two persons who dance together.” (define dance)

“One of two or more persons who play together in a game against an opposing side.” and “sharing risks and profits.” Yes and yes.

You should pick your partner with the same care as you pick your mate because you are going to be as close to and spend as much time with them as you do with the person you married. Choose wisely.

Start with the obvious—you need someone who you can get along with; who will be there when your life depends on it. Someone dependable, someone who will not lose it when the “fit hits the shan.” Trust me it will, and that’s a hell of a time to discover you picked wrong.

Choose someone with a mindset such as yours yet different enough so you complement each other. He/she sees what you might miss and vice-versa. Someone in whom you can see and appreciate the good qualities and ignore the unimportant bad ones; someone you feel comfortable and communicate easily with.


“On the right, by the alley.”

“Got it.”


Police partners
Sgt. Michael Biddy, front, and Corporal Aaron Whitehead use a radar gun to detect the speed limit of drivers on Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The two DAF civilian police officers were both prior military before joining the civilian security forces here on base. Civilian officers are federally certified law enforcement officers and perform the same duties as the military security forces. (Air Force photo by Kelly White)

Someone who knows what you are likely to do in a particular situation; who can understand and also convey a message with a shrug, nod, grimace or some other gesture you hadn’t even thought of.

Your Huntley to, his/her Brinkley (dating myself here); during a stop and on your feet taking and maintaining a good position. Moving sometimes as though choreographed. His/her Rogers to your Astaire (yet again).

And when it’s “come and get it time,” and the world is spinning out of control, his Butch to your Sundance.

As the saying goes, “someone who runs TOWARD the sound of gunfire.”

Consider the following:

You begin your tour by seating yourself side by side with your partner in a visibly marked vehicle. You are going to spend the next eight plus hours together directed by the radio to solve various problems.

When free from the radio you are on the “prowl” and “looking for trouble.” Let me repeat that: looking for trouble.

Does this sound like the sort of job description where you drive to the labor pool and pick someone from the crowd? I think not.

You hope to find out before it becomes critical that you have chosen to right person, since by then it will be too late.

They say you are lucky or rich if you have one truly good friend in your lifetime. I would think then that if the same could be said of partners. I am truly blessed.

Ward Fitzgerald and Hal Brasher, both WWII vets, taught me “the game.” Both were my kindly old “uncles.”

Frank Isbell and I were the “proverbial identical twins separated at birth” who found each other, while Richard L. Sullivan “Sully” and I were truly soul mates.

I will lie for you, I will bleed for you, I will take a bullet for you and I will, die for you.

Dedicated to PARTNERS everywhere.

Thanks, Ed. Any readers recall great partners? Leave a comment, let us know who and why.

The Call Box

The Call Box: Every Day’s April Fool’s Day

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD


Our lieutenant was a very nice, elderly gentleman awaiting retirement who has been with us for a very short time and has no idea of whom he supervises.

He was the “victim” when, while during pistol inspection, he stood with an empty gun pointed at Tom Ferry’s “netherlands,” Sully set off a fire cracker behind him, convincing him for a few seconds he had just shot one of his detectives. Enough background.

This lieutenant and his wife were childless and the love of his life (besides his wife) was the family car. A 1950’s something Oldsmobile 88, red and white, polished to perfection and the object of his affection. In short, he loved his car.

While at home one night, it was stolen. He was almost inconsolable. He nagged the auto theft team every day about the car and talked of nothing else.

On day 4 or 5, I sat at the squad table across from Sully while we both worked on reports. To this day, I will swear I “heard” the idea formulate in his mind. I looked up and he sat there with a faraway look in his eye and the hint of a smile. I gave him the “what’s up” eyebrow and he nodded toward the door. I followed to the records room, teletype section.

Teletype_with_papertape_punch_and_readerTo the very young of you, a teletype was the then police method of reaching a lot of other agencies en masse.

Consulting the code book for proper and convincing numbers, et cetera, he composed something along the following lines:

From Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, be advised. On [date] 1st National Bank in Cedar City held up by following subjects.
Names of two made up persons with descriptions and CII (California Information and Identification-indicates a person has a rap sheet or criminal history with the state of California) numbers were here inserted.
The teletype went on to recount a gunfight in which bandits’ vehicle was riddled with bullets, a wild chase on back roads, minor collisions, more bullet holes until they were captured.
Particulars were inserted: weapons recovered and where stolen from; attention particular departments, suspects admit crimes your weapons, et cetera. Last: “Attention L.A.P.D. Wilshire dets (detectives) veh (vehicle) is your stolen, 1950′ Olds 88 red/white,” et cetera.
Veh impounded, many bullet holes, and damage. Please advise re: dispo (disposition) Not drivable.

Sully typed it–did not send, naturally, and took the only copy, inserting it into the lieutenant’s daily mail.

We sat back to watch.


1955 Olds 88_LI
1955 Olds 88-wrong color for Sully’s lieutenant but you get the idea.

When his “victim” read it, he stood and tried to walk in 2 or 3 directions at once, sat down, picked up the phone, put it back, stood up, sat down and just stared for a moment or two. The lieutenant suddenly turned and caught Sully and I watching him.
He pointed at us and nodded.


Then smiled. His car was eventually recovered undamaged.




The Call Box

The Call Box: More Sully Stories

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Here is an addition to Ed’s first post about Sully (posted here on June 1, 2016).


Sitting across from him in a cafeteria watching while he poured dressing on his salad, then discovered he had not removed the plastic wrap. I watched him mop up the dressing and squeeze it onto his salad never once giving any indication he had done anything wrong.


Interviewing witnesses on the street and later discovering that Sully had written notes on the white roof of a police car. Yes, we found the car.


Walking out of the room and leaving a man seated across from me at the squad table. When the man begins applauding, I asked, “What the devil are you doing?”


“That Detective [Sully] told me to keep clapping while he was gone so he would know I wasn’t stealing anything.”

God, I wish that had been my line.


When he gave directions to “turn right when you see the sign for the sheriff’s station” and the sign turned out to be the Shalom Jewish Cemetery with the six-pointed star. Think about it.


The day he poked me in the ribs with a half-eaten Milky Way candy bar to get my attention. I was wearing a suit and we both looked at the glob of chocolate on my jacket, we both looked at the candy bar and then as a small child would, he put the candy behind him, looked off into space and said, “What?” I couldn’t help but laugh.


His name was RICHARD L. SULLIVAN and he is gone now. I loved him and miss him. He was my best friend.


We have all heard of the celebrity doing something with his five hundred best friends. Not likely. Best means just that: the best.


How do I define “best friend?” He shows up at 3 am with a shovel and a bag of quick lime when you have phoned him to tell him you killed someone. Sully was my best friend.


I will leave you to wonder………………


%d bloggers like this: