Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Supervisors, part 3 of 3

By Hal Collier, LAPD Retired

We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.

This is the last of my suggestions on being a good supervisor, I promise!

Another thing I learned as a supervisor is you can’t take your reputation as a street cop with you. I felt I was a good street cop in Hollywood and made some pretty good arrests. I made Sergeant and I was transferred to Southeast (Watts) Division. Only a few officers there knew me and I had to establish my reputation all over again. Your reputation, good or bad is earned and that takes time. Be patient.


I got this advice in sergeant’s school and I used it the rest of my career. Don’t ask your officers to doing anything you won’t do. Get your hands dirty too. Don’t tell your officers to stand out in the rain or cold while you sit in your warm dry car. Once, I was working the Hollywood Christmas Parade and it was bitter cold and the wind increased the chill factor. The parade was over and the citizens scurried home. Our captain made us stand out in the cold for hours as he drove around in his car with the windows rolled up. A large number of us got sick. I was often the Watch Commander and on weekends we didn’t have a custodian. I could have asked a probationer to empty the trash cans but I remembered the lesson I learned in sergeant’s school. I emptied the trash myself.


Write the officers commendations when warranted. Everyone needs to be appreciated. I know it’s extra work but if an officer did a good job, don’t ever tell them, “That’s just your job.” Commendations are in your personnel package forever. If a commendation is not warranted at least verbally commend the officers, in roll call if possible, in front of their peers is even better. Never ever chew out an officer in public or in front of other officers. I hated Hawaii Five-0 and Kojak because the boss belittled his people in front of others.


Roll call—the start of a new day. What mood do you want the officers in when they leave roll call? I attended nineteen roll calls a month for eleven months a year for thirty-five years. That’s over 7,000 roll calls so I consider myself an expert on roll calls. If you’re the supervisor in charge of roll call it’s your responsibility to keep them happy. A while back we had a Chief of Police who publicly stated that officers’ morale was not his job. He was not well liked! Don’t send them out in the streets in a bad mood. The paperwork they will create for you is not worth the aggravation. If you have negative issues, say them early and then leave them on a happy note. We use to call that the sandwich method. Good, bad, good!


Last but not least, this was not required but I found it was a morale booster. I would bring in homemade cookies and See’s Candy at Christmas, a cooked turkey at Thanksgiving, and tubs of red licorice just because. It was much easier to get the officers to meet the goals of the department when they’re happy. I once decided to bring in a big basket of fresh fruit from Costco. I filled the basket with apples, oranges, bananas and pears. I thought it might be healthier than chocolate first thing in the morning. After roll call the remaining fruit was taken to the Watch Commander’s officer to share with the rest of the division. My captain walked in and asked who brought in the fruit. I said “I did, I have to take care of my officers.” 

He thought they were his officers. Ha ha, I let him think that.


It’s not easy switching hats from being one of the boys to being a supervisor. You show up at a coffee spot with three patrol cars and they all get busy and leave you there alone. I had one officer that I knew quite well. We fished together and talked all the time. I made sergeant and he refused to call me Hal. It was now ‘sergeant’. Get used to it.


Being a supervisor can be a hard job and lonely at times but it can also be rewarding. I remember one officer talking about a supervisor who held his retirement party in a phone booth—he wasn’t liked.

These are my suggestions and might work for some newly promoted supervisor or help an older supervisor. 

Good Luck.  


Ramblings by Hal

Police Burglars, part 3 of 3

This post is part 3 of 3. Oh, except for the epilogue, which will be posted tomorrow. Because the end of this series is so lengthy, I’ve split it in two. For police personnel or civilian, Hal’s take on this scandal is worth reading. He was in the trenches and sadly, is still feeling the betrayal three decades old. –Thonie


By Hal Collier
My first Ramblings on the Hollywood Burglary Scandal dealt with a rash of business burglaries that occurred in Hollywood, most on my shift. My second Ramblings described the arrest of Venegas and Myers and how they were caught.

This Ramblings will describe the aftermath and the effect it had on not only me but the entire LAPD. This might take a few pages so get yourself your favorite beverage and sit back. Again, these are my observations and any resemblance to the opinions of the Los Angeles Police Department is purely coincidental. I’m already getting opinions and theories from other Hollywood officers who have read my first Ramblings.

So here goes:
The next night I go to work wondering what to expect. Venegas and Myers have been relieved of duty and we were told an investigation into their activities had been started.

Nothing earth shattering there. The rumors started and the dumb questions were asked. Is anyone else involved? Cops on other watches, some former partners would ask, “Do you have a Video Recorder for sale.” Not funny after the 50th time. Another officer and close friend asks, “Hal, did you know?” That question hurt. Maybe it was just me but it seemed like I was being watched and under suspicion by everyone. Supervisors showed up at more of my calls. I was beginning to spend a lot of time looking over my shoulder.

After a few weeks things seemed to calm down, then another officer was taken out of the field and assigned to the desk. A week later he was relieved of duty. Then another two officers were assigned to the desk. They also were relieved of duty. The Hollywood desk was getting crowded.

One night I showed up for work and see that I’m working the desk. I ask the Watch Commander if I was I being investigated. He assures me, “No, it’s just that were running short of officers.” All night I’m at the desk and I hear, “Oh, Hal, not you too.”

Some of rumors were beautiful, some we made up ourselves. It was common knowledge that one of the involved parties was cooperating with Internal Affairs Investigators. That’s fine as long as the person is truthful. What if he has a grudge against an officer? It could ruin an officer’s career.

In 1981, there was a cowboy craze throughout America. A lot of cops were wearing cowboy boots, hats and big belt buckles. Yea, I even had them. One day this officer comes up to me at change of watch. He says, “Hal, I hear they searched everyone’s house.” I was tired of the rumors. I said, “Yea, they took all my boots, belt buckles and my favorite cowboy hat.” It spread like wildfire, before I got changed to go home it was all over the station. I still have that cowboy hat!

Another rumor that was going around was that Morning Watch Officers would meet after work and divide the stolen property. We were also rumored to have prostitutes at after work bull sessions. After relieving so many officers, the department had to replace them. Any new officer was immediately believed to be a department plant to get information on us. You need to trust your partner, not be suspicious of him.

Those of us still left, became paranoid. I remember one day I’m on a day off and sitting in my kitchen. My wife yells at me, “Hal, Internal Affairs is across the street and they’re looking at our house.” I look out the window and sure enough that’s a four-door plain police car with two plain suit detectives. I don’t care if they have a search warrant, but I’m wondering did we make the bed this morning. I’ll plead innocent to the kid’s bedroom, I don’t know what’s in there. I watch them for a while and discover they are looking at the house next door which has a for sale sign. They are shopping on duty. Ok, now my wife and I are both ready for those long sleeve coats with the buckles that fasten in the back.

After a while, the interviews started. I.A. would show up at the station and just like the enemy, they attacked at dawn. They would bring in an officer, sit him down and ask him questions about radio calls he had been at months or even a year ago. Who was there, what did you do, what did you see, do you own any of these items? Hell, a year ago? I have my name and address in my underwear. You would think that they would ask all their questions one time and they would be through. Ha, every officer they interviewed gave them some information they didn’t know about and they would have to ask each officer about that incident. As near as I can remember, I had six separate interviews. They always said I wasn’t a suspect but I sure felt like “a person of interest” like they mention in the news.

After a round of interviews, new rumors would fill the station halls. Cops can spread rumors faster than TMZ! Soon, I’d get calls from friends in other divisions who heard the rumors. It became hard to avoid the distractions.

See Just the Facts, Ma’am/Ramblings tomorrow for the epilog to this story.

Ramblings by Hal

Partners, part 2 — the good ones

By Hal Collier

In my last Ramblings, I described the bad partners I worked with. Most were probationers and you might think that I didn’t like newbies. Actually, it was just the opposite.


St Cloud Police
St Cloud Police

Training a probationer was a lot like watching your own child grow up. You nurse them, teach them, and often laugh at the mistakes they make. Some learned to walk faster than others. Some days you’re frustrated and ready to give up, then you see the light come on in their head and you know they’ll be ok. Think potty training. You coax them along then send them out into the real world hoping for the best. When you really care, you worry.


As I have said, I probably trained over 100 probationers and most made it through an entire career, a few resigned in lieu of being fired. There were ones who became your boss. You bragged how you trained them. Thank goodness they didn’t hate me. If I named each good partner I worked with, it would take up pages.


What is a good partner? That’s a loaded question! Is it someone you have a lot in common with? Now, I loved partners who had nothing in common with my interests. He/She didn’t like sports, He/She didn’t like hunting, He/She was a Democrat or Republican. Some came from rich families and others lived paycheck to paycheck. And yes, some even had a lot of education.


Bill Barren (RIP) was a good partner. He loved Ohio State, I loved USC; he hated the outdoors, I loved camping and fishing; but when we pinned on those badges, we were as close as twins. Dale Hickerson another great partner. We have fished, hunted, and watched each other’s kids grow up. At times, it was as if we were an old married couple. Dave Balleweg another great partner wasn’t into playing sports like I was, but we have remained close even when he moved to Oklahoma. There are dozens more I could name including supervisors but I don’t have enough space.


UC Davis Police Department
UC Davis Police Department


Good supervisors:  I had many and I often tried to copy them when I became a supervisor. So, what does a patrol cop look for in a good supervisor? A supervisor who cares more about his officers than his next promotion; a supervisor who shows up at your call and lets you handle it. They’ll save you from making career ending-decisions. They’ll offer advice when asked but don’t butt in and screw up the situation you had calmed down. I once had a neighbor dispute almost handled. My sergeant showed up and escalated the incident which later found me in civil court on the wrong side of a lawsuit. I won but what a headache.


Some of my favorite sergeants, Gil Jones, Terry Seagraves and Roger Jackson would show up stand back and let me handle the incident. They offered advice based on their extensive field experience. These sergeants were more concerned with doing good police work than impressing the chief. Some days, when I was the Watch Commander and I was ready to retire, I would walk into Mike Diaz’ office and close the door. Mike would let me vent, pat me on the back, and then send me back into battle.


I had other supervisors who had no field experience; we called them “Building Boys.” Some had trouble finding Hollywood Boulevard even though you could see it from the front door of the police station. I had one brand new sergeant show up at one of my calls and when confronted with a decision, requested another sergeant to decide how to proceed. Jeez.


Some partners you just bond with. There’s a chemistry, somewhat like being married. You can finish each other’s sentences, know what he/she is thinking and spend hours together and never be at a loss for words. Craig Bushy knew when his partner, Randy Walker, was losing patience. He would take off his glasses and set them on the hood of the police car. Luckily, when you divorce from these partners, you don’t lose half your pension.


A good partner is someone you put your trust in, even more importantly–your life. Often, before going to your family, you confide in a good partner and listen to his/her advice. A good partner is someone who can make you laugh, even when you ready to cry and believe me there are times you’re ready to give it all up. The stress can kill you if you don’t laugh.


OB-policemen-0022So, what’s the clue? Hell, I don’t know. But when you spend a few hours together, you’ll know. I had many good partners who I hunted and fished with and a few who (outside of police work) I had nothing in common with. When working with a good partner, you looked forward to going to work. Even if you got all the crap calls that night, you still had fun. You just knew that it was going to be good shift.


The good partners let you forget the bad partners and allowed me to spend 35 years on the LAPD. Good partners were gold and made the job fun; I miss the good ones and still have nightmares about the bad ones.


FYI more than half the people who I sent this to were considered good partners. Thanks-Hal

[editor’s note: this last paragraph refers to those on Hal’s email list. This is how he first disseminated his Ramblings. You know who you are and you should be proud–Thonie] 


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