By Hal Collier
This will be the last installment in foot pursuits. I was involved in a lot of foot pursuits in my career but most were uneventful. Some were very short, some involved multiple officers and sometimes I was just out-run by some rookie cop who still had a drawer full of T-shirts with his name on them. You only had T-shirts with your name on them in the Academy. These rookies just love running past you in a foot pursuit. I heard one laugh as he ran by me but I got the last laugh when he ripped out the knee on his brand new uniform pants. Rookies, you have to get rid of those leather soled dress shoes when you graduate from the academy, no grip on the turns.
There are rules when running after a suspect on foot. These rules are for officer survival. Partners should never split up. It happens but is strongly discouraged by the Department. If a suspect runs around a corner, the officer should go wide around that corner. That’s in case the suspect has decided to ambush the officer when he rounds the same corner.
If you jump a wall, don’t go over the same place that your suspect jumped over. I chased a suspect over a wall once and when I got to the top of the wall I saw him crouched down waiting for me on the other side. Never run with your finger on the trigger of your gun. I was chasing this guy. He jumped off a car bumper and over a wall. I stepped on the bumper and slipped on the dew. Thank goodness I didn’t have my finger on the trigger or it would have been days off without pay for a negligent discharge. For my non-police friends, that’s an “awe shit”.
Most cops developed a sixth sense about some aspect of police work. I knew a cop, Tony Diaz, who could look at a car and tell if it was stolen. Another partner, Joe Cupo, could look at a guy walking down the street and tell if he was carrying a gun. Some were great interrogators. Some were great butt-kissers, too many to name–but I digress.
My sixth sense was foot pursuits. I could tell if a suspect was about to run. It’s body language. I couldn’t teach it to other cops but I just knew. We would be talking to a suspect and suddenly he would turn and run. Most times I was already taking a step after him before he took his first step. Partners would ask, how did you know he was going to run? I couldn’t give them an answer, I just knew.
I was walking a foot beat on Hollywood Boulevard with a partner and we saw this suspicious character. I approached him and he took off running. I’m chasing him and broadcasting on my old handheld CC unit. A CC radio was an antique form of communication before all officers had radios on their belts. I’m running after this dirt bag and broadcasting my direction, requesting backup and the description of this miscreant. His description may change if I catch him alone, but that’s another story.
The radio operator must think I’m a rookie, she tells me to calm down, take a deep breath and repeat my message. As calmly as I can, I tell her that I’m chasing this suspect on foot and after I catch him I’ll take a deep breath. Three blocks later we catch him. I got to the station and the W/C told me that Communications Division called and the radio operator apologized, she didn’t know I was running and broadcasting at the same time.
This was probably my most rewarding foot pursuit, not because I caught the bad guy but because I cleared the most crimes by running this guy down.
A little background: There’s an area just south of the Hollywood Bowl parking lot where the houses can only be accessed by steps and a sidewalk. Alta Loma Terrace runs west from Highland Avenue and intersects with Broadview Terrace which runs north from High Tower. There are about 3 dozen homes that line the sidewalks, cozy unless your moving furniture. These homes don’t get any police patrols because it would require officers to get out of their cars and hike up the stairs and sidewalks.
Back to my best foot pursuit. I’m walking a foot beat on Hollywood Boulevard at 2 A.M. Foot beat officers had CC units which were hand held radios. I’m listing to a radio broadcast of a hot prowl burglar on Broadview Terrace. After the third burglary, we decide to see if we can help. The suspect was not shy about being seen as he would break into an occupied house. That makes him very dangerous. Before we walk up the steps the burglar has committed another crime. The area is all hillside with lots of foliage and hiding places.
We have six officers and two long blocks to search to see if he’s still in the area. He’s taken wallets, stereos and some other large items. We figure he’s got them hidden somewhere in the area. I found the stolen items on a dirt path at the end of Broadview Terrace. We decide that my partner and I will hide near his stolen loot and grab him when he returns. The other officers pretend to leave the area. We think it’s a good plan.
We only wait a half hour when I see our suspect walking up the sidewalk toward us. I duck down behind a porch wall and wait. Our suspect disappears. Oh crap, we’ve blown the stake out. We hear the elevator that connects Hightower to the steps. The elevator is going down. Oh shit, my suspect is getting away. The elevator comes back up and a resident is in it. He’s not happy with my gun pointed at his head. He said no one was in the elevator when it came down. Our suspect is still in the area.
I go back to the spot where I last saw the bad guy. I step between two houses and look down at an overgrown hillside, adjacent to the Hollywood Bowl parking lot. It’s dark and all I see is trees and some bushes. I’m still shining my flashlight around the area when my suspect jumps up and starts running. I lost him once but not again. I run down the hillside. I can only see a foot in front of me but I can hear my suspect, as he crashes through the bushes ahead. I step into a hollow and land on my butt. I lose my night stick. My partner falls into the same hole and picks up my night stick. My partner is fifteen yards behind me, a non-smoker, and I’m guessing by the sounds, that I’m ten yards behind the suspect.
I’m thinking, I can’t lose this guy, I’m pretty sure I ripped my uniform, I know I have scratches and I’m wondering if there’s poison oak on this hillside. We break into the clear and my suspect jumps a fence and runs through the Bowl parking lot. I see him hide in some bushes and I wait for other officers to show up.
We catch the guy, but I’m a little beat up, my uniform is not torn and I didn’t get poison oak. Our bad guy broke into nine homes that night. He never made it to court, because he was dying of cancer. The home owners were happy, my sergeant was happy and I was happy. Now all I have to do is spend the next six hours writing up an arrest report and booking this guy at a medical facility.
I wish all of my foot pursuits turned out this good.