Ramblings by Hal Street Stories

Ramblings: Officer Involved Shooting

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

It was a clear day and my shift was going well. I was a field sergeant, but I was asked to sit in as the Watch Commander (W/C) while the W/C and assistant W/C attended a meeting. I settled into the W/C’s seat and noted that I was in command of the entire Hollywood Patrol Division. If something big happened in Hollywood, it was soon to be world news. It was nearing the end of my 12-hour shift. What could possibly go wrong? I had a very competent officer sitting to my left who often helped me handle the numerous calls meant for the Watch Commander. I bought myself a diet Coke for that late afternoon caffeine pick me up and settled into a game of FreeCell on the computer. I have to stay mentally sharp in case I’m asked to make a decision. Little chance, right?

I suddenly remembered that I last peed before roll call about 9 hours ago. Cops develop bladders the size of a basketball. Imagine being on a stake out or perimeter search and holding up a finger asking for a potty break.

So, I’m losing this game of FreeCell and make my last good command decision of the day.

I went pee. I casually walked back into the W/C office thinking the world would continue to spin. The young officer calmly said, “Hey sarge, you should see this message that came through the ACC (a computer in W/C’s office).”

I told him print it out.

I sat down take a sip of my still cold diet Coke. Now an OIS (Officer Involved Shooting) is so important that the department basically mobilizes. Everyone wants to be notified and half of those respond to the scene. No kidding. It was rumored that an OIS was better investigated than a homicide. An OIS doesn’t have to include shooting at another human being. An OIS might be an “aw shit” in the locker room where you accidently pull the trigger and put a hole through the next three lockers. It also might be during a foot pursuit when you trip, and your handgun goes off. No matter who or why you have an OIS everyone above the rank of rookie wants to be notified. I read the printout and an officer has fired his Berretta 9mm at a dog. Ok, not as important as shooting at a human being but still pretty serious.

My brain shifted into high gear. Notifications need to be made! I send my loyal officer to the roll call room with a print out of the OIS. He passes the notice to the Assistant W/C. The AW/C comes down to the W/C office and confirms the information on the print out. Yes, we have an OIS! The AW/C goes back to the roll call room and advises the Watch Commander who interrupts the Captain with the news. The meeting is immediately cancelled. See? An OIS is a big deal.

In the meantime, I scrambled to make notifications. I called a Use of Force Investigation—the detectives who investigate all use of force’s.

The officer who answered the phone asked, “What do you have?”

I reply, “I have an OIS!” He told me to stand by while he got the OIS form.

The next 5 minutes I answered questions. I move on to the next notification.

The Chief of Police, same scenario: “Wait a minute. I have to get the OIS form.”

Another 5 minutes pass but I’m used to the formalities that everyone wants to be in the loop.

My next notification was West Bureau. LAPD is divided into four bureaus and Hollywood in in West Bureau. Guess what? “Hold on a minute while I get the OIS form.” After 20 minutes of answering the same questions, I felt I’d done a pretty good job of making notifications. I can now return to my Diet Coke and game of Free Cell.

Two days later I’m the real Watch Commander when I got called into the Captain’s office. I suddenly get a chill when the captain closes the door.

I spent the next 20 minutes listening to my captain chew my ass out because West Bureau was notified 20 minutes late of the OIS. When it was finally my turn to talk, I went through my notification scenario, telling him the delay was possibly due to me taking a pee brake on city time.

The OIS was two officers responded to a Radio Call. When they walked to the house a large dog charged at the officers and they retreated to their car. The dog outran the officers and one officer fired one shot at the dog. The dog was last seen running west bound through the houses. Unknown if the dog was hit. PETA was not notified.

I was not written up for my lack of only being able to talk to one person at a time. I left the Captain’s office and started a new FreeCell game.


Roll Call

Roll Call: Short Dog-Probation in Rampart ’73-’74

By Mikey, Retired LAPD

Probation in Rampart ’73-’74


roll call West Midlands Police
West Midlands Police, UK


Back in the day, there were no holds barred when it came to messing with rookies—NONE.  Of course, I fell victim early on.


One shift, I had court all day and made it back to the station just in time to get ready for PM Watch roll call.  I opened my locker up and stripped down for a shower. I must have been in the shower for maybe 8 minutes—TOPS! After drying off, I returned to my locker to find my uniforms GONE. Yup, GOA (Gone On Arrival-an often used disposition the reason for the call was not present when the officer arrived-Thonie)!

The senior guys were getting ready. They said nothing; the other rookies dare not say anything. Didn’t want to sound like a baby so, I said nothing. The guys began exiting the locker room for roll call and I stood there, thinking. I wasn’t going to be late for roll call, so I started eyeballing my civilian clothes when my military training kicked in.

“Overcome and conquer.” Whatever, so I made my moves. All the “rooks” had to sit in the front of roll call and the senior guys in the back. Our PM watch commander and supervisors entered the room and the lieutenant took his place at his desk, at the head of the room, facing us.

He started calling the roll and our assignments when the snickering and muffled laughs became overwhelming. He looked up and began scanning the room when his eyes hit the front row left, last seat, against the wall. His eyes bugged out of his head.

Yellow raincoatHe was looking at the rookie wearing his cover, his yellow rain coat and boots and his Sam Browne waist level outside of the rain coat.

He bellowed, “Diaz, what the hell are you doing, son?”

Now the laughter was overwhelming, and I had to wait to answer until the noise settled down. “Misplaced my uniforms sir, returned from the shower to my opened locker and found that I had misplaced them, sir.”

“G-D D—N it! Whoever find’s Diaz’ uniforms gets an early EOW, (end of watch).”

I heard scuffling in the back of the room and then voices yelled out, “We found where Diaz misplaced his uniforms, lieutenant!”

I think I saw a slight twinkle in the lieutenant’s eyes when he made his declaration.

The rest of the night was uneventful.


Ramblings by Hal The Call Box

Ramblings and the Call Box: Stations


By Hal Collier and Ed Meckle, both retired LAPD

Each police station has a character all its own. As they are occupied 24 hours a day, they endure a lot of wear and tear. They’re expensive to build, renovate and add-onto, so they often live on well past their pull-date. Here Hal and Ed share some memories from their past stations.


Ed worked in Police stations that were built before the depression and had long outlasted their use. Hal was a little luckier, he enjoyed the charm of the old stations and learned to dislike the new modern stations.





Ed Meckle 1956/1976


I don’t know that I spoke much about the station houses, all large stone monoliths, probably built turn of the century. According to rumor, the University was “sinking.”


I do know it was out of plumb. Most of the interior doors would not close and round objects rolled off desks. The stairway to the second floor was separated from the wall and gave the illusion of floating in air. 


staircase freeBuilding and safety department was quick to handle the problem, though—with a sign telling you to use the outer edge of the stairs. The sign was there the entire two and a half years that I was.


All houses were two story, patrol and jail down, detectives and juvie up. All houses were two story, patrol and jail down, detectives and juvie up. We naturally did not have A/C, but we did have one thing that I don’t believe the newer houses had—trustees and a lot of them. They had a shoeshine stand, ran the coffee room, assisted the property man, swept and mopped up, pumped gas and helped the mechanics with repairs. They were all misdemeanor sentenced prisoners and were selected sometimes due to experience, mechanics, etc. 


Working with a new partner one night, I saw him hug the trustee who pumped our gas. I asked, “What?”


 “That’s my dad–doing 30 days on a deuce,” he answered. “Mom asked me to keep an eye on him, so I arranged to have him sent here to University.”




Hal Collier 1970/2005


I was lucky. My first station was the old Hollywood station, also built around the depression. The men’s locker room was in the basement. The locker room had drains in the floor and red painted curbs. It used to be where the 3-wheel motorcycles were parked. You walked down a ramp to get to your locker. The lockers were, I suspect, WW-II surplus. They weren’t secured to the floor and we often would slide a partner’s locker, moving it so the officer couldn’t find it.


I arrived at Hollywood just after the 1971 earthquake. During aftershocks, it was common for the watch commander to run out into the street in case the building collapsed. There was no air conditioning and during hot summer nights all the windows were open. The front desk had a PBX radio with the cords you plugged into the lite light. It was connected to the call boxes in the street. Antique to say the least! The jail was a classic old-time jail, which provided hours of entertainment—for the officers—not those incarcerated.


Next door across the patio was another building which housed Hollywood Receiving Hospital. Just one doctor and a nurse. The receiving hospital was good for sewing a few stiches and not much else. It was a blessing for the cops because, if you got in a scuffle with an arrestee and he needed medical treatment, you didn’t have to go downtown.


Around 1977 they tore down the old station and built a new state of the art police station.


North Hwd Police Station newPardon me while I try to keep that statement down. It was all cement, not a window to look out of. If you wanted to see what kind of a day it was you had to step outside. Once a month the city would come out and test the backup generator. The computers all had to be shut off during the power interruption. They’d run the generator for five minutes then shut it off.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne day—it was bound to happen—the power went out and the station went into darkness. The generator switched on and worked fine for five minutes then shut down. This modern, state-of-the-art police station was pitch dark inside. The only lights were the phone lights and they just told you that citizens were calling for assistance. The Watch Commander sent a rookie officer to Sav-on to buy all the candles they had. It seems that every month they tested the generator but forgot to refill the gasoline tank. Yep, it ran out of gas during a real emergency.


The first few years, the men’s locker room was huge. But the designers of the modern police station forgot one small detail. Women in police work. Soon the women’s locker room was too small. The city put a few lockers in an interview room in Detectives. The ladies needed a larger locker room which included a bathroom and showers. The city put Hollywood station on the bottom of the list and predicted we’d get an expanded locker room in 2 to 3 years. A few of the multi-talented officers sectioned off an area of the men’s locker room for the women.


Funny, the city then found the money and time to build the women’s locker room with a bathroom and showers.


There are newer stations as the LAPD expands but I’m not familiar with any of them.




Roll Call

Roll Call: You Know it in Your Soul

A year or so ago, I was exchanging emails with Mikey. He was interested in sending me his stories for Just the Facts, Ma’am but was understandably cautious. This is an email I’ve been saving for the right moment to share with our readers. Our topic was what kept us in demanding, suck-the-life-outta-you careers. This particular email was significant to me and I thought you might like it, too.

You Know it in Your Soul

By Mikey, Retired LAPD

In the exchange of emails, you said it is “in your blood.” Nope, it’s in your soul. I’ve spoken to dedicated professionals in other fields and I have the same “feel for the talk,” and it is in your soul. I see it in your words, everyone. You don’t know why or really can’t explain it. Screw the folks who try and explain it to us. Take the third-grade teacher in the Bronx who gets crap for a salary buts does it anyway. The social worker who sees the worst but does it anyway. The copper who has a BA and can pretty much go state or federal but chooses to work the street. Or the writer who really needs to focus on something better, higher, more meaning, but does not.

No, it’s not in your blood, it’s in your soul. I know, and so do you. The key to knowing. You really never wanted to turn your back to it.

LAPD Crown VicI truly, truly miss it, but I’ll share this with you and it is gospel. I intended to work until May 15th, 2008. On May 2nd I turned 60 and my wife and the station threw me a surprise party—kinda cool. On May 3rd, I was on patrol with my best bud, John Schick, yup, that guy. At 2100 hours, on the dot, I am stopped at a red light on Hollywood and Vine. I hear this (I did, ‘cause I was there) “You’re done.”

Brings tears to my eyes this evening cause in my soul, 41 years of being a copper was over. I told John 0400 was a long way off and I was feeling tired. I shut the ignition down for the last time, John took a pic, unloaded the cruiser—shop 88420 and walked into the Watch Commander’s office. The young lieutenant looked up at me and I said, “LT, I’m through.”

His response, “What took you so long?”

Witnesses and all, hugs all around. I got released, not by the LT, but by the hand that held my soul.

This is a message, me to you. You giving us the opportunity to tell our stories, priceless. Thank you, I like sharing with my new and old family.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Thanksgiving on the Job

I thought it fitting to give you Hal Collier’s Thanksgiving post on Thanksgiving. I’ll have a little something about being thankful on Sunday, November 26th.


By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Our_(Almost_Traditional)_Thanksgiving_DinnerThe normal scenario for celebrating Thanksgiving Day is to skip breakfast and wait for the Thanksgiving dinner. Then put on a pair of loose pants or something with an elastic waist band. Then head to Grandma’s house or maybe your parents’ house. As you got older it might be your turn to cook the turkey.

But there’s a difference if you’re a first responder. Someone has to work even while everyone else is loosening their belts and watching football.

In the LAPD you had a holiday wish list for days off. You had a choice of five holidays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. If you were a rookie you probably got Arbor Day.

Now, even when I had over 30 years’ experience I didn’t get all five days off. So, I had to choose which days I preferred. Of course, I preferred Christmas Eve first. Christmas Day second, New Year’s Day third, News Year’s Eve fourth and Thanksgiving last. Funny but those were also my wife’s choices.

So, I worked almost every Thanksgiving. No big deal, I wasn’t that fond of turkey. Sometimes our family would celebrate Thanksgiving on Friday or maybe Saturday to work around every one’s schedule.

Trust me, I’ve cooked turkey almost every way conceivable. I’ve cooked bird on a rotisserie, in the oven, in a brown paper bag in the oven—very moist—and I’ve deep fried turkeys in boiling peanut oil. The deep-fried turkeys were good, but then we were reminded that our son is allergic to peanuts. Lately, we have served Honey Baked hams. Did you know they deliver to your front door?

BP-Breakroom-092415My point is on Thanksgiving Day my Thanksgiving dinner was usually something fast food in a paper bag after talking into a clown face. For the majority of my career I worked graveyard, that’s 11:30 PM to first dawn. I’d leave for work around 10 PM and as I walked in the back door I was overcome by a tantalizing smell of turkey. I made my way up the stairs as the smell got stronger. Just before I entered the locker room I looked into the break room—two turkeys were sitting on the table. Actually, the cop came out in me and I investigated—let me be clear: there were two turkey carcasses on the tables. Picked clean. Oh, there were side dishes, too, but they didn’t have a carcass just empty pans.

I dressed and asked the Watch Commander where all the food came from? He smiled, said the local businesses always take care of the cops in Hollywood. I reminded him that I was a Hollywood cop, just working the wrong hours. Looks like another Thanksgiving meal in a paper bag.

You want turkey fries with that?

One year, I was off on Thanksgiving and thought about cops eating out of a paper bag. I deep fried two turkeys and took one to the station. Feeding Hollywood cops was my way of saying thanks. turkey-23435_960_720


Roll Call

Roll Call: Short Dogs #2

By Mikey, Retired LAPD

Ventura pursuit, the CHP and the spike strips

lapd cruiser rollingIt was early Summer ’93 and I was working Rampart Day Watch as the Watch Commander with the usual inside staff, a couple of desk officers, an assistant Watch Commander and eight units out on patrol. It was a Sunday, quiet and everything was going well until about 12:30 pm when a patrol unit broadcasted that they were in pursuit of a stolen vehicle northbound on Alvarado approaching the 101 freeway. The pursuit then proceeded onto the Northbound 101 and because traffic was light the stolen vehicle accelerated away from the officers.

I knew that we would lose communications with the unit if they got too far north so I asked for an air unit to respond. Communications said there were no air units available. I then called the CHP and asked if they had a unit with a spike strip that could intercept the pursuit and their watch commander told me that there was a pursuit coming south on the 101 freeway and when they were through with the southern pursuit, they’d assist us.

I told my assistant watch commander to handle the division, grabbed one of my desk officers, the watch commander’s cruiser and off we went. From the time I left the station until we got into Ventura all sorts of things went through my head. With no radio contact to keep me briefed, it really sucked! From about a mile out I saw my first view of the worst I could imagine, a column of thick black smoke! When we finally reached the scene there it was, the suspect vehicle, upside down, burning. My officers were standing at the rear of their unit watching the fire department extinguish the fire.

I asked the officers if they were all right and they said, “Yes.”

Then, I wanted to know how the driver got killed and asked, “What happened?”

The officers explained the pursuit and how they had a tough time staying up with the vehicle, how finally the CHP spiked the bad guys tires, how it went out of control, went off the road into the grass field and how it rolled a couple of times.

ktla car crash w lapdCrap. I was getting ill just thinking of the s—t storm this was gonna cause and making notifications. I asked, “How many people were in the car?”

One of the officers pointed to the back seat of his unit and said, “Just him.”

JUST HIM, the guy handcuffed in the back seat of the cruiser, the guy who didn’t get seriously killed, the guy who crawled away from the burning car, THAT GUY?
I was so fixated on the burning car that I didn’t see the suspect seated in the police car just inches away from us.

The ride back to Rampart was wonderful.


The Lieutenant and the new watch commander’s car

When you hear a LAPD officer refer to a “shop” he is talking about a police car. Each car is issued a “shop number,” meaning repairs in the auto shop were generated using this number. If the Air Unit was working a call with you and he wanted to direct vehicles on the ground he referred to the last three numbers of the shop. For example, “Shop 592, cover the intersection,” etc. So, in 1992, in Rampart, the PM Watch Lieutenant was out and about in a brand-new Watch Commander’s car when Northeast units go in pursuit.

The lieutenant was not fond of pursuits and if the thing sounds even a bit askew, he would terminate it.

lapd heloBut this was Northeast, not Rampart, in the pursuit. The pursuit wound its way through the hills of Northeast heading toward Rampart, so the lieutenant headed in that direction. The road narrowed and the lieutenant saw the air unit. He realized that the observer in the air unit was screaming, “Shop 592, the pursuit is coming at you; Shop 592, the suspect vehicle is approaching you, “Shop………………” Well, guess who driving shop 592? Yup, the lieutenant. He terminated the pursuit with a classic TC (traffic collision)!

Guess he hadn’t noticed the shop number of his “new” cruiser. For the next few days he wasn’t moving around the watch commander’s office as fast as he used to.



Roll Call

Roll Call: LAPD’s First PIT Maneuver

By Mikey, Retired LAPD

During 2005, the department was training its officers on the Pursuit Intervention Technique or PIT maneuver. [The link here is for a recent PIT incident in LA. Looks to me ike the agency is primarily CHP with other agencies backing up. This is a 12+ minute video. The most illustrative moments are in the first 2 minutes. The rest of the video is interesting because it shows perfect police procedure for removing suspects from a vehicle.–Thonie]


The PIT was to be performed at speeds below 35 MPH and other rules and procedures were in cooperated in the pursuit training/policy. So, by May 21, 2005 there were a number of field supervisors and officers PIT qualified. Saturday, May 21, 2005 at 0100 Air 11, our Central Bureau air support reported the CHP in a low speed pursuit of a stolen vehicle leaving the freeway and entering Hollywood Area. I was the Assistant Watch Commander to my partner Don who was the Watch Commander. The CHP was asking the LAPD to take over the pursuit and as they were in Hollywood. That meant us.


The suspects attempted to run over a CHP officer and ram a CHP cruiser so these guys were crazy but not playing around. To really push the pursuing officers into the pissed-off spring-loaded position, the suspects would stop, then take off, stop get out of their vehicle and do vulgar things with their fingers and back side. You figure it out. As Hollywood units began to follow the stolen vehicle, the suspects pulled the same nonsense. One of the pursuing units asked permission to utilize the PIT maneuver. Reported speeds were never more than 25 MPH so the suspects met the first PIT criteria.

Now, I had just attended PIT and were told that to perform a PIT, the primary, secondary and third had to be driven by PIT qualified drivers. Then, and field supervisor also had to be PIT qualified. So, Don, not having gone through the school, handed the reins over to me.

One of the pursuing units broadcasted that there were two air units above the pursuit and stated he thought it was a news helicopter in addition to Air 11. I was the guy who was going to give permission for the PIT to occur so the with the aid of the air unit, I jockeyed the pursuit package into position. After what seemed an exhaustive period, we got all the players in their places and I gave the supervisor on scene permission to coordinate the PIT with the pursuing units. I told Don the pursuit was heading our way and we jumped into the Watch Commander’s vehicle and proceeded to intercept the package near the station. Everyone was doing their jobs. The air unit was coaching the officers on the ground to keep their units tight (all three) as the primary unit executed the PIT, he would pass the spun-around suspect vehicle and cars 2 and 3 would box in the bad guys. The primary would make a U-turn and complete the box.

The PIT went according to plan and high fives were being passed all around when I heard from the mystery helicopter, incidentally, one of ours. I heard Staff—-, a high-ranking department brass someone say, “Keep all of your assets there, I will be responding to your location in twenty minutes.” 

So now we are scratching our heads wonder who is responding and why? We were standing in the intersection of Argyle Street and Selma Avenue. I was surrounded by “my assets” when we observe a staff car pull up and the driver exit and begin walking toward our group. I then recognize Deputy Chief H and realize that I am standing by-my-self as my “assets” have withdrawn from my part of the street. 

“Hi Mike,” he says.

I respond, “SIR.” 

“Who authorized this PIT?” 

I replied, “I did, sir.” 

“I don’t recall it being OK’d to begin its deployment.” 

So, I told him how at PIT school it was “when you do this, you gotta do that, when you do that, this will happen and when that happens, all will be good and when all is good you will be impressed, have fun.” Nothing was said to the effect of a starting date, time, month, year, NADA! 

“So, sir, I took the initiative when I saw and heard that we were in policy. If anyone needed a PIT, it was these guys.”

His response; “I’m a Deputy Chief, I like what I see, good job.”

Then my “assets” quickly rejoined the Chief and me on my part of the street. That is when I realized Hollywood had performed the first LAPD PIT. We were so consumed with getting these guys and doing it right. As is always the case, we went for the fastest remedy and the PIT was that remedy. 

Two weeks later, I received a call from a watch commander friend of mine working the Valley. His division had just performed a PIT and he wanted to take claim as being the first LAPD patrol division to have employed the maneuver—until he found out about Hollywood Patrol.

Second ain’t bad; ask Buzz Aldrin.


The Call Box

The Call Box: Where Were You?

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

This is a particularly moving story. You might have heard of The Onion Field, the movie or Joseph Wambaugh’s book. For those of you who don’t know, this incident was a game changer in law enforcement, as the reflection (see “kidnapping…”) link below will illustrate.

Some dates and incidents never leave us. March 10, 1963 is just such a date.

I was a uniformed sergeant working morning watch at 77th street division. The other sergeant on the watch is downtown or somewhere out of the division on business. The watch commander, an elderly lieutenant nearing retirement, just announced he is taking code 7(meal break) and left. I am doing what junior sergeants do: scut work—checking tickets, logs, reports, etc., etc. It is several hours past midnight on a Sunday morning after a typical Saturday night in the busiest division in the city. But things have since quieted down.


The drunks in the jail across the hall have finally gone to sleep and the sound of snoring can be faintly heard. The police radio is a quiet hum in the background. The reverie was broken with, “12A—”, officer involved shooting; 214 E. Manchester. Suspect down, request supervisor, code 2 (no lights, no siren, observe traffic laws, but get there quick).”  On the way out I told the desk officer he had been promoted to temporary watch commander. 


robberyThe scene was a small all night café, the only business open for blocks. A male, obviously deceased, lay in a supine position on the sidewalk, handgun nearby. The officers Art Flores and Rex Lucy, both good solid young “tigers,” tell me they were driving by the location and spotted a parked vehicle with a white towel covering the rear plate. They parked to obstruct the vehicles quick departure, looked through the café window and saw every officers “dream,” a stickup man, gun in hand, holding up the cashier. 

 They took up positions to avoid possible crossfire and confronted the bandit when he stepped out of the door, gun in hand.

He made a poor decision and immediately paid for it.

Procedure at that time was detectives were summoned, in this case Detective Headquarters Division (D.H.Q.) and the lab for photos/prints/schematics or whatever. The radio operator advised me “no one was available.” This had never happened to me before and I was puzzled. It took several hours to roust people out of bed to come to the scene.

a-lapd-onion-field-officersBack at the station, after several calls, I found out everyone had gone to a farmer’s field in Kern County near Bakersfield to handle the kidnapping of two Hollywood officers and the murder of one. While investigating two robbery suspects, Officers Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger had been taken at gun point to the field where Campbell was murdered. The suspects, Jimmy Lee Smith and Gregory Ulis Powell, panicked when Hettinger escaped into the darkness where he made his way to a farmhouse and raised the alarm. Powell drove off stranding Smith. While Powell was enroute back to LA, a California Highway Patrol (C.H.P.) unit heard the broadcast. The C.H.P. unit assumed correctly that Powell would head south. The C.H.P. unit drove at breakneck speed toward Interstate 5. 


Now, I have no idea how many vehicles pass at any given point on Highway 5, every 24 hours but it is the main north/south artery for the state of California. As the C.H.P. unit entered 5 southbound, they found themselves directly behind Powell. Smith was arrested the next day in Bakersfield.


I did not know either Campbell or Hettinger (both former Marines) but it left a very deep and lasting impression on me and, of course, the department. As I said, some things don’t go away.

Semper Fi



The Call Box

The Call Box: More Deuces Wild

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

I am now three years older and smarter (?) and working Vice with my regular partner, Frank Isbell. We find ourselves behind Hollywood’s exaggerated version of a deuce: curb to curb, then on the sidewalk, slowly through a red light then stops on green where he immediately falls asleep. Needless to say, working Vice, we are “dressed down” trying not to look “cop-like.” Our car however, is the cheapest version made and wouldn’t fool a child. Yet, it fooled the deuce.

We really, really didn’t want to get involved here but you do what you gotta do. Out of the car, he is a friendly and happy drunk. He asked who we were and when told, asked, “Are you sure?”

When asked to walk the line, he got to the end and took off running, yelling for help. With him in the back seat, we pulled into the station parking lot and he asked where we were going. When told it was the police station, he asked, “Are you sure?”

We walked into the watch commander’s office to get booking approval and he told the sergeant he didn’t think we were really the police and he was being kidnapped.

jailBy now, Frank and I realize we have not only a happy drunk but also a funny one. In the small holding jail, he got serious and asked me, please, not to book him for 502 V.C. (Drunk Driving) as he had several priors. I promised I wouldn’t but told him he was being booked for 23102 V.C. I didn’t, however, tell him the vehicle code had been completely re-written. 502 had become 23102.

Then he asked the jailer who he was. His response to the jailer was, “Are you sure?”

The Call Box

The Call Box: Watch Commander Primer

Ed’s newest post serves several purposes: it helps writers and civilians understand the police hierarchy. For cops, it teaches new Watch Commanders what is expected of them, reminds more senior Watch Commanders of their responsibilities and maybe even illuminates (to field units) the rocky road that Watch Commanders face. Maybe it will give, as Ed said in a much earlier post, perspective. –Thonie

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Watch Commander-The term is not unique to the police. With the accent on the first word, to those in the cop business, no introduction is necessary. To the uninitiated, this will be a primer. “Watch commander” has a militaristic sound to it; “the commander of the watch” brings to mind the quarterdeck of a British frigate or man-o-war, or medieval castle and the changing of the guard.


In cop speak, a “watch” is what the civilians would call a “shift.” In the military, it is “standing a watch.” The police usually have three watches: day, night (I knew it as “swing shift”), and morning, aka; graveyard.


Using logic, the person in charge of said watch is the watch commander, herein after known as the WC. The position is usually filled by a lieutenant or senior sergeant. The term is used throughout the department; however, we will confine this essay to patrol, the people in uniform.


The average big city, for police purposes, divides itself along geographical lines, known as divisions, areas or, zones. Precincts is the popular east coast terminology. Let’s use L.A. divisions for our example.


Each division is carefully laid out and can contain hundreds of thousands of residents, business, etc. Each division has a police station, housing patrol, detectives, traffic, juvenile and what have you.


The uniforms (patrol) are divided by need (usually determined by activity level like calls for service, on view events, etc.) among the three watches and are mostly assigned to “radio cars” aka: black and whites or in some cases to foot beats. (We can consider motors, mounted, K-9 and other specialties, too.)


The average division has a captain as a commanding officer. This is one rank above lieutenant. He/she usually works days and very rarely is concerned with day-to-day police activities. He/she is basically an “administrator” more concerned with the “overall picture” and community relations.


So, with that out of the way, what does the WC do? Who is he/she? What are the duties and responsibilities of the WC?


Hopefully he/she has a solid background with ample field experience to handle any situation. Too often we have seen the “book” supervisors with minimum field time, a staff job, then study, study, and now they have the bars. Some do well and some are in over their heads. That is the time when the people who “run” any organization, be it USMC or LAPD come to the fore.


If the WC has good sergeants, he will have an easier task. Good supervisors can handle most field situations and do it without putting their foot on the necks of the officers.


The WC should be paternal, but authoritative, approachable, informal, but never, ever overly friendly. The WC must be able to make decisions not only calmly but also in times of stress. The WC must never appear indecisive.


The WC is responsible for the health safety and well-being of everyone in his/her division. He/she is also responsible for crime suppression, officer/supervisor training, discipline, traffic, disasters—natural and manmade, citizen complaints, special events, public relations and on and on and on. Whatever happens it’s yours.


In the off hours, the WC is the senior officer on duty and is in effect, a “mini chief of police.”


lapd-lieutenantA sobering thought: think of any and all disasters, riots, plane crashes, fires, floods, mass murders, etc. And think, somewhere there was a WC who had to stand up and do the “right thing.”


I have told you of the things the WC should do, and should not do, but I believe the number one responsibility should be, above all else—


Take care of your troops.


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