The Call Box

The Call Box: The Shallow End of the Gene Pool

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

Somewhere recently I read or heard the phrase, “It is the ignorant that keep us employed.” I laughed and then began to think about it. There really is a lot of truth contained in that thought.

I will grant you police work encompasses so much more than dealing with the “rocket scientists” of the world. But they really prove the old saying, “It was a battle of wits and he came unarmed.” 

Every officer has a collection of “dumb crook” stories. They even have their own TV show. We have all heard the tales of the bank robber writing the holdup note on the back of his parole papers or holding up a store where he is known. In Wilshire, we had a holdup man take down Sears, run out the front door, past the police station next door, and into the middle of change of watch.

“I didn’t know it was a police station. I thought it was an armory,” he said. With a parking lot full of black and white cars?

But these people do supply us with an endless supply of stories and are an important outlet. Comic relief so to speak.

Here then, are several additions.


“The Predictable Bandit”

revolver-982973_960_720Working Metro, my partner Frank and I were directed to report to Robbery Division along with another team. They had a limited stakeout and needed two teams. The detective doing the briefing related the following:

A lone bandit had been hitting cabs and without provocation pistol whipping the drivers and, in several cases, causing serious injury. He had been working about once a week and had hit five times so far. He usually picked up the cab at or near the bus depot downtown and took them to one of two locations (you have to be kidding) either 32nd and Halldale (three times) or 27th and Denker twice. 

The detective concluded, “You know what to do and how to do it. Keep in mind he is armed with a revolver and is one vicious S.O.B. Decide between yourselves who goes where. Be careful and good luck.”  

We flipped, I won. He had done Halldale three times so is due at Denker. We took Denker.

It was a perfect spot to sit—a good spot to hide the car and plenty of cover. We wanted him out of the car and before he hit the driver.  We went over our signals and settled in to wait. We were like two kids awaiting Christmas morning. The anticipation was almost unbearable. It was every coppers’ dream. We had just been given a 50/50 chance of being handed an armed bandit. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Not thirty minutes later the radio tells us they got him at Halldale. Oh, so close, but no cigar, but that’s the way it goes; either chicken or feathers, but that one really hurt…


“The Somnambulant Burglar”


It was Metro custom to discuss successful assignments at the next roll call. We worked this one and had to listen to another team tell it.

We were staking out for a cat burglar who came in through the business sky lights. I believe it was in the downtown jewelry district.

He’d lower a rope ladder or knotted rope and was assumed to be very athletic. The toughest task was sitting in the dark and staying awake. 

Anyway, the lucky team heard the skylight being opened. Down comes the rope followed by Mr. Burglar. As he stepped off the rope the officers turned the lights on. 

Without missing a beat, he asked, “What time is it?”

They said he was so casual about the question they almost looked at their watches. He then claimed he was sleepwalking and used the same defense in court. No go.


Again, I defy anyone to tell me of any other job where you can meet the class of people we do and have nearly as much fun.



The Call Box

The Call Box: Working Robbery

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1In early 1965, I got an offer I couldn’t refuse. Not from Don Corleone but from Captain Ed Jokisch. I had been at Metro for five years, the last two as a sergeant—an absolute jewel of an assignment and one highly sought after. Now, however, I was offered a chance to not only work for probably the best detective commander on the job but to work robbery as well. The two “big dogs” in detective land are homicide and robbery. Now I had a chance to work robbery. This was not to be offered twice if turned down once.

Each division/station was home to not only patrol (uniforms) but to detectives as well. At that time, the L.A.P.D. had I believe 14 geographical divisions. I was to be assigned to Wilshire Division which is due west of downtown.

Wilshire was a fairly busy house, home to three robbery teams. I was to be a part of that crew.


Dwight Stevens and Richard L. Sullivan were the “’business robbery team.” Tom Ferry and Jim Nichols were “rolling business,” being cabs, buses, (yes, buses) Helms Bread trucks. Helms sold fresh baked goods door to door ringing their bell as they moved through the neighborhood, like the poor push-cart ice cream vendor (also a favorite target). I swear if there had been trains and stagecoaches, they would have hit them too.

Dale Brown “Brownie” and I rounded things out by working “street robbery,” which included purse snatchers, street toughs, muggers, hugger muggers (hookers), drunk rollers, pick-pockets and anything that did not fit any other category.


Papa Bear and Detectives cropped.jpg

The division was fairly large and stretched from the edge of the downtown area west to the “silk stocking” district—poverty to fabulous wealth. Mom and pops to Saks, I. Magnin and Perinos on the miracle mile.


Captain Jokisch was a no nonsense WWII veteran, a Navy chief petty officer, who did not suffer fools gladly and passed out compliments like they were gold nuggets. “You did okay there,” was considered high praise. To his face he was Boss, Skipper or Captain. In our little world, he was “Papa Bear.”

As I have said before, the TV detectives have CEO size offices. In our 19th century building we were (all six of us) crammed into a room, approximately 8’ x 10’ (I may be overly generous with my fading memory). One long table, four phones, 2 or 3 file cabinets and one antique manual typewriter. The standing joke was, “it was so small that if you wanted to change your mind, you had to step outside.” We were separated from the even smaller homicide room by an opaque glass partition ending several feet from the ceiling.

Arrestees that came in overnight were parceled out to the various teams and interviewed as early as possible to determine charges, if any, and whether they merited further investigation. The overnight crime reports were read also to decide future action.

Standing between us and the captain, was our immediate supervisor, Lieutenant Bob “Red Jet” Helder. I’d known him for years; he was laid back and great to work for. “I don’t like to be surprised. Make sure I’m not and you will never know I’m here.”

A good number of our cases contained little or nothing considered useful in follow up. We did re interviews on cases with vague or worthless descriptions if for no other reason than to placate our victims. Maybe—just maybe—we’d come up with something. When we got that something to “run with” we were all over it. We loved slamming the door on the type of bad guy we dealt with. Many our victims were older, defenseless people, some treated badly by the suspects.

These people were our clients and we took satisfaction in bagging another bad guy. We stayed busy since the only thing we had more of than victims was crooks. We handled so many bodies (arrestees) and cases it seemed we lived in court. 10-12 even 14 hour days were not uncommon.

I worked with Brownie for two and a half years and look back with pride and satisfaction. I worked for Papa Bear for two and a half years and got a couple of “You did okay there’s.” I worked Wilshire robbery for two and a half years and never heard judge nor jury say, “not guilty.”

A I have said before, police work is intangible and you have to take pride in what you do. I worked Wilshire robbery until I promoted out. Did I make a difference?

I like to think so.

This column is dedicated to all the names mentioned above.

All good friends, all good men and all gone to soon.

Roll Call

Roll Call: The Mexican Restaurant Robbers and Sarge

By Mikey, Retired LAPD
The LAPD has many specialized units that do some pretty spectacular things. With few exceptions, the officers who work these units all started in patrol, the back bone of the department. Wilshire Division is in the mid-city part of Los Angeles and I had the opportunity to work patrol as a police officer and as a supervisor. During that time as patrol officer, my rank was Senior Lead Officer. These officers have two stripes and a star and are responsible for the running of a basic car. They can choose their watch (shift) to work. My basic car was 7A33, and it goes like this:
7= Wilshire, each division has their own number, A=two officer patrol unit, 33= the patrol beat.
Located near 7A33 on Western Avenue was a very good Mexican Restaurant that was well visited and always crowded. Reports started to come in that folks who parked on the streets were being robbed at their vehicles after their stay at the restaurant. It didn’t take long to figure out that someone inside the restaurant was sizing up “victims” for the robbery suspects outside. Those who flashed cash, bright jewelry or just looked like they were worth something got a visit at their cars.
It got so bad that even “extra patrol” did not deter the crimes. So, the specialized units were called in to supplement Wilshire’s patrol units. Try as they might, the robbers alluded the department’s efforts to capture them and the robberies continued. One evening, Wilshire units received a call that a victim had been shot and killed on a street near the restaurant. The victim was laying on his back, his pants pockets pulled out as if he had been showing the robbers that he had nothing to offer them. The weapon used was a shot gun. If these were the Mexican restaurant robbers, their MO had just changed.
I mentioned this to the homicide detectives and that would have been all had my watch commander not followed up with a phone call to my home. It was a Saturday and I was off when at about 11am he called me and asked if I had been drinking. I said, “It’s 11 o’clock in the morning Sarge.”
He asked the question again and I told him no. He said he wanted me to come in and work the restaurant robbery problem. Seriously? He was serious so I asked that he call my partner and I would be at the station at 1700. In the locker room, Nick, my partner and I were talking about the sergeant’s phone call. Nick asked if Sarge had asked me the “drinking” question. In the cruiser, without any real plan, we began cruising the area of the restaurant. At about 1830, communications instructed us to call the Watch Commander so we stopped at the nearest call box and phoned the station.
Sarge answered the phone and asked what we were doing.
I said, “Looking for the 211 suspects.”
“Then why am I talking to two robbery victims from the restaurant?” Oh crap!
The victims told us the suspects were last seen in a late model black Mustang or Cougar and the suspects had used a shot gun. It was summer and we still had some daylight left so Nick and I went out again this time with suspect and vehicle description. If there is a patrol patron saint, the saint was riding with Nick and me this day. We were west bound Pico Boulevard at Saint Andrews Place when I looked south on St. Andrews and saw a black Mustang or Cougar northbound approaching Pico.
They saw us. I made a U-turn, waiting for the vehicle to arrive at Pico. At the time I felt the vehicle should have arrived, nothing happened! I drove to St. Andrews and saw the vehicle heading south, away from us at a high rate of speed. I lit the roof up and saw the vehicle turn west onto 15th Street. Turning west onto 15th Street, we saw the vehicle come to rest in a front yard on the south side of the street. The doors stood open—the occupants had bailed before the car came to rest on the lawn. Looking around for any evidence of where the suspects had fled, we observed an elderly couple sitting on their porch.  Rocking back and forth in his chair, the man “gently” pointed at a house and shook his head up and down.  Additional units arrived and after several minutes, we located one suspect. With the assistance of a K-9, the second suspect was located a short distance away.
So, on the way back to the station I’m thinking, “How the heck did Sarge know, think, feel, this was gonna happen. HOW?”
After securing the suspects on the holding bench, I went into the watch commander’s office. There was Sarge, feet on his desk, smoking his pipe. Before I could say anything, he said, “I was right there and heard it. What took you so long?”
I asked him the how and why questions and all he did was shrug his shoulders. Go figure.
Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Lost on Loan, part 3

By Hal Collier, retired LAPD

In my last Ramblings, I couldn’t find another officer who needed help when I was on loan to another division. This time I got lost looking for a whole police station. In November of 1980, Sarai Ribicoff, niece of US Senator Abraham Ribicoff was shot and killed during a street robbery in front of a restaurant in Venice Division. Sarai was also an editor for the LA Herald Examiner newspaper, so the murder was carried on the news for weeks.


A few weeks later, nine employees and two customers at a Bob’s Big Boy in West LA Division were herded into a walk-in freezer and shot-gunned during a robbery. Three died and several others were wounded. These all occurred in LAPD’s West Bureau which included West LA, Venice, Wilshire, and my Hollywood division.


Due to the continuing publicity, the West Bureau Deputy Chief formed a special squad of cops who were handpicked to combat the senseless crimes. They picked two officers from the four Bureau divisions and two other officers to even out the squad. 

I was one of the officers from Hollywood. 

We were to be called the Operation West Bureau (OWB) Violent Crime Task Force or OWB-VCTF. We were strictly plain clothes. Haircuts were optional as well as shaving. We kind of looked like the dirt bags we were hunting.

I’ll go into more detail of the OWB-VCTF in a later Ramblings.


So here we are working the four divisions of West Bureau. I’m again out of my comfort zone, except when we worked Hollywood. A couple of times we were assigned to work with Narcotics Division on Buy Bust operations. The Venice boardwalk was a prime location for buying drugs.

“Prime” means easy.


This particular Saturday, we were looking for bad guys. We had a female officer with us. She was wearing roller skates, as was common among the locals on the boardwalk. We weren’t supposed to buy narcotics but it was hard to resist an easy arrest. She made a buy and we sat the dope dealer in the back seat of the plain car I was driving. I headed to Venice Station when I realized I’ve never been there before. I asked my partner, “Do you know where Venice Station is?”

He was also an old-time Hollywood cop.  He said, “No.”


Our arrestee said, “Geez I got arrested by a couple of rookies.” I tried to tell him we were handpicked but he just laughed. Then in a sarcastic voice he told us the directions to the station.

We were embarrassed but never told this story until now! 



Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Driving, part 1 of probably 3


Hal’s post for today is also on my updated website under “Just the Facts, Ma’am.” For now the photos aren’t posted but will be soon. Please bear with me during this transition to my website from Wordpress blog.

Thanks, Thonie 

by Hal Collier

Think back to your youth. To some of us that will be a longer reach. Your hormones are racing and you wonder how your parents have survived knowing so little about the real world. You’re about to learn how to drive. You’re good at home for at least a few weeks before you ask mom if your can get a learner’s permit from DMV.


You get a permit and pester mom or dad to teach you to drive. It’s amazing how old dad got in six months while you drove in parking lots with no cars and on back streets. You finally get a license to drive. Mom will never sleep well again and dad seems to drink a little more beer at night after a lesson.


imagesP2HPK037Flash forward to the day you graduate from the police academy and hit the streets. You’re a rookie and although you have passed an academy approved driving course, in the real world of police work you don’t know how to drive. If you get to drive a real black and white police car (B/W) it’s only to gas it up or have the garage wash your cruiser.


I’ll never forget my first time! I’m still in the academy, but in the fourth month, they sent you out into the field for a few days to get a taste of real police work. That means you actually put bullets in your gun and most citizens don’t know that you’re a rookie.


On my first day, I show up at Rampart station looking good. I’m assigned to ride along with a Senior Lead Officer (Community Relations Officer). He’s what I later referred to as a slug. We spend the first two hours running off fliers for a neighborhood watch meeting. I got a paper cut but decided not to tell my academy classmates I was injured on duty.


We spent another hours following catering trucks to high-rise buildings on Wilshire Boulevard. That was so he could hit on office secretaries. We ate lunch at a dive restaurant only because the meal was half price.

An LAPD no no!


After lunch, we’re driving down Wilshire Boulevard and my partner pulls over to the curb. He looks at me and says, “Get Out.” Oh crap, what have I done? He tells me I’m driving. Holy crap. I remind him I’m still in the academy; he laughs and tells me to drive. Cool. I get in and adjust the mirrors, seat, and cinch the seat belt down tight. I’m ready. I ask, “Where do you want me to drive?” He replies anywhere as long as it’s up and down Wilshire Boulevard real slow so I can look at the girls! I swore that I would never be that kind of a cop. He was later fired for using crime statistics to promote his own alarm business.


There are reasons that new officers don’t get to drive and I’m going to tell you some of them. The most important is survival! Every cop wants to go home at the end of his shift. The driver of a B/W often holds the life of both officers in his hands. An inexperienced driver can get both officers killed as well as innocent citizens. Trust me, there’s no glory in dying in a car crash that was your fault. police foundtn dev dr trng trackCops, especially young cops seem to have an invincible attitude or “that’s not going to happen to me.” You have to attend a few police officer funerals to see that you’re not Superman. There is no bigger shock than looking down at a dead police officer in his uniform in a casket. I made my probationers go to at least one cop funeral for that reason alone. Cops have a tendency to want to be the first on scene at a major incident so we drive faster and take more chances. Only with experience do we slow down. Having a family also helps.


After graduation, I’m sent to Hollywood Division, the “Entertainment Capital of the World.” I’m pretty proud: we’re driving down Hollywood Boulevard, it’s a Saturday night and the streets are packed. I even have bullets in my gun. I’m perfectly happy to be the passengerfor a while.


Next I’ll describe why rookies shouldn’t drive until they have out grown those academy t-shirts.  


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