By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD
Also assigned to nights was a three-man prostitution squad, of which my old partner Frank Isbell, was the newest member. Whatever they were called, ladies of the evening, soiled doves, or my favorite, fallen angels, they were simply targets for the Hooker Squad. As conspicuous goes, they were the ultimate. They generated almost daily citizen complaints and no matter how many we busted, they proliferated. There were several small pockets around the division but the main attraction was Western Avenue from Adams south to Jefferson. This six block area supported 12-15 sporting girls each and every night. Sadly, this was “Sugar Hill” my old radio car beat.
Watching the cop shows on TV these days, the vice squad procures two or more hotel/motel rooms. One is the “command post,” the other is wired for sound and video. You would think they were after a Russian spy, not some street-walker. I’m sure they would find our method “quaint” and overly simplistic.
Using our own cars (no special insurance or waiver of liability), we drove up to the corner. When she approached, we waited for the magic phrase, “sex in exchange for money or something of value.” usually money of course. The pitch was usually street slang but the meaning was clear. After a short bargaining session to lend credibility, she got into the car and we said our magic phrase, “You are under arrest.” We drove them to a nearby location where the paddy wagon was parked, unloaded, and went back for more. It was all verbal, no witness, no fancy recording. It was all “He said, she said.”
Mostly to amuse ourselves, I suppose, we sometimes donned disguises. I had a white lab coat with stethoscope around my neck and a head mirror on. Now for those of you too young to know: it was a chrome disc on the forehead by means of a black strap. Doctors used to direct reflected light to a specific area. Some ENTs (Ear, Nose, and Throat docs) still use them.
Now to think, would a doctor wear one in the car? Well, I suppose it lent an air of familiarity. She even called me doctor.
One night, I got third in line behind two real tricks. She turned them both down and got in with me. When I busted her she said, “Damn. I turned down two live ones and get in with you. I look in and see them long legs, blue jeans, cowboy boots and hat and think I got me a date with “Cheyenne.” Actor Clint Walker played Cheyenne Bodie on a popular TV show then running. The ladies were usually cooperative when hearing the magic words and very, very seldom ran or resisted. There were exceptions. One of our ladies threw a milkshake in Frank’s face. Part of it hit the inside driver’s window, running down inside the door panel and shorting out the electric windows. Another of our guys had his jaw broken when slugged by a Good Samaritan who saw the arrest and thought the lady was being kidnapped.