By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD
In 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.
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.