By Hal Collier
Ah, the computer age! Most people my age were dragged into the computer age kicking and screaming. We used telephones with wires attached to the wall and rotary dials, in some cases with a party line. We watched TV and got the signal from an antenna on the roof. TV was only in one room and you watched what your father watched. If the channel needed changing the youngest member of the household got up and turned the dial, which was me. Later you could listen to the radio on something called a transistor radio. Life was good.
I didn’t own anything close to a computer when I joined the Los Angeles Police Department in 1970. I believe that computers back then were the size of a Volkswagen. I breezed through the 5 months of the police academy.
Ha, some said that the Marine Corps boot camp was easier than the police academy. Any way, you graduate and go to your division and your first day or maybe second you make an arrest. Your partner says run our suspect for warrants and get his Rap Sheet (arrest record).
In the real old days, you picked up the can with the string and called R&I (Records & Identification) and you gave them the personal information that your lying suspect gave you: Name, DOB, Social Security #, AKA’s. The lovely lady on the other end of the string would hand search and pull your arrestee’s rap sheet. She would then tell you if your arrestee had any outstanding warrants. Later they installed computers in station records and you could check for yourself. All you had to do was learn how to use the computer!
As I said, I’m not the most tech guy to evolve. Hell, I didn’t get a cell phone until the late 90’s, long after they were the size of a brick.I believe the phrase “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man how to catch fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Well I got a sweet record clerk to teach me how to run my own suspects for their Rap Sheet. After a while, I got good. Later I was teaching other officers including my probationers. After that, computers improved where you didn’t have to have warrants teletyped to the station on an antique machine developed during WW II. They called me a dinosaur!
After years, you’d learn some tricks not only with the computer but with your suspects. When you arrest some lying dirt bag, you fill out a Field Interview (FI) card. It’s more important than you think. A simple question like, how do you spell your first name, Stephen or Steven? A simple misspelling can show no warrants. I once was filling out a FI card and asked my suspect to spell his last name. He couldn’t. I was always suspicious and knew this guy was lying. O of course he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Hey dummy, don’t make up a name you can’t spell! Another trick was to ask him his name and DOB 10 minutes later. He’ll forget what he told you the first time. Sometimes it was too easy.
Another trick: most Hispanics take both their fathers and mothers name. Example: Carlos Lopez Garcia, Lopez was his mother’s name and Garcia was his father’s name. Some misguided individuals would interchange mothers name and fathers name when getting a ticket or being arrested. I learned to check him for outstanding warrants using Lopez as a last name and then Garcia as a last name.
These tricks worked with some but it wasn’t foolproof. They also changed their date of birth (DOB) as often as a test pilot changes his underwear. I have arrested some individuals who had used dozens of DOB’s. If you thought you had a big fish, you ran your suspect with all his names and DOB’s. It was time consuming.
Another alternative was to fingerprint your suspect and drive downtown to Records & Identification, (R&I). You had a clerk classify the prints then hand search and compare your prints. Then you had to re-run your suspect for warrants. This sometimes took half your watch so you were very careful who you took down this long road.
Bill Barren and I were partners when the Watch Commander in roll call said first felony arrest goes home! Another variation of this was first gun goes home. So if you recovered a gun on a suspect after booking him you went home. Going home was cool but I was working morning watch and going home at 4 AM was not much of a thrill. The bars were closed, the Taco Trucks have closed up, and walking into your house early could get you shot by a nervous wife.
So Bill and I know a Transvestite, “Big Mama” who has a felony warrant. We know where “Big Mama, a 250 lb. transvestite, hangs out. We skip coffee and find “Big Mama” within 30 minutes. “Big Mama” had been around the block a few times. Ok, he’d had a street named after him. He had used a couple dozen names and DOB’s. It took Bill and I hours to find his felony warrant running all the names and DOB combinations. If we get him booked right away we’ll still get off a couple of hours early.
Not going to happen, “Big Mama” has some sort of medical condition. He needs to see a doctor and be booked downtown. We race downtown and get in line at the jail dispensary. Were number six in line behind two drunks and three motorcops who have DUI suspects. Another hour, and we get the “ok” to book “Big Mama”. “Big Mama” is placed in a cell and we head back to Hollywood. It’s been light outside for 2 hours and were not going home early.
Next I’ll describe some of the other tricks I used to get their real name and DOB. Hal