Off Duty Jobs, part 1


Off duty jobs part 1

The following story is true. It is based on fact, but also the fading memory of a retired member of the finest police department in the world.  I’ll give you a little background on myself so you can better understand a cop’s desire to work off duty jobs.


In 1970, I was delivering produce to restaurants, caterers & convalescent homes for $2.25 an hour.  I was married and with my wife’s income we paid our rent on time and made enough to eat.  I had ambitions to be a police officer since high school and I even worked for a cop at a hamburger stand for a few years.  Two days after my 21st birthday, I applied to the LAPD and was given an October 5, 1970 appointment date.  Starting pay was a whopping $842 a month.  That came out to $5.26 an hour.  I remember saying to my wife what are we going to do with “all that money!” 


While in the academy I received my first pay check.  I suddenly realized that all those cards they had us sign the first day were payroll deductions.  There was 7% taken out for my pension, the Federal and State wanted a share.  Then there was health, dental and life Insurance, charity contributions and who knows what else.  Lack of “all that money” helped us decide to take better care of our older car and renew my wife’s bus pass.  It’s a well-known fact that cops are rich in benefits but poor in the wallet.  Cops are not paid cash for overtime, get no Christmas bonuses, and pay raises barely cover inflation.  We had to buy our own uniforms and if your child needs braces, or your wife wants to see Hawaii, you work off duty jobs. 


The New Centurions movie
The New Centurions movie

I was still on probation when our class D.I. informed me that they were going to make a film at the Police Academy and they needed extras for background shots.  The extras had to look like recruits and have their academy uniforms.  They were going to pay us for three days of standing around, running and doing PT on the baseball fields.  They even had us “Hit the Hill.”  Only old time cops will remember hitting the hill. They even had Bob Jarvis in the movie, he is a legendary instructor at the academy.  The movie was the “New Centurions” starring George C. Scott, Stacy Keach and Eric Estrada.


I showed up and learn that making a movie is slower than watching an opossum try to cross the street.  After 3 days I’ve come to the conclusion that movie stars aren’t that special but they do eat well and a lot.  Much later the movie is released and we all went to the theater to see if we were on the big silver screen, or on the editor’s cutting room floor.  To answer your question, yes, I’m in the movie.  You just have to know where to look and remember that I was 21 years old, had hair, and was a slim fighting machine.


After that I worked off duty jobs at the Hollywood Bowl.  The Bowl hired cops to stand on the streets surrounding the hills to discourage kids from sneaking into the Bowl for free.  This was not a problem with the Philharmonic crowd, but in the 60’s & 70’s the Bowl booked rock groups.  The neighbors complained that kids were trampling their flowers.  For this I received $26.00 in cash.  The cash almost covered the cost of cleaning your uniform for the month, depending on how many fights you got into.


The Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl

I remember one night at the Hollywood Bowl, I was stationed on the bathroom roof, just outside the ticket gate.  A rock group was performing and kids kept trying to climb the hill behind the bathroom.  I’d already chased away a half dozen kids who wanted to get in for free.  The crowd was large and the line for the women’s bathroom was already out the door.  Women everywhere can relate.  I heard a commotion on the back hill.  I walked to the back and saw a young lady on the hill.  I told her to get back down but she pleaded that she was only going to pee.  I told her to get down, but she protested and said I could watch if I wanted.  Not for $26.00.


The jobs were few and far between.  I wasn’t going to see Hawaii unless I watched an episode of Huell Howser on TV.  Over the next 10 years I picked up a job here and there but certainly nothing that allowed me to buy a new car.


One of the more unusual jobs I got was to get off work at 7:00 AM drive to Van Nuys, pick up a movie cop car and drive it to Griffith Park for a Burger King commercial.  Then drive it back at noon, all for $50 cash.  Well, we got to Griffith Park and the director didn’t like the sun position.  He wanted to wait until the sun was setting in the west.  We negotiated that for all day we would get $100 cash.  We slept, played football with the crew and ate every few hours.  I got into a poker game with a well-known actor/environmentalist  and won $50.  Some of the cops lost the days wages.


I knew cops who worked movie jobs.  Filming for movie jobs usually run 12 to 18 hours a day.  Too much standing or sitting around for me.  I worked with one officer who showed up for work with a week’s change of clothes.  He finished his patrol shift and went to a movie job.  He would return to work his next patrol shift.  He bought a very nice house and fancy cars for his wife.  After a few years she divorced him and took everything.  He remarried and started working the movie jobs again.  Big house, fancy cars and another divorce.  I don’t know if he ever figured out the problem was that he was never home.


Others worked security for celebrities, some at the celebrity’s residence and others traveled around the world with them.  Both were time consuming and frowned on by the Department.  The Department had a rule that you could work no more than 20 hours off duty a week.  It was seldom enforced.  For my non-police friends, a little known fact was that to work off duty you had to fill out a work permit form.  The form listed who you worked for and what your duties were. The form had to be approved by the Department and there were restrictions on certain employers.  Cops couldn’t work for a bar or strip club, or for employers of questionable reputation.  That alone wiped out most of our elected officials.  Just kidding.


My next Ramblings, I’ll discuss my moving up to the big leagues of off duty employment.  Movie Premieres, celebrity events and private parties.  It also included higher pay.


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