Hal’s post for today is also on my updated website thoniehevron.com 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.
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.
Flash 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.
Cops, 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 passenger—for a while.
Next I’ll describe why rookies shouldn’t drive until they have out grown those academy t-shirts.