Ramblings, Desk Duty, part 2 of 4–Fun in the Jail

By Hal Collier

Hal is a thirty-five year veteran of LAPD. We are pleased he is sharing his stories with us.



The following story is true. The names and the stories are to the best of my memory. This is the second of four parts of working the Hollywood desk. The desk was next to the infamous Hollywood Jail. A door led from the desk to the jail. This made it easy for bailouts to leave and cops to get in on a fight. Sometimes when things were slow at the desk I’d walk into the jail to see what was going on. This leads up to my story of things you will never see on TV.


I would open the jail door and asked Fitzgerald, our grumpy jailer, “Hey, Fitz. Anything going on?” 


One day Fitz says, “Hey, go back in the misdemeanor section.”


I walk back and everyone is awake. It’s about 3:30 in the morning. I announce to no one in particular, “What’s going on?”


One of the guys in a cell says, “Hey officer, watch this guy.” He points to a cell. There’s a guy sitting alone in the cell. He is shirtless and his head is wet. He’s sitting on the cell floor, cross-legged, with his hands in a prayer motion in front of his face. 


I said to him, “Ok, show me what you got.”


He stands up, walks over to his toilet, firmly places his hands on the toilet bowl rim, and does a perfect handstand. I’m impressed. He lowers his head into the toilet bowl water, maintaining his handstand. The drag queen in the next cell reaches through the cell bars and flushes the toilet. Everyone cheers and the man stands up, returns to his sitting position on the cell floor.


flushing toiletI congratulate him on his strength, poise, and balance, then ask him, “Can you do it again?” Without a word, he returns to the toilet and completes the above described task. I give him a 9.7. I deducted some points when I saw a little wobble on the handstand.


Only in Hollywood.


I show up for work one night after spending the whole day in court. My plan is to leave roll call and head to Pinks, because I haven’t eaten since the day before. Back in the old days our vending machines only contained candy bars and peanuts left over from the ‘65 riots. In roll call, I’m informed I’m assigned to the desk. I’m starving and they didn’t make food runs for the desk officers in the old days. 


About 3 A.M. I poke my head in the jail and ask Fitz if he would put an extra jail breakfast in the oven for me. All arrestee’s are fed three times a day. The meals are similar to a TV dinner, kept in a freezer, and cooked in a large oven. The breakfast meal consisted of a small sausage patty and a slice of French toast and something resembling eggs. Trust me these were nothing like the Swanson TV dinners you had in the 50’s and 60’s. They served it with coffee, not Starbucks, but some instant coffee made with warm water from the tap. The coffee foamed up when you poured the water in. 


Jail mealFitz tells me my breakfast is ready. Two bites and I understand cruel and unusual punishment. I was always taught to never leave food on your plate but I did that day. I rushed home and had a bowl of cereal with my kids while watching cartoons. Never again was I tempted to eat jail food. 


I worked with an old timer at the desk, Gerst, who lived in his car with his dog. Yea, he was a cop and I think he had the first dollar he ever made. I’m not saying Gerst was cheap but I think he considered underwear a frivolous luxury. He would go around the jail and gather up the uneaten food. He said it was for his dog, but I wasn’t sure. I felt sorry for the dog.


Once a woman came into the station to pick up her juvenile grandson. He was in a holding tank, yelling, and screaming about how he was picked on because he was black. He was going to sue everyone. The arresting officers wanted to kick his butt but remained professional. His descriptions of police officers would make a sailor blush. 


His grandmother and guardian, a polite Southern woman, heard him yelling and asked if we would release him now. Her grandson walked out into the lobby. He was about a foot taller than his her. Grandma promptly slapped him across the face and said, “Nigger, shut the f–k up.” She then apologized to the officers and grabbed her grandson by the ear. She led him out the lobby doors, still holding on to his ear saying, “Just wait until I get your black ass home.” As she walked him to her car, she was kicking him in the butt every few steps. I was glad she didn’t live in Hollywood. I know there was a child abuse call about to occur. It brightened everyone’s day at the desk.  


Old lady on phoneMrs. Croft used to call the desk all the time. I never met her in person but it was obvious she was lonely. If I had the time, I would talk to her. After a while, she would ask for me by name. Once she promised to buy me and my wife a new Cadillac. I knew that wasn’t going to happen because she lived in a flop motel on Western. She was nice, just down on her luck.


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