By Hal Collier, LAPD, Retired
Hal is a thirty-five year veteran of LAPD. We are pleased he is sharing his stories with us.
I’ve often said a bored cop is a dangerous cop! We’re used to living on the edge, adrenaline coursing through our veins—oh, I can’t believe I wrote that crap. We do have our moments but quite often we spend hours looking for something to do. Someone once described being a cop as hours of boredom followed by thirty seconds of sheer terror.
When the criminals, who really pay our salary, don’t cooperate, we invent our own entertainment. Have you ever left a puppy alone for a few hours and then wondered how he could get into so much trouble? Cops of any age are the same as puppies—entertain us or we’ll get into mischief. My apologies to dog owners everywhere.
I know you’re tired of hearing I worked Hollywood Division on the grave yard shift, the entertainment capital of the world. I’ll admit, most days it was the busiest division in the city of Los Angeles. Every so often, things got slow. Sometimes, it was due to the weather and sometimes, because of the misalignment of the planets. Heck, I don’t know, it just happens.
So you’ve spent a few hours looking for crime. You saw a car slowly moving down a residential street with its lights out. You stopped him and found it was the LA Times delivery man, again. That’s it. It’s too early to eat and we’ve already had six cups of coffee. Then one of you says, “Let’s do something fun!”
How cops amused themselves depended on where they worked and who it involved. You could amuse yourself, or involve other cops, or the citizens who think they pay your salary.
My experience in working different divisions was very limited. In a 35-year career I worked 33 1/2 years in Hollywood, and 15 months in Watts. I don’t know what officers in other divisions did for entertainment but I heard rumors. One famous story is two LAPD Officers drove to Las Vegas in the middle of the night and had their picture taken in front of Caesar’s Palace, police car and in uniform then drove back before end of watch (EOW).
Let’s start with amusing ourselves. Hollywood had a lot of interesting businesses. Ever heard of Frederick’s of Hollywood? Hey, had a large display window with scantily clothed mannequins. It was first light and what better way to end a slow night than check out the new window display. February was the best month, Valentine’s Day. One morning as we stopped in front of Frederick’s we saw this old homeless man admiring the display. He was intently looking at a mannequin that was lying on her side. As we watched, he pretended to stroke her ribs down to her thigh. We laughed but decided we didn’t want to watch what he was going to do next.
Another favorite spot was Trashy Lingerie on La Cienega. They also had nice window displays. The city even assisted us when they built wheel chair ramps so we could drive right up on the sidewalk to get a closer look.
In an earlier Ramblings I described how two cop cars raced from Sunset and Vine to Laurel Canyon and Mulholland. Why? To relieve the boredom. Another game I played was “Have you ever been on this street?” Randy Witkamp and I walked a foot beat on Hollywood Boulevard. We walked from 11:30 to about 5 A.M. After 5 AM even the prostitutes called it a night. We would grab a bite to eat then look for something to do. We’d both been in Hollywood for a long time and often found ourselves on obscure side streets. Some in Laurel Canyon were only dirt roads with one or two houses!
Whoever was driving would head up into the hills and find some small street and ask, “Have you ever been on this street. You got extra points if you remembered the house and the radio call you handled there.
Wild animals were always a nice diversion. We once caught an opossum and put it our Watch Commander’s patrol car. Another time I chased a coyote down the middle of the street with my police car. I probably saved a neighbor’s cat.
Sometimes we would watch a citizen run a red light and follow them for miles. We’d bet on how many times they would look in the rear view mirror. Loser had to buy breakfast. The expensive neighborhoods were the most fun. They were already thinking of all the important people they know to get out of a ticket. We never wrote them a ticket, just entertained ourselves.
Sunrise was always a treat when watched from above the Hollywood sign. It took a while to drive up there and involved opening and closing locked gates. If you had a partner new to Hollywood you gave them the tour of the division. I had a much better map of the stars home than they sold on street corners on Sunset. Another favorite was the Bronson Caves, better known as the Bat Cave in the Batman TV series.
Another treat was driving up to the Sunset Ranch Horse stables in Beachwood Canyon right at sunrise. Keying the radio microphone just as the rooster crows. The dispatchers always enjoyed that!
If you read any of my past Ramblings you’ve heard of the practical joke cops play on each other. Rocks in the hub caps, a snowball fight in the watch commander’s office. Pigeons in my police car! Dale Hickerson and I once screwed a cops tennis shoes to the bench in front of his locker. How about the time a patrol cop lined the detective’s desk drawer with a plastic trash bag and filled it with water?
Any stories from long boring graveyard shifts out there?