BLACK AND WHITE TAXI COMPANY
By Harry Penny © 2002
FPK circa 1966
The department policy was two-man patrol units on the PM and EM shifts. Day shift was normally a one-man unit. However, after the Watts Riots in August of 1965 certain FPK units would be two-man units on day shift, especially in the Willowbrook area, which border Watts on three sides. On this particular day my partner and I were a two-man car: 16-Days.
We had spent a goodly amount of time taking reports, which was usually the case. In those days, if someone called into the station reporting any type of misdemeanor, and the complaint deputy could not handle it over the phone, a patrol unit would be dispatched. This included John Q. Citizen reporting his son’s bicycle being stolen, or reporting a found bicycle, Malicious Mischief, Vandalism or just about anything else. You get the idea, I’m sure.
We had just finished having some coffee at one of the many Fire Stations in our area. We had a good rapport with the firemen as policy was whenever a Fire engine was responding to a call, a Sheriff’s unit would automatically be dispatched. We would provide traffic/crowd control; take reports if the damage was over a certain monetary amount; and, in some cases, help them haul hoses if necessary. Many times there would only be three firemen on the fire truck and they would need help until others arrived.
This particular station was near the intersection of Redondo Beach Blvd. and Figueroa St. This particular intersection was a borderline of our area and that of LAPD’s 77th Division area.
We had just gone 10-8 and were headed back out to the streets when a call came out over the radio. “Firestone 16…Man down at the intersection of….” The dispatcher continued, giving us the location, which was about six blocks from our present location. It was not a code three call but still one of those calls where you were to respond as fast as prudently possible.
Enroute to the scene I observed an LAPD black and white leaving our area and heading West back into their area. This was not uncommon since our areas were adjacent. We arrived at the scene and observed a male individual lying underneath some bushes, and a whiskey bottle in his hand. Closer inspection—using the keen powers that all deputies at FPK possessed—plus a very strong alcoholic odor emanating from the vicinity of his person, and a loud, audible snore, enabled me to determine that the individual was intoxicated. No distress noted. Nosireee! This guy was drunk! Great. Just what we needed: Get tied up with an arrest, booking, and then another report. We were three reports behind and we were only two hours from end of watch.
I had heard stories, when I was in training, about LAPD bringing drunks into our area rather than arresting them and booking them. Some of the deputies who had received the call had just taken them back and put them in LAPD’s area. There was supposedly one occasion, I would later learn to be true, where they actually put the drunk in the back of a parked LAPD unit. Well, now…this seemed like the perfect opportunity. That LAPD unit had been in our area. Oh, yes…this opportunity was actually beckoning us to take advantage of the situation.
After quite some doing, we managed to get the subject somewhat conscious and awake and put him in the back of our radio car. A couple of blocks away were a restaurant where LAPD units would go Code-7. We headed in that direction. At this point I was silently wishing that our car could go faster than the speed of smell: This individual not only reeked of booze, but his sanitary habits had long been neglected.
As we passed by the restaurant I noticed an LAPD unit parked in the back. Another pass-by revealed two LAPD officers seated at a table and enjoying a meal. Yep, this was the time. We went around the block and came into the parking lot from the rear driveway, which was out of view from the aforementioned LAPD officers. LAPD and our department both had Plymouth vehicles and, in some cases, the keys could be manipulated to open the doors of the same type of vehicle. I was hoping that this would be the case. As luck would have it, I didn’t have to hope. They had apparently forgotten to lock one of the rear doors. Wasn’t that thoughtful?
We put the subject into the back seat of the LAPD unit. I told him that we had ordered “Black And White Taxi Company” and for him to go ahead and lie down and get some rest. Then, when the “Taxi” driver came back to the car, to just tell him where he wanted to go. He thanked us and assumed his horizontal position in the back seat. We got back in our car and left the same way we entered the parking lot. No sense in advertising that we were out of our area.
We drove across the street and parked away from corner, but where we could see the restaurant and the parking lot. My partner continued writing his reports while I Code-5’d the situation. About 20 minutes later the LAPD officers came out of the restaurant. One was lighting a cigarette and the other one was picking his teeth with a toothpick. They appeared to be in conversation as they approached their car. Neither of them even as much as glanced at the rear seat as they got into the car.
The car pulled out and was just approaching the intersection when the funniest sight appeared: The drunk arose from the back seat, reached forward and tapped the driver on the shoulder. The officers both turned their heads around so fast that it was a wonder they didn’t each get whiplash. The car came to an abrupt stop in the middle of the intersection. The red lights came on, both the driver’s door and the passenger’s door opened simultaneously, and two officers came out with their guns drawn and pointed at the drunk in the back seat.
As this was happening, cars were approaching the intersection and hitting their brakes to avoid the police car sitting askew in the middle of the intersection. My partner and I were laughing almost uncontrollably.
The older of the two officers took control of the situation. While his partner was handcuffing the suspect, the more senior officer started looking over in our direction. I turned on the red lights and tapped my horn. He apparently got my message and they put the drunk in the back seat of the car. About 15 minutes later I heard one of our North end units, possibly 12 or 12-A get a “Man down…possible 647f” . As the story goes, later I would learn that they had taken their drunk and conveniently put him in LAPD’s area. It was quite possible that the suspect would sober up by the time LASD and LAPD finished playing ping-pong with him.