BY HARRY PENNY
1,001 Log Entries for Rainy and Inclement Weather or…Things to put in your log to cover the time when you were having that extra cup of coffee.
Harry Penny© 2002
Firestone Station circa 1966
My favorite shift was the Early Morning (EM shift 2300 – 0700). But on this particular shift assignment I was working a day car, Firestone 18, in the south end just above North Long Beach. My partner was on vacation and so the Sergeant figured I should do a little time in Purgatory. Actually, it was the EM Acting Watch Sergeant R.O. Anderson, who put me on days this month. He had no sense of humor when it came to his brand new car. (That is another story, which I will tell later). I wasn’t particularly fond of the day watch at all; Burglary Reports up the wazoo, Petty Theft Reports, Stolen/Recovered Bicycle Reports, Malicious Mischief Reports and on and on and one. Yes, in those days we took reports on just about everything imaginable…unless we could “kiss it off” which was not as often as we would like. You could spend the whole day just going from one report call to another. Yep…Purgatory was a good name for day watch at Firestone.
It seemed that every burglar in the South end was working overtime the night before. I rolled out of the station with five “detail calls- handle in order” from the desk. Calls that would come in to the complaint deputy near the end of the previous shift would be held over for the oncoming shift and then be assigned after roll call and briefing. Usually, when we were checking out our shotguns and getting our keys for our vehicles, a call from the in-house station public address system would come out. Just as I got my keys to the car the voice came out loud and clear. “Firestone 18 see the desk for five calls”.
This was going to be a stubby-pencil-cramp-in-the fingers-day for me. All of them were 459-R (Burglary reports) and there would be more reports before the day was through.
I got in my car and made my way down to my beat. (For those of you not familiar with Southern California here is a quick lesson in geography: Distance is measure in time rather than in miles). For me, this was about 25 minutes from the station to my first call. I would pass two Winchell’s Donuts enroute and I could smell the cinnamon buns and hot coffee as I went past. But, being conscientious and squared away as I was, I prodded on through the traffic without any attempt to quickly pull in, grab one of each and go. I did see two of the other units there and knew that each of them was thinking of me while they were laughing.
The morning flew by. It was department policy to take all of the information in your personal field pocket notebook and then complete your report when you had time. This would minimize the amount of time you were out of service. After getting all of the information, obtaining a file number (anyone remember the Y and Z file numbers?) and giving the informant/victim the pertinent follow-up information you could theoretically (key word – theoretically) go park near any intersection and write your report. This was an attempt to have John Q. Public, who happened to be driving maybe a little fast or thinking about beating the light, take a different attitude by seeing a black and white on the corner. I opted to do mine Code -7 at the A&W Root Beer drive-in. Well, at least I was near an intersection.
In those days, grabbing something to eat was just that. Grabbing. Unlike LAPD who would be granted Code-7, we were constantly monitoring the radio. We worked straight 8 hour shifts and so there was no specific designation for Code 7. At best, if we were to go into a restaurant, we would radio in “Firestone 18, Code 6 (out for investigation) at station 23” for example. There were station designation numbers for various phone booths, restaurants, and other places where the were phone booths all over the area. Especially Winchells Donuts, and any Drive-in Restaurant in the area…and even into LAPD’s area, which we bordered. The list was on the desk with the station number and phone number. We did not have Walkie-talkies, or hand-held radios during this time. Our radio was in the car. Our choices were very limited: We either were listening to it or we were by a phone.
I was in the A&W at Carson and Avalon Blvds. I had additional reports so it seemed alright to me. From there I started heading toward the northern end of my beat and decided to stop in at Fire Station 95 and have a quick cup of coffee. Well, time got away from me. I looked at my watch and it was time to head back to the station. I had to gas up my patrol car, turn in my reports, and call it a day. Hopefully.
I was working my way up to the station and decided that I should put something in my log to show I was doing something important. As if having coffee with the firemen and “getting information” wasn’t important. So, one of the best log entries is to run a 10-29 on a vehicle. Stolen cars were abundant. I didn’t want to get into anything specific so I decided to just run a car that I saw in a driveway. No way that would be a stolen, but it sure looked good on the log.
I saw a late model Cadillac in the driveway of a house with a nicely trimmed front lawn. Yep…I’ll run this one. So I did. I jotted down the license number on my scratch pad and picked up the radio mike as I continued to drive on. This was the era of teletype. No computers in either the station or especially in the cars. The dispatcher would write down the license number, give it to another person who would enter the information on the Teletype and send it to Sacramento. If all was going good you could get your results in sometimes as little as ten minutes. If you were doing a “rolling- 29” -- actually following a suspicious vehicle-- that would be a different story. Usually.
Mine was just a regular 10-29. I kept on driving.
I was about six or seven blocks away when there were two “beeps” on the radio. That was an indication that something important was going to be coming out. I next heard the gravelly voice of the radio room Sergeant. “Attention Firestone Units. Any unit in the vicinity of Firestone 18…identify. Possible 187 vehicle. ( Uh-oh. This has all the possibilities of me being in deep kim-chi)… Firestone 18, …what is your 10-20?”
Hmmm. Possible 187 vehicle? Aw shit, that Caddy. Where was it? Oh, yes…it was six blocks back. I did a quick calculation as to the exact location and put my radio car in a hard power U-turn. I picked up the mike and relayed the information. I was hell-bent for leather by now. I just hoped the vehicle was still there.
The radio room sergeant came back on the air and gave the license number and description of the vehicle and added “Subject vehicle was involved in a 187 P.C”….and he continued with where the murder had occurred, date and time and then...Firestone 18…do you have suspects with your vehicle?”
By this time I had made it back to corner of the street where the Caddy was parked and it was still there. Whew! Talk about the “pucker factor”. What the….? Oh, shit, here comes a guy carrying a long, very long, paper wrapped object.
“Firestone 18. That’s affirmative”. I went on to give the description of the subject and that he was putting something in the car. He had not noticed my radio car. I was able to park my car within fifty feet of the suspect. I un-racked the shotgun, took a stance behind the hood of my car, aimed very carefully and yelled “Freeze, A*$&^%#>!*.” He straightened up, looked at me, then looked back in his car, where later I would discover his shotgun in the paper wrapping, looked back at me again, and then put his hands in the air. At the same time I heard the sweet sound of sirens, approaching. Other units had arrived and the suspect was taken into custody without incident.
I learned one important factor: Not all things are what they appear to be.