Roll calls when I was a rookie were not much like the roll calls of today. Back then if you came into a division as a raw recruit you were subjected to every insult possible – and I speak from experience. I was a rookie in Wilshire Division along with another classmate of mine. They hadn’t had a “raw recruit” in the Division for quite some time. In roll call we had to sit at the very front row so that we couldn’t observe what was transpiring behind us – objects being thrown at us, some would connect and others would just wisp by. You just sat there and took it… no big deal. Personal insults were non-stop. Any question that came up from the supervisors would elicit a response from the old timers…”Hey, ask the kid. I’m sure he’s got all the answers.” And so it went. My training Officer called me “Junior” right off the bat. It was “Junior… get this. Junior… get that. Junior what is your @%#*& problem?”
You were tested back then right off the bat. They wanted to see what you were made of. They’d find the dirtiest, filthiest and slimiest suspect they could and have you search them. Even another ‘A’ car would have you link up with them and then have you search their suspect. Back then there were no latex gloves in the black and white and no liquid hand sanitizers on the dash.
You were the one that had to dive into a dumpster and find a missing head or some equally objectionable item for evidence. If there was an altercation they might just stand back and watch you handle it, which happened to me. A really good stunt was to have you walk in and address the Watch Commander with some obtuse request which had nothing to do with police work or even reality for that matter. “Hey Sarge… we need some discharge grease for the shotgun.” He of course would send you off to someone else who would again send you off to someone else who would then continue the evolution. Great fun.
When I worked morning watch in Wilshire Division in 1977 the crew was a bubble off center to say the least. Most of the men resembled vampires with sunken eyes pale skin and an uneasy temperament. They tested you right off the bat. They sent me into the Dunkin’ Doughnuts off Sawtelle Boulevard. They gave me an order for the entire crew, two dozen doughnuts, 15 cups of coffee etc. For those who aren’t familiar with the finer places in Los Angeles, this area was replete with pimps, prostitutes, robbers and other denizens of the street who plied their trades in the wee early hours. In I went, got the massive order, and then exited balancing donuts and coffee with both arms, and then… nothing. Not a black in white in sight. No police – no nothing. I went to the alley… nothing. I waited… and waited… and waited and still, nothing. The pimps walked by, the prostitutes propositioned and the bad guys gave me the evil eye while I stood silently in the shadows holding the order. About 30 minutes later my partner pulls up and shouts for me to get in the car and quit fooling around. It was simply a test by the morning watch crew. Would I panic, fold and call the Watch Commander, roll on them with something equally stupid and spineless, or simply stand there and take it?
From what I hear stuff like this doesn’t happen anymore today, not on LAPD anyways, that kind of harassing, testing or hazing. Too many lawsuits. Back then you took it and if you didn’t like it then you took it anyway. Whether this is a good or bad thing I couldn’t say, but it was an interesting experience to say the least. The watch wanted to see what you were made of before they accepted you and in a way it makes sense. If you couldn’t hold your water they figured out a way for you to be transferred to another watch. If you were accepted then it was clear sailing from there on. These are all great memories for me now but at the time and with limited experience, I never really appreciated them then.