Monday, June 01, 2009

Just Another Night...

So I'm back in town after a week of general relaxation on a tropical island. Been jonesing hard on the scanner since I got back and have been rewarded with some good shit going down. I missed a bunch of BIG calls over Memorial Day weekend while I was gone. Check out the LAFD blog (scroll down for the incidents) to see what I'm sayin.

As I type, the LAFD is working a nice big Major Emergency Structure out in North Hollywood at some carpet factory. It's been going an hour with active fire still breathing. Two FF's are being treated by medics. One of them's a captain on the roof who felt weak and dizzy. He's being brought down by the RIC units via a litter basket and will be transported shortly. Just another night in LA.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Urban Paramedic

Blogs didn't exist during my glory days in EMS. If they had, I'm sure I wouldn't have had the patience to write one as well as a longtime medic in Boston who writes other people's emergencies: random thoughts of an urban paramedic.

The medic, who identifies himself on the blog by his initials TS, writes clear, thoughtful and relatively jargon-free posts about his life as a paramedic. It's a consistently good read and reminds me of my years on the job.

These days, I'm too jaded and cynical to approach things as rationally and even-handed as he does. Thus, I salute him and direct you to his blog.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

You're LIVE on local news...*

...after you've just arrested a suspect who foot-bailed from his car after a lengthy high-speed pursuit. There are news choppers overhead with their cameras trained on the scene in the backyard as the suspect is proned out. You have just kicked the suspect (in the head) after he's gone down on his own accord. Then he's cuffed.

Do you:

1.) Act professionally, search the suspect for weapons and contraband and then pick him up and walk him to the patrol car; at the same time keeping all of your adrenaline fueled emotions in check?

2.) Do you complete the above-mentioned, but before that, give a high-five to the K-9 officer standing the suspect's feet holding back the dog?

3.) Do you do ALL of what I mention in 1. and 2. but also backslap one of your fellow arresting officers and then proceed to fist-bump another cop who comes up to the scene after the suspect is cuffed?

If you answered #3 then guess what? You're as a big of a FUCKING IDIOT as the El Monte patrol officer who did all of those things on live TV this afternoon. The video is here, as well. It took the media all of about two hours to pick up this angle. One would think that even the dumbest rookie cop in Southern California would know--after so many years of high profile cases of cops doing stupid shit on camera--that this kind of behavior should be avoided.

And, please, spare me the "adrenaline" argument. As true as it may be--cops get amped up during high speed pursuits, etc., etc.--it doesn't tend to pan out against city officials who end up shelling out millions of dollars to asshole criminals and their families just to avoid juries who order them to do the same.

*UPDATE* Unsurprisingly, Johnny Kicks-A-Lot has been re-assigned to desk duty while the El Monte PD and the L.A. County Sheriff's Department run their investigations regarding his behavior.

Jesusita Fire Photos


They're scattered all over the Internets, but this slideshow from the San Jose Mercury News is probably the best I've seen.

photo: Mike Meadows/AP

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gangsters, Party, Rocks, Bottles

This weekend's full moon brought out the typical complement of crazies and things were jumping all over town. The best call I heard (I think it was Friday night) dropped around midnight and came out as a Help Call from the LASD. Apparently, some deputies were trying to break up a gangbanger fiesta down in Lynwood and they began "taking rocks and bottles." They put out the help call and I assume the LAPD came to the rescue, though I didn't bother to drill down to find out.

Also, the ghetto bird clattered loudly over my house on the same night as they busted some dude for beating on his lady about half a block away. The next day his blacked-out Suburban was parked just where they said it would be.

Tweaking My Mission

Made a small change to the masthead, as I've been commenting beyond the niche of scannerland and into public safety writ large over the past few months. Otherwise, it's business as usual here at C6C.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Engine 23 will handle...

With Santa Barbara up in flames and brushers breaking out in Santa Clarita and Yucaipa, everyone's on high alert. So it was unsurprising to hear the brusher call drop for a burn out in ritzy Pacific Palisades and LAFD sent out a full Channel 9 assignment. Enroute, old Engine 23 said they saw some smoke that was more likely a structure than a brusher. A minute later, Engine 23 said they could handle the call. OCD put out the broadcast:

"Units responding to 17420 Camino de Yatasto, Engine 23 will handle.....sandblasting at a mansion."

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Santa Barbara Redux

It's only May but things are hot again up in Santa Barbara County. Winds are blowin' again and small brusher that lit off this afternoon has already eaten about 450 acres by 2130 hours. So far, no homes have been lost but up to 2,000 are threatened. The fire started about a mile west of last Fall's nasty Tea fire. A bunch of strike teams have been mobilized and this one has the capability to get ugly, again.

Big Hazmats

Been a rash of fairly dramatic hazmats in recent days. First up was big rig crash on the 405 Freeway in Sherman Oaks that shut the freeway down for many hours and merited a balls-out Hazmat response from the LAFD. The reason: the overturned semi was carrying 8,600 gallons of butane--enough to make the news at 11 if the truck blew up. Good pics over at the LAFD flickr. Then, a few nights later just a few miles south LAFD pushed the big button again when there were abnormally high readings of hydrocarbons coming out of a manhole on Sepulveda Boulevard near Moraga Drive. Sepulveda was shut down for a few hours while the threat was investigated and found to be a big fat nothing--as many Hazmat's are.

Saw a few more cross the wire out in LA County, Pasadena and down in the OC courtesy of Incidentpage.net.
photo: Pullman (WA) FD

Cinco de Drunko

Driving home from a quick dinner and saw two BHPD motor units on traffic stops and didn't know why the motor units were working after dark. Fired up the scanner a little while ago and heard a bunch of BH motor and T-units doing tons of traffic stops...chewed on it for a few minutes and then realized it's Cinco de Drunko. Other than Halloween, New Year's Eve and July 4, there are no better nights to pull traffic enforcement looking for deuces.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A whole slew...

...of new posts coming shortly. For now, content yourself with this ridiculously painful and obvious story courtesy of not one, but two, L.A. Times reporters. They found, lo and behold, that pretty coeds from Santa Barbara who get run down in front of USC in the middle of the night--and have one of the suspects actually get out of the car to throw a victim off the hood--get a shitload of publicity. That publicity leads to an outsized number of LAPD resources being thrown at the case resulting in a quick resolution. However, when some poor Guatemalan immigrant gets rundown on the Eastside on the same day he doesn't get the same star treatment; thus, his case will go unsolved forever. The end.

Friday, April 24, 2009

LAPD Code 3 Policy Revised


The LA City Council today formally approved the LAPD's new Code 3 policy, which gives all officers discretion in deciding when to respond to a call with lights and siren. Until today, the rules under Chief Bratton's administration had dispatchers assigning one patrol unit a Code 3 response based upon the nature of the 911 call (or request from field units/allied agencies). Other units, including back-up units to emergency calls that already had one unit responding Code 3, were required to respond Code 2 (no lights or sirens). Earlier this month, a council committee had approved changes to the policy.

So, effective immediately, it's up to individual officers to decide what calls will be handled Code 3 and multiple units can respond to the same call Code 3, as well. So, starting tonight, expect to see a lot more LAPD black and whites blasting around the city Code 3.

I remember listening to my scanner 20 years ago (when I had an old Sony brick that I bought from Sporty's Pilot Shop and could only tune in to LAPD's 154.830 HOTSHOT freq.) and being terrified/horrified at the number of seemingly life-and-death level calls that the LAPD dispatchers would send out "Code 2 High" or even Code 2. Back then, it seemed the only thing that warranted a Code 3 response were actual shootings in progress. Otherwise, everything was a much slower response.

When Chief Bratton a few years ago liberalized the Code 3 policy to include pretty much every serious crime you'd expect a cop to respond to with his lights and sirens turned on, I thought that was a huge improvement. Now, if you called 911 in LA, you would get at least one unit running hot (and fast) to come to your aid. This improved response times, raised morale within the department and has helped residents overall.

Allowing more units to respond to more calls more quickly = a good thing overall. It eliminates the dangerous practice of "Code 2.5," which has officers basically driving in an emergency manner without their warning lights activated.

But mark my words: This new policy will be frozen the minute the first LAPD unit responding Code 3 to some bullshit call gets involved in a serious accident--with either civilians or fellow officers. Part of the problem is leaving things like this up to the discretion of patrol officers plays directly into the few bad apples among thousands of good ones theory. This whole thing will be undone by one or two boneheads who drive like the idiots they are.

Ironically, the City Council and LAPD brass pushed for the change because the cost of litigating cases that stemmed from accidents involving LAPD units going Code 2.5 has hit $11 million in the past three years. Only two council members opposed the change--one of them, Ex-LAPD Chief Bernard Parks. I don't really care for Mr. Parks as a councilman and he wasn't a great police chief either, but he's clearly on the right track here and knows what his former officers are capable of. He's rightly worried that putting the greater responsibility of emergency driving along LA's busy streets directly in the hands of the rank-and-file is a recipe for disaster.

Let's just see how long it takes for one to happen.

photo: flickr

Wilshire Mess Incoming

Every year, on a certain day in late April, Wilshire Boulevard in the Miracle-Mile area gets completely fucked by the thousands of Armenian protesters who descend on the street to scream, wave signs and flags and drive around in circles honking their horns and displaying huge Armenia flags and banners to voice their displeasure over what was either a "genocide" or what wasn't. Depends on who you ask.

Today is that day. Expect the LAPD and DOT to have their hands full beginning in a few hours and expect to find an alternative route if your travels take you along Wilshire during the evening commute.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

LAFD and Overtime

Earlier this week, the Daily News, which the recession has decimated even worse than it has the L.A. Times, wrote its annual LAFD-earns-too-much-overtime piece. First, let me say bravo to reporter Jason Kandel who compiled the piece and an accompanying database that proves as interesting as his article. I am sure the entire project was a gigantic pain in the ass.

The database is basically a searchable list of how much overtime nearly LAFD member has earned since 2000. I am of a few different minds regarding the issue of fire overtime. On one hand, I think that firefighters (and ESPECIALLY paramedics) deserve to be well compensated for their efforts. I won't go through the litany of reasons supporting this because they include all the common cliches ("lives on the line," "available 24/7 to answer the call," "danger" etc. etc.). These are all valid reasons.

And from my experience in Public Safety, I can say that the overtime often made many parts of the job totally worth it. There was something refreshing about being compensated not only for my time, but for my EXTRA time and giving me some incentive to either work an extra unplanned shift, or agree to stay late if my relief was running late or called in sick etc. etc. Being paid for the exact amount of time you are at work is--in my mind--inherently fair.

The extra cash was always nice come pay-day and beyond. If my expenses were a little higher one month, I could always work an extra shift or two to help balance that out. If I wanted to buy a plane ticket to jet off to somewhere far away and exotic I simply worked a few extra shifts to earn the cash. For folks with families and complicated expenses (divorce, sick kids, mortgages etc.) there's a dependence on that overtime cash flow.

The trade off was that I was stuck working those extra days. I worked a few different places that made overtime attractive and the last stop on my public safety tour was an agency that worked 24-hour shifts (like the LAFD and LACoFD). So while I got paid nicely for a full extra shift, it meant that I was away from home for two full days and then only had one day to recover before going back to work on my regular shift. In LA with the modified kelly schedule, that often means guys and gals who are working overtime can be gone from home for as long as three or four days at a stretch--something that 9-to-5'ers might have a hard time comprehending.

Granted, that time at work includes getting paid time and a half to eat, sleep, watch TV, train and enjoy some ice cream, but still, it's days away from family, friends, errands and whatever else you might do on your down time. Overtime pay helps make an inherently dangerous job more "worth it" and allows SoCal residents (and those who work and live elsewhere) to better afford the high cost of living in this part of the world.

On the OTHER HAND, there are guys in the LAFD (and elsewhere, but since there aren't handy databases elsewhere) who abuse the shit out of this opportunity. And the LAFD brass (and union, natch) argue that even though there are 120 vacant positions that have been effectively frozen, paying the overtime is more cost effective than hiring more firefighters.

As for the most egregious offenders, a few names keep popping up year-after-year including FF/PM Alan Naeole, who is based at the extremely cush Air Ops station out in Van Nuys. He used to rake in the dough at the retirement house in Bel-Air at FS 71. Last year, he took home $164,785 in overtime and $100,000 in base salary. Two words: Fucking Ridiculous. The number one overtime earner on the DN's list is FF/PM Donn D. Thompson, who took home more than $173,000 in overtime (which is down from $206,000 in 2006). All this while "working" at the do-nothing FS19 in Brentwood.

The article--which I recommend--raises the various points from all sides including the outraged taxpayer groups, the LAFD Chief who's on the defensive and the fire union president who is outraged that anyone is outraged. And in a year when the city is facing a $500 million budget shortfall that could increase to $1 billion by next year and there are layoffs city-wide it seems like an especially bad time for the guys to be raking in such obscene amounts of dough.

Especially, as Kandel notes, since the city has spent 60% more on overtime in the last 10 years while growing the department by only 17%. And remember, a lot of these old-timers (FF/PM's, not even officers!) are making $100,000 as a BASE salary owing to their seniority (not to mention any guys who are still on the early retirement racket).

So there's an aging department with guys who are already doing just fine on their base; probably socking away hundreds of thousands of dollars of deferred comp over the course of their careers; getting excellent medical benefits and life insurance policies as well as an extremely generous pension payout (for life). Not only is this a recipe for more municipal and state fiscal pain, but it makes it hard to garner any sympathy for the guys who are taking home outsized overtime checks.

I know as well as anyone that there's almost no better feeling in the world than seeing a big, red fire truck or ambulance blasting to the scene of an emergency on the rare occasions that the average citizen has to dial 911. But I think the LAFD is probably in for a rude wake up call down the line when various items that have become sacred cows over the past few years (like EMS captains in every district, ambulances in every station, four-man engines, and multiple unit responses to even basic EMT calls, et. al) begin to disappear.

Back in Business...


So I've been out of town for the last four weekends in a row (and many weekdays, too) to places near and far. Didn't see too much in the way of public safety action on my travels except a pretty serious looking bunch of dudes who are "volunteer" firefighters in the fine city of Kyoto, Japan; some crazy Japanese ambulances rolling Code 3 through the streets of Tokyo; and a whole bunch of Massachusetts State Troopers doing their radar thing along the Mass. Pike this last weekend. Luckily, my turquoise Toyota Corolla didn't actually go fast enough to be a threat.

A few items on my mind:

1. It is fucking hot outside. Like mid-summer, shrivel up and die hot. Not only is it wreaking havoc on my backyard plants, but it's causing the scanner to jump and bump like it's mid-August. Last night saw a cavalcade of the usual mid-summer bullshit with drunks, fights, robberies and a few little brushers and stucture fires thrown in for good measure.

2. I missed two incidents of some note on the fire side: A big tarpot lit-off at a City facility in North Hollywood on April 10. Though it put on a good show with lots of smoke and fire, the location was literally right around the corner from FS60, so folks were on scene fast and things got knocked down. The second was this big-time fire at a 10,000 sq.-foot mansion out in unincorporated Chatsworth the other night. LA City, County and Ventura County units rolled into. The fire was blasting through the roof when units arrived (some good photos on LAFD's flickr, and probably elsewhere on the Internets). One FF suffered a broken ankle and another was txspt'd with general malaise. I guess the homeowners have a big winery operation and the house was a total loss. With the various water pressure problems et al., the firefight resembled one of those big multi-agency vollie responses out in the boonies somewhere, where it takes nine fire agencies 12 hours to put down a house fire. Other news outlets are reporting today that the initial alarm call was delayed because the home's security system hadn't been re-programmed to dial the "1-818" 10-digit sequence of numbers that went into effect last week.

3. A bunch of random fatal fires within LA, including a luxury Motor Home in South LA and an old man in a house in the classy Brentwood neighborhood of the city.

4. The LAFD has filled the vacant PSO position down in OCD on the "A" shift with a firefighter named Devin Gales. I didn't catch an official announcement of his appointment on the LAFD blog, but I may have missed it. Mr. Gales replaces Ron Myers who promoted to Captain I and is now working at Station 90 out in sweltering Van Nuys.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Leaving...

...on a jet plane for a faraway land tonight. Probably on hiatus for about a week or so...

Stay safe! C6C

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

LAFD Rescue 100 Mashed

Some good photos on flickr of the recent intersection crash out in the Valley where RA100 was responding to a call and got T-boned. Doesn't look like there were any serious injuries, but the brand new RA got banged up. My bet is that the alignment will be off forever and it'll pull to the left forevermore.

Capt. Steve Ruda is back...


...as the LAFD's highest ranking mouthpiece. It's a least his second stint as head of the Public Information Unit. I will say nothing more on this topic (for now) other than......."GROAN."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Single Car Rollover...

....has alway sort of amused me. I mean it's not an easy thing to do--especially in a crowded city like L.A.--to just up and flip your car onto its roof. Especially during morning rush hour. But, that's what impeded my way this morning on Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood, just north of Robertson Boulevard.

The LASD had eastbound Beverly blocked off and LACoFD Engine 7 and a private ambulance were on the scene. BHPD was there, too, since it's just over the border into WeHo. Other than a little two-door compact up on its roof, didn't see much other action and whatever injuries there were didn't seem too critical.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Winds Calm...

...but it's still a busy Monday night out in Scannerland. The World Baseball Classic is for the second night out at Dodger Stadium and the LAFD is keeping busy with a variety of people who apparently can't attend a baseball game without falling down (spectators, mind you).

Up in FS47's first-in a two-car smash up closed Huntington Drive and required two ALS RA's, Engine 12 and Task Force 47 to clean things up.

Meantime, things are busy down south as Watts units caught a reported smoke that after 10 minutes of investigation turned out to be a mattress fire. While that was going on other units headed down the Fs65's first in to fill the void on a GSW that ended up as a traumatic full arrest.

And it sounds like OCD has a new dispatcher or two on the console as everyone's a bit edgy tonight.

Dear Santa Monica Fire...


...please, kindly, when talking on the radio, just STFU!

For a variety of ridiculous reasons, I found myself wide awake at 0330 hours this morning, and flipped on the scanner, which I hoped would lull me back to sleep. Also, we were in the midst of a gnarly windstorm here in L.A. so I figured things would be hopping with the LAFD (surprisingly, they weren't). But it was almost impossible to find out what was happening with the LAFD, LAPD, BHPD and others because the Santa Monica Fire Department was working a structure fire somewheres on Wilshire Boulevard with ONE ROOM involved that required constant communication on the Tac channel and to OCD on channel 7.

The most egregious offender was the captain on Truck 121 (above) who felt the need to tell. the. BC. every. little. fucking. thing. he. was. doing.

Example:

"Truck 121 to Wilshire IC, we've cut another small ventilation hole in the roof, which makes two small holes, plus two skylights and we're using the rotary saw."

"Roger Truck 121."

"Truck 121 to Wilshire IC, we're going to get ready to come down the ladder now since our truck work ventilation appears to be done and there is no more smoke coming from the fire room."

"Roger Truck 121."

"Truck 121 to Wilshire IC, we're getting ready to leave the scene and we just want you to know that we have left two shovels and a salvage cover inside the hallway next to the fire room so once the arson investigators show up, those can be used by whoever is here to do more salvage work and we can either pick them up later or blah, blah, blah, blah....."

"Roger Truck 121."

Wilshire IC himself--Battalion 22--wasn't much better as he constantly badgered OCD with one inane transmission after another. I mean, it's four o'fucking clock in the morning. I felt bad for the poor bastards at OCD who were just trying to get through the last few hours of what had been a really busy shift.

I mean look, I know I'm spoiled because I live in an area where the two biggest fire department's catch working structure fires like flies to honey, but still, last night's little structure fire wasn't the SMFD's first trip to the Show. I realize that working fires can be few and far between in smaller cities like Santa Monica and Culver City and Beverly Hills, etc., but still...I mean the shit coming out of SMFD's radios last night awoke distant memories of my years living in northern New England listening (and observing) as the local vollie departments would catch their one big fire of the year.....painful!

photo: Santa Monica Fire Department

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ugly Weekend...

Luckily, none of this tragedy occurred within C6C's scannerland, but it's been an ugly couple of days in aviation and law enforcement.

Yesterday afternoon up in Oakland, three officers were killed and one gravely wounded in a multi-stage shooting with a parolee who had nothing to lose and didn't want to go back to the pen. Read about it here.

Today was another day for aviation disasters as a Pilatus PC-12 with up to 17 people aboard augured into a cemetery about 500 feet from the runway in Butte, Montana. According to Flightaware.com the single engine turboprop was enroute from Oroville, Calif., to Bozeman, Mont., but the pilot canceled the flight plan and diverted to Butte at the last minute. I have no idea why.

Then, a few hours later, at Tokyo's Narita airport (NRT/RJAA), two American FedEx pilots were killed when they bounced their MD-11 off the runway and then either collapsed the left main landing gear or caught a wingtip on the second bounce. The plane exploded and flipped.

Here in SoCal, we've just been dealing with the after-effects of a rain and windstorm that has sent various PD units scrambling to audible burglar alarms and the LAFD has caught a bunch of structure fires today, as a result.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Odds, Ends

-- Will somebody please tell me why a single LASD motor unit is doing speed enforcement along the Wilshire Corridor in Westwood during the morning rush hour? Anyone? I've seen the green and tan man three times now; usually hiding in the driveway of one of the dozens of residential hi-rises that dot that section of Wilshire. He's smack in the middle of LAPD territory (unless the county has quietly annexed that portion of Wilshire, which they haven't). It's a gnawing mystery.

-- Didn't hear too much St. Paddy's day mayhem on the scanner last night (though my battery died off around 2300 hours). In fact, the only St. Patrick's call in my scannerland that came down was in the always hopping Irish neighborhood of Granada Hills! Apparently, things got a wee bit crowded at O'Grady's (alternative spelling via the Web: "OH Gradys") Lounge on Chatsworth Avenue. An LAFD inspector got the LAPD, Engine 87 (which probably hasn't gone to an OVERCROWD call this side of 1980) and Battalion 15 out of bed to quell the rowdy northwest San Fernando Valley drinkers.

-- Heard a BHPD Lieutenant initiate a traffic stop in his unmarked on Wilshire Boulevard westbound last night right in front of the Los Angeles Country Club. He requested a patrol unit to back him up and 20 minutes later, they had one DUI driver in custody.

NObama ATC

Right about now, give or take a few minutes, Air Force One is touching down at Long Beach/Daugherty Field (KLGB). I would love to listen to the audio ATC of this approach and landing over the Internets on liveatc.net but, alas, the KLGB feed has been taken down. It was up yesterday.

Likely not a coincidence.

Facebook and Surreality

In my "real" life I'm on Facebook. In my C6C life, I am not. It's unlikely the two shall ever meet.

But yesterday, I witnessed one of the stranger online phenomena I've seen in some time. Among my nearly 400 "friends" are a bunch of people I used to work with in my past life in EMS. First thing in the morning, I noticed a curious status message from one of the more prolific users within my group of Facebook friends. It was fairly vague, but mentioned "drama" at his current workplace and thanked everyone for their support.

I thought no more of this until a few hours later when I noticed this story online and being blasted around TV and radio. Now, I really have nothing to say at all about any of the information in the story, or anything about how I know this guy, etc. etc. In the news business, they call it a "No comment."

What I will say is that the subject of the story kept updating his Facebook page throughout the day and reacted--via Facebook--to specific paragraphs in the story and what was being said about him in the media. This struck me as a particularly bad idea. His page remained open to the public--seemingly no privacy settings were activated--and while he recorded a generic "no comment" outgoing voicemail on his phones (good idea), he seemed to have a bit of a disconnect about how his actions via Facebook could (and will) be perceived.

If you're facing a possible court-martial with three charges of murder tacked on, social networking might not be the best priority. On the other hand, it's proving to be a great way to rally support.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Trauma Code

It's been awhile since I heard a good multi-shooting go down, but Watts served up a doozy last night that required the resources of all of LAFD's FS65 down there on San Pedro Street. Two victims, one pretty much DRT (dead right there) with agonal breathing and all the associated drama that comes with dying from a gunshot wound. Engine 65 requested an additional ALS unit for a second victim who had been shot in both upper legs and at least one arm.

Everybody got transported Code 3 to Harbor General and maybe St. Francis? Anyway, the LA Times much-ballyhooed LA NOW blog has nary a whisper about the shooting this morning. Must not have been able to afford a cops reporter for the Friday night shift.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sometimes You See Em'...

...today you don't. It always amazes me when I spend the better part of the day driving around greater L.A. and don't see a single cop in all of my travels. During the day I drove from mid-Wilshire to Culver City back to mid-Wilshire to Burbank back to mid-Wilshire back to Culver City and finally, back to mid-Wilshire over a period of about 6 hours and didn't see one cop. Not one LAPD, Culver City PD, Burbank PD or even CHP (for the brief stretch on the 101 and 134 freeways) unit the entire time.

I know they're out there somewhere; just not today.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Dodge Invasion


When it gets down to the nitty-gritty on things involving hardware (vehicles, radios, lightbars), I'm a little slower on the uptake than I am with software (tactics, planning, resources usage) changes.

To wit: I noticed the first marked LAPD Dodge Charger out on the road last night. Driving home from Hollywood and I saw three LAPD units at a minor TC at a strip mall at the intersection of Highland Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. One of the three was a brand-new Charger assigned to West Traffic division, complete with the LED lightbar package.

Apparently, this development has been well documented and the CHP also took delivery of 88 Dodge Chargers early last year for use as unmarked vehicles.

Here's my take: I'm a Ford Crown Victoria kind of guy for LE vehicles. I used to like the Old Chevy Caprice's of the 1980s and 1990s, but have been partial to the Crown Vics for many years now. I liked Fords (ambulances, in my case) when I was on the EMS beat, they never did me wrong. In my youth, I was the proud operator of a number of Dodge Caravan mini-vans and I can say they were a model of the American auto industry's "planned-obsolescence" strategy, and in general, were total piece-of-shit automobiles. In fairness, however, I also remember a particularly lemon-y Ford Escort from the mid 1980s, as well.

As for the Charger, I just think it's too big, boxy and robo-cop for the LAPD. I think they work well for certain highway patrols and "statie" depts. (see here and here), but as the day-to-day workhorse, I'm not a fan.

For that matter, however, I'm not a fan of the LAPD's "new" Harley Davidson motor-units. They look like heavy beasts that the guys would rather be riding up to Sturgis than patrolling the streets of L.A. In fact, I'm partial to bikes like the Yamaha trailing the LAPD unit in the linked pic, or BMW's used by Beverly Hills PD and others.

Anyway, I know these posts wade into the passions of car and cycle fans, but I like what I like.

photo: from flickr, apologies for the cropping distortion.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sunday Call O' the Day

A bit late on posting this one but it's solid:

So I'm listening to the patter on a lazy Sunday afternoon, when the LAPD upgrades a "415 man" call to a "narcotics activity" in West LA division. Some dude at the Century Plaza Hotel (a pretty upscale joint) in Century City was hanging out in the lobby apparently annoying customers.

He was described as a "male black, 30s, wearing a tan shirt and tan pants." He allegedly progressed from his "415 behavior" to the more specific activity of "freebasing drugs in the lobby"!!! Good times.

I didn't bother to switch over to the West LA frequency to listen to the outcome--and since it was only upgraded to Code 2, I imagine it took a patrol unit plenty of sweet, sweet time to make it over there.

But I say, if a man can't enjoy a little heated crack cocaine in the lobby of a luxury hotel, then yes, this country really is going to hell.

California Roll

The other morning I decided to take a little stroll at the park a few blocks from my home. The northern boundary of this particular park is a busy two-way street that motorists enjoy using as a short-cut to avoid Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, from the eastern border of the city to as far west as Robertson Boulevard.

As I was strolling down the sidewalk heading back to my house, I noticed the line of cars at a particular intersection basically blowing through the three way stop sign (it's a T-intersection that dead-ends at the park). Because I was in no particular hurry to get to work that day, I stopped and leaned up against a light pole to watch how many cars actually came to a complete stop at the limit line before proceeding through the intersection.

So, if the BHPD is looking to fill its coffers with moving violation revenues, I strongly encourage them to hang out at this particular intersection; in the span of about 15 minutes my unofficial count was approximately 75 cars or so...and maybe five (maybe!) actually came to a complete stop. At least five rolled right through without hitting the brakes for even a second, while most everyone else pulled the typical "California Roll." Only about 10 folks were on their cellphones, which is far less than I would have suspected.

Clearly I need more to do in the mornings.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

"OCD Clear"

I've been listening to scanners in LA for going on 20 years or so and there are a few catchphrases that are so rare that when I hear them broadcast it's like getting a little gift from the scanner gods.

LAFD's dispatchers have a few little gems that I always love catching in the clear. It's akin to finding secret levels or hidden "easter eggs" in video games. In the past few years, the soothing automated female dispatch voice and the gentle chimes have replaced the live human dispatching calls over station speakers. But when OCD used to do the honors, they always ended the dispatch by saying "OCD Clear." When they dispatch over the radio, 99% of the time, you'll never hear the "OCD Clear" sign-off, for reasons I don't fully understand.

But tonight I got a full dose of OCD in its glory. A Reported Smoke (RS) went down in FS61's first-in and the dispatch went over the scanner just like you'd hear it back in the day at the station. The dispatcher hit the long rings and then came on the air with a clipped, "Structure": a heads-up to the station that a structure fire dispatch was coming down the pike (and causing every guy in the station to start scrambling to the app bay). Then he dispatched the units and, the address, incident time, number and Tac channel and he ended the whole thing with a good, old-fashioned "OCD clear."

Ahhhhhh.

p.s. the fire was a bullshit curtains over space heater caper that was easily handled by the first alarm assignment.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Short Pursuit

An LAPD Southeast division patrol car caught a Code 37 Pontiac down at Imperial Highway and the 105 Freeway around 2200 hours tonight. Quickly got three additional units and Air 18 overhead and the pursuit was on. t

The vehicle quickly exited the 710 freeway and began doing the high-speed 90 degree shuffle. But before he could spend hours circling the same blocks in the same neighborhood, the Pontiac clipped a vehicle at a tri-light and then spun out. All three suspects foot-bailed and Air 18 expertly maneuvered the random black & whites into position, whereupon all three suspects were taken into custody without the burdensome effort of a big perimeter needed.

It happened so fast, none of the news choppers were able to get on station. Just a nice quick burst of fun on a Monday night.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Seal Down

An actual seal. LAFD's Battalion 6 units have been getting hit with a seemingly higher number of cliff rescues down there near San Pedro in the past few weeks. A number of hoist ops and land rescues as a result of people, falling, jumping and otherwise ending up at the bottom of those nasty cliffs down there in Peeedro.

So tonight, around 2200 hours, old Engine and Rescue 101 (probably settling in for a typical night of restful retirement house sleep) got sent on a person down at the base of the cliffs on Paseo del Mar. I'm sure visions of a long, complicated technical rescue were dancing in their heads as they pulled out of the station. But after a few minutes on scene they determined the patient was a long-deceased seal carcass and that was that.

photo: Paul Chinn/AP (this is an elephant seal, probably not the same species that Engine 101 found, but they didn't relay the type of seal to OCD!)

End of Watch: Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner


The LAPD's second-highest ranking black sworn officer died Sunday morning at his home of apparent heart failure/MI. The chief was 53-years-old and made the rounds throughout the Department in his 32 years on the job. According to a Daily Breeze story, Chief Garner called in sick three days before he died.

At the time of his death Garner commanded the LAPD's South Bureau.


RIP Deputy Chief Garner.

Oscars

For the second year in a row, my day job took me to the Academy Awards telecast last Sunday. For most people, the thrill is what goes on along the vast red carpet and then inside the Kodak Theater. For me, unsurprisingly, the thrill is everything going on OUTSIDE the theater and the glitz-zone.

In terms of security, short of a presidential visit, the Oscars are in a class by themselves. I can think of few other annual events that require a 10 block-plus security cordon, vehicle bomb detection and a serpentine driving course consisting of blast protection barriers....all BEFORE you drop your car off for mandatory valet parking!

Prior to entering the first layer of security at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Wilcox Avenue, I cruised past FS 27 and noticed Light Force 15 (USC's finest) parked in the driveway and two big LAPD Command vehicles. Once past the uniformed officer at Sunset X Wilcox, we encountered uniformed LAPD and LADOT officers at every intersection until turning westbound onto Hollywood Boulevard. At that point, the street was closed in both directions, save for traffic headed to the actual awards show. We pulled up about four blocks short, where an LAPD sergeant said our vehicle would be inspected visually before we were allowed to proceed.

The bomb inspection was quick and painless--especially because I had no bomb--and then we followed the line of cars in the serpentine course (think TSA security line with metal barriers in place of the elastic rope lines) and up and over a retractable stop plate until we pulled up at the valet line at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. There, hundreds of fans crowded the barricades on the east side of the intersection as the west side was the designated limo drop-off point and the beginning of the red carpet hoopla. At least two dozen officers were milling around the intersection with two or three K-9 units wandering the scene and about a dozen motor officers doing pedestrian control.

Once we crossed the street and entered the "civilian" side of the red-carpet we went through the standard metal detector shenanigans (though allowed to bring in cell phones and other PDA devices) and started the slow shuffle down the red carpet. Overhead, half a dozen news choppers circled, the occasional Cessna flew by and the LAPD had two birds on station the entire time--one doing a low orbit, the second up a bit higher.

Six hours later, as I drove out of the theater complex and made the forced left onto Highland, most of the hardcore security had departed. I did notice, however, LAFD's sick Command 3 truck heading back downtown being trailed by RA4. Anyway, thankfully, none of that hardware was needed for anything real this year and the taxpayers will get their bills in the mail.


photo: David Strick, from an Oscars back in the day when they were held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion downtown.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hardware

Drove past BHFD headquarters today and saw LAFD's shiny new Battalion 14 suburban parked in front for a visit. Also saw an EMS captain cruising by the other day (maybe EMS 2, but don't hold me to it) in a Suburban. Guess the EMS Crown Victoria's are getting phased out. The LAFD is also rolling out its new Ford E-450 ambulances around the city with the new LED lightbar packages. Pretty cool-looking beasts.

Pursuits Reality

So after the rash of highly publicized pursuits in the past month or so, the LA Times tasked a reporter to investigate this trend. Reporter Carol J. Williams comes up with a jumbled, rambling and slightly confusing story.

The upshot: Pursuits in L.A. (and statewide via the CHP) are actually down year-over-year. Go figure.

Monday, February 16, 2009

So Long Capt. Myers**

One of the LAFD's three Public Service Officers (PSO) who sit in the bowels of City Hall East (until the new OCD is fitted out at the new FS 4) has been promoted to Captain I. The indefatigable Brian Humphrey posted the news on the LAFD blog that his colleague Ron Myers on the "A" Shift is going to see daylight again as a Captain at FS 90 out by the Van Nuys Airport.

So that leaves Brian ("B" shift) and d'Lisa Davies ("C" shift) as the permanent PSO's as they look for someone to fill the vacant spot. The LAFD is unique in that they have a permanently assigned PSO attached to the dispatch center 24-7. The LAFD staffs its dispatch center entirely with sworn personnel and they work on the same 24-hour modified Kelly platoon schedule as the field units. The dispatchers work, sleep and eat four stories underground for 24 hours at a go (there's even a cook* who makes fire station-worthy meals).

Not only do the PSOs field routine calls from the public and the media, but they maintain the LAFD blog and for the past few years have been sending out increasingly more helpful and useful incident alert email/pager notifications. Mr. Humphrey, who has basically become known throughout the country, if not the world, as the "voice of the LAFD," has been at it the longest and Ms. Davies replaced longtime PSO Jim Wells** after he retired a couple years back. It's quite a good gig they've got going and Mr. Myers was an excellent part of the team.

Code6Charles wishes him luck at 90's.

* As a commenter pointed out, the cook rotates as part of the daily dispatch crew in the same way they do at typical LAFD stations, so there's no extra personnel assigned as a so-called "permanent cook."

** Jim Wells retired as the former LAFD PSO. Jim Hill is a local, longtime sportscaster for KCBS. Total brain melt on my part.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Airplane Threes

So, if you believe things come in threes, then maybe we're done with the February aviation drama--all within 24 hours. First, of course, was the Colgan Air tragedy in Buffalo last night that claimed 50 lives. The aircraft in question, believed to be N200WQ (sn 4200) can be seen in the pic. Taken at Port Columbus International (KCMH) on June 1 of last year.

This is the plane--operating as Continental Express 3407--that iced up on final approach to KBUF and departed controlled flight shortly after the approach flaps were extended. Plane dove directly into a home just inside the Outer Marker on approach to Rwy 23 and killed everyone aboard and one man in the home (his wife and daughter escaped the wrecked home with injuries).

The crash has re-ignited the old debate about de-icing boots vs. electric de-icing systems. First indications are that the de-ice system was in the "on" position, but it's unclear whether the boots were working and/or what phase of the cycle they were in at the time of the crash.

Incident number two happened a few hours later and would have been a MAJOR tragedy if it led to a crash. Air Pacific's nightly B744 KLAX to Nadi, Fiji run departed the Southland last night sometime after midnight and about an hour outbound the pilots discovered some sort of fuel transfer issue. They wisely returned to KLAX without incident and the 441 souls aboard were likely highly inconvenienced, but escaped unscathed. Buried in the garbled news reports about the incident was the idea that the plane itself may have been overweight. That leads the mind to spin all sorts of terrible scenarios about a runway overrun or some other horrible outcome of an overloaded 747-400.

The third incident occurred on Friday evening at London City airport as a British Airways commuter BAE-146 had a nosewheel collapse on the landing rollout. Passengers deplaned via slides and only a few minor injuries resulted.

So that's three in quick succession. January had Captain Sully and US Airways 1549, which in itself was at least three plane crashes wrapped into one.

photo: richillini via Opshots.net

Wet N' Wild in Beverly Hills

So the latest rainstorm (first of three, says the NWS) has created a mess of things in Beverly Hills. I guess because it started pissing rain midday everyone got all confused. A bunch of signal lights up on both Santa Monica Boulevards shorted out around 2 p.m., snarling things. Then the accidents started.

Seems there was a major smash-up at Sunset and Alpine that requires all sorts of crime scene unit callouts and other shenanigans.* Apparently it's not going to be a major crime, per the Sgt. on scene, but clearly there was a head-on crash with fire and significant injuries; a crash on Olympic and Clark in the south end and some other bang-up at Rexford and Lexington. A second head-on wreck just went down on the nasty S-curve just west of Whittier on Sunset and traffic is backed up for miles.

Ugly start to a wet weekend. Slow down on the drive home, idiots. Slow down.

photo: Wilshire and Rodeo, courtesy of rivenrock.com

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Whole Lotta Everything

Sometimes there seems to be a whole lotta shit going on in Scannerland, but none of it seems that interesting. That's a high-class problem that comes with listening to the constant patter of emergencies in a major U.S. city. Lots of scannermonkeys would give their left (and right) nut to catch a few shootings, structure fires, extrication and rollover traffic collisions, possible plane crashes and a major gas leak within a six hour period, if not an entire month.

Yes, between the LAFD, LAPD and Santa Monica FD, all of the above went down at some point this evening. But it all felt sorta blah. Like I said, a high-class problem. For the past year or so, I've listened exclusively to the LAFD, LAPD, BHPD/FD, SMFD (with short bursts of Santa Monica and El Segundo PD's mixed in for specific reasons). I've stayed far away from LA County Fire and the LA County Sheriff's. As rewarding as some of the LA County FD calls can be (the sheriff system is way too painful for prolonged listening), I just can't take the constant tones and simulcast dispatches. They interfere way too much with the controlled flow of the LAFD. Even LAPD Hotshots gets on my nerves, but I've decided that it's worth keeping on to catch the good LAPD capers, which go down like clockwork.

That is all.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pursuits

I had noticed an uptick in pursuits even before the LA Times pointed it out this morning. Last night, I caught about 10 minutes of the slow-speed Bentley chase that dragged on for hours. Went to bed at about 2300 while it was still going. Heard CHP call for LAPD backup about 30 minutes later once the dude exited the 101 Freeway at Lankershim (apparently a block or so from where the whole thing started hours before as the result of some sort of domestic).

By the time I awoke this morning, Mustafa Mustafa (really) had shot and killed himself. The folks over at LAist took it upon themselves to live-blog the whole thing, which is slightly more interesting than the paint-drying spectacle that was this lame pursuit. Rumors were flying that the driver was either Chris Brown--the 19-year-old music star who beat up on his girlfriend Rhianna two nights ago--or some random DJ of Palestinian-descent who appeared to resemble screen captures of the Bentley driver.

Must be something in the air as it's officially pursuit season.

photo: MashGet via Flickr

Monday, February 02, 2009

Odds, Ends

-- A few nights ago, LAPD caught the rare West LA division shooting. Call went out around 11 p.m. for a shots fired with a possible victim screaming for help in the far western and southern fringes of Brentwood. A bunch of units bought the call as two other "vicinity calls" went out in short order. Pretty soon, it was upgraded to an Ambulance Shooting with Engine and Rescue 37 (Westwood) attached. Since the LAPD has a bad habit of not trying to sort out vicinity calls until after units arrive, they had three separate primary units going Code 3 to a 2-block area and a bunch of other backup units bought in, as well. That included the basic car from way out in the Palisades, which was responding code from deep Sunset Boulevard.

So the first unit went Code 6 at San Vicente and Wilshire and unsurprisingly didn't find anything, while another primary car went out at an address on Barry Avenue right around the corner and found some dude shot in the stomach. The two white guys who were the alleged shooters had fled in a beat up Buick to parts unknown. Sounds like a shady drug deal gone bad.

--Meantime, across town in Beverly Hills, a "suspicious circs" call went down on an otherwise silent night. The dispatch was at a building on Wilshire that basically straddles the L.A./Beverly Hills city line on the southeastern end of the city at a joint called Sparkle Networks. Spark Networks--a quick Interwebs search reveals--is the parent company of such online dating sites as JDate, militaryconnections.com and interracialsingles.net. Well, it seems that some chick called the 877 customer service line around 11 p.m. and whoever answered the phone--likely in some town in central India or the Philippine archipelago--told the caller she was being stabbed and then hung up.

So Susie Good Samaritan must have been online or subsequently went online and found a biz address for Spark Networks that put the headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard in BH. So the 911 call was that someone in the office was being stabbed. Fair enough (leaps of logic aside, at least the dispatcher didn't hang up on her).

Basically every on-duty patrol unit in BH bought into the call and one of the field sergeants rousted himself from HQ to respond on down to Wilshire and San Vicente. The dispatcher (one of BH's most competent) tried a number of times to call back the 877 number and kept getting hung up on after it picked up--though she said there were voices in the background. At this point, I'm giving it a 20% chance of being legit and a heavily 80% chance of being total bullshit. But BHPD went through the whole fire drill: Units posted on all sides of the big office building; four coppers and the Sgt. rallied up in the lobby; Engine 3 and Rescue 1 staging a block out; K9 unit in the rear parking lot obtained master keys from the cleaning crew; confirmed no one was supposed to be up there at 2300 hours; perimeter set.

So entry team then requests the shield from the trunk of one of the patrol units in case of a crazy stabber awaiting them on the 8th floor. So...once entry was made via janitor keys the office was swept and no sign of a victim and definitely no suspect. It was Code 4 and everyone went home. Another solid exercise for the BHPD.

--A small barelysortascratched traffic accident outside my office building last week brought a visit from an LAPD West Traffic unit and shortly thereafter, Rescue 102 rolled up for some bullshitneckbackneckandback pain. Nice to see South Van Nuys' finest playing way over in Carthay Circle.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

End of Watch: Sgt. Curtis Massey


Culver City PD lost a 17-year veteran Wednesday morning when Sgt. Massey was killed in a head-on collision with a 21-year-old wrong-way driver on the Santa Monica Freeway. Sgt. Massey was driving into work at around 0530 when the collision occurred. You'd be surprised at how often people actually drive the wrong way on four and five lane freeways. You'd think it'd be a once-a-year occurrence, but it's often every few months. And these things almost never end pretty.

L.A. drivers are assholes, by and large. I was pondering this about 14 hours after Sgt. Massey was killed as I drove past the accident scene going the opposite direction. It was dark and I was clipping along at about 70 mph, so there wasn't really anything to see, other than a sea of headlights going the other way.

I was on my way to celebrate a friend's birthday in Santa Monica and was dealing with the various boneheads who were also traveling at high rates of speed westbound on the 10 Freeway that evening. Tailgating, no signal lane changes, high speed braking--all the usual symptoms of asshole freeway drivers in L.A.

I've found that when people are driving home from work they drive like total dickheads (especially on the freeway), which is in stark contrast to how they drive on the way to work. In the mornings, it's slow as molasses, commuters purposely taking their time to accelerate and making sure to stop for every yellow light. Nothing like the dread of actually arriving at work to organically create traffic jams.

Anyway, RIP Sgt. Massey.

SMO Crash Update

So it appears that one of the two fatalities in last night's crash at KSMO was the general manager of the Airliners.net Web site. I've long been a casual fan of the site, which depicts pretty pictures of commercial airliners in all manner of flight and ground ops.

Sounds like Paulo Emanuele was at the controls of the red Marchetti SF-260 when it lost power shortly after departing Runway 21. Still unclear whether Emanuele had turned around and was attempting to land on Runway 3, or whether the plane nose-dived and crashed before reaching the end of the departure runway. Reading the various news accounts out there this afternoon, I'm inclined to believe he hadn't gotten to the end of the runway and just nosed over.

SMO's runway is just under 5,000 feet and those Marchetti's don't need a long takeoff roll, so he probably got airborne abeam or slightly past the control tower and started having engine issues right afterwards. Sounds like he stalled and nosed over. Other scenario has him burning up precious airspeed as he was making a 180 to return to the airport and stalled afterwards.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stuck Elevator

I can check that experience off my list. Surprising, really, given the number of elevators I've ridden in my lifetime. In my last four years of employment, I've ridden the same five elevators in my Wilshire Boulevard building's elevator bank probably upwards of 1,000 times. Never gotten stuck. Until last week.

Leaving work around 1830 hours with two colleagues when our elevator car jolted to a stop about 2 seconds after it departed the 15th floor. Our building is designed with two elevator banks--floors 1 to 15 and 16 to 22. So we're the top floor of our bank. The lights stayed on, but all of the buttons died. The alarm and intercom buttons worked, so we summoned the ground floor security guard who kindly informed us he would be calling Fujitsu, the elevator maintenance company.

That's great. Except Fujitsu is based in FUCKING TORRANCE and we're in Beverly Hills. It was rush hour, on a weekday, and it was raining. No thanks, my friend, kindly call the LAFD.

No dice, he says. Building policy is to NOT CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT, but instead wait for the elevator repair man.

Here's what I'm thinking as I continue this futile argument with the very nice wage-slave nightshift security guard who's simply following written protocol:

I've called the cable company, the phone company, the plumber, the electrician and the exterminator before. (The Gas Co. gets a pass). They show up after many hours, often scratch their heads and tell me (in no particular order) a.) they don't have any idea what's wrong, b.) they don't have "the right part," c.) they have to call the main office to discuss the problem, d.) they have to call their buddy to come help them with the problem or e.) have to come back tomorrow to fix it.

I suspect elevator techs are the same. Clearly, the building's priority is to fix the elevator. My priority is to get the fuck out of the elevator. The LAFD's priority is to get me the fuck out of the elevator and to not give a shit about damaging said elevator to get me out.

So after going round and round with Mr. Security for about 10 minutes, I whipped out the celly and called 911. After being on hold for about four minutes with the CHP's 911 line, I got a live dispatcher on the phone and told her to transfer me to the LAFD, which she did. After a 30 second convo with some LAFD dispatcher in the bowels of OCD, she assured me they were on their way. Which they were.

Less than 10 minutes later I heard voices above and outside the door and LAFD Light Force 61 was on scene and in charge. I relaxed a bit as I knew these guys liked a good challenge and wouldn't leave before we'd been sprung. It took about 45 more minutes, since the building (and its chief engineer) we're being extremely obstructionist and not assisting the LAFD with simple requests like "Where is the elevator room?"

But LF 61 finally located it, cut the power to the elevator and manually raised the car back up to the 15th floor where the doors automatically opened and we walked out. Of course, I took the elevator back to the ground floor. Mechanical lighting striking twice and all that.

As I was pulling out of the parking lot 15 minutes later, Fujitsu was pulling in. Needless to say, Station 61 receive two gallons of premium Dreyer's brand ice cream during their next shift.

Dodging the Trunk


So after spending a weekend in Eagle County, Colo., a few weeks ago, I've renewed appreciation for the scanning landscape here in L.A. County. Mostly, I am greatly relieved that none of the agencies I routinely monitor have switched to a trunked system. While the LAPD's move a few years ago to a digital system forced me to spend a few hundred bucks to upgrade scanners, it wasn't that big of a deal.

My good man NathanMK had the foresight to pre-program his little Uniden TrunkTracker with a host of Eagle County frequencies before he departed Boston, and I brought along my SportCat 180 that is trunk-tracker capable, but is owned by someone that has never programmed a trunked system. In the past, I've just programmed a bunch of the EGE frequencies in the scanner, locked out the control channel (easy to find since it's the channel with the annoyingly loud buzz) and basically rolled the dice. In between the idiotic radio traffic about various Eagle Transit and Vail Transit bus routes, I'd get snippets of public safety traffic. But since my scanner wasn't programmed to trunk, the calls would jump all over the frequencies and I'd almost always only hear bits and pieces of conversations.

Nathan's pre-program was like a revelation of sorts, but it was still a pain-in-the ass, largely owing to spotty reception in our lodgings and giant mountains blocking the various signals bouncing around the county. Halfway through the weekend, I jury rigged my scanner into some semblance of a programmed TrunkTracker and had slightly better success cutting out all the useless public works and bus traffic.

By the time I returned to L.A., I was happy to resume my usual scanning habits, which the local public-safety agencies make fairly easy. There were a few amusing calls to be heard in Colorado, but also made me happy that trunking seems like a distant possibility here. I also thank my lucky stars that the city of Beverly Hills has yet to enact its long-threatened trunking system.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Airplanes

Did a little flying in the past two weeks (as a passenger) and departed KLAX on a beautiful Thursday afternoon in the midst of L.A.'s annual January heat wave. Upon takeoff from Rwy 25R, glimpsed one of the LAFD's ARFF trucks doing a welcoming spray for what appeared to be a Virgin America A320 taxiing into its terminal. They must've been inaugurating a new service.

Upon my landing at KEGE roughly two hours later, fired up the BlackBerry to discover the first reports of US Airways flight 1549's unscheduled water landing. There's obviously nothing I can add to the incident other than to say 1.) "Sully" can be my wingman anytime and 2.) I bet I could've done the same thing on MS FlightSim 2004, except that there are absolutely no decent Airbus add-on products that I've found for the sim.

Since I'm about two weeks late posting this, I'll add this postscript: Watching live-streaming video of a fatal aircraft down at KSMO this evening. Looks like a two-seater aerobatic-type had engine problems after departure on Runway 21 and tried to make it back. Crashed on Runway 3 and skid off onto a northern taxiway, where it burst into flames. Two died. SMFD crash units and airport PD is on scene. Airport will be closed for awhile for the invest. Sadly, the pilot couldn't survive the crash landing and attempted the dubious trick of returning to the runway he just departed from; but his death on the runway avoided potential carnage in the residential area just west of the airport.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Israeli Consulate Protests

So we're going on the fourth or fifth organized protest of Hamas vs. Israel since the conflict began late last month. Since then, the LAPD has really gotten their shit together after stumbling very badly the first time the Israeli and Palestinian supporters started yelling at each other from across the 6300 block of Wilshire Boulevard.

The first night of protests in late December saw the LAPD way behind the eight ball. They desperately requested backup from on-duty patrol units in Wilshire, West L.A. and Hollywood divisions as the crowd grew and they couldn't get their shit together fast enough to shut down Wilshire at rush hour. Reinforcements were sent in from the BHPD and the entire day watch shift of the BHPD was held over for a few hours while the LAPD tried to sort things out and keep protesters from getting run over on Wilshire. Also, they didn't want the two sides killing each other.

So, in the weeks since, they've really put their full effort into preventing a repeat of the organizational mishaps they suffered. What's amusing about the LAPD's subsequents shows of force is that they are disproportionate to the size of the protesters and to anything that actually occurred during the first--and biggest--protest. That is, they're clearly trying to save face and impress the other agencies more than they are actually worried about a full-blown riot erupting.

Anyways, that brings us to today's activities. On my jaunt back from Brentwood around 0900 I saw the LAPD airship circling low over Wilshire and San Vicente and figured something was up. I parked my car and mosey'd over to the general area, where the DOT had just shut down Wilshire going eastbound. The protesters numbered about 15. The LAPD numbered about 10. Within 20 minutes, the LAPD numbers swelled while the protesters remained about the same.

The crappy camera phone pic above shows the first arriving units from Wilshire, West L.A., Olympic and West Traffic divisions lining up along the street. A captain in a tricked-out black, Dodge Charger then showed up followed by a Sgt. from West Traffic. Then, the news trucks, helos and LAFD's Battalion 18's sedan rolled in. Apparently, some protesters had chained themselves to each other or the building or some other such nonsense.

As an aside, members of the State Department's diplomatic security force have basically been stationed in front of and in the consulate for the past week or so. I noticed a bunch of them taking a lunch break in front of the building yesterday.


By 1000 hours, when I returned to my place of work, which is down the street from the Israeli consulate, all of Wilshire had been shut from San Vicente to at least Crescent Heights and more than a dozen unmarked cars from Metro division were parked in the middle of the street, with officers suiting up in riot gear and removing bundles of flex-cuffs from their car trunks. The most interesting aspect of this is what's clearly a by-product of 2007's disastrous May-Day protests when the LAPD went wildin' through the crowd and beat up everyone in sight, including journalists. So now, on the back of their tactical vests, in huge WHITE BLOCK LETTERS are embroidered the officers names. At least I assume it's their names, what with "Martinez," "Rodriguez," "JACKSON," on full display. Funny, too, since when the LAPD is giving you a beatdown and you're covering your head, might be tough to spot the officer's last name ON THE BACK OF HIS UNIFORM as he's hitting you from the front. But the devil is always in the details.

At full strength, the LAPD response included units from Rampart and as Pacific divisions, as well. The LAFD had Light Force and Rescue 61 standing by, though I didn't see the full complement of mounted patrols that have been here on previous occasions.

By 1115 hours, the incident was Code 4, the Metro cops and the LAFD had departed and the airship cleared the scene.

Wilshire Boulevard Shenanigans

Maybe it's the goofy weather, but Wilshire has been a freakshow all morning from the Miracle Mile west into Brentwood (admittedly, the only portion I've actually traveled today).

Items:

-- I was rushing to an early morning appointment at 0715 this morning and was weaving in and out of worker-bee traffic going westbound Wilshire through the Westwood hi-rise corridor. Doing about 45 mph when some jerkoff pulled out from a side street and into my lane forcing me to slow down to about 35 or 40. As I was mentally swearing at this guy, I noticed out of the corner of my right eye and green and tan-clad motorcycle cop with a radar gun. We made eye contact and there was that split-second moment where he was deciding whether or not I was his guy and I was waiting to see if he'd pull into traffic. The moment passed and he kept searching for other quarry.

So, thanks to you, Black VW Jetta guy, for slowing me down and sparing me from an almost certain speeding ticket. However, I couldn't quite understand what an LASD motor cop was doing speed-trapping on Wilshire, which is the thick of LAPD jurisdiction.

An hour later, heading eastbound on Wilshire, saw the same guy about a mile from his original location writing a ticket to the driver of a black car service Town Car, which made me smile, since Limo/Town Car drivers rank only slightly lower on the aggressive-asshole driving scale than the average taxi driver.

The other Shenanigan deserves--and will get--a separate post (see above).

Monday, January 12, 2009

All Quiet...

...so far in this January heat wave. Record high temps expected again tomorrow, so hopefully, we'll get by without a big brusher.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Scanning

The joy of scanning SoCal is that on a random Sunday evening in January, the following things are all going on at once:

-- BHPD is running security and trying to keep the mischief down at the Beverly Hilton hotel as the Golden Globes awards are underway. They've been out there all day with set-up and celebrity arrivals, etc. etc. Right now, BHFD is responding to some manner of medical emergency on the second floor of the hotel, even as the place is locked-down tight because the awards broadcast is underway. Lots of traffic on the BHPD Tac (453.650) regarding random road closures and vehicles trying to get past checkpoints.

--On the far southwestern end of LAFD's jurisdiction they're using FIRE 4 to hoist some lady from the bottom of the cliff down in FS 48's district on the Palos Verdes Penninsula. FIRE 6 is standing watch as the observer helo.

--And way up in the Northwest Valley in Chatsworth, LAFD hit the "uh-oh" button when a Metrolink (though possibly Amtrak) train hit and killed some chick who was walking in a tunnel. She was pronounced dead on scene, but now they've got a train full of 400 folks stuck in the tunnel as they investigate and a bottleneck of delayed trains on the tracks behind them. No injuries on the train but LAFD and LAPD have formed a joint-command to try to figure out how the fuck to get the body out of the tunnel and move the trains again. It looks like the involved train is going to be stuck for at least two hours as the coroner investigates.

USAR Task Force 88 was on scene for a bit and was prepping for lighting and other USAR-type activities, but the IC just cut them loose since they didn't want all those guys tied up for so long, while everyone's standing around waiting.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New LAPD Stations Activated*

So I've been hearing the newly christened Olympic Area units being dispatched on the scanner in the past few days but haven't heard any calls go out for the new Topanga division way out in the west Valley (at the site of a former sex toy manufacturer!). But both divisions appear to be operational, Olympic being an important addition to the Mid-City area relieving some of the pressure in both the Wilshire and Rampart divisions. Olympic Area cars have the "20" prefix and the Topanga cars will have the "21" prefix.

There was a little murmur of debate a few weeks ago when the LAPD said they'd be shifting some officers from the ritzy (and relatively quiet) West LA Area to help staff up at Olympic.

*Check that. Just heard a Topanga unit get sent out on a HOTSHOT at 2252 hours. So all the new guys are now playing in the sandbox.

Full Moon Madness


I don't subscribe to many superstitions, but one that I do buy into is the nuttiness that a full moon brings. Tonight's moon is to be the biggest of the year and the scanner is bearing that out. It doesn't hurt, of course, that it was nearly 80 degrees in the L.A. today, the beginning of a warm spell.
By 2130 hours, LAFD had one good apartment burner going in South L.A., had put out dispatches for two others (one in Hollywood and another in Watts) and the LAPD was bumping with all manner of calls. Probably going to be a long night in the city.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Winds of Change


In the few sporadic years I've maintained this blog, the Santa Ana winds and the fires they spawn seem to be a recurring theme. I've posted about them here...and here.

Mostly, because they bring fire and havoc, often in January when the chilly nights (like the foggy one tonight) and the bare branches lull us into thinking we're done with fires until next summer. So let it not be a surprise when the winds come roaring from the east tomorrow afternoon and temps spike into the 80's by Sunday.

LAFD will probably go into Red Flag operations by tomorrow afternoon and we will all hold our breaths and hope nothing burns.

Photo: Just Fillmore Blog

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Score One for Hip-Hop Journalism

I don't really know what the L.A. Times is becoming, which is fine since no one who works there knows what it's becoming, either. Sadly, I missed all this drama on the scanner (and would have anyway since I never listen to the LAX PD, because my tolerance for listening to the LAX cops towing cars, checking unattended luggage and resetting emergency exit alarms is surprisingly low), but sounds like there was quite a hoedown on a Delta flight into LAX this morning.

As the plane's on final approach, some asshole gets up and rushes the rear galley trying to open the door. Then he screams the B-word. Then he attacks some haughty flight attendant who is there primarily for everyone's safety. Maybe I got the order reversed, but the facts are there.

Luckily, the LA Times tells us in a blog-post (which is fast becoming their new favorite format) worthy of any fine college newspaper, that members of rap-artist Asher Roth's retinue scrambled into action. There's even a cute (blurry, natch!) citizen journo photo of some white guy who might be the suspect, but the mustachioed dude behind him is also a prime candidate even though he looks like a cop. The photo is also kindly credited to Asher's keyboardist.

For certain, this is the best thing ever to happen to the career of Asher Roth. So boo for the would-be bomber and the sillier-than-ever LA Times. Yay for proactive white rappers (and their bandmates)!

Hollywood Fatal

Re-applying myself to blogging and waiting for my 9 p.m. espresso jolt to wear off (It's 0116 hours and no luck yet) and LAFD's boys in East Hollywood catch a nasty-sounding fatal TC on the Sunset Boulevard onramp to the southbound 101 Freeway. Judging from the radio traffic on Tac-12 and the CHP CAD, it was a two-car smash up with a baby and a young female ejected and DOA. It's gonna be a long night for the CHP on the 101.

***UPDATE***

Sounds like the driver nodded off. Her car drifted right, hit the guardrail to the onramp and flipped. Killed the driver and 5-year-old in the rear seat. 11-year-old up front was only a minor injury.

Try, Try Again


The LAPD is nothing if not persistent in their efforts to clear blue names and consciences. Way back in July 2005, the Department's SWAT team engaged in a serious gunfight with a coked-up dude named Jose Raul Pena. Tragically, Pena used his 19-month-old daughter as a human shield and they both died in the gunfight.

The LA County Coroner's office ruled little Susie Pena died from a gunshot wound to the head from a high-velocity weapon, ergo a SWAT bullet. The LAPD didn't really like that decision and pretty soon the lawsuits were rolling in from the Pena family. So they seized on some shady science by a 32-year-old forensic tech that said the bullet could have come from Jose's handgun. Tons of applied pressure later from all manner of LAPD brass, and the coroner's office didn't budge.

The LA Times has the story.

Monday, January 05, 2009

EMS = Monkey


My friends and I have long used the term "monkey" as a catch-all phrase. Someone could be a monkey or an object or an idea could be monkey. Nouns and adverbs. It's interchangeable. We do not discriminate on the basis of age, gender, sexual orientation, religion or anything else for that matter. Everyone and everything is fair game.

For instance, that guy who thinks he's cool but takes himself way too seriously--usually a monkey. Or, the idea of buying souped-up Dodge Chargers, painting yellow and blue squares on them, adding a light bar and stenciling "PARAMEDIC" on the lower doors = MONKEY.

Of course, that didn't stop the folks down in Wake County, North Carolina, from doing just that. Many EMS departments nationwide have adopted the "first-response" type system, where they send a paramedic to the call in a non-ambulance vehicle. It's a good idea that saves time, money, resources and effort all the way around. An ALS-trained provider gets on scene first, begins providing care and can determine the most appropriate next-step for the patient without automatically tying up a transporting ambulance. This works especially well in semi-rural and rural areas where transporting EMS resources can be scarce.

Most departments that have this sort of system use an SUV or some type of truck. There's nothing wrong, of course, with using a car for this sort of response. The LAFD has its EMS supervisors in Ford Crown Victoria's. Police departments often gin up cars like this or this for publicity or other specific purposes. But Wake County's Dodge's are shining example of the high Monkey-factor tha--given the chance--EMS folks will always put on display.

photo: Courtesy of FireNews.net

Sigh...

Here I go again. Promises, promises. I don't really know why I can't keep this damn blog cranking along, but I think it's partly laziness and, well...laziness. Though I do find it onerous to link to things etc. etc.

I'll try to do better since I like writing here when I've got the energy. And I like all two of my readers.

So far, 2009 has gotten off to a quiet start all the way around. I'm still in the same place in life: on the outside of public safety (for almost six years now!), but really ready to get back in. To that end, I've been taking some tentative steps in that direction that will hopefully yield results sometime this year. My lady had me pick my rune out of a little gray pouch the other night. I picked the smooth, white stone with upward facing arrow. The rune of the Tiwaz "Spiritual Warrior." She read me my rune's meaning. Patience, a sense of self and perseverance are all attributes of the "Warrior" rune. So, it's all about patience and perseverance as I try to accomplish my goals this year.