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 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


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).


-- 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... 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.


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


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.