Dealing with the unexpected and unusual are two reasons I became a police officer. If I had wanted a dull job, I would have become an accountant. Yet there are just some things even a 13-year veteran of the LAPD is not ready for.
My first day on the job I met with Capt, Garrett Zimmon, commanding officer of the Hollywood patrol division. My new boss wanted to explain to me the unique aspects of policing Hollywood, Zimmon didn't overstate his case. Lt. Dan Watson, night watch commander, also took time to talk about my new assignment with the division. He, too, couldn't be accused of exaggeration. I listened, but wasn't quite sure what my bosses were trying to say.
Hollywood is home of the motion picture industry, a magnet for the bizarre and a great place to do a wide variety of police work. The Hollywood division has the distinction of having a waiting list of officers wanting to transfer in a definite sign of high morale.
But I quickly learned that Hollywood is sometimes a strange place to work. My second night on the job, I responded to a call where officers were already on-scene. They had been flagged down by a tourist from Tennessee. Apparently, the Hollywood visitor lost nearly $4,000 in cash and $20,000 in cashier's checks after concluding a business deal with two ladies he had picked up on Hollywood Boulevard. The victim wanted the officers to transport him to where he last saw the suspects.
Sure enough, the women were among the tourists strolling down the "walk of fame." They were also accompanied by a man carrying a 6-foot python draped over his shoulders. It became instantly clear to me why officers sometimes refer to Hollywood as a zoo.
The officers took the women to the station for further investigation. I decided it was also necessary to transport the man with the huge snake. Since the women filled the backseat of the other officers' car, I had to transport the man with the snake. No problem, right? What I didn't know was that reptiles are prone to flatulence. I'm not talking about being pompous or pretentious; I'm talking about "breaking wind," or to be more descriptive: The damned snake farted in my police car. I was fortunate, however. "Al the snake" waited until I reached the station parking lot before fouling the environs of my black and white.
What was the outcome of the investigation? Well, our tourist/victim suddenly remembered that he may not have had all that money on him when he and the ladies had their tryst. The officers discussed with him California law regarding filing a false police report. Al the snake and his owner were questioned and released. Neither had outstanding warrants. But I did caution Al on his rudeness. After all, I wouldn't have committed such a heinous act in his cage.
The excitement of my second night in city was only the beginning of an interesting, though sometimes wild, career with the Hollywood division.
Rod Bernsen is a retired LAPD sergeant and a reporter for Fox 11 News.