Not Unlike the Marine Corps
Many law enforcement agencies are structured in a paramilitary fashion in the ways of rank, discipline, and even training. It begins in the academy where stress is introduced as a manner of testing one’s fortitude and ability to withstand the pressures of the job.
If you can’t tolerate a drill instructor yelling at you, how will you deal with the savages on the street who hate cops, and in today’s society are outwardly aggressive toward them?
Paying my Dues
I recently reconnected with a man who was very well known throughout the department in his day. He retired as a lieutenant, but for most of his career, he was known as a great street cop, a veteran, maybe even what you would call the salty type. His name is Longobardo, and I met him when I was in the academy. Now, thirty-six years later, he told me I can call him Jim.
It was early 1984 and my academy class was at the stage of our training where we had been qualified at the range, had learned basic search and arrest techniques, and we could go in foot pursuit for eight miles if we needed to. Which meant it was time for patrol station ride-along assignments.
Patrol Ride: Pico Rivera
Two of my patrol rides were scheduled for Pico Rivera, an area south and east of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Valley. It has always been a busy station with a lot of gang- and drug-related activity.
That is where I met the big man with the skeptical cop eyes and a lumbering gait. It would be years later before I would realize that the gait was the byproduct of years of abuse: getting in and out of a radio car while wearing fifty pounds of equipment around your waist, many hours of sitting, and then sudden outbursts of energy and physical stresses such as foot pursuits and physical altercations.
Bottom of the Barrel
Cadets were viewed as lower than station trustees. A trustee is an inmate who has been allowed to “work” while serving his time. Every station has a crew of them who maintain the grounds, wash cars, pump gas and perform general custodial duties on the premises. They live at their assigned stations, as each facility has a jail. Deputies treat the trustees better than they treat cadets as a matter of practice. Nowadays, they call it hazing, and it’s forbidden. We called it a tradition, and accepted it as a rite of passage.
Jim, an “old-school” street cop, was no different. He grumbled and growled in the briefing room. He instructed me to have a seat against the wall (rather than at the table) and pay attention. After the shift briefing, we prepared our assigned patrol car. He watched carefully as I broke down the Ithaca Model 37 shotgun, making sure I wasn’t going to get us both killed. He barked about expectations, what I was to do if A, B, C, or D were to occur. (Though I don’t recall specifically, I would imagine that the list included A) if we get into a foot pursuit, B) if we have to fight a suspect, C) if we get into a shooting, and D) what I would tell my Drill Instructor if he were to ask how my ride-along went.)
His final message stuck with me for the rest of my career: “We go home at the end of our shift.”
With that, we went 10-8.
10-8: Unit is In Service
During our shift, we handled quite a few calls for service and we also made a few arrests: a drunk causing a disturbance at a fleabag motel, a heroin addict wanted for burglary. I wrote all of the reports and kept the daily log, all of which Jim dictated to me word for word.
My favorite memory, one which I recently shared with Jim and we both had a laugh over, was our dinner “break.”
Jim drove our sheriff’s radio car to the far end of a park, away from citizens, where we stopped beneath a cluster of trees. He left the car running and got out, and told me to do the same. Placing his food on the hood, he said, “Better get used to it, this is your dinner table for the next twenty or thirty years.”
We dined on the hood of the radio car paying close attention to the radio traffic as we did. It was another tradition of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department: we did not take “Code-7 breaks,” like LAPD does. We ate on the hoods of our cars when the time would allow for it, and we were often interrupted by a hot call or another unit needing backup.
Once we finished, Jim took a long look around the park. I was watching him closely, as I had throughout our shift. But I had no idea what he was looking for. Finally, he pointed to a trash can at the far end of the park, about two hundred yards away, and tossed me his trash. “See that trash can over there?”
“That’s why God made cadets.”
I hustled to the trash can with his trash and mine and double-timed it back. When I returned he was sitting behind the wheel waiting, the air-conditioner keeping him cool. I was covered in sweat. When I closed my door, he drove off without a word, and we exited the park within feet of the trash can I had jogged to and from. Jim looked over at me and grinned as we drove past it.
Paying my dues.
The Sheriff’s Academy
There were many dues-paying opportunities while “on the hill,” the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Training Academy in East Los Angeles. In addition to the patrol station ride-alongs, we had daily opportunities during physical training that came in the way of running, doing push-ups, pull-ups, burpees, and jumping jacks, and then running some more.
Afterward, we were allowed to take five minutes to shower, change back into uniform, and fall into formation for inspection. At which time we would be told we looked like hell and be given five minutes to change back into our sweaty P.T. gear. Of course, that is but one example of the dues-paying opportunities we were afforded.
After graduation from the academy, sheriff’s deputies are first assigned to work at one of the several custody facilities throughout the county, where more opportunities would arise for one to pay his/her dues. After all, we were still rookies, “boots.”
After a year or two (or more) of working at the jail, a deputy goes out to patrol. If you are fortunate, you go to a station where it is busy, because that is where you have the most fun and are in a position to learn to be a good street cop in a short amount of time. It is no surprise that those are also the stations where deputies embraced the dues-paying traditions. After all, when you go out to patrol, you’re again a trainee, once again a boot.
Fond Memories and Pride
If you didn’t know any better, you might think I was complaining. But the truth is, almost every deputy sheriff who has paid their dues along the way are proud that they did, and we pity those who are part of a new era, a more “civil” department.
For my cop friends, I’d love to see the comments (below) fill with great stories of paying your dues
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Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you will share it with your family and friends.
I have one question for anyone who might have an answer: Having been a cadet in class #104 in ’64-’65, we obviously received true stress training, and in August of 1965, the Watts Riot hit hard for about two weeks. Being green behind the ears, I was one of many cops (LASD, but was LASO then as I recall), I was pulled from the old WHR to join in on the “fun” (HA). To finally get to my question, when did the Dept. terminate “stress” training such as I endured and what ‘powers that be’ back then made that decision? Did it go to the court system or by other levels of authority? Having been retired since 1990, my brain is a bit foggy to remember the specifics that far back in time. Thanks for the help.
It is my experience that every generation of deputy claims their class was the last of the stress classes. Yet there is still plenty of stress in today’s academy.
I was in Class #220, the last class to graduate from “The Hill” before the academy was moved to Whittier. We were certain that the agenda involved coddling and diaper changes, but the truth is all of the classes that followed were every bit as tough as mine.
My nephew graduated a few decades later and I couldn’t believe the defensive tactics they had, compared to what ours had been–way more intense and violent.
I worked Firestone from 1986 until they closed the doors in 1994, and it was a violent, dangerous, and busy place to be, and of course we had the L.A. riots in 1992. A lot of old timers will say it was nothing like it had been in their day. I beg to differ. In fact, it’s even more dangerous today than when I was there, and that was during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic and drive-by shootings were daily–if not hourly–events.
Thank you for your service and taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment/question. You’ve actually given me an idea for a future blog post.
I wonder how the “paying dues” tradition started and who created it.
Who started playing games and why all new people decided to be scared and follow it even until today’s day.
I wonder what would take for cops to start taking more care of each other, new or not, and have the common sense to fight against unwritten non-sense rules.
Cops, new or not, should not have to be scared of talking, using the restroom, eating, using elevators, a gym during off duty hours (arent cops supposed to stay fit, but the rule is you cannot use the gym?) using any county benefit or item that’s there for every employee and that some think they own it and can decide that new ones cannot use etc. Probably that’s why the high rate of suicides and divorces in law enforcement.
What would it take for people to stop being scared thinking they have to follow non-sense unwritten rules.
Probably most people there now don’t even know how this “tradition” started and they are just scared oof retaliation if they don’t follow the “tradition”
The tradition of hazing begins in the academy or in the military for those who serve. It is important to make sure that cops have the temerperament to deal with being treated poorly and not losing their minds — since being treated poorly (to say the least) is a big part of being a cop and dealing with the public, the brass, and the justice system.
The high rate of suicides and divorces come from a multitude of things that have nothing to do with being hazed, such as picking up dead kids and watching partners die and dealing with a system that is stacked against you, plus being exposed to a lifetime of violence and death. There are a tremendous number of cops who would be diagnosed with PTSD if they ever were examined, an extraordinary number in my estimation.
Thank you for your insightful comment and dialogue.
For a lay person to understand what the term “pay your dues” means, you must have worked in our shoes. Paying your dues starts at the academy and continues on with training in the patrol environment. Paying your dues does not mean playing games. There are people that are not cut out for this profession and must be weeded out for their own safety. I have worked 38 years in law enforcement and personally observed the rookies who experience this type of training and turn out to be thankful for it. It can essentially save their lives in a stressful situation. Training officers take extreme pride in turning out proficient street cops and must watch over and care for those individuals. Many go on to be close friends and appreciate that they were trained in this manner. Law enforcement is unlike many other professions. There must be a chain of command and it needs to be respected. Most rookies that join the profession these days have no military experience and may not understand this type of training. After they do experience it and move forward in their careers, they understand and appreciate that they were trained in this manner.
Tom, I agree with your well-stated comment. Thank you.
Jim was in my academy class…..172. A few of us would spend our Saturdays, shooting and doing PT……what a great time
Speaking of “quickie changie” How about trying to put on a girdle…do any of you even know what a girdle is……LOL, after just showering. Those were some great times……
Thanks, Detta. (:
YES, INDEED! Although it was the Reserve Academy (Class 22), 1970, I certainly remember the girdle and stockings! That’s definitely something the guys will never understand what we (females) had to deal with! Ahhhh, the “good ol’ days!”
I think some of the guys nowadays might.
Danny, Nice to hear from you too. As a little side note, when I retired in 2010 I was fortunate to purchase a new 2010 Grand Sport Corvette. The personal license plate was “PDMYDWZ”. Take care of yourself and keep up the good work !
I truly remember what “paying your dues” was all about. In my 36yr career with LASD, I was fortunate to work Temple Station, SEB (SWT), Laser Village, East LA Station (Sgt), SEB Canine (Sgt) and MCJ (Lt). Their were so many traditions, ideals and peer pressures that instilled in me pride and professionalism over those years. I remember one day in the academy when the staff was notified that Deputy Irma Alvarez had been shot at Pico Rivera Station. The DI’s in our class had us get in PT gear and ran us up behind SBI for a little physical/mental training. They yelled and preached about the dangers of police work while instructing us through great physical pain. They made sure we understood the seriousness of becoming a Deputy Sheriff. Being on patrol training was like the academy once you completed it. You didn’t enjoy it much at the time, but you were so glad to have gone through the pain and stress of it all and we’re proud of what you accomplished. “Kinder and Gentler” doesn’t work in this profession where your life is on the line. One thing I realized towards the end of my career was that it is imperative that the seasoned deputies pass on these traditions and ideals to their subordinates. A lot of these traditions don’t seem like a big deal in themselves, but when you add all of them together that is what makes our profession honorable and unique from others. As an example, in my final year while working as the PM W/C at MCJ, I would see two young squared away jail deputies (former Marines) in the weight room every evening. I noticed that they both wore SEB logo t-shirts while working out. It was not a big deal in itself and I’m sure they didn’t know any better, but I passed this tradition on to them. I asked them how they would feel if I wore a USMC t-shirt (never having been a Marine) in the MCJ gym every night. They were a little puzzled but when I explained it to them, they fully understood and thanked me for telling them. I pray for all the P.O.’s in our country and I have fond memories of my days with LASD. Btw Danny, I met you a few times with JP when working saturation patrol at FPK. I am enjoying your novels. Outstanding job !
Tommy, yes, I remember you well. Jerry just came by for a visit a couple weeks ago and it was great visiting with him.
I totally agree with you about everything you’ve said. One of my many good friends who went to SEB got me a t-shirt (without me asking for one) so I gave it to my wife to wear only as a night shirt. I would never wear any insignia I haven’t earned. I have a good friend who’s a SEAL. Same deal, gave me a Team One cap. It’s in the man cave and has been for thirty years. Looks brand new other than being dusty. lol
Glad to know you’re enjoying my novels. Thank you for reading them! Enjoy your very well-earned retirement, my friend.
I was a trainee at SDM. One night, my regular TO, John Boyle called in, so I ended up riding with another great street cop, Pete Brodie..
Long story short, we were ambushed by gang bangers who originally were set on capping a CHP officer; but I guess they figured we would do in a pinch. We survived, gang bangers ( with the help of Kretzinger and his dog found the homies) Sadly, our patrol car took a hit in one of the tires.
I was ordered to change the flat tire.
I still remember Sgt. Bruce McClellan (RIP), Pete, and other deputies watching me and making bets between themselves that I ( being a trainee and girl) would have no clue how to change a tire)
Thank Jesus, I had taken auto mechanics class in high school.
After I correctly changed the tire, it grew quiet and you could hear a pin drop. Sgt. McClellan gruffly told me to get in the car and drive it back to the station.
The good ol ‘days.
Haha all that after taking rounds! WTG, Toni! (:
We were a few weeks into our academy class when we were told to report at 0530 because some special event with the Sheriff was planned around our normal reporting time. I was the first platoon Sgt . The class Sgt totally screwed up and I was told take over. After a lot of yelling in my face my several DI’s I was told to drop and give them 10.(push up’s). I went airborne and when my feet hit the ground they were on the toes of a pair of highly polished DI’s shoes. needles to say I did a lot more than 10 pushups. Years later I worked for that DI and asked him if he remembered the incident. He did and told me that he had to wear a pair of shoes 2 sizes to small all day for the Sheriff’s visit.
Haha great times.
I fondly remember paying my dues, when I went to patrol at Lynwood station. I wasn’t allowed to sit at the big table during briefing, not allowed to speak to any “IG’s” unless they spoke to me first, not allowed to eat on the hood with the rest of the guys etc etc. I didn’t mind it one bit. I had to pay my dues and I knew it. I recall a conversation between my TO and I, about three months into training. We were going over my trainee evaluation and he told me, “You’re doing well. You’ve learned a lot but you haven’t learned everything. You just know enough to make you dangerous.” Has right! LOL
Exactly right, John. Thank you!
I haven’t seen mention of anyone leaving their locker unlocked during switchy changie. Happened several times during my time at the Academy. The guilty parties equipment would be placed on the stage and they would not be given additional time to sort through and change into the appropriate uniform for the next segment! Fortunately I was not one of guilty parties. Now that was stress!
Those quickie changies were the worse.. when my class was on the hill, we were there with two other classes, and we had to share lockers. It was bad!
I still remember paying my dues while working patrol at East L.A Station. You were a boot for atleast three years after patrol training. You see, back in the ’80s, turnover at the station was very slow, and you had to pay your dues to earn respect from some great veteran deputies.
Absolutely. Thanks, Ike.
What you and others might not know is that in 1968 the department engaged in a grand (and failed) experiment called a “non stress” academy. The back story is that one of the Assistant Sheriffs (Howard Earle–who was ultimately fired for misconduct) was working on his PhD from USC and needed a “project” for his dissertation. So two classes of equal size (classes 126 and 127) were created. 126 trained on the hill and was “stress”. 127 (non stress) trained at the Navy-Marine Corps Armory in Chavez Ravine.
The only “problem” was that all three of the 127 DI’s were former Marines. Anyone who knows Marines knows that “non stress” is not in their playbook. So, in reality, the only difference between the two classes was that 127’s DI’s might not have yelled at us quite as much as the DI’s on the hill. Everything else, including PT and VERY long runs in the hills around Dodger Stadium were the same.
Our classes graduated on the same day and an equal # from each class went directly to Firestone in order to continue the great experiment. The theory was that the stress trained boot Deps would do better than the non stress trained. Earle’s PHD dissertation took a much deserved hit when graduates of both classes did equally well at Firestone. Earle’s theory that non stress would result in “kinder, more gentle” street cops turned out to be as full of BS as he was. He got his PHD and the department abandoned the “non stress” academy concept as being bogus….which it was.
That is interesting, Jerry. Thanks for sharing. Danny
Deedub, as I recall it had to do with lighting up ELA from the guard tower, and the expected reaction from the locals. Give my best to DR.
Good stories. They reminded me of one a mutual friend of mine and Deedub told me (DR). As an off-the-streeter he got put through the paces pretty good by an old salt dep. Much to his surprise, that old salt dep. (DK) was lined up south of the solid white line with him the next week at BC; having been hired the week before our mutual friend. They’re friends to this day, so it worked out. But you deserved to wear that McDonald’s cap for your first shift. Those were the days….
and “hey” to my old partner Gary Wilkerson…been a long time….
lol… I didn’t know about that, Johnny. You’ll have to message me that name.
Not only did I deserve to wear that McDonalds hat my first night, I deserved to wear it my whole career…But DR does like to “exaggerate” that story just a bit….I mean, how many “paces” could I put him through when we never left the booth while working a dorm at BC? Hand out the toilet paper? Fill out the log? He’ll remind me about that story AGAIN when we go fishing for a week next month LMAO!!!
Jeezee, I wonder what happened to Jim. Longo was such a “SWEETHEART” when I worked with him at Lakewood.
I still laugh my ass off every time I recall my first night at IRC…..Me and two of my fellow first day trainees were barking out orders at Booking Front while wearing those paper McDonald’s hats….Before the night was over, the “Old salts” had given us, shall we say, less than flattering nicknames. Of course they made us write our monikers on our hats with a black felt pen. Those were the days. They weren’t just good, they were GREAT…..I cherish those memories.
I forgot that story. lol. Classic! Thanks for sharing it, Deedub.
I was probably working that night when you had your ride along in Pico. I still stay in touch with Jim and I’m glad you had a good ride. We have many war stories that I may share someday or just pass on to my grandkids. Paying your dues and stress are absolutely necessary. How else do deal with a 300 pound gang banger who tells you to go “F” yourself or an aggressive defense attorney who attacks your testimony and integrity in court. I trained many years as a deputy and sergeant and sometimes I was given the task of getting marginal people off training or getting rid of them. Most were successful but unfortunately some resigned and one even attempted suicide. Law enforcement is not for everyone and doing a great job today is almost impossible. Kudos to those who can.
It is NOT for everybody, and in the academy or during training is the time to find out. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Larry (uh, sir). (;
I too graduated from the academy in 1984. I began my career at one of the better police departments in the largest county in the nation (that’s L.A. for any of you east coast types). It wasn’t till later that I lateral transferred to the LASD. As a patrol trainee with less than three months in the field, we had occasion to arrest a 300 pound out-of-work logger who was visiting from some place out of state. Close to closing time at one of the city’s more rowdy bars, he decided to mix it up with a couple of his fellow bar patrons. While they took their abuse without calling the police, when he was asked to leave the bar before the police were called, he complied–sort of. The bar tender had called a cab for the lumbering bear of a man, but Jack (as in lumbering) wasn’t having it. After he punched out the cab driver, the police were called. My partner and I were able to get him cuffed without having an actual fight, but apparently Jack was unhappy with his decision to let us arrest him without a fight. By the time he was in the booking cell, he made it clear he was going to beat the crap out of whoever was handy when his cuffs came off. My FTO informed the watch commander of the situation, just to cover the bases. The W/C, an old school ex-Navy man with tattoos covering his arms before it was mainstream, looked at me and then at my FTO and said, “Well, let’s see if your boy here can handle himself. Let him uncuff the man and book him.” My FTO looked a bit uncomfortable and the W/C just grinned as he followed us to the booking cage area where the cuffed logger was building a head of steam. I knew exactly what I was going to do if I got any indication our arrestee wasn’t going to go along with a peaceful booking process. As soon as I uncuffed the first wrist, he yanked hardand stepped forward. Standing behind him, I immediately drove my foot into the back of his knee–hard! He lost several inches as the support of his right knee was taken away rather rudely. Without wasting a split second I locked him up in a carotid hold, using my stron arm around his neck in the famous “V”, and using my left arm behind his neck to increase the pressure. The big man drove me back into the wall several times, coming close to knocking the wind out of me, but I held on, knowing I was going to be in deep trouble if I didn’t put him to sleep. Several seconds later I felt him lose consciousness and he collapsed to the ground with me landing on top of him in the tight quarters. As I reapplied the loose cuff and cranked it down hard, I looked up and saw the Watch commander chuckling. “Yeah, I think we’ll keep this one” he said to my training officer, referring to me apparently. “Drag this guy to the drunk tank and leave him cuffed till he’s sobered up a couple hours,” he told my FTO. When we returned to our radio car my FTO told me as long as I didn’t f&%# up too bad from here on out, I was going to have a permanent job with the police department in that city.
This brings up something I hadn’t even touched on, and that is “proving” oneself. My T.O. did something similar in the field when we had one of those encounters that no matter how we tried, the suspect wasn’t going in without his fight. My T.O. never got out of the car; rather, he yelled at me while I was rolling on the ground with this guy, telling me to hurry up and get the guy handcuffed. lol. I remember thinking, “It would go a lot faster if you got your ass out here and helped me!” lol.
LMAO! Yeah, I’m sure it works the same way today, right? Yeah….right!
Uh, yeah, not likely. lol
When I worked at SRC, Jim Longobardo wrote one of the best commendations I ever received. The call was a 211 JO involving 3 or4 vehicles and suspects. I had units go in pursuit of the vehicles all at the same time all in different locs, and might I add went 10-15 with them. I was very thankful he took the time to write it for me.
He’s a great guy. I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with him. He about flipped when I told him I rode with him as a cadet. Of course, it hadn’t been anything memorable to him. We had a good laugh about the trash story, and I warned him I was going to write it.
You hit upon “quickie changie”! I too have a story.
It would be know in our class as “night of the long knifes”, a specific title given to the day by one of the staff. This staff member also retired as a Lt. and years later would b my Lt. at a specific bureau.
It started on the hill after a rigorous p.t. event. We were told you have 5 minutes to get into your Calss A’s and fall out for inspection.
Well, we never made the time cut so as it was in those days, back and forth, p.t. gear, five minutes into class A’s. The staff member was seated in the old gymnasium in a large stuffed chair. Where he obtained the chair was a mystery. We never passed his inspection.
I guess we were into this tradition for about two hours when IT happened. I was returning to the gym in my sweaty p.t. gear and sweaty body. I ran around the corner from the locker room to gym and WHAM…….. ran into another of the staff. Yes, I left the silhouette of my sweaty body on the front of his class A uniform.
Now, this silver haired staff member was known for his quiet but intimidating personality. He looked at me, looked at his uniform and quietly said, “ See me on the grinder after this is over”. Well, I knew my time in at LASD was short lived.
Fortunately we were about two months into our academy so the 100,000 push ups I had to do, south of the solid whit line facing north was no big deal.
This one of my greatest memories of the “old” academy.
The silver haired staff member also became one of my supervisors and a good friend.
Thanks for your great stories. I think all of older dudes can relate!
Ah, yes, south of the solid white line… lol. I didn’t even mention that when we were there they were running three classes at a time on the hill and we had to share lockers. Sometimes there would be two classes changing after PT at the same time, some 200 cadets. There were elbows thrown a few times. lol