Wednesday, August 31, 2011


How do you deal with the police when you’re a PI? What do you do if you’ve never been a police officer, yet you need to work with them or get information from them on one of your cases? Here’s what I suggest. First try to contact a police officer or detective that you know who works the same department as the detective handling your case. Ask him/her for an introduction to the police officer your trying to contact. If you don’t know it already, cops are very clannish. It always helps to have a gatekeeper. Once you have a contact person on your case, try to go in person. I always find that it’s a lot harder for someone to blow me off in person then it is on the phone. Here’s another helpful hint.The best time to contact a police detective is between 7/8:00 AM. They usually try to get a jump on their paperwork and case load at that time before they head out to court or the field. Once you actually get to speak with the detective, don’t be intimidated. Most detectives will be helpful, especially if you have something to give them that will help them in a case. Once they’ve warmed up to you in person, they’ll often tell you things they normally wouldn’t tell you over the phone. Here’s another tip: Every detective bureau has its share of slugs and do-nothings; but, they usually have one or two hard working street detectives who know all the bad guys, the crime patterns in their area, and will work their tails off with any information you can provide them. The trick here is you have to find that one. If you don’t know anyone in that department and, or, division, try to find a veteran uniformed officer, identify yourself, and ask him point blank, “Who’s the best street cop in the detective bureau?” That’s the guy you want to deal with.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


One night while I was still a rookie police officer with the LAPD, my training officer and I made a felony arrest.  In those days, in order to book an arrestee for a felony, you had to get booking approval from the night watch detective.  On this particular night, our division night watch detective was on a day off, so we had to go to another division to get booking approval.  When I handed their night watch detective the booking approval, I noticed he was looking at what appeared to be an identification card that had his photograph on it.  Being naturally inquisitive, I asked him what the card was. He replied that it was his private investigative license.  I was non-pulsed, to say the least.  I asked him how a police officer could also be a private investigator.  He told me that the department allowed you to work as a private investigator off-duty as long as you didn’t work any criminal cases or civil cases involving the City of Los Angeles.  He added that you needed three years on the job before you could apply to the state and take the PI test.  You also needed a work permit from the department after you received the license.  I filed that away in my mind under things to do later, and thirteen years later I took the test and obtained my PI license.  Another chance encounter, but one that would later have a large impact on my life.

PS-Some years after I retired, after a headline grabbing case, the LAPD rescinded their approval of allowing officers work off-duty as PIs. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I’m a big believer in Divine intervention.  What I mean is that oftentimes we try to plan and calculate our important life decisions, but what usually happens is it’s the chance encounter or the ‘lucky’ incident that dramatically affect our lives.  Take my life, for instance.  I became a Los Angeles police officer by what I think was divine intervention.  I was still in the Marines and had returned from my first overseas deployment.  I was stationed at a large naval base on the east coast.  I had decided to leave the Marine Corps and go into law enforcement.  I was due to be separated from the Corps in one week.  I was late for chow and took a shortcut to get to the mess hall.  Just by chance I ran into my old battalion Sergeant Major who I had served with overseas.  Neither of us had known the other had been stationed at this base.  After I advised him I was getting out of the Marine Corps, he asked me what I was going to do.  I told him I wanted to go into law enforcement, and I was going to apply to either Philadelphia PD or NYPD.  I also mentioned that they, like most police departments on the East Coast, had a one year residency requirement.  The Sergeant Major then asked me if I had ever thought about the Los Angeles Police Department.  He might as well have asked me if I had thought about a police department on the moon.  When I brought up the fact that not only did I not know anyone in Los Angeles, I thought I might have a tough time finding a job while I waited for the one year residency to kick in.  He then floored me with the fact that not only did they not have a residency requirement; he had a high ranking contact on the department.  One week later, I was an honorably discharged Marine and flying across the country to Los Angeles.  I spent 22 years working as a police officer and later as a detective, and as they say, the rest is history.   

Monday, August 8, 2011


From April 1984 through August 1985, the state of California was terrorized by a series of 13 grisly murders that would eventually become known as the Night Stalker case.  Richard Ramirez was eventually arrested and convicted on the case and now sits on Death Row.  Because the murders happened in both the City and County of Los Angeles, both the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had their own separate task forces to investigate the crimes.  I was one of the 11 LAPD Metropolitan Division officers who were loaned up to LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division to assist their detectives on the case.  I can still vividly recall one of their senior detectives giving us our initial briefing on the case.  He told us that they thought the killer was taunting the police because at one of the murder scenes he scrawled what looked to them to be a Sheriffs badge.  What we didn’t know at the time, but found out as the case progressed, was that it was a pentagram, the sign of the devil.  As the investigation continued, it became more apparent that the suspect was involved in devil worship.  I mentioned to the lieutenant in charge of our task force that the Catholic Church has an exorcist in each of their diocese who would be very knowledgeable on that subject and maybe able to help us.  He gave me the approval to contact the Los Angeles Archdiocese, and they put me in contact with a priest in one of the nearby parishes.  When I contacted him by phone, I was somewhat circumspect about the real reason we wanted to talk to him.  I just told him we were working on a case that might have overtones of devil worship and could he help us out.  He readily agreed to talk to us, and I brought him down to the task force headquarters at the old Parker Center headquarters of the LAPD.  When he walked into the task force office he saw the large computerized print out with the words’ Night Stalker Task Force’ spread out on the wall.  He turned to me and said, “I thought this was what it was about.”  For the next hour and a half, he spoke to us about devil worship, Satan, and the Black Mass.  There were 6 veteran homicide detectives from RHD along with 11 hardened street cops from Metro in the room at the time.  He had our rapt attention.  When he was finished, it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.  We all wondered what had we gotten ourselves into here.  I’ll write more about this case in some of my up-coming posts.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Many police detectives and private investigators think you can’t get any information from parolees and ex-cons.  Going one step further, many think it’s all but impossible to get them to cop out to a crime during an interrogation.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I think in many ways their the easiest to get to give it up.  The other side would argue their case this way.  Why would a guy with a 40 page rap sheet tell you anything?  My response is, if a guy is supposed to be so smart, why does he have a 40 page rap sheet!  We’re not dealing with the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler or some other master criminal.  As to giving up information, they probably respond easier than someone who is new to the criminal justice system.  Whether it’s to show off how much they know, greed, envy, revenge or self protection, you just have to find the psychological key that turns on the spigot.  I’ll give you an example. When I was a police detective, I’d go into the jail at my division everyday and see who got arrested the previous day.  I was always looking to see if anyone got arrested in the area where a major crime had recently happened.  After I cleared it with the detectives handling an individual’s specific case, I’d go in and talk to a number of arrestees to see what they knew and how they could help themselves.  This one time I gave my usual pitch to a hard core ex-con who had already been incarcerated for many years and now was looking at another long stretch.  He respectfully listened to my pitch and then said to me, “No disrespect, Detective, but I ain’t ever been a snitch, and I can do the time standing on my head!”  As a last ditch effort, I told him I respected him for that.  I then asked him if there was someone he didn’t like, maybe someone who was doing his old lady when he was in the joint.  It was like a light bulb went off in his head.  He smiled at me and said he did have somebody like that.  He gave me information on a guy that we were able to act on and make an arrest.  They’ll be times when you strikeout, but if your persistent, and keep your word to them, you’ll start making cases.