by Duane Preimsberger


It was just barely into the New Year of 1962 and I was a member of Class # 91 at the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Departments Academy. Our 16 week training program was based upon Marine Corps Boot Camp with plenty of stress from the drill instructors.  We did uncountable numbers of push-ups, and ran mile after mile through the streets of East Los Angeles.  We underwent tortuous physical training in the snake pit, a still smoldering former dump site, working out on equipment that must have been designed during the Inquisition. I had just reached my twenty-first birthday and had attained my life long dream of joining the ranks of law enforcement. Getting through the Academy was another hurdle to overcome before being a “real cop.”


The first week evenings were spent at home studying such interesting books as the California Penal Code or reviewing the lecture notes from the classes that day and assuring that our uniforms and equipment looked perfect and at least as good as brand new! There simply weren’t enough hours in a normal day to do everything required by the drill instructor staff and consequently, no one I knew, of the one hundred or so fellow cadets, ever got 8 hours sleep.  At the beginning of the second week of training our Class Drill Instructor Sergeant, Fred Kalas advised us not to plan any personal activities during the weekends.” You are going to be assigned as uniformed observers to patrol cars at many of our Sheriff’s Stations

through out Los Angeles County. You’ll get your assignments on the Thursday before the weekend and you will appear in full uniform at the time and place indicated. You can expect to participate in at least one, or more likely two assignments, each weekend.  Your Drill Instructors will brief each platoon on what it’s like to ride along as a trainee!”  By the end of that day, Class #91 learned that our work week just escalated from 50 to 60 hours to more like 70 something! No one complained, we’d be on the streets doing real police work with real professional cops and learning, on a practical basis, what real police work was like! We’d heard that some Stations were called fast because of the volume of called for services and the number of arrests made at them. Others were classified as slow, where things were generally pretty quiet but could turn in an eye blink into a crisis situation. Most of the Stations were in the middle of the two extremes.


I spent my first ride along at Montrose Station in the unincorporated area above the cities of Glendale and Pasadena. The relatively un-busy area was so quiet that staying awake was the most difficult part of the assignment. There was almost no traffic on the streets during our early morning watch from 11 PM until 7 AM the following morning. We did see  several very well fed coyotes strolling the yards of the homes that backed up to the forest, but they didn’t appear to be doing anything illegal so my partners opted not to investigate. As my assignment ended without talking to a single soul outside of the patrol car, I hoped I’d never work full-time in that kind of area.


The next ride along assignment was much different. I was assigned to work a Friday evening watch at Firestone Station located in South Central Los Angeles. It had a reputation as the busiest and most violence prone area in the Sheriff’s Departments jurisdiction. My partners for the ride along were Deputies Boute and Bratten, both were seasoned veterans. We stayed busy all night going from call to call or stopping and talking to people who appeared suspicious to my partners. They made several arrests, 2 guys in a recently stolen car went to jail and a rather drunk woman was arrested for shooting at her unfaithful boyfriend with a.22 caliber rifle. She fortunately missed him but she didn’t miss going to jail that evening. The difference in activity between the first two Stations that I rode along at was astonishing and I knew where I preferred to go and savor excitement rather than boredom.


The next day, a Saturday, I was assigned once again to evening watch at Firestone Station with the same partners and it was even busier than the preceding evening!  What made this one very memorable was a traffic stop that my partners made of a car resembling the description of one that had been used in a liquor store robbery. It was driven by a single male and I watched as my partners made a full blown felony pullover and approach. Deputy Bratten, who was the bookman in the passenger seat pulled the 12 gauge shotgun from its upright mounting rack on the dashboard and chambered a round and took a position of advantage covering the driver, while his partner Deputy Boute, his revolver in his hand, began yelling orders to the driver.  “Shut off the engine, put both hands out the drivers window, now open the door by using the outside handle. Now, get out, put both hands on top of your head and walk backwards toward the patrol car.” In a few seconds the driver was bent over the trunk of his car while he was searched as he nervously looked at the business end of a shotgun that was pointed at his head. He wasn’t armed and wasn’t in possession of any contraband on his person. As the danger passed, the shotgun went back in the rack and pistols were holstered as Deputy Bratten explained to the driver the reason for the stop and the unusual tactics used to extract him from his car. He understood and quickly gave the Deputies permission to make a search of the interior of his car to assure that the proceeds from the robbery weren’t there. The two partners searched the interior, engine compartment trunk and undercarriage with negative results. As the partners returned to the driver, I took the opportunity to walk around the outside of the car and as I looked into the passenger window I noticed that there was a palm sap in the open glove compartment. I tapped Deputy Bratten on the shoulder and asked him to step to the side of the car with me.  He was initially perplexed by my request but went along with it as I asked him in a low voice whether or not possession of a sap by a civilian wasn’t a felony.  A big grin suddenly erupted on his face as he looked into the glove compartment and then turned toward his partner and said; “Hey partner, it’s 10-15 (ten-fifteen) time. Hook him up”!  In what seemed like almost no time the Suspect was handcuffed and in the back-seat of the patrol car. The palm sap that was a black leather device that slipped over your palm and contained lead shot sewn into the palm area had been recovered from the glove compartment. On it was inscribed a 5 digit serial number that the Deputies thought was the ID number of an LAPD officer A tow truck hauled away the suspects car and soon, we were enroute to Firestone Station as I sat in the back seat next to my very first felony arrest. I knew I was going to like this job and I was pretty sure that I wanted to work at Firestone Station.  As the evening progressed the Deputies confirmed that the palm sap belonged to an LAPD officer who worked at nearby 77th St Station and it had been taken from an unmarked detective unit. Both of my partners congratulated me for my observation and even the Watch Sergeant who approved the report of the incident told me I’d done a good job and asked me to think about requesting a transfer to Firestone Station, something that was already spinning around in my mind.  Tuesday morning, I was back at the Academy and my drill instructor, Deputy Vetter tapped me on the shoulder as I sat at my student desk listening to a lecture and motioned me toward the staff office. That was a place more commonly referred too as the Lion’s Den and most cadets dreaded spending anytime in there because it was almost always a tortuous experience where as many as 6 drill instructors took turns trying to get you to resign. I was scared to death!


It started out as I had suspected- bad. “Why hadn’t I reported my observation of the arrest at Firestone Station, hadn’t I been told to report anything unusual.” The questions got tougher and longer. Finally Sgt. Kallas interrupted the interrogation and asked me what I had to say for myself?  My voice had almost given out on me as I responded that I’d been working with two good Deputies who saw a car matching one used in a robbery, they not I, had initiated the circumstances. “Sgt., they would have found the sap if they took another look at the car, all I did was doing it a little sooner. That place is very busy and what I did was no big deal, it happens there all the time so I thought, wrongly I guess, that it wasn’t unusual.  A couple of the drill instructors got tentative smiles on their faces as Sgt. Kalas ended the incident. “Duane, if you make any more arrests let us know. You did a good job; so good that a Firestone Station Lieutenant called our Lieutenant this morning to give him the news. You made him proud, now get back to your seat and forget what has gone on in here. Nobody out there needs to know you got a commendation, do you understand?”  “Yes, I understand Sgt. Kalas, thank you sir!


I got a whole lot of questions from my fellow cadets about how I’d managed to survive the Lion’s Den. I just told them it was a personal matter and that got me through it.  It took me awhile after Class #91 graduated to get to Firestone Station but I finally did.  It turned out to be the best place I ever worked!