“Are You A Cop?”

Years ago, in the old Hippie, Flower Power, Summer of Love days, you could hitchhike without fear. You just stuck out your thumb, and someone would give you a lift, at least in Los Angeles. Later, people became paranoid about getting robbed or killed.

I used to work in West Hollywood, and could take Hollywood Blvd, Sunset Blvd, or Santa Monica from the east side, depending on the traffic. There were always streetwalkers around. Easy to spot. High heels, bare legs, short shorts, bra or skimpy top, a purse over their shoulder, and good makeup. They would stroll down the boulevard, but their eyes were always on the traffic, hoping a car would pull to the curb and they would have a job.

They wore the same outfit, summer and winter. There’s no snow in Los Angeles, but it can get colder than hell. I would be bundled up, and they would have bare legs and a nothing top. I really felt sorry for the girls. The cops left them pretty much alone. They had bigger fish to fry.

The Police Chief at that time was William H. Parker. A “tough cop,” with a “tough force.” It turned out that Parker recruited a lot of cadets from the Deep South. In Los Angeles in those days, we didn’t know much about racial prejudice. Pretty naive. But if you were a black man and were arrested, they might beat the shit out of you. Heaven help you if you were with a white woman.

There were bad cops. A two man patrol might pull up to a jewelry store at three in the morning, and rob the place. Then they would call in a robbery, and be part of the investigating team. Or a cop would break into an empty house, then call it in. If they got caught, an interesting thing would happen. The newspaper would always say: “Ex-policeman caught in robbery,” or “Ex-cops in jewellery store heist.”  Never policeman caught. Always “ex-policeman.” The cops had a deal with the newspapers. If a cop was caught and it couldn’t be hushed up, he was fired and became an “ex-cop” for the headlines.

A week or two after every police scandal, regular as clockwork, you would see a headline; “Police crack down on prostitution.” It always happened. The bureau, to divert the public’s attention away from themselves, would come down hard on streetwalkers. Never the high priced madams. Just the visible girls. All of them would run to Las Vegas, till it blew over.  When they did catch a streetwalker, they had a cute trick. They would have the girl stand on the sidewalk in full view of the passing traffic, with her hands behind her head, elbows back, and her tits sticking out. The cop would keep them like that, while he wrote out the summons.

The police used decoys to trap Johns.  Attractive police women dressed as hookers. People thought that the police had to tell the truth. A John would ask her if she were a police woman. She would say no. Feeling safe, he would ask, “how much?” Then a police cruiser would round the corner, and they would nab him on “solicitation.” I think you actually had to negotiate a price. Otherwise, you were just talking to a pretty woman. That’s not a  crime.

As I’ve said, I used to give lifts to hitchhikers. I had noticed a young woman, mid-twenties, on a corner bus bench on Hollywood. Always the same bench, with her thumb half-heartedly stuck out. I assumed that she thought that if she got a ride before her bus came, she saved 20 cents. One evening, I said;  “Need a ride?” She nodded and hopped in. As I pulled away from the curb, she said: “Are you a cop?”

I was so startled by the question, I blurted out; “No, are you a hooker?”

She said “Turn right at the next corner, then right again, then right again.” We were back at the old corner. She got out and walked over to the bus bench and sat down. From then on, when we saw each other we both gave a little nod.

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