LAFD Friend, Father of 'Police Call' Dies

Sunday, August 03, 2008 |

Police Call. Click for article at Wired Magazine...For supporters of public safety agencies - as well as radio hobbyists and railfans across North America, the mention of 'Gene Hughes' and 'Police Call' is likely to bring a smile.

Any customer of RadioShack® in the past quarter-century can attest that a well-worn Police Call next to the cash register was as much a fixture as the store's red-and-white corporate logo.

To veteran journalists chasing breaking news, a photocopied page from the veritable 'scanner bible' was one sure way they could follow the action.

...and for countless residents of Los Angeles - including those in uniform, Gene's remarkable book was never far from hand - or their scanner radio, as a trusted source of listening information for more than forty years.

Gene 'Hughes' Costin's amazing story however, goes far deeper than the millions of radio guides he published.

After moving to Los Angeles in 1939, Gene marveled at the "strange voices, women broadcasting addresses and numeric codes" at the far end of the AM radio dial - voices that proved to be Los Angeles Police Department dispatchers deploying our city's finest.

And so was born a hobby that spurred a business, that inspired countless young men and women to pursue a public safety career, and far more citizens to appreciate the daily challenges of those who are sworn to serve them.

His peerless respect for justice led Gene to volunteer for the LAPD, where his thrice-weekly front desk duty at the Wilshire Community Police Station and development of crime prevention materials and seminars led him to being named California Crime Prevention Volunteer of The Year.

While Gene may have retired from Police Call in 2005, he continued to spend countless hours in our office, always inspiring us to greateness.

Most of all, Gene was a special friend.

Gene 'Hughes' Costin 1927-2008. Click to learn more at Wired Magazine....

Gene Hugh Costin

His family has requested that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to "Tower Cancer Research Foundation" or a charity of your choice.

Memorial services will remain private at Gene's request.

We will miss you Gene, please rest in peace.

Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department


Don Root said...

Brian notes that Gene's hobby inspired many young men and women to pursue a public safety career. I am proud to be able to say that, by publishing Police Call, Gene enabled me (a geeky 11 or 12 year old) to sit in my home in San Diego during the late 1960s and understand what it was I was hearing on my Regency MR-10 tunable receiver (in the particular case that comes to mind, it was Santa Barbara PD on 155.550 MHz, a frequency then-shared with San Diego PD). When the devastating wildfires of 1970 hit Southern California, I was able to understand what I was hearing on the radio - the confusion caused by the lack of common frequencies and operating protocols.

These events formed the cornerstone of my career - working to help solve the technical and operational issues in public safety communications that prevent first responders from communicating when they need to.

In the 1990s I had to opportunity to meet and briefly work with Gene while he was at LAPD Wilshire Division and I was the regional Communications Coordinator for the Governor's Office of Emergency Services. Gene was proud (and somewhat embarrassed) to learn that Police Call was a key part of my early life, and continued to be an essential tool in my kit up until he ceased publishing it in 2005.

It is somewhat ironic that I learned of Gene's passing on the day that the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, International (APCO) voted to award Life Member honors to a group of public safety communications professionals who have worked for the betterment of the field. As a member of that "Class of 2008" I echo Brian's heart-felt feelings that Gene will be missed by many in the public safety community.

Donald Root, Assistant Manager
Wireless Services Division, San Diego Sheriff's Department
San Diego County - Imperial County Regional Communications System

Gene's Memorial Guest Book said...

Brian, thank you for remembering Gene. I know he considered you a special friend. I will print out these comments and send them to his family. A memorial guest book in his honor has also been established by the Los Angeles Times.

SgtSonic said...

Gene was a patient of ours at Tower Oncology, where I made most of his medications during his visits at the Treatment Center. I got to know him when he saw my Police Officer portrait on the waiting room collage and asked our receptionist to meet me. When I met him, he had the manner of a military man; organized, sharp and squared away, shirt neatly tucked in, pants meticulously creased, hair smartly combed. As we started to converse, it was clear to me that this man was highly educated. We had a lot in common as he was a Technical Reserve Police Officer with LAPD and I was a Line Reserve Sergeant with South Pasadena Police. I found out later that when I started my law enforcement career at LAPD back in the late 1980’s, Gene was already there and we probably bumped into each other working as Amateur Radio enthusiasts with LAPD’s “HamWatch” group; a group of non-sworn citizens using amateur radios to assist uniformed officers.

Gene said he had great respect for the men and women in the blue uniform, doing a job most people would not want to do and probably could not do. He addressed me as being more special since I was a Line Reserve Officer and did it for the mere fact of volunteering my services and not for the money.

He liked to train the front desk Officers at Wilshire, as that front desk was un-officially his. He noticed that when most of the Officers would have to cycle through the “front desk” job, most of them would have a hard time remembering, moreover finding out what LAPD’s policy was to questions they were asked, either in person or on the phone. That is when Gene decided to create, “Front Desk for Dummies”, a somewhat parody to the “Dummies” publications which volumes sold millions in book stores everywhere. Here in his unpublished work, an Officer can look up the answer to just about every question asked from, “Where do I pick up my car after it’s been towed?” to “What hours do I have to shut down my party if my neighbors complain?” I had a chance to glance over his work and confirmed what an intelligent, concise and well organized man Gene truly was.

Gene had a vast knowledge of police work and enjoyed hearing my experiences in the field. I shared with him some personal incidents and saw how intent he listened to me as I told my stories. When I told him of the time I was in an officer involved shooting, Gene called me a, “Hero” and I should be proud of the accomplishments I’ve attained.

Through the times he was in treatment at the cancer center, Gene was always polite and courteous to our nursing staff; never demanding for anything and always patience. As time passed, he slowly began to deteriorate but never changed his positive attitude; not towards us, his wife, Mitzi, or himself. Still, keeping ever stoic.

I will always remember him calling me that "Hero" but he was truly a hero; volunteering his time and efforts for his many worthy causes...I only with there was more I could do for a man who gave so much to others. My condolences and prayers to Mitzi and their family. Rest in peace, Gene.

R/Sgt. Tony Lucero, CPhT, KD6PHL
South Pasadena Police
Tower Hematology Oncology Medical Group

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