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COP TALES: A burglar alarm — or was it?

Cop Tales are true stories as told by law enforcement officers from all over the country. The stories are told in the first person. The actual officer’s initials follow each story.

At the alarm

I worked the night shift in patrol for the city police department. One very slow night sometime after midnight, I was fighting to stay awake as nothing was going on. Calls were slow coming in and no one had much to do except patrol their district. Nobody was prowling the streets. We were all bored. At that time, we had two traffic cars from midnight to eight, Traffic 6 was eastside, and Traffic 4 was westside. The Traffic 6 officer called in to dispatch that he had an audible alarm at a gas station, but advised the station was secure. He asked dispatch to contact the owner and have him go and shut off the alarm.

The officer then provided the owner's name and number, and we could hear the alarm ringing in the background on all of his transmissions. The watch commander, Bud, possessed a great sense of humor. The desk sergeant contacted the owner, then called the Traffic 6 officer. As the officer responded over his radio, we could still hear the alarm in the background.

The desk officer then stated, “I have the owner on the phone, and he says he does not have an alarm in the business. Are you parked on the bell?” Traffic 6 replied in an embarrassed voice, “10-4, I’ll be clearing from the call.”

That woke everyone up, as a lot of the guys clicked their radios. I was laughing so hard I had to pull over and stop. About an hour or two later, Watch Commander Bud came on the radio and said, “Traffic 6, are there any bells ringing in your area?”

I don't remember Traffic 6 responding as I was again convulsed with laughter. It took a long time for that officer to live that one down.

(In the 1970s and earlier, station attendants pumped gas for customers in addition to their other duties. A “bell” was activated by a small rubber hose full of air, to alert the attendant of a new customer. If you stopped your vehicle tire exactly on top of the hose, the “bell” would sound continuously, which sounded like a burglar alarm.)

- BB

Now, I’m lonely

While working as a state corrections officer in the '80s, I discovered the results of one inmate being attacked by his cellmate during my daily inmate count. Two cellmates were not getting along.

The taller and bigger inmate tied the other inmate up with his bed sheets and gagged his mouth to prevent him from screaming. He then took a razor blade and attacked him, which left a lot of scars. He then took his stinger pot (an electric cord attached to a metal probe type device that you could put in a coffee mug to heat up water), poured hot water over his cellmate and then poured hot sauce all over him. We took the injured inmate to the infirmary and he survived.

Years later, I was assigned to a state prison fire camp with one of my coworkers, who worked with me at the prison where the inmate was attacked. While we were reading the newspaper, we saw something very interesting. It was an ad with the last name of the inmate who attacked his cellmate with his prison ID number and address of the prison where he was housed, but he didn’t identify himself as being an inmate in prison. He paid for the ad, which was looking for a pen pal.


Brian Smith served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, and retired as an assistant chief with the California Highway Patrol. He resides in Bakersfield. If you have a personal “Cop Tale” to share, please contact Smith at