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COP TALES: Bad memories pop up

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.

Bad memories pop up

One thing I always felt proud of was the fact that 99 percent of all motorists that I issued a citation to thanked me. They weren’t thanking me for the citation, they were thanking me for being polite and courteous. However, one day while working for the highway patrol, I was stopped for a red light. When the light turned green, I hesitated for some reason and a Corvette flew through the intersection against the red light at a high speed. I couldn’t believe how much time had passed since the light changed.

When I made the traffic stop, I approached the driver and practically yelled at him for his illegal actions. He immediately got defensive. I always tried to not lecture someone and give them a citation at the same time. It was one or the other, not both. On that stop, I broke that rule and lectured and cited him. After that interaction, I know he did not have a good feeling about me or the highway patrol.

I regret not being as professional as I always strived to be, but that stop occurred not long after I attended a fatal accident which was caused by careless driving. I apologize now for my reactions that day, but sometimes the events we witnessed in the past pop up in similar situations.

- BS

Don’t forget

One summer evening, I was walking out of the county jail after booking an arrestee. My handheld radio went off and I heard an officer in a distressed voice call for help. His location was about 4 to 5 minutes away from the jail if I drove Code-3 with lights and siren. I ran to my patrol car, unlocked it, jumped in, and headed to the location.

About a minute after I left the jail while speeding to the call, I realized my firearm, baton, sap and mace were locked in the trunk of my patrol car. Since those items are not allowed into the jail when booking an arrestee, officers lock them into their trunks before going into the jail. In my desire to help a fellow officer, I had forgotten to retrieve those necessary items out of my trunk. Not knowing what awaited me at the scene, I quickly pulled over and retrieved the items from my trunk.

Before I could get to the scene, the officer who needed assistance advised that he had everything under control. I can tell you that I have not been the only officer who left the jail and forgot to get their gun out of the trunk before resuming patrol duties.

- BR

Not a simple stop

In the early 1980s, I was headed home from work on my motorcycle at about 3:30 p.m., after working the day shift. I was driving down a two-lane street on the outskirts of town when I pulled in behind a sketchy looking car. It was occupied by three men. The car they were in had a rag stuffed into the rear fuel spout, which was in violation of the vehicle code. I decided to stop the car and issue the driver a citation.

All the occupants were nervous. As it turned out, the driver and one of the passengers were on parole. I had them exit the car and take a seat on the ground next to the passenger side of the car. I waited until a backup unit arrived and I searched the car. I didn't find anything illegal until I opened the trunk. I looked under the spare tire and located three loaded handguns, three beanie type face masks, three pairs of gloves, and a map of the Central Valley. I placed them all under arrest. I found out that they had committed a couple of armed robberies in the two-county area. They all ended up going to state prison, again. Sometimes, the simplest traffic stop can lead to a great outcome.

- BR

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