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.

Just trying to exercise

One night while working as a sergeant for the highway patrol in a large city, dispatch advised that one of my units was in pursuit of a carjacking suspect. The vehicle exited the freeway and the officers could not locate it. We eventually located the abandoned vehicle, but the driver was nowhere to be found. I searched many of the streets and observed a male running down a back street.

When I stopped to talk to him, I noticed he was overweight and wearing dress shoes, casual clothes and a coat. He was sweating profusely. I asked him why he was running. He said that he was exercising. I asked him where he lived. When he told me his address, I asked him why he was running 20 miles from his house. He hesitated, then told me something about wanting to run in different neighborhoods. I called the other sergeant and asked her to drive by my location to ask the victim if he was the suspect. They drove by and the victim advised he was not the suspect.

Before I released him, I asked a couple of patrol units to go back and drive along the freeway where they pursued him and see if they could find the gun he used (I had conducted a safety pat down when I first approached him, but did not feel anything). The officers advised they found the handgun, but the magazine was not in it. I asked the suspect if I could search him closer. He immediately told me I could search him.

I then located a fully loaded magazine in his coat’s inside pocket. When I pulled it out, he blurted out a choice word, “%$#@.” The officers brought me the handgun and the magazine matched the weapon. After advising him of his Miranda rights, he admitted he carjacked the victim. I’m guessing he is on a different exercise program right now.

- BS


I started as a police officer for a small town department in the early 1950s. The town had approximately 8,000 residents and we only had nine to 10 officers. I took a cut in pay when I left the service station to join the police department. I dropped to $310 per month. Our chief must have thought he was the sheriff of Mayberry because he never carried a gun. We actually did have our share of crime, though. We had drunken drivers, thefts, burglaries and traffic accidents. We even had one or two homicides a year. Back then, we didn’t have a written test or even an academy. The older officers just trained the younger officers.

Of course, most of the officers left our department to go to the highway patrol or sheriff’s department. We eventually created a written test, conducted background checks, sent new recruits to an academy, and required them to pass a six-month probationary period. However, we still continued to lose good officers. I told the city council to either start paying the officers more money or let the sheriff’s take over our department. The sheriff’s department eventually absorbed each of us and promoted me to sergeant. I received a $400 per month raise with that promotion. I retired after a total of 33 years. I am 85 years old now and it was a great ride.

- RD

I knew something was wrong

While working for the highway patrol, I was sent to a non-injury accident. A man with a new Chrysler was getting gas at a station and his car was extended into the drive area. A woman completed filling her tank, drove away, made a hard turn and crashed into the Chrysler. She then backed up and pulled forward again. She hit the Chrysler two more times. When I arrived, the errant driver was in the office. The attendant advised that when he saw what she did, he ran out, opened her door and took her keys.

I obtained both drivers’ information and even though I could not smell alcohol on her breath, I knew she was under the influence of something. I arrested her for driving under the influence of a controlled substance. On the way to the jail, I noticed she was talking slower and slower. A little voice in my head told me I better take her to the hospital for a medical clearance.

When we arrived at the hospital, they put her on a gurney and started to wheel her inside when the nurse yelled, “I have a Code here.” My in-custody stopped breathing right there. They worked on her and finally got her breathing again. Another nurse brought out her clothes and called me to the counter. She showed me that the woman had about 40 illegal pills in her sock. It’s a good thing I listened to my inner voice or that woman would not have survived.

- DH

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

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