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COP TALES: I love cartoons, especially when they lead to a suspect

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.

I love cartoons

One day while working as a commander for the highway patrol, I was in my unmarked patrol car when I observed a motorcycle driving recklessly. He was driving down the road while pulling a wheelie. I pulled up behind him, but I couldn’t see the license plate. I did, however, see a large tattoo of a cartoon dragon on his calf. I activated the red lights as he entered the freeway. He then accelerated to more than 120 mph and took off. I called for other patrol units as I pursued him, but no one was available in that area. As we got closer to traffic and he started to split traffic, I didn’t want to continue the pursuit with an unmarked car, so I aborted.

I then started to conduct a follow-up investigation. I went to a couple of the motorcycle shops and asked about the bike and his tattoo. A shop owner immediately knew who I was talking about due to the tattoo. I ran his record and learned he had several citations for speeding and fleeing officers. The local officers were well aware of him. I visited him at his work and the motorcycle was parked right in front, partially blocking the entrance of the business. I went into the building and he was wearing short pants. I immediately noticed the cartoon dragon on his calf. I submitted my report to the district attorney’s office and they filed the charges against him. I am sure he liked the idea of the tattoo when he first got it.

- BS

A certified technique

I guess every department has a “wise guy,” someone who always looks for the humorous side of things. We had such an officer at my highway patrol office. One day, I was sitting on the on-ramp working speed enforcement when I observed a red Porsche approaching at more than 100 mph in the fast lane. I fired up my Kawasaki and went down the on-ramp. I was at 90 mph at the end of the ramp and he blew by me like I was standing still.

I continued to accelerate until I was able to catch up and pull him over. By the time I got off my bike, he was already out of the car and very agitated. He screamed at me, “Why did you stop me?” I told him he was in excess of 100 mph in a 55 zone. He just continued to get more and more agitated as I asked him for his license and registration.

As I started to write the citation, he said, “I know you don’t have radar. You have got nothing, and it will be my word against yours in court. You only stopped me because I have a Porsche. You will be sorry you ever stopped me. You don’t have any proof that I was speeding.” While he was ranting, guess who pulled in behind me? Yes, Officer Wise Guy, who we will call Gary.

Gary got off his bike and was watching the Porsche guy screaming and yelling about me not having radar or any proof. Gary went back to his bike and was doing something that I couldn’t see. He came back to us and continued to watch the man rant and rave. Gary then interrupted him and pointed at another Porsche that was going down the freeway. Gary put his left arm out, held his thumb up, and as the second Porsche went by, he tracked the Porsche with his thumb and moved his arm from left to right following the path of the Porsche.

That movement caused the cuff on his long sleeve shirt to move away from the wrist up the forearm. Gary had drawn some lines on his arm when he was back at his motorcycle earlier. He numbered the lines from 55/65/75/85/95/105. The cuff went up to the 105 mark as we watched him. Gary then said, “I’ll go get that Porsche, he is at 105.”

Gary then got on his Kawasaki and went after the Porsche. By then, my driver was exploding with anger and demanded I roll up my sleeve. His face was redder than his car as he signed the citation. He then continued to scream that I would be sorry I ever stopped him and he was going to tell the judge what we were doing and that I only stopped him because he was in a Porsche. He drove away and I never saw him again.

- GG

That long ago?

While working as a motorcycle officer with the highway patrol several years ago, I was working the evening shift, which started in the afternoon and ended well after dark. I was on my way home and an approaching car was blinding me with its high beam headlights. The vehicle had four lights with two on each side and they were all burning. I flipped my lights a couple of times to remind the driver that he or she needed to dim their lights. The lights were not dimmed and as the vehicle passed me, I turned and attempted to stop the vehicle, but it did not stop.

I activated the siren and the vehicle finally stopped. I approached and saw an elderly woman was the driver. I got her driver's license and asked her if she realized that her headlights had been on bright and she had failed to dim them for approaching traffic. She said that she was aware of that, but she was unable to dim the lights, because the car did not have a dimmer switch. It was a fairly new vehicle so I knew it had to have a dimmer switch.

I showed her that the lights were switched from high to low by moving the turn signal lever forward or backward and demonstrated the process. She also said that she had noticed that cars were always blinking their lights at her on the few occasions when she had to drive at night and now she knew why. She told me it was her late husband’s car and she has only been driving it at night since her husband died. I didn’t cite her and told her I was sorry to hear about her husband's death. She then told me that he died three and a half years ago.

- RS

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