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COP TALES: It was a long time ago

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.

It was a long time ago

I went through the testing process for the highway patrol while I was in the U.S. Marine Corps. It just so happened that my final interview with the background investigators was on the same day as my last day in the Corps. We had the house all packed up because right after the interview, we were going to drive across the country to my home state of Pennsylvania.

My unit of the Marine Corps held a big barbecue and party for my last day right before my highway patrol interview. After the presentations and speeches, and right before I had to go back to the house to change into a suit, a bunch of the guys poured pitchers of beer over my head. My wife had a special shower curtain so she had it packed away already. I couldn’t show up for a highway patrol interview smelling like beer, so I had to take a shower without a shower curtain.

During the interview, I was told that I was selected to start the next academy class. I was lucky enough to be able to drive back home for two months before returning to attend the academy. Our class started with 104 cadets and over six months later of a live-in academy, only 52 of us graduated. The last 30-plus years sure went by fast.

- BS

Planning on a career in law enforcement?

If you or someone you know is planning on working for a law enforcement agency, here are some tips: Always think about your future; stay out of trouble. Work hard in school and read a lot. (My background investigator found out I was suspended for fighting in junior high school, so they may go back that far.) Follow the law, and avoid citations. Stay away from drugs and do not stay at parties or locations where others are consuming illegal drugs. Do not get tattooed on your face, neck or hands. If you can, join an explorer post. Try to get college and/or military experience. Do not lie or omit any information on your applications or background personal history statement. List every address and job you ever had, even if it was only for one day. List all your disciplinary actions and any drug use.

So many people fail their background due to not being honest. As an example, a person smoked marijuana years earlier and no one knew about it, so he did not document that he smoked it before. At the end of his background check, he had to take a polygraph. He then told the investigator that he forgot he had smoked marijuana. Guess what? They don’t care if you forgot or not, if you didn’t tell them about it originally, you will not get hired.

Just be honest on every question. Almost every agency has a recruitment section on their webpage where they help you study for the test. There is also a lot of information online to help you. Make sure you study for it and always try to attend a mock oral before any oral interview. These are just a few suggestions. Don’t be afraid to ask experienced law enforcement personnel for tips or assistance; they will be glad to help.

- BS

Proud of my son

I retired after a 30-year career with the highway patrol. However, one of my proudest moments was seeing my son as a county deputy being recognized for doing his job as a law enforcement officer serving the public.

My son was working on patrol during the day shift when he received a call of a young child locked in a community swimming pool. My son responded and learned that a 2-year-old had wandered away from her home. He observed that the child was face-down in the pool. My son had to break into the locked gate where the child had wiggled herself through the fence and ended up face down in the pool. He jumped in the pool, grabbed the child and began CPR. He called for fire rescue, and the county fire helicopter responded and transported the child to the hospital where she miraculously survived.

Later, my son was recognized by the county Board of Supervisors for his service to the community. His wife, two young sons, other family members, and my wife and I attended the ceremony. We could not have been prouder. My son’s law enforcement career ended in September 2020 when he passed away.

- BC

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