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COP TALES: Just tell me what you want, sarge

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 tell me what you want, sarge

As punishment for being involved in a traffic accident, I was assigned to walk a foot beat on the eastside of the city. My shift was 3 to 11 p.m. I had been on the beat (which I loved) for a few weeks, when it was time for my yearly evaluation. My sergeant called me in before my shift for my evaluation. He went over my statistics and complimented me on my arrests, field interviews and gave me a great evaluation. At the end of the session, he said, “The only thing is your appalling lack of drunk driving arrests.” We both laughed because I was on foot walking my beat.

A patrol unit then took me back to my foot beat. I then went to the doughnut shop for coffee. I had just gotten my cup when I saw a vehicle going very slowly in the wrong direction on a one-way street. I ran out of the shop, and lucky for me, the suspect vehicle was in the lane next to the curb. I ran around to the driver’s side of his vehicle, and yelled for the driver to stop. He just kept going. He was so intoxicated that he didn't hear me. I reached in and turned off the ignition before removing the driver. I arrested him and called specifically for my sergeant for approval, since we had to get approval for all arrests back then. There were other sergeants on duty, but I wanted him.

He responded and was quite surprised that I had arrested a drunken driver. I then took great pleasure in informing him that I had taken his criticism to heart and was doing my best to improve my stats. He didn't have much to say. I then called for a transportation car and did the paperwork as the drunken driver was transported to jail.

- BB

Look what we found

I work in an area that has a large ski resort. It attracts as many as 30,000 visitors on a three-day holiday weekend. There is a several-mile, long winding road from the town to the main lodge where officers are used to dealing with traffic accidents on the road, especially after an ice storm. The worst location is “Sunshine Corner,” a sharp curve that is not sloped adequately. Each year, vehicles slide off the road and down a steep embankment where they rarely have injuries, but are always embarrassed.

One sunny day in early March, after a snowstorm, a married couple from a distant city were coming down from the main lodge in their Ford Expedition. They ran off the road at Sunshine Corner and rolled a couple times. Neither was injured and they climbed through 15 inches of powder snow to get to the roadway. Officers responded and shut down the road while a tow truck pulled the Expedition up the hill.

As they were climbing up through the snow, the husband’s platinum wedding band slipped off his finger and was lost in the snow. He and his wife were more upset about losing the ring than wrecking their Expedition. It was fortunate he was on vacation with his wife and not a bunch of buddies, or else he would have had a difficult time explaining the loss of his ring. A sergeant told the couple that officers would look for the ring after the snow melted in a couple of months. Needless to say, they were not optimistic.

One week later, it was another “snowbird” day with clear weather and a quiet call load. One of the detectives had recently inherited a metal detector from his father. He suggested looking for the ring to see if it worked. He and the sergeant returned to the scene of the crash and found the ring in the snow. They were as excited as if they had captured John Dillinger. The sergeant took a cell phone photo and texted it to the husband as he asked him if it looked familiar. The couple was elated and even more so when the sergeant, who happened to have a trip near their city the following week, personally delivered it to them. Police war stories in a tourist town are sometimes a bit different than the big city.

- DW

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