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COP TALES: Still tough after all these years

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.

Still tough after all these years

When I was the commander of a highway patrol office, I purposely selected the office by the front lobby so I could hear what went on every day. One day, the front desk officer told me that an older, retired officer lost patience with him and hung up on him. All the officers knew I had a policy to make sure we took extra care of our retired personnel, so he wanted to let me know about it.

The officer told me that he was being inundated with people at the front counter and several phone calls when an 85-year-old retired highway patrol officer called the office to find out some information. The officer put him on hold for longer than usual and when he got back on the phone, the retiree gave him a hard time about waiting so long. The officer, who was already running out of patience with the day, told the retiree to keep his pants on. The retired officer hung up the phone.

Ten minutes later, the front door slammed open and that 85-year-old officer stormed in and confronted the front desk officer with, “Are you the snot-nosed kid who disrespected me on the phone?” We calmed him down and I became very close with that man for the next few years and spent the last days of his life with him.

- BS

New respect

While working with the highway patrol, I arrested a young man for driving under the influence (DUI). On the way to the jail, I got him to talk and he told me he was a member of a local known gang. He told me he had done things that he was not proud of, but would not say what they were. Before leaving the jail, I told him to stay out of trouble and we shook hands. A while later, while on patrol, I observed his car and he was driving. I decided to pull him over just to say hello and to see how he was doing. As I approached, I saw he had three men with him. I told him that I just wanted to say hello and see if he was doing OK. He seemed surprised that I would stop him just to say hello. The three passengers did not say a word. We said our goodbyes and he drove off.

Years passed and I had retired from the highway patrol. I was on a treadmill in a health club and a man walked up and asked if I remembered him. He reminded me that he was the one I had arrested and then later pulled him over to say hello and see how he was doing. He told me the three men in the car with him were fellow gang members and they all had guns hidden in their hands and were ready to use them if I tried to arrest him. He also told me he had left the gang, got a good job and had a family. We shook hands once more, and he turned out to be a man I learned to respect. 

- JB

I was there

Cop Tales recently published my story about the many wonderful memories of being the highway patrol Santa Claus. It brought back a flood of very good ones. There is one memory that is very vivid. One that whenever I try to talk about, it brings a huge lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.

I was helping a local tow company do their “Hayride with Santa” at the local children’s home. Before the ride, I was taken to see some of the children who were too sick to take the ride. There was this beautiful little girl who was about 3 feet tall and around 4 years old. She was clutching her dolly and wearing a red full-length bathrobe. I knelt beside her, put my arm around her and asked in my best Santa voice, “What would you like for Christmas?” She replied with a tear and a plea, “I just want my mommy and daddy.”

The home does not tell anyone why those children were there, but at that moment I realized I knew the answer. She was the sole survivor of a fatal accident that killed her parents. I knew that because I investigated that accident a few weeks earlier. I cried then and I am crying now.

- JH

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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