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.

Stopping a school bus

One afternoon while working as an officer with the California Highway Patrol, I stopped a vehicle for speed and was standing on the driver’s side of his vehicle since there was no room on the passenger side to make the approach. While I was talking to the driver, a school bus went by and a student stood up, looked out the window and yelled, “*&^% You, Pig.”

I looked up and saw the window he yelled out, but I didn’t actually see his face or description. I told the original driver that it was his lucky day and I released him with a warning. I then got in my vehicle and stopped the bus. I asked the driver if I could talk to the student. He told me to go ahead. Since I didn’t know who it was, I just went up the steps, pointed in the general direction of the window he yelled out and said, “You, step off the bus.” I then stepped off the bus and hoped he didn’t call my bluff. Within seconds, he stood up and started to exit.

He stepped off the bus and I asked him why he yelled profanities at me. I then explained that it was dangerous because as he distracted me on the traffic stop, something could have happened to me. He started to cry and apologized over and over. I told him to return to the bus and gave him some maturity advice. 

When I got back to the Highway Patrol office, the sergeant was waiting for me. He called me into his office and asked if I stopped a school bus and spoke to a student. When I told him I did, he asked what I used as probable cause for the stop. I told him I stopped the bus due to a student standing while the bus was in motion. He then told me the principal of the school called and wanted to talk to me. I figured the principal was calling to complain, but I called him right back. He asked me what happened.

After I told him what the student did, he told me he was going to suspend the student’s bus riding privileges for a month. He also advised the student lived a long distance from the school. I thanked him for his support. I probably wouldn’t have made that same traffic stop in the later years of my career, but I hope that student learned from that incident and turned into a respectful person.


OK, we will let him get away with it

Years ago while working for the Highway Patrol in San Francisco, we would drive to the north end of the freeway where it opened onto Broadway. We would continue west on Broadway, go five blocks to Columbus, turn left past a bookstore and go back back to the freeway entrance.

Of course, we would have gotten back to our beat quicker had we just turned around after exiting the freeway, but then we would not have had the joyful experience of cruising the vibrant nightlife of the famous nightclubs and sidewalk cafes. Tourists and locals jammed the streets. One night while we were stopped in traffic, the actor Lee Marvin crossed the street by walking on the hoods of the cars, including ours. He was wearing an army field jacket and was carrying a bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand. God bless Cat Balou.


What’s the real combination?

In late 1969, I was hired by a small police department. Since there were very few academy classes scheduled, I was assigned to just ride and observe until such time as there was an academy class to attend. One afternoon, there was a request for a roadblock to search for a felon coming from another adjoining small town. I was assigned to stay with my supervising officer and present a police presence in the city while the rest of the officers organized a roadblock.

Sometime later, I noticed a person walking eastbound who answered the description of the wanted person. I told my supervising officer who related it to the chief over the radio. The chief immediately gave the order for me to “grab him.”

We arrested him and transported him to the police station where it was verified that he had a number of warrants for his arrest. No less than five officers escorted him to our 1850-ish holding cell and placed him inside. He then proclaimed, “I won’t stay; you can’t hold me in here.”

My captain told him to look at the solid steel plate door, big iron hinges on the outside, and the iron box deadbolt fixed into a welded steel door frame. There were a half-dozen quarter-inch holes in the door for ventilation. The captain grunted, shut and locked the door and walked away as he stated, “Only one key was ever made.” He then lifted the two-pound key on a six-inch welded ring.

As the group of us stepped to the first floor landing, someone yelled from the top step, “Captain.” We turned and there stood our prisoner offering the key to the captain. “I told you I wouldn’t stay.”

Days later, the captain told the prisoner that if he could open an old safe that had been in the office for many years, he would waive the balance of his in-custody time. The man said that he would do it if no one watched him as he performed the task. There was a lot of interest as everyone watched intently until the door to the office opened. The man stepped out and handed a slip of paper with the combination of the safe to the captain. The captain then handed the man his belongings in a paper bag.

They thanked each other and the man walked out the door. The captain placed a pile of important papers and belongings in the antique safe and shut the door with a big smile on his face. After most of the crowd had dispersed, the chief asked the captain to open the safe and give him the daily log book. The captain went into his office and after a moment or two, began cursing like crazy. Apparently, the prisoner figured out the combination, but didn’t give the correct one to the captain. As I left the area, I heard someone shout, “Find that @#&$#@$!!!!!!!!”

-JB and DA

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

(5) comments


I am happy these guys are still around to tell these stories, read them all the time.

All Star

Mr. Smith, what vehicle code, education code, or some other one, codifies that it's against the law that allows a CHP officer to stop a bus full of students because 1 student is seen standing up? I ask, but I really don't expect a reply.


I must be missing something......the moral of the story is if your drunk and Lee Marvin you can get away with rowdy behavior but if your a kid you gonna loose your bus pass?


You’re missing something. That’s for certain.

Gene Pool Chlorinator


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