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COP TALES: Thanks for calling with good news

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.

Thanks for calling

When I was an officer, one of my assignments was working in the vehicle theft unit at the highway patrol headquarters. We all got along and joked with each other all the time. When the sergeants test was coming up, we formed a study group and worked hard getting prepared. As the test got closer, we became more and more competitive. We took the written test and oral interview and waited for the results. We were told that the commissioners called the top 10 people on the list throughout the state to congratulate them.

On Friday at 4:27 p.m., we were all standing around the printer waiting for the list to be printed to see if we made the sergeants list and our place in the ranking. About that time, the phone rang and the clerk announced that the assistant commissioner was on the phone and wanted to speak to me. Since I had been the target of several pranks before, I knew the unit was setting me up.

I answered the phone and the voice on the other end said, “Hi, this is Assistant Commissioner X. I wanted to congratulate you because you came out number three on the sergeants list.” Knowing it was a prank, I just said, “Oh OK, thanks for calling.” He told me it was really him and I did a good job. I said, “OK, thanks for calling,” and I hung up. Two minutes later, the list printed and I saw that I really was number three on the list.

I panicked and called the commissioner’s office and apologized. He told me that he knew that I didn’t believe it was him. A couple of years later when I got a call from the commissioner congratulating me for being number five on the lieutenant's list, I was very respectful and appreciative.

- BS

Not in my patrol car

While serving the public and enforcing the laws, my attitude was always listen and be as accommodating and reasonable as possible. Sometimes the result wasn't always the one a person would like to hear, but everyone had an opportunity to air their grievance.

It was while on the graveyard shift that I pulled behind a vehicle weaving back and forth in the lane ahead. I immediately activated the red light and all of a sudden, a female popped up in the middle of the front seat. I figured it may not be a DUI driver after all. I approached the vehicle and figured I would complete a quick community service discussion and kick them loose. When the driver started to speak, I could smell the strong odor of alcohol. I got the driver out of the vehicle to conduct field sobriety tests and the passenger sat on a two-foot wall next to the sidewalk.

The first FST I gave him was the alphabet test. He started off with ABCD, but it went downhill from there. His second attempt was worse than the first. The rest of his tests didn’t look much better. I then arrested him for DUI. I went over to the female passenger, who was also three sheets to the wind and explained what was happening and that we would get her a ride home.

I placed the driver in the backseat of the patrol car and read him his Miranda rights. Before I could ask any questions, he began to talk off the top of his head. He told me he was cheating on his wife and didn’t need for that to happen. He advised they were on their way to her house. The female passenger then approached me and asked for the keys to the car so she could drive home.

I told her I would give her the keys, but once she started to drive, she would also be going to jail. She walked back and sat on the wall. As the tow driver was hooking up the car, she returned to the patrol car and asked if I would take the handcuffs off of him and allow her to be with him in the backseat for a few minutes before he went to jail.

I am a reasonable guy, but I told her, “Not tonight, not in my patrol car.”

- FH

Just trying to lighten things up

One day, I responded to a shooting call. It turned out a man walked in from his garage and shot himself in front of his wife and elderly parents in the living room. When we arrived, their parrot was screeching over and over. We had to get the family out of the house to preserve the scene and complete our investigation.

As we got the wife out, she said, “Can you cover him up so he doesn’t see any of this?” As tactfully as possible, I replied, “Ma’am, your husband is deceased.” She then told me she was talking about covering the parrot. My partner found the sheet and covered the birdcage. When we did that, the parrot started talking and screeching even louder.

When everyone else was gone, my corporal lifted the sheet to look at the bird and to try and lighten the atmosphere, and jokingly said, “Uh oh, he’s dead and Rob (which is my name) did it.” All of a sudden, the bird started to yell over and over that Rob was dead and Rob did it. We were worried when the major crimes unit arrived since the bird would not stop. I sure hope that bird stopped saying it by the time the family returned to the house.


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