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 to you

Every Christmas and holiday season, all law enforcement agencies are required to place their staff on Maximum Enforcement Periods. That means that most of them do not get the holidays off with their families. With all the family plans and shopping, it is hard to find time in their busy schedules to work long shifts and accomplish all their other tasks. However, most, if not all, law enforcement agencies find a way to collect money, food and toys for the less fortunate families in the community. The employees of these agencies donate so much of their personal time to help those families.

Of course, without the assistance and support of the community members who donate the items and money, they would never be able to succeed. Thanks to all the contributors and law enforcement personnel who take part in the events. You may not see all the smiles and lives you have touched, but you make a huge difference in their lives. God bless you.

- BS

That’s what it’s truly about

In 1969, I was 17 and lived in a small agricultural town where I was a member of the Highway Patrol Explorer Post. Since the post was one of the first authorized in the state, the officers didn’t quite know what to do with us. We couldn’t do ridealongs with the officers, but we met once a week at the office and conducted a meeting.

Since we couldn’t do law enforcement tasks, our advisors thought we should get involved in community activities. We participated in pancake breakfasts and other activities with other community clubs and made a little money to support our post. At Christmastime we teamed up with the Jay Cees, a community club our advisors were involved with, and sold Christmas trees.

My buddy Steve and I weren’t satisfied with just selling trees, so we decided to add mistletoe to our inventory. We went out in the country and pulled a bunch of mistletoe out of a tree and took it home. My mom helped us clip sprigs of it and put them in baggies with red ribbons. It looked very festive. We sold the mistletoe for 25 cents a bag. While some of the other explorers were taking their shift at our Christmas tree lot, Steve and I decided to go door to door and sell mistletoe. We chose a neighborhood and began knocking on doors. Almost everyone we contacted bought our mistletoe and we were racking up the dough. We were feeling pretty enterprising and a bit cocky with our successful sales. Little did we know that the next door we knocked on would change us forever.

We approached the next house and noticed there was no porch light on and no lights on in the house. We knocked on the door and a few seconds later, the door opened a little and we could see that there were no lights on inside the house. A woman in her late 30s stood at the door in an old rumpled house coat. We smiled and introduced ourselves as members of the local highway patrol explorer post and asked if she wanted to buy mistletoe for 25 cents a bag.

She managed to force a tiny smile and told us that she wished she could, but she couldn’t afford it. She explained that only a couple of days ago there was a fire in her living room and everything in it was destroyed. The fire department did manage to contain the fire to the living room but everything in it was gone. She politely invited us into her home to see the damage for ourselves. As we walked past the kitchen to the living room we saw the extensive smoke damage and the house smelled like smoke. When we walked into the living room we saw extensive charring on the wall that separated the living room from the kitchen. There was smoke and water damage everywhere. The carpeting was gone and there was no light in the living room. Everything that once made it a warm and comfortable home was destroyed.

As teenagers, we had trouble trying to come to grips with our feelings at seeing such devastation. The only thing our young minds could come up with was to give her the mistletoe. She told us that she had spent all her available cash on preparing for the holiday and now she would be lucky if she could provide dinner for her kids. She also advised that there would be no Christmas presents at all this year.

When we got to the door, we gave her some mistletoe and she graciously thanked us and gave us each a little hug. We both walked silently to our car, then decided to do something about it. That family was not going to go without a Christmas. I remembered we had a tree at my house that we were going to flock and sell, but decided to give it to this family instead. I called our officer advisor and told him what we just experienced and what we were going to do about it. He met us at the lady’s house and we presented her with the fresh tree. She cried as we carried it into her house and set it in her living room.

Later, our advisor called the town paper and generated an article and asked the community to help the lady and her family. Just like most small towns across America, the people rallied quickly to help. We learned that before Christmas day, tree decorations and presents for the kids and food for the family were donated. This one little family was taken care of by the generosity of a caring town.

Now that I am a retired highway patrol sergeant, I look back at that event every year and remember what Christmas is truly about. Merry Christmas to everyone.

- RH

We were the fortunate ones

Many years ago, a deputy and myself had the honor of delivering food boxes to very needy people in the community. It was something the sheriff’s department did every year for the holidays. We stopped at a house and knocked on the door. A very nice lady answered the door.

Once we told her why we were there, she invited us into her home. She opened the refrigerator door and it was completely empty. When we left, it was completely full. We both agreed that we were very fortunate to have the ability to help her and her family.

- FW

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 bmsmith778@gmail.com.