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COP TALES: The honor of protecting several US presidents

Brian Smith

Brian Smith

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.

U.S. presidents

While working with the highway patrol, I was fortunate to work a few protective services details. As a young officer, I was assigned to President Ronald Reagan’s motorcade as we went from his ranch in Santa Barbara to the Point Mugu Naval Base. We had to shut down on-ramps before he got there, then hurry up, pass him each time and close the next ramps. There were a lot of us leapfrogging.

Every time his limousine would pass by, I noticed he smiled and waved at everybody throughout the entire route. Later, when I promoted to lieutenant, I was assigned to his funeral planning detail. We had to be ready at any time, so we were planning long before he even passed away. When his wife, Nancy, passed away, a retired highway patrol assistant chief who became an elected official invited me with the VIPs to attend her funeral.

I worked the Democratic National Convention and at the last minute, they changed President Bill Clinton’s route and they sent him the wrong way down an on-ramp that we had closed. His limousine stopped right next to me and a couple of other officers, for a few seconds, then continued down the ramp. President Clinton seemed very friendly as well.

A few years later, I was with President George W. Bush’s detail and we learned the route he was going to travel and followed all the planned stops. On the way back to the airport, President Bush observed a bunch of elementary school aged children playing outside, so he ordered his procession to stop. He got out of the limousine to talk to the children. I thought it was really cool that he did that, but I was also concerned about his safety.

Two years ago, a very close friend of mine who was a secret service agent on President Donald Trump’s detail invited my wife, daughter and I to attend one of President Trump’s rallies. We were literally the first ones in the building and were standing in the front row during the entire event. He waved and smiled at everyone throughout the day. I am grateful that I was permitted to have those opportunities.

- BS

It brought it all home

I have worked as an Office Services Supervisor for a highway patrol for 22 years. I always believed we were the best law enforcement agency in the world, but it was only lately that what we do actually affected my family. Recently on a Friday night around 5:30 p.m., my niece called the office in a panic. She advised a man had just called her, identified himself as a highway patrol officer, explained that her son had been in an accident on the freeway and the officer needed some information. Apparently her son was involved in a minor accident and had left the scene before the officer arrived. The officer had given her his name, ID number, the area office location and advised what information he needed.

I told her it was legitimate. She returned the call (with all the information) and that officer spent almost half an hour on the phone with her. He took the time to explain the accident, advised her that no one was injured and although her son should not have driven away without waiting for an officer, it was probably due to his inexperience. They chatted about her expectations and he actually offered to contact her son. Both of them were confident that would absolutely make the biggest impression. When the officer called him, he was forthcoming, apologetic and understood what he had done wrong. He promised to handle future situations in a more responsible manner.

The officer was respectful, patient, understanding and took a great deal of time to assist my family. He reassured my niece and made a lasting impression on my nephew.

I emailed a note of appreciation to the officer. The response I received from him explained that he felt fortunate to work for the highway patrol, respected the organization and always wanted to be a reflection of our values. He said it was an honor performing his job each day. I have always been so very proud to be part of this department, but that incident just brought it all home.

- JN

Clean that windshield

I was called to an incident one afternoon, where there was an alley running between houses. Every afternoon, the same man would drive down the alley at 40 to 50 mph, which threatened the kids playing basketball or baseball there. There were five-foot board fences on both sides of the alley that bordered the families’ backyards. On that particular day, the reckless driver called to report that he wanted about six or seven children who were between 10 and 15 years old arrested. He told me that when he was driving down the alley, a barrage of eggs came over the fences and hit all over his windshield, which totally blocked his vision. He also advised that windshield wipers do not clean eggs very well.

I then asked him if he could identify which kids threw the eggs. He told me he could not identify who threw them, but there were a lot of eggs thrown. I told him if he couldn’t identify who threw them, there was nothing I could do, except to advise him to slow down when he drove through the alley.

- DH

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