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COP TALES: The man was naked, and the officer was afraid

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.

Naked and afraid

No officer in his or her right mind wants to receive the dreaded naked person call. The officer usually winds up in some type of physical altercation because the person is either under the influence of drugs or suffering some type of mental disorder.

One night while on patrol for the sheriff's office, I received the naked man call. As luck would have it, I was the closest officer to the location. Off I went with great trepidation. I arrived at the location and within a short time, I located a naked man standing on an air conditioner unit mounted on the side of a building. The man standing on the AC unit towered over me, which was not a pleasant picture. Knowing my backup was several minutes out, I decided to try and engage the person in conversation.

I asked him what he was doing. He said he was waiting to be transformed. I asked him where his clothes were since I did not see them in the immediate area. He said they had already been transformed. I wondered where I would take the conversation from there. I asked him what he was going to be transformed into. With a straight face, he said, “I don't know. I'm new at this.” His answer caught me off guard, and caused me to pause for a moment. Several thoughts ran through my mind in a millisecond. I thought to myself that I might be the victim of a practical joke.

I could hear my partner pull into the area. As he walked up beside me, the reality that we were about to get into a possible altercation ran through my mind. No one wants to get into a wrestling match with a naked person, especially one with mental health issues. I always tried to resolve those situations in the easiest manner possible. My partner took my lead, and I told the suspect he was on the wrong transformer. I told him he was on the clothing transformer, and that was why he had not been transformed.

I could see the wheels turning in his head. I told him I could take him to the correct transformer, and he could be on his way. He climbed down as I told him I would drive him to the secret location. I told him he had to have his hands restrained because if he flailed about during the transformation, one of his arms may not make it to the other side.

As luck would have it, he believed my explanation and submitted. Safely in my vehicle, I took a sigh of relief because I was afraid I was going to be the one on the bottom of the dog pile with a naked man flailing about on top of me. We were able to take him to get the assistance he needed.

- BC

Just ask

While working for a large Midwest city police department, we had a call in the projects where the complainant stated his girlfriend had stabbed him with a knife. When we arrived, we observed a man with no visible injuries yelling through the door at his girlfriend that he wanted his stuff back. We told him to calm down and explain to us his concerns. He told us that his girlfriend had been using all of his drugs and she did not reimburse him. He was clearly not stabbed or injured, so we did not have a crime, but I asked him a parting question.

I said, "Hey, man. Real quick, do you happen to have any other drugs or guns on you, so we can see how much you had and how much she took?" The man then started feeling his pockets and lifted his shirt. He said he didn't have his gun on him and all he had was a small bag of weed.

My training officer laughed and said to me, “After 15 years on the job, who knew that all you had to do was ask nicely and they would just pull everything out of their pockets.”

- KC

Cordico app

As I have mentioned over the years, I had a great time being a motorcop for the highway patrol way back in the '70s. If I had it all to do over again, I do believe I would do it the same way. But like every cop reading this — while there are a lot of good days — there are some very, very bad days, with incidents that will stick in your head forever and pop up into your brain when you least expect it.

One night, I was just completing my shift and just exited the freeway off-ramp when I saw a Ford Pinto headed north in the No. 1 (fast) lane of the freeway. It was going very slow and there was some smoke coming out of the vehicle. I did a quick turnaround and got back on northbound and noticed the car was now stopped in the fast lane.

Based on my experience, stopping behind the vehicle even with my two flashing yellow lights would be a ticket for tragedy. I pulled my motorcycle onto the right shoulder, then called for a car unit to run a break to slow down and stop the traffic so I could safely attend to the vehicle. I also requested a tow-truck. The driver had exited the car and due to the freeway noise he was unaware that I was there. As I tried to yell at him to walk to a safer spot north of his car, I heard the squeal of locked-up tires and saw a high-speed pickup truck hit the car in the rear. The Pinto immediately burst into flames.

As I ran to the Pinto, I saw the man running toward the fully engulfed car and even though I was 20 feet from the vehicle, I could feel the heat from the flames. I then heard the screams of a child in the car. As I am typing this, I am choking up and this was more than 40 years ago. The man, who I learned was the father, tried to run to the car, but he was also repelled by the flames. He looked right at me and pleaded with me to do something. He was crying excessively until the screaming finally stopped.

It has been more than 40 years since that incident and I still have a nightmare about it every once in a while. I think about officers who handle murdered women and babies, violent sexual assaults, child rapes, and the other terrible things that cops see too often. No wonder we have a lower life expectancy and so many alcohol and drug issues, not to mention the high divorce rate. Today, first responders can get counseling and mental health assistance through the CORDICO app on their phone.

- GG

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