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.


Every week I've contemplated telling this story, but always decided against it since I wish I would have handled it differently. When I was a young, new, 22-year-old Highway Patrolman, I was patrolling a freeway when I stopped a car for speeding. There were two couples in the vehicle who were probably in their mid-40's. I approached the driver and told him I stopped him for speeding. He immediately snapped at me and started using profanities towards me. I asked for his license and registration. He continued to swear at me as he handed me his papers.

As I was about to return to my patrol car, the woman in the back seat stated, “I’m sorry, officer. He is just upset because we are coming from our brother’s funeral.” The driver then said, “He doesn’t give a (expletive).”

I then returned to my patrol car and issued the citation.

That incident occurred 35 years ago, and I regret writing that ticket because that was my opportunity to show that family that I did care about their loss. I wrote that ticket because I figured with his attitude, a warning would not have deterred him from speeding. However, I had a much greater opportunity that day to show my compassion and more importantly, the compassion of the Highway Patrol.

I should have returned his paperwork, and said, “You are wrong, Sir. I do care. I will say prayers for your brother and your family.” I hope that family did not form an impression of our department based on the actions of a young, 22-year-old rookie.

— BS


Occasionally, hunches work well in law enforcement. However, we must acknowledge the caustic words given to Clint Eastwood’s character “Dirty Harry” in Sudden Impact by the bureaucratically bound Captain Briggs, “You can't bust them because you think they're dirty. Psychic don't cut it.”

While working as a Land Management Ranger, I investigated an act of vandalism and burglary in a recreation area. A volunteer had discovered the crime and a single vehicle accident a short distance from the burglarized building. When the volunteer came upon a vehicle involved in an accident, the vehicle was abandoned and there was a carpenter’s square laying on the ground that was identical to one missing from the burglarized building. The suspect must have returned later that evening and removed the vehicle and the carpenter’s square.

Driving into a town adjacent to the recreation area, I saw a hardware store and decided to buy a new pair of gloves for my work. While paying for the item, I observed that the clerk had a bandage on one hand. I asked, “Were you just recently in a vehicle accident?” The clerk told me he had been involved in an accident near the recreation area. When I questioned him further, he denied any knowledge of the burglarized building or missing tools.

The following day, I introduced myself to the Resident Deputy. We paid a visit to the clerk at his residence. He eventually admitted that he had entered the building, but was not forthcoming about any act of vandalism or the missing carpenter’s square.

Something about an open garage attached to the house with several vehicles inside captured my imagination. The landlord was present, so I asked him if he would look behind the car in the garage for the missing carpenter’s square. He walked to the garage, looked behind the car, and retrieved the square. The deputy kindly took over the case.

Now, you might want to ask one question, “Do you feel psychic? Well, do ya?” The answer is, “Yes, occasionally.”

— ER


Several years ago with the Highway Patrol, I was patrolling a four lane divided highway. It was close to the end of my shift and I was headed toward the office when I witnessed a car sideswipe a parked car and keep going. I activated the red light and siren and the car turned and sped away. I gave chase and forced the car off the road. I thought I had the car blocked with the front of my patrol car angled partially in front of it. The car had bumped over the curb and the engine had died. I approached the driver's door and saw that there was a woman (driver) and a man (passenger) in the front seat. She was trying to climb over the passenger in an attempt to get out the door on the other side. I grabbed the collar of her shirt and held her, while I told her to take the keys out of the ignition and hand them to me.

She reached for the keys and quickly restarted the car. She put it into gear as the car lurched forward with me halfway in the window. The car fishtailed just enough that it cleared the front of the patrol car and shot back onto the roadway. I was still hanging on as the car passed the patrol car and my left leg was crushed between the vehicles. I pulled hard on the steering wheel and caused the vehicle to veer across the roadway rather than speed off down the road with me hanging half in and half out.

The car crashed into a house across the street. I guess I was knocked out because when I woke up, I was under the car at the driver's door. She was grinding the starter to get the car running again. I scooted out from under the car, but when I tried to stand up, I could not stand on my left leg. I grabbed her by the neck again and hung on for dear life. By that time, people were coming out of the nearby houses. I asked a man to go back to my patrol car and radio for help. I told him how to operate the radio and what to tell them. The dispatcher would not talk to him as she thought he had stolen my patrol car. I did hear her tell the sergeant over the radio that my patrol car was stolen. When they realized I was the only officer not answering my radio, they sent several officers to my beat to look for me.

Finally, a patrol car came around the corner and saw a bunch of people and an empty patrol car. The driver was arrested and since the passenger was drunk, he was also arrested. Since I had to go to the hospital for my leg, one of the officers offered to drive me to the hospital instead of waiting for an ambulance. I started to hop to his vehicle, but since he was a very large man and helpful, he decided to pick me up and carry me to the car. He did so by picking me up with one arm wrapped around my upper body. When he did that, I felt my ribs crack and I kept telling him to put me down. However, he carried me to the car and to the hospital. It is worth noting that it took longer for my rib, which was cracked, to heal than my leg.

— RS

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

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(1) comment


HOLY SNAP! that last story was insane. wow. and he was about to be done with his shift too. gee

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