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.

Thank God I looked first

One evening while working as a sergeant for the Highway Patrol, I was suspicious of a vehicle so I ran the license plate. Dispatch advised the vehicle was stolen. As soon as I activated the red lights, the vehicle accelerated away and the chase was on. We traveled through the city as he tried to get away. He then drove to the top floor of a parking structure, but that level was even with the ground on the side we entered.

The vehicle drove all the way to the other side of the lot and stopped by an enclosed stairwell. The driver exited his car and ran straight ahead. It looked like he jumped over a four-foot wall to continue running away on the same level. In full stride, I ran after him and started to leap over the wall to continue the foot pursuit when I looked up and realized there was a huge drop on the other side. I was barely able to keep my balance and almost fell all the way to the ground. I was actually about six-to-eight stories up. If I didn’t stop in time, I never would have survived that fall. It taught me to control my tunnel vision for future incidents. And yes, the suspect did get away that night. -BS

Maybe I should stop looking

When I promoted to sergeant, I was assigned to an office in a large city. My first shift was working graveyards with a more senior sergeant to show me around the area and the various county and city locations. While we were on our way to the courthouse, we were passed by a car going in excess of 85 mph. We conducted a stop on the vehicle and when I approached the driver's door, I saw the driver place both hands on the dash. He then said that he did not want me to shoot him, and he was giving himself up. He then told me that he had killed someone, but that it was in self-defense. We then called dispatch to check for warrants and any report of a recent murder. It was determined that he had indeed stabbed someone, but the victim had not died. The city police were in route to our location to take over the investigation.

While we were waiting for the police officers, I checked the vehicle for the registration papers that I needed for my portion of the report. When I opened the driver's door to check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIV) on the doorpost, I could see that one corner of the VIN plate was slightly bent. When I flicked it with my thumbnail it came off and fell to the ground. The VIN number under the one that had been crudely glued on returned as a stolen vehicle. The jurisdiction for the stolen vehicle report was one of the neighboring Highway Patrol areas. They were notified and were also in route to our location.

Knowing that the vehicle would have to be towed, I began the inventory form which the other Highway Patrol investigator would need. When the trunk of the vehicle was opened, there was a police helmet and a night stick from an adjoining city. A call to dispatch disclosed that the items were taken in a burglary some time ago from an officer's home. That police agency was also notified and they dispatched an officer to take over that part of the incident.

Needless to say, I did not get off shift on time that morning as I had to complete reports for four jurisdictions. On the bright side, no other shift was as complicated as that one. -RS

Just headed home

Unlike television or movies, gang/narcotics conspiracy wiretap cases are kept on a need-to-know basis and take months of listening to boring phone call after phone call. Occasionally, you will hear an interesting conversation that keeps you laughing. After several months, we identified numerous possible storage locations for large amounts of cocaine in the rural areas of the county. It then became time to follow small shipments to street level “rock house” locations from the storage sites in an effort to identify other conspirators and locations of the organization.

Late one afternoon, we intercepted a cell call from two of the organization’s gang members traveling from a drug storage site south on the freeway. After some mindless chatting, the caller’s voice became loud and upset as he stated, “There’s a black and white Po Po behind us. Now, there are two more (police cars).” Thinking that a Highway Patrol unit was going to make an unrelated traffic stop on the two heavily armed gang members, who were already in a state of panic, a decision was made to immediately notify the Highway Patrol watch commander. As the call was being made, we heard the caller scream, “There’s a whole line of Po Pos following us.” Then in a much calmer voice, the caller said, “It’s OK. They ain’t stopping us, they’re all passing us.” It was about that time that we were informed that a multi-law enforcement agency defensive driving training class had just ended north of their location and numerous officers were heading home. -AA

Brian Smith served four years in the United States 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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