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.


One night while patrolling as a sergeant for the highway patrol, it was raining so hard that you could hardly see 10 feet in front of you. All of our officers were tied up on numerous calls. I was driving on a major freeway when I observed two subjects in the center divider area. One of them had a long pipe and a trashcan lid, and the other one had a long, thin piece of metal in his hands and they were swinging their weapons at each other in the pouring rain.

I pulled in behind them and ordered them to drop their weapons. They continued to fight. I called for back-up units, but no one was available. I was planning my strategies on how to control them. I then raised my voice, demanded they drop their weapons and told them to put their hands in the air. They actually stopped, looked at each other, looked at me, dropped their “swords,” then ran away across the freeway and out of sight. That was good enough for me. I got back in my dry patrol car and went on to the next incident.

— B.S.


On my first shift as a new sergeant, I was driving with a more senior sergeant who was showing me around the area. All of a sudden, 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 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 and the city police were on their way to our location to take over the investigation.

While we were waiting for the them, I checked the vehicle for registration which I knew I would need for my part of the report. When I opened the driver's door to check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) 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 the vehicle would have to be towed, I began the inventory form which the 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 police department. A call to dispatch disclosed that the items were taken in a burglary some time ago at an officer's home. That agency was also notified and they were dispatching an officer to take over that part of the incident. Needless to say, I did not get off shift that morning on time as I had to complete reports for four different jurisdictions. On the bright side, most of my future days were not as complicated as that one.

— R.S.


I have been a highway patrol officer for years. With a few exceptions, I guess you could say, I've seen it all. Working traffic in a busy area means tragedy can be a daily occurrence. Traffic accidents with injuries and fatalities, pursuits, shootings, etc. It takes a toll on you. Those who perform the job day in and day out, develop their own personal coping methods. Many officers rely on faith, family and friends when they need someone or something to lean on. We also have to deal with negative comments and news stories about law enforcement agencies.

One day, my partner and I stopped at a Jack in the Box, ordered our food and found a seat in the moderately busy dining area. After a minute of conversation, two young girls appeared at our table, flanked by their parents. One of the girls said, “Can we sing you a song?” Of course, I told her, “Yes.”

I don't remember much of the song, but one of the lines went something like, "I am a police officer strong and sure..." Before I knew it, nearly everyone in the room was watching. I was blown away with a rush of emotions as I listened to those two innocent kids singing that song. Two kids, uncorrupted by societal perceptions, showing appreciation to complete strangers with a song; a song I had no idea existed. As they finished and approached to give us a hug, I felt the tear I had been fighting so hard to prevent, roll down my cheek. That was a special memory that I will never forget. I guess I'm not as tough as I thought.

— K.S.

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

(4) comments

barbara meuleman-girga

Sorry, PedoHater, I and many others LOVE this column. Adds humor to the day and yet shows us what cops have to put up with. This is the ONLY think I now read in the paper. PLEASE keep it coming.


So how do I get in a reservation for an autographed copy of the first edition of the book?

Rachel Legan

I love Brian's column. He paints an incredible word picture. Keep them coming!


Do we really need cop PR? Is this a newspaper or a propaganda outlet...

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