COP TALES: I love cartoons, especially when they lead to a suspect | Cop Tales by Brian Smith
Cop Tales are true stories told by law enforcement officers from across the country. The stories are told in the first person. The actual officer’s initials follow each story.
One day while working as a highway patrol commander, I was in my unmarked patrol car when I observed a motorbike driving recklessly. He was driving down the road pulling a wheelie. I parked behind him, but couldn’t see the license plate. I did however see a large tattoo of a cartoon dragon on his calf. I turned on the red lights as he entered the freeway. It then accelerated to over 120 mph and took off. I called other patrol units as I pursued him, but no one was available in that area. As we got closer to the traffic and he started dividing the traffic, I didn’t want to continue the chase with an unmarked car, so I aborted.
I then began to conduct a follow-up investigation. I went to a few motorcycle shops and asked about the motorcycle and its tattoo. A store owner immediately knew who I was talking about because of the tattoo. I went through his file and learned that he had several citations for speeding and fleeing officers. The local officers knew him well. I visited him at his work and the motorbike was parked right outside, partially blocking the entrance to the business. I entered the building and he was wearing short pants. I immediately noticed the cartoon dragon on his calf. I submitted my report to the district attorney’s office and they filed a complaint against him. I’m sure he liked the idea of the tattoo when he first did it.
I guess every department has a “sage”, someone who is always looking for the humorous side of things. We had such an officer at my highway patrol office. One day I was sitting on the working speed control on the ramp when I observed a red Porsche approaching over 100 mph in the fast lane. I turned on my Kawasaki and walked down the ramp. I was 90mph at the end of the ramp and it blew at me like I was still.
I kept accelerating until I was able to catch up and stop him. By the time I got off my bike it was already out of the car and very restless. He shouted at me, “Why did you stop me?” I told him he was over 100mph in a 55 zone. He just kept fussing more and more as I asked him for his license and registration.
As I started to write the quote he said, “I know you don’t have a speed camera. You have nothing, and it will be my word against yours in court. You only stopped me because I have a Porsche. You’ll regret stopping me. You have no proof that I was accelerating. As he fumed, guess who stopped behind me? Yeah, Officer Wise Guy, we’ll call him Gary.
Gary got off his bike and watched the Porsche guy scream and scream that I had no radar or evidence. Gary got back to his bike and was doing something I couldn’t see. He came back to us and continued to watch the man fuming and raving. Gary then interrupted him and pointed to another Porsche driving down the freeway. Gary reached out his left arm, raised his thumb, and as the second Porsche passed he followed the Porsche with his thumb and moved his arm left to right following the path of the Porsche.
This movement caused the cuff of his long-sleeved shirt to move away from the wrist to the forearm. Gary had drawn lines on his arm when he returned to his motorbike earlier. He numbered the lines from 55/65/75/85/95/105. The armband hit the 105 mark as we watched it. Gary then said: “I’m going to get this Porsche, it’s 105.”
Gary then got on his Kawasaki and tackled the Porsche. At this point, my driver was exploding with anger and asked me to roll up my sleeve. His face was redder than his car when he signed the quote. He then continued to shout that I would be sorry I stopped him and that he was going to tell the judge what we were doing and that I had only stopped him because he was in a Porsche. He drove off and I never saw him again.
While I worked as a motorcycle officer with the Highway Patrol several years ago, I worked in the evenings, which started in the afternoon and ended well after dark. I was on my way home and an approaching car blinded me with its high beams. The vehicle had four fires with two on each side and they were all burning. I switched my lights several times to remind the driver to dim his lights. The lights were not dimmed and as the vehicle passed me I turned and attempted to stop the vehicle, but it did not stop.
I activated the siren and the vehicle finally stopped. I walked over and saw that an elderly woman was the driver. I got her driver’s license and asked her if she realized that her headlights were on and she failed to dim them as she approached traffic. She said she was aware of this, but was unable to dim the lights because the car did not have a dimmer. It was a fairly new vehicle so I knew it had to have a dimmer.
I showed him that the lights were switched up and down by moving the turn signal lever forward or backward and demonstrated the process. She also said she noticed cars always flashing their lights at her on the rare occasions she had to drive at night and now she knew why. She told me that it was her late husband’s car and that she only drove it at night since her husband died. I didn’t quote her and told her I was sorry to hear of her husband’s death. She then told me that he had died three and a half years ago.
Brian smith served four years in the United States Marine Corps and retired as deputy chief of the California Highway Patrol. He resides in Bakersfield. If you have a personal “cop story” to share, please contact Smith at [email protected]