True stories by Murl Harpham

















































One slow night my partner and I were burglary patrolling on south Broadway which put us a mile or so from the Second Street area where all the bar were located.  I had less than a year on and my partner had been on about six years.  As we slowly drove down Broadway, occasionally driving behind businesses, we heard the only other unit on duty get a call of a fight in a Second Street bar. 

My partner told me to turn the car around and head back downtown incase the other unit got in over their heads.  In those days you never knew when they’d lock the doors and everyone in the bar would go at it including the musicians. 

A couple blocks after making a U-turn my partner pointed to a driveway and said, “Quick, pull into that driveway and shut the lights off.”   I reacted and asked why.  He said that the night light was off over the safe in the building we had just passed.  He explained that it had been on when we had gone by going the other way five minutes ago. I asked about the other unit maybe needing help.  “That’s what they’re paid for,” he replied. 

We parked the car and crept up on the rear of the building and before we found the back door pried open we could hear metal on metal noises coming from the building.  The sounds the burglar was making covered the sounds we made creeping towards him. 

You have to remember, times were different.  There was no SWAT team to call, no portable radios or cell phones to communicate, and few alarms.  In those days the Highway Patrol went home at 10 p.m. and the Sheriff closed up shop at midnight.  If something happened in their areas they would call someone from home or we would cover their call until they got someone to respond.  No one knew what we were doing, including the burglar. 

When we entered the office he was in we pointed our guns at him and announced our presence.  He dropped his safe burglary tools and froze momentarily and then I noticed he was holding his hands in the air but was wiggling and moving back and forth.  I told him to stand still and he replied, “I will if your partner would stop pointing that gun at me.”   He was totally focused on my partner even though I too was pointing a gun at him. 

“This is only my third day on the job and I’m kind of nervous,”  I heard my partner say.  I glanced in his direction and gun was shaking uncontrollably.  I also noticed the smirk on his face that belied his shaking hand.  The guy gave us no problem. 

As we were transporting him to jail he whined about how unlucky he was because he had hid in the fields for an hour waiting for a police car to go by and after he saw one he broke into the business figuring he had at least an hour to work on the safe before a black and white would be back by again.  We didn’t have the heart to tell him we were that unit he had seen. 

Oh yea, the other unit.  They were at the station house also with two prisoners.  They were brothers from Bakersfield who worked in the oil fields and they and the officers were rather disheveled. 

Apparently, they had ended up in a donnybrook, rolling around on the floor and the whole ball of wax.   The officers had had help from some logger patrons who assisted them in controlling the beefy brothers.  That’s the way it was in those days.


Murl Harpham