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Most rookie officers realized rather quickly that the police academy did not prepare them for what the world was about to toss their way. In fact, mid-way through their first night shift, rookies would begin to wonder if the police academy had taught them anything at all! Their mind is consumed by a single thought,” What do I do now?”. If they were lucky, there would be a seasoned officer on the call with them to whom they could look to for guidance. Otherwise, they would be forced to call for a Sergeant and put their ignorance and poor training on full display.
As it would turn out, calling for a Sergeant was another lesson not taught by the police academy. Most jobs have three distinct types of Sergeants: the “CALL ME” Sergeant, the “DO NOT CALL ME” Sergeant, and the “DO NOT CALL HIM” Sergeant. The younger more educated Sergeant would want his people to call him for any and all calls in the district. He demanded to be part of every decision made and had little faith in the ability of his officers. On the other hand, the older crusty street wise Sergeant, who was just waiting for his retirement date, usually ended each roll-call with the admonishment: DO NOT CALL ME or bother me all night! Then there is the DO NOT CALL HIM Sergeant. These were the real old timers who outlasted their usefulness on the job but had nowhere else to go. While they often embarrassed the job, they were loved by all.
One such Sergeant was Sgt. Bobbles. He was one giant of a man who could still swing a mean nightstick at the age of 70. At 6”5, 275lbs, even an old Sgt. Bobbles could do damage at a disturbance. The younger cops loved him because he was pure blue thru and thru and he demanded that the public respect all cops. He earned the nickname Sgt. Bobbles (short for bobble-head) late in his career, when he lost most of the sight in his left eye and all of the hearing in his right ear. These physical restraints required him to turn his head slightly to the left to see the person in front of him with his good right eye and then turn his head slightly to the right to hear the person with his good left ear. Thus, Sgt. Bobble-head!
When Sgt. Bobbles joined the department it was as an enforcer. Many of the older cops were large, tough, burly men who loved a good tussle. Brain power was not a requirement back then. Heck; Miranda Warnings and the Fourth Amendment violations were decades away. The sergeant received his promotion, not though a written test, but rather by an outstanding display of valor in the face of death. Truth be told, Bobbles had responded to an alarm bell at the restaurant owned by one of the City’s most powerful political donors. During a search of the kitchen, he discovered a suspect hiding in the closet and cuffed him. As he attempted to escort the prisoner to the station house, another officer, from the special task force unit, declared the prisoner was his. Bobbles and this officer went at it and had to be separated by several others officers on scene. As the mythical story goes, when the task force officer again stated it was his prisoner, Bobbles drew his gun, shot the prisoner in the leg, and stated,” Whose prisoner is it now!”. Later, the police report described the brief gun battle between the armed prisoner and Bobbles; who was deemed a hero and promoted to Sergeant.
One poor rookie learned the hard way; when he ignored the advice of a senior officer on scene and called for Sgt. Bobbles to respond. The senior officer had warned the rookie several times: DO NOT CALL HIM!
When Sgt. Bobbles arrived on scene, the rookie approached, rendered a salute, and informed Bobbles that he had a domestic disturbance between a husband and wife and that no one was cooperating with police. Sgt. Bobbles blurted out that no one disrespects the police and stormed into the house. He first approached a young female, turned his head to the left and observed she was wearing a skimpy house coat opened to her waist. “You little slut! Tell the policeman what happened!”, he screamed! Mortified, the rookie grabbed the sergeant’s arm and told him she was the neighbor who had called the police. Bobbles immediately spun around and approached a male talking to himself in the corner of the room. Sgt. Bobbles turned his head to the right and screamed, “What did you just say to me?” Again, the rookie pulls him away while telling him that the guy is the mentally disabled son. Bobbles then turns left, looks sternly at the rookie, and yells;”Where is the husband and wife?” Then Bobbles turns right and awaits the rookie’s response. At that point, the senior officer, fighting back tears, yells into Sgt Bobbles good ear that the husband has taken a walk and the call is all set for now.
One of the most memorable Sgt. Bobble-head calls started out as a routine “check on the well being”. It was one of those slow graveyard shifts when most officers were tired of driving around and around for hours. When the dispatcher sent a car to check on the well being of an elderly man, several cars decided to follow in. Apparently, the man’s family lived out of State and reported that he was not answering the phone. The first responding officers rang the doorbell and peeked in the windows, but were unable to locate the man. The officers forced entry through a side door and found the elderly man sitting at the bedroom window in a rocking chair. He was deceased. Even though there were no signs of foul play and several bottles of heart medication were found nearby, the officers were required, by department policy, to have a sergeant respond to the scene. Thus, DO NOT CALL HIM, Sgt. Bobbles was dispatched.
Learning that Bobbles was the responding sergeant, one of the senior officers on scene mentioned that Sgt. Bobbles was petrified of dead bodies. This fear of the dead stemmed from a prank played on him when he was a rookie. Apparently, all footmen in those days had a private hiding place where they could go on cold winter nights to stay out of the elements. Bobbles’ hiding place was the rear room of a friend’s funeral home. Unfortunately, when Bobbles hiding spot was discovered by the senior officers, a prank was in order. One winter night, shortly after Bobbles had stretched out on the funeral home couch, the senior officer, who was lying on a nearby slab with a white sheet covering his body and a toe tag attached to his protruding big toe, suddenly started to sit up. Bobbles was last seen running off into the darkness; never to be the same again.
This information proved to be too hard to pass on and the plan was hatched. Just as Bobbles arrived at the house, the heavy ceiling to floor curtains were drawn closed to keep out the light from a nearby street lamp; a lit cigarette was carefully placed between the thumb and first finger on the man’s right hand; and the rocking chair was set in motion (back and forth and back and forth). When Sgt. Bobbles entered the bedroom and asked, ”What do we have?”, he was told the man was being uncooperative with police and would not give his name. Bobbles became enraged that the man was disrespecting the police.
Sgt, Bobbles walked over to the rocking man, turned his head left and shouted ,”What’s your Name?”. He then turned his head to right and waited for the response. When no response came forth, Bobbles looked left again and screamed louder, “What’s your name?” and quickly turned his head right and waited for a response. When no response was heard, Sgt. Bobbles spun back to the left and screamed, “I’ll kick your ass!” and gave the man a shove. With this, the man slumped forward to the left and Bobbles realized the man was dead. As he stumbled backwards, away from the body, he reached out and grabbed the curtains, which came crashing down on him; knocking Bobbles to the floor. This provided just enough time for the other officers to flee the house before Bobbles could draw his nightstick and give pursuit.
As it is with most good things, the career of loveable Sgt. Bobble-head came to an end a few short months later. We will leave the details out but let’s just say his head went up and down, instead of left and right, when the Chief told him it was time to retire.
War Stories are true accounts from the front line. They are submitted by members of our audience and range from comedy to drama. War Stories celebrates those that have given their life to protect those in their community.