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Chapter 13a

For further perspective of my plainclothes days on the Bensalem PD, a few additional
stories about my immediate supervisor at the time. I have renamed him…Sgt. Whacky.

I made it through the summer of ’78 as a plainclothes Tactical Squad member pretty well.
I made some good felony arrests during those first eight months on my new squad, with later
convictions in all of them. Sgt. Whacky couldn’t really argue with my results, as I had at least as
many felony arrests as even the three senior members of the squad. But he couldn’t resist still
picking on me every chance he had to do so. He just had to prove his earlier negative
prognostication about me to be correct, even if it bordered on the delusional at times.
On one such occasion, at our informal roll call one morning before heading out on the
streets, the Sarge told the six of us that he wanted to inspect our weapons. This was not
uncommon for patrol sergeants to do with their officers. This sergeant, I suppose to feel
important and meaningful and in complete command and control of us, wanted to do the same.
So, dutifully, we stood in line shoulder to shoulder, safely emptied our virtually identical Smith
& Wesson .357 Magnums of their ammo, and one-by-one turned over our guns to him for
inspection.
I found myself somehow the first one in line that day, so I obediently showed the
Whacky One my un-holstered weapon. I knew the exterior was probably a bit dusty, but
otherwise the cylinder and the barrel were good to go as I had thoroughly cleaned and oiled them
after my last time at the pistol range. That was just about two weeks ago. Once in Sarge’s hand,
he took a good thirty seconds or so to examine it at all angles and in all lighting conditions.
Upon eventually handing it back to me he told me it was “dirty” and ordered me to clean it

before going out to my assignment that day. I respectfully disagreed with him by stating it
wasn’t dirty, just dusty on the outside. But it was to no avail. I was to clean it, and do it that
morning.
“Ok, fine, I’ll take care of it,” I told him.
Sgt. Whacky then moved down the line checking on the others and, coincidently or not,
their weapons were all deemed to be clean. They were dismissed one at a time while I still
stayed in the general area. However, before he actually got to the gun of the last of my squad
mates in line, he was interrupted by a question from the lieutenant and was forced to walk away
from our area for a minute. Before leaving, he told the one remaining officer awaiting his gun
inspection to stay there and that he’d be right back.
This last officer then came over to me and surprised me by his question. He asked, in a
whisper, “Fitz, can I have your gun? I shot last week at the range and I haven’t cleaned it yet.
It’s dirty as hell. It’s been like six months since I last cleaned it. Whacky’ll nail me good!”
I replied, also in a whisper, “Wait, you want MY gun? I just ‘failed’ my inspection. You
heard him. I’m going to stop at my house now and clean it there before going to the mall.”
He said, “I don’t care. I know your gun is in better shape than mine. Now, come on,
quick, before the Sarge gets back.”
So, before even reloading it, I lent my fellow officer my gun, this despite it still being in
the same “dirty” condition that the sergeant had allegedly found it in literally less than three
minutes before.
Whacky then walked back toward us but actually forgot why he had returned to our
location. Then, as if a dull light bulb went off inside his equivalently lit head, he suddenly
remembered.

“Yes, ok, who’s left here? Albert, right! So let’s see your gun too,” he requested of the
remaining officer now holding my already inspected but as of yet not re-cleaned gun.
The sergeant took it from him, carefully examined it, and declared out loud for any one
nearby to hear, “Good! Albert, now that’s a clean gun! Fitzgerald, you should learn from him!
He knows how to take care of his equipment. Ok, hit the streets. And Fitzgerald, I didn’t forget.
I’ll be checking your gun again later today.”
I couldn’t resist. I quickly said, “But you just did,” knowing that Albert and I were
sharing not just a weapon but a private joke together.
Sgt. Whacky responded, “Yes, and it was dirty. Didn’t I just say that? Now get it
cleaned and I’ll see you at the mall.”
“Yes, Sir,” I responded, almost laughing out loud.
Albert then secretly handed me back my supposedly dirty gun while suppressing his own
laughter. Ironically and miraculously, it became a clean gun in his hands.
I did go home and clean my gun that morning with my personal cleaning kit. It “passed”
inspection the second time, or wait, it was actually the third time, later that day when my
sergeant inspected it. I was so proud.

If there’s a moral to this little anecdote, I suppose it’s akin to the notion of beauty. That
being, even gun “beauty” is in the eyes of the beholder. Especially when the beholder (Sgt.
Whacky) is not “beholden” to the person (me) whose gun he’s inspecting.

*****

Perhaps he was distracted at the time, and thusly not seeing or thinking too clearly,
because my Tac sergeant spent the better part of several days around this same time frame away
from the everyday police command duties of our squad. Why? He was trying to catch a live
mouse which somehow took up residence in his personal car. Once again, I could not make up
something like this. As he proudly told as at a subsequent morning roll call, he finally caught it,
and brought in the carcass in a glass jar for all to see.
We were busy catching bad guys, Sgt. Whacky was busy catching a mouse. Go figure….

*****

On yet another occasion that same year, somehow our PD received information that a
specific Bensalem bank was going to be robbed over the next few days. The six (plus our
sergeant) Tac Squad members were to position ourselves in hidden surveillance mode at and
around the bank in order to arrest the team who was going to rob it. When planning for it on the
first morning, Sgt. Whacky clearly and in all seriousness told us collectively before sending us
out on the detail, “I expect to lose one, maybe two of you, in this operation. So, be prepared.”
WTF?!
Is THIS any way to prepare one’s troops for a particular battle, or officers for a tactical
operation? No, but it apparently was according to this guy. Imparting to us officers the
importance of team work, communication, equipment, positioning, etc., would be very important
and relevant in such a situation. But telling your squad that some of them would die? HE was
doing something wrong then.
Utterly ridiculous!

By the way, we sat on the bank for two straight days. It was never robbed. Bad
information or something went wrong somewhere. I didn’t mind that part. It wasn’t the first nor
would it be the last stake-out or surveillance which failed to materialize as it was supposed to.
At least we didn’t lose one or more of the Tac officers on this assignment.
I almost think Sgt. Whacky was a bit disappointed….

That was my sergeant/boss at the time, Whacky in more ways than one, and it really
didn’t get much better over the next year.

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