Wednesday, November 30, 2011

RIP Sgt. Michael Stafstrom

 I learned some upsetting news yesterday…a retired co-worker passed away recently. In honor of the late Berkeley (CA) Police Sergeant Michael Stafstrom, I’d like to share a few memories.

First, let me start by saying the following is my opinion and my memories of Sgt. Stafstrom. Mike was a no-nonsense type of guy. He was a veteran member of the force when I was hired on in 1987. After going through the hoops, and finishing training I was assigned to the dogwatch (aka, nightshift). My co-workers told me Sgt. Stafstrom was one of the guys who generally left dispatch alone, unless ‘we’ either screwed up or went above & beyond.

The first time I met Mike, he reminded me of a bulldog. You might guess the type: medium height and average build. He made jokes and growled a lot. His patrol team called him Sgt Fuzzy. He did keep his hair short-shaved. Mike’s language was to the point and often longshoreman rough. He wasn’t a ‘PC’ type of guy, and he didn’t care. I can’t remember how many times undesirable words came out of his mouth over the radio. It didn’t bother me – I’d cut my teeth on a good ‘ol boy environment when I first started field work.

I remember a call one night, where he was helping search for a suspect who’d fled from a burglary. I had the block covered. Mike and a couple of officers were checking the neighborhood. I guess he was getting ready to either ask a question to tell one of the officers searching to move in a different direction because all of a sudden, clear as if he were standing next to me, over the radio comes out “Get on the ground you ffng ^%%#!” or something similar. It was a long time ago, but I still remember the authoritative voice, not panicked, just strong. He came in to dispatch later on and told us he was walked along the sidewalk and just happened to look up and see the suspect clinging on a tree branch. He couldn’t remember even keying the radio mike. It sure woke us up.

Mike counted on dispatch doing our job. We set up block covers. We made notifications. We handled in-progress calls. He would respond and help out as needed; only stepping in if he thought the radio person wasn’t doing what needed to be done. He had no problem telling ‘Control’ to get off the air. You learned quickly with Sgt. Fuzzy on duty, take care of business or get out of the way.

Mike and I had a common love: dogs, specifically Chinese Shar-Peis. He had two of them. When I first left the Department, my guy, Moshuh, was a year old. My husband & I moved to Las Vegas in 2003, but we hadn’t changed our phone number right away. One afternoon out of the blue I received a call from Mike. He needed to find a home his female Shar Pei because his house in Henderson wasn’t ready and he didn’t have a place to keep a dog. He remembered that I was ‘into the breed, too.” Mike said she was a sweet dog, great with kids. I wish I could recall the dog’s name. Mike said she would herd the grandkids away from the pool. That is a typical Chinese Shar-Pei trait.

I had to turn him down, explaining that I was in Nevada, not the Bay Area. I don’t know what happened with Mike’s dog, but I laughed when I recalled he was moving to southern Nevada – not far from where I’d moved. I lost contact with him after that call – we changed our numbers to local ones and never passed them on.

 I hope he had time to enjoy his retirement. He deserved it.

So long Sgt. Fuzzy. Somewhere you’re scaring the hell out of rookies and telling off-color jokes to those who take care of business when the solidified fecal mass hits the rotating air propeller. I know you’re watching over those still patrolling the streets.

There will never be another one you like. Rest in peace, Mike.

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