A Brief History
On January 24, 2017, we pick this date at random to celebrate a little explored aspect of police work, that of the dreaded nickname! Most readers would be familiar with “Dirty Harry” Callahan of (fictional) movie fame, or perhaps “Prince of the City” (NYPD Det. Robert Leuci played by Treat Williams) of the 1981 film by that name. Richard Cain of the Chicago PD was also known as Richard Scalzeti, perhaps because of his association with the Chicago Mob. Who could forget fictional “Sperm” Whalen of the book and movie, The Choir Boys? Even other countries get in this act, with Norbert Poehlke of Germany becoming known as “Der Hammermorder” due to his use of a sledge hammer in murders and burglaries. Russel Leverock of Bermuda has the colorful tag, “Sluggo.” (He was a 300 pound cricket player as well.) A positively negative nom de guerre of “The Butcher of Lyon” was planted on Gestapo (Nazi secret police) officer Klaus Barbie during World War II.
Please note we are not addressing group euphemisms, slurs, nicknames, etc for police at large (such as “5-O,” “Heat,” “Fuzz” etc). We are also not real keen on derogatory nicknames for females, so we will let those go as well.
Real life police officers often lay nicknames on each other, on fellow workers such as dispatchers (or the fictional “Bones” medical examiner of television), girlfriends/groupies, and sometimes even bad guys. At times cops give themselves nicknames, such as former DEA agent and Maricopa Country Sherriff, Joe Arpaio, who titled his own biography “Joe Arpaio, America’s Toughest Sheriff.” Famous bad guy nicknames such as “Machine Gun” Kelly, “Pretty Boy” Floyd, “Scarface,” “Bugs,” “Bugsy,” “Legs” and the like are pretty catchy, but how about real life (Parma, Ohio) criminals cops called “John J. Chevrolet,” “Joe Bagadonuts,” and “John Williams” (after the diminutive composer).
Cleveland Police had “The Orkin Man,” so called for exterminating bad guys, and also a “Super Cop,” which was not necessarily a compliment. On the department I worked for we had colorful monikers such as “Zman” and “Zboy,” “Wacky Mac” and “Wacky Sack,” “Fat John,” “Fat Bastard,” “Pillsbury Doughboy,” and “Pugsley.” “Sleeves,” “Frenchy,” “Greek,” “Gloves,” “Smurf” and “Smurfette,” “Bugs,” “Lumpy,” “Whammy,” “Elvis,” “Mongo,” “Gumby,” “Rocky,” “Di-psycho,” “The Jew,” and even “Flash.” “Dirty Al,” “Spuds,” “De-Dupa,” “Scuffy Shoes,” “Joe Sireen,” “Crash,” and “Gunner” may not be familiar with the guys still working there, but they were once fixtures, as was “The Worm” and “The Wig.” “Gary Glitter” and “Moondoggie” actually ran the place, probably due to the cool nicknames. A groupie was known as “Ice Cube,” but who knows why? There was even a “Junk Yard Dog” (aka “JYD”). You would not want to mess with “Shrek” or “Magilla!”
Not all these names were complimentary, and some were hated by those so dubbed, but many of the names were readily accepted and worn like a badge of honor. (Some names certain to offend have been left out. Sorry.) A neighboring department had a guy known as “Happy,” but he was not and hated the name, then he died.
Question for students (and subscribers): What police nicknames do you find particularly amusing? Feel free to share them with your fellow readers in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
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