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Arresting poster sparks contest



Published: Sat, June 2, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The -- ahem -- perpetrator says he had special secret double permission to display the poster at the station house.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Ponch got his nickname at a traffic stop.

"You look like that guy on the 'CHiPs' show," the disgruntled motorist told Patrolman Michael Stabile.

"If you were on your motorcycle, I would have run you over."

The stocky nine-year veteran with a crewcut has since embraced the nickname of TV's fictional Frank Poncherello, even getting it put on his personal license plates.

Off duty, riding his motorcycle, Stabile says he "looks just like him."

Ponch is not the only unlikely character wandering Warren's station house. More often than not, behind the badge stands a man or woman with a silly name.

More monikers: "I'm The Doctor," said Patrolman Reuben Shaw, a muscular man with glasses. "I can fix cars, houses, anything. I'm serious."

Nothing too weird so far, but get these:

Big Daddy, Mad Max, Sicko, Deuce, Cool Whip and Bucket Head.

Several have adopted their nicknames for their license plates or e-mail addresses, said Sgt. Joe "O.G." O'Grady.

"I guess if you have a cool nickname, you want to keep it," he said.

For several weeks, officers in the station have congregated around a poster-sized puzzle with pictures symbolizing their nicknames and the nicknames of dozens of retired officers, dispatchers, civilian employees and even the odd girlfriend and bad guy.

Usually only official business-related materials are allowed to be posted, but in this case, O'Grady said, "we have special secret double permission to hang it up there."

He pointed out that Chief John Mandopoulos did not realize his nickname was "Papa Bear" until it was pointed out to him on the poster.

What's included: There are three bears in the poster, all in different poses, little cutout pictures of dogs, trucks, boots, celebrities -- all manner of things. In the center is a great rendition of the police station, crowned with a bust of Barney Fife.

"We all have a touch of Barney Fife in there somewhere," O'Grady said.

The 3 foot-by-4 foot poster (available for sale in reduced, 11-by-17-inch size) was the brainchild of O'Grady, but his sister's close work with clip art, paste and cuticle scissors actually made it happen.

"It probably took me a couple of months to get all the things," said the sister, Lt. Cathy "Geo" Giovannone.

Cutouts in the poster represent the names of officers going back to when she started in the department in 1985.

The Fraternal Order of Police is sponsoring prizes for people who figure out the most identities from the poster. So far, no one has figured out what all the 154 items stand for.

"I can't even tell you," Giovannone said.

She even found ways to include the names of officers who don't have nicknames. For example, officer Gary Riggs is represented by a pair of tractor-trailers.

Most officers, though, have nicknames, and O'Grady cautions new officers to beware that they will be getting theirs.

"When you come in here, you get a nickname and it sticks with you for 20 years," he said.

siff@vindy.com




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