YOUNGSTOWN Police officers swear to protect, but cussing costs -- it's the can
The police chief thought he was speaking biblically. Wrong.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Hell is free.
Damn costs 10 cents. Expletives and obscenities, same price.
If you add God to damn, that's 25 cents.
Those are the rules for the Youngstown Police Department's swear can.
The rules are not exactly explained in detail beforehand to unsuspecting cussers.
The rules, too, keep changing, which is part of the fun.
Lt. Dave McKnight, a day-turn supervisor, said the guidelines are patterned after the old reliable "mom's rules."
You know mom's rules: "As long as you're under this roof, you'll do as you're told."
McKnight said he believes that each swear word, to qualify for payment, has to be said within hearing distance of the swear can, located on the second floor near the police clerks. Using that reasoning, detectives on the fourth floor, for example, would be exempt.
McKnight, who describes himself as a good Irish Catholic, said he has not had to put a dime into the can.
Neither has Capt. Mike Vodilko, day-turn commander. Vodilko and McKnight may be applying the within-hearing-distance-of-the-can rule.
The swear can -- a 3-pound coffee can with a hand-drawn frown face -- is the creation of Patrolwoman Wanda Wilson.
The idea came to her on Sunday about a week ago -- at 5 a.m. Within the span of a few minutes, she counted 35 swear words spoken by fellow officers.
Realizing the money-making possibilities, Wilson slapped a piece of white paper around the coffee can and wrote out the prices.
Wilson figures the can will yield enough "for one heck of a party" by the end of the year. She could have said one hell of a party, since hell is free.
Debbie Jones, a day-turn police clerk and official collector of the cash, is also one of the major contributors to the can.
One day, about two hours into her shift, she had already put in 80 cents.
That day, Police Chief Robert E. Bush Jr. stopped by. He listened as Jones grumbled about what her swearing was costing.
The chief recalled his first encounter with her, Patrolwoman Debbie Puskarcik and Patrolman Michael Walker. At the time, Jones, Puskarcik and Walker were students at East High School.
Bush, then a rookie cop ("just a baby, really"), worked security at East and, while there, molded and saved Jones, Puskarcik and Walker from eternal damnation.
Damnation cost him 10 cents.
"What? That's biblical," the chief protested unsuccessfully.
Later, Lt. Robin Lees, not suspecting that he was being set up, was asked what swear words were allowed. "Damn?" he wondered.
His dime clanked in the can right after Bush's.
The Vindicator asked Patrolman Tony Tulipano what word cost him 10 cents. As soon as he repeated it, Jones swiveled in her chair to collect another dime.
Jones said Patrolman Jimmy Rounds came in one morning, handed her $1, then "just cussed me out." Rounds, she said, intends to swear nonstop at the year-end party.
Detective Sgt. Patricia Garcar, assigned to the Accident Investigation Unit, told The Vindicator that she doesn't swear. She tossed in the "good Catholic" line.
"Move out of the way for the lightning strike," Wilson said, grinning.
"Her biggest word is 'A' holes," Jones said.
Garcar's shocked expression looked really fake.
It's been only a week, but the swear can front-runner seems to be Patrolman Bill Ward. As all officers do, Ward drops off his reports at the end of his shift to the police clerks.
Jones readies the swear can.
Ward, she said, sits down, swears, stands up, reaches into his pocket and fishes out a dime. He sits back down, swears, stands back up and reaches for another dime. After Ward pays in about $1, he leaves.
Jones said Tracy Zurasky, a day-turn police clerk, serves as arbiter of which words qualify. A ruling is pending on a certain vulgarity that starts with "p."
Patrolman Aaron Coleman would not repeat the word that cost him 10 cents.
"He said s-h - -," Jones said, spelling the word.
"You mean I can spell out the words?" Coleman asked.
Jones said spelling the swear words is OK. She obviously made up the new rule on the spot.
Police clerks on the afternoon and night shifts put IOUs in the can for collection by Jones. The slips of paper include the offensive word and officer's name.
The Vindicator, in doing this story, contributed 40 cents to the can.