John “Jack“ Case
A Tribute by West Orange PD Patrolman Raymond Rosania AKA "RayRo"
Jackster, that’s what I called him, over the police radio system, fondly and with the utmost respect and admiration. I first met “Jack Case “on my first time around in 1980 as a brand new rookie cop. Assigned to the desk on the afternoon shift, “Jack” was my FTO, if you will, on the desk. Not much different than it is today, responsibility at the time was the police radio system, telephone system, ( prior to 911), telephone record checks through the county P.D., and the walking post call box console, as well as, the Dictaphone alarm system, which if I remember correctly was a system tied to various residential home and commercial alarms. As it is today, dispatch controlled police personnel, fire personnel, first aid personnel, made physical checks on prisoners, and upon completion of the shift a “Shift Log “ was typed up prior to going off duty, listing all the calls for service and required entries during the tour. A list of all the “Punched Cards” during the tour. I was overwhelmed. Not Jack, he was cool and collected. What I didn’t know, was that the “Jackster“, had started at W.O.P.D. not long before I did, but you would not have known it. He was more than proficient. If I recall correctly he was working a day job as a county employee, and hustling the four to twelve shift at W.O.P.D. Some people are just built to do the job they do; almost like fate guides them into their chosen field. I believe this was Jack. Jack as a dispatcher was not just an individual who was working a job. Jack was a man fulfilling his life’s calling, his life’s work. There is an old photo floating around, a Polaroid I believe. That picture tells a little story. There is “Jack”, looking toward the camera, a look of calm and confidence. Then there is yours truly, head down, pecking away two fingered like. I hadn’t remembered the moment until last seeing that picture a few months ago, then it all came back. It was afternoons, circa 1980, and I believe I was nervously trying to complete that Patrol Log, the compilation of all the “jobs” on our tour. It was all business for me, knowing that I had better get it right, or else. I was that new rookie cop, fumble fingered, and Jack was the boss, no doubt. Back then the desk officer was typically a lieutenant, I am not sure who it may have been on that night, but there is no doubt in my mind, as I remember, that Jack was running the show. He was teaching me the ropes, how to do the job, and how to do it RIGHT. But “Jack” was much more than that though; He was a father type figure to many of us. I have heard more than one, some now near retirement or retired, refer to him as just that. When working along side of Jack you’d know your place. It was all about doing the job right. You learned from Jack by doing; He wasn’t going to molly-coddle you or pamper you through it. You paid attention and followed his lead. If you asked him, he would show you the way, once, twice, and on a good day maybe a third time- but for sure, not more, if that was the Case, no pun intended, he would set you straight, letting you know that you had better get your head out of you’re a…, and get the job done. An old school teacher, with an old school mind set, that was “Jack”, like it or not. A man with a military bearing, but never in the military… If “Jack” had something to say to you- you heard it loud and clear, like it or not. “Jack” was a straight shooter. You learned early on that he wasn’t about to sugar-coat anything, not with the guy working along side of him, with those he trained, with those that were his supervisors, or even those that rang that dispatch phone. That caller on the line, that officer on the other end of the two-way, the supervisor upstairs or down the hall- if he had a problem with you, you would know it. Jack, old school, not talking about you, but talking right to YOU! – like it or not. His method and his intent were pure and simple, a reflection of his work ethic as I saw it… Do it and do it right, because in our business LIVES depended on it. Make no mistake, it WAS all business with the “Jackster”… but if you paid close attention you’d see his compassion and concern for others. When those in that dire emergency rang that phone, needing real assistance, Jack was committed to mustering up all the help and assistance they needed, ensuring that it all arrived. And for us on the other side of that Life-Line we call a Two-Way Radio, the “Jackster” was forever there. No doubt in my mind. It wasn’t about being all warm and fuzzy, it was about getting it done-like it or not. I recall many years ago on an especially busy afternoon tour, Jack dispatched units to a call involving female subject in a violent and hysterical state. The caller was the young adult girl’s father. She had apparently overdosed and was hallucinating, wrecking her apartment and attempting to hurt herself. Jack, tough old “Jack”, communicated to the responding units, not only the state of mind of the daughter, but the desperation of the father – somehow conveying the message with a tough skin, but with a compassionate heart. His dispatching and human skills empowering those units responding not to just answer another “911 call”, but to do all we could to help that out of control girl and her distraught father. Just as we were clearing from that job, another call came in regarding a female subject that was threatening suicide with a handgun, while on the phone with dispatch. Jack handled this job as well. Thinking on his feet, “Jack”, advised units responding from the prior mentioned call to saddle-up the medics on scene and have them ride on the suicidal female caller, in an attempt to save her, as she had proceeded to shoot herself in the head. That was Jack-getting the job done, as right as right could be in such a hellish set of circumstances- getting it done; if you didn’t, he did, like it or not. Not all that long ago a young police officer came to me and told me of a story about the “Jackster”. He said that on a fairly recent afternoon tour, some 30 years after those above mentioned ordeals, and many, many years since I personally have worked afternoons, but yet where the “Jackster” had been ever since, the following was told. Again, a much more recent night in years, but a very familiar one in the way of the demands and stress that can come on a busy afternoon shift. This young officer tells of one job coming in after the next, and one particular “hot Job”, involving multiple units. As he tells it, although units are responding, he rides along, concerned and looking out for the safety of his fellow officers- a commendable deed. Although, admitting that he did not advise headquarters of doing so at the time. However, after the job unfolds, all is calm, and H.Q. realizes he IS on scene. He receives a radio transmission from the desk, specifically from the “Jackster”. The message is “CALL THE DESK!” Now, if you know Jack, and have worked afternoons within the past 30 plus years, this demand was not going to be an invitation to share the evening meal. This was all business, like it or not. And so this young officer calls the desk and receives an ear full of it. He is in no uncertain terms advised and scolded, all at the same time- the most important message- from the “Jackster”, “ I NEED TO KNOW WHERE YOU ARE AT ALL TIMES”. How Refreshing !- You see… that is how Jack looked out for us, how he cared for us. This was not a scolding because that young officer wanted to help his comrades, Jack new that, but he was also aware that there is most certainly an order of things, and as bad as things get, if orders are not followed, and discipline is not maintained, things can and will go from bad to much worse. That was a major part of his responsibility, and he burdened it and bore it fully, for 30 plus years, as steady as any human being can be, almost machine like. While others, including myself, learned the ropes on the desk, and moved around from tour to tour, from zone to zone, or assignment change to assignment change, HE manned the desk on the busiest shift I know of in police work in most any community- The JACKSTER, a better man than me for it, like a piece of iron. Answering the beck and call of the citizens of West Orange and listening, watching and looking after cop after cop, year after year, on the end of that Life-Line we call a Two-Way Radio. Now for every one story, we all know that there is another, and so I shared my story with this young officer. First however, hoping that I have learned something over the years, I re-affirmed Jack’s position, but that wasn’t really necessary, Jack had taken care of that. I relayed a similar incident to that officer. Not long after completing my “temporary” desk assignment, and just out of an FTO Program, while working a two-man car with another young officer the following transpired. My Partner and I, working that two-man car stopped anything and everything that looked half-way suspicious, with sufficient legal grounds of course. And after stopping it we ran it, along with each and every occupant, on nearly each and every stop. I say we ran it, but dispatch personnel really did all the work. Well this process went on for sometime actually, day after day, until finally WE received that familiar radio transmission, “CALL THE DESK!” With men like Jack, needless to say, there was consistency in what he did. You know the message, and he was right. Jack had fondly referred to my partner and I as Jake and Elwood, although we thought of ourselves more like Wyatt and Morgan, believing that we were all that. But Jack had had enough, again not because he didn’t think cops should be working, and trying to protect the public, but because we were out of service at times when we shouldn’t have been, because we were tieing up resources when it was too busy to do so, because for as much as we believed we were working safe, maybe were weren’t as safety minded as we could have been. Jack was right, there was a way to do things, and I learned from him. ALL Officer Safety was foremost. As humans, we are all far from perfect. Jack was human, but I ask, just how many of us can do what he did for over 30 plus years, and remain as consistent and committed as he was to a calling he truly had to love. At a time when people put way too much emphasis on political correctness, when the truth gives way to someone’s feelings, when no one wants to step up and say something is not right for fear of ridicule or retaliation, when things that need to be said at times, go left unsaid, because a battle or a fight is just too much to deal with, or when things are not set straight for fear of legal actions and litigation, there was the JACKSTER, JACK, MR. CASE, telling it like it was, calling you out on it. Like it or not. He was truly part of the “OLD BREED”, telling it like it is, like it needs to be said. It is only if we meet things head on, and speak the truth, that we can make good from bad, no matter how tough the fight. Jack was not afraid of the fight. He showed us that right up to the end, as he battled illness. I was angry with Jack at times, I argued with Jack at times, I admired Jack, I learned from Jack, and at times I tried to emulate Jack. I miss Jack. I believe we should all strive to be just a little more like Mr. John “Jack“Case. I hadn’t work alongside Jack for many, many years, but I am certainly proud to say that I was once his Partner. Rest In Peace– “JACKSTER”