A cop’s cop: Rusty Jacobs retires after 27-year career with the Vail Police Department
VAIL — Over his 27-year Vail police career, Rusty Jacobs has 35 commendations and 35 zillion stories.
But before we can tell you those stories, we have to tell you this story.
27 years to the day
Jacobs retired on New Year’s Day, 27 years to the day after he joined the Vail Police Department.
“There has always been something deep in my heart about Vail and the Vail PD. I think the Vail Police Department is one of the finest in this country. We’re an example of what policing should be,” Jacobs said during his retirement reception.
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Half the cops in the room raised their hands when asked if Rusty had trained them.
“Policing is under attack in this country. I know in my heart that we keep communities together, that we keep communities safe,” Jacobs said.
He said he is proud that the community and police get along so well.
“I used to think that it was a two-way street: The police needed to be good to the public, and the public needed to be good to the police. I now see that differently. It’s a one-way street, and we should be going parallel,” Jacobs said.
Rusty ride along
Jacobs’ wife, Meryl, was working as a dispatcher and Rusty did some ride-alongs with the chief at the time. Before he called it a career on Jan. 1, he served as a detective, sergeant and acting sergeant.
Like most of us, he tried all sorts of things before settling into a career that suited him: construction, property management, Vail’s special events coordinator. He grew up in West Chester, Pennsylvania, earned his bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University and was a star soccer player in his youth and his early days in Vail.
“Throughout his career, Rusty has been a cop’s cop — and we at the Vail Police Department are proud of his service,” Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger said.
Jacobs was whatever he needed to be, cajoling or gently encouraging with his fellow officers and unfailingly polite with the public. All sorts of people said, “If I have to be arrested, let it be by Rusty.”
Stories and more
The stories flowed like the laughter, recalled by friends and colleagues.
Those big office paper cutters were occasionally referred to as “an interrogation tool.”
When he was on patrol, he’d visit the night manager in the West Vail 7-11 to make sure the night manager was OK. Timing is everything, and Jacobs would arrive as the hot dogs and sausages were about to be rotated — old ones that had not sold thrown out and replaced by fresh ones.
“If you don’t eat them, I’m going to throw them out,” the night manager told Jacobs and his partners.
“Waste not, want not,” Jacobs said.
Vail’s version of Otis, Mayberry’s town drunk, was storming around near the Vail Village fire station, drunk and mostly naked. Jacobs and another officer got him in the back of a Vail police Saab, which didn’t have cages. Jacobs “subdued” Otis by lying on top of him. When Otis slurred his protest, Jacobs replied, “Heavy, aren’t I?” They got Otis to the station with no further incident.
There was the mystery smell in the Vail PD office that turned out to be a bag of broccoli Jacobs had stashed in his desk drawer for an extra special long time. He’s not a fan of refrigeration, he said.
“It really made me mad when you took my food and hid it in the refrigerator,” Jacobs told his fellow officers.
His kids, Bryn and Dane, recalled the times Rusty used them to practice hand-to-hand combat techniques.
On dates, Bryn was required to wear a necklace that was actually a three and a half inch knife.
There was the time the kids got their little mitts on a pair of handcuffs, and Bryn ended up handcuffed to a banister for eight hours.
Then there was Father’s Day, 2009.
Bryn was driving up from the University of Colorado to spend the day with their dad, and Dane hopped in to go home and surprise Rusty.
The prank became much more involved when they stopped in Breckenridge and Bryn phoned to leave a message for Rusty.
“Dad, some random guy just got in my car and he won’t get out. He says he needs a ride to Vail,” Bryn said.
Bryn and Dane started up Vail Pass headed west when Rusty called her.
“Bryn, what’s going on?”
“I don’t know. He’s lying down in the back. It’s no problem. We’ll meet you at the police station in Vail,” his daughter replied.
All the while, Dane was asking Bryn not to say anything.
“It’s going to be funny,” Dane kept telling his sister.
They were near the top of Vail Pass when Rusty called her. “Get off at mile marker 182. Pull off, get out of the car, and run.” he ordered.
“At that point, we were still thinking, ‘This is going to be hilarious. It’s going to be awesome.” Dane said.
As they headed down Vail Pass toward town, Dane crawled into the back seat and pulled a towel over himself to hide, because it would be hilarious, they still believed.
Bryn did as her father instructed and pulled over at mile marker 182. They sat there for a second when three eastbound Vail police cars, going the wrong way up the westbound lane, came into view, lights and sirens blaring.
The police cars pulled up, Bryn got out, and the police officers approached the car, guns drawn and pointed at Dane.
“Wait! It’s me! It’s Dane!” Dane screamed.
Dane got out, and the officers realized who he was and holstered their weapons, shaking their heads.
Rusty walked over, scowling as he studied his two beloved offspring, and said in a low voice, “I never wanted kids.”
“I’m so proud of my 27 years in law enforcement and that I was privileged to spend it with the Vail PD,” Jacobs said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.