City Government

Vern Calls It “10-42” After 53 Year Shift

COUNCILOR, COP, COMMISH VERN BISTERFELDT AT BUILDING NAMED IN HIS HONOR.

COUNCILOR, COP, COMMISH VERN BISTERFELDT AT BUILDING NAMED IN HIS HONOR.

By DAVID R. FRAZIER
GUARDIAN EDITOR

A dear friend and legend in police circles died Friday following a lengthy battle with assorted health issues. Vern Bisterfeldt was 84 and served the community as a cop, city councilor, and county commissioner over a period of more than 50 years.

When I came to Boise in 1968 as the police/court reporter at the Idaho Statesman, Vern was a Boise PD sergeant with a false “gruff demeanor.” He noticed the police scanner I had in my car and declared it to be a piece of crap. Next day he sent me to the police radio shop to get a proper antenna installed. Reception was greatly improved and sheriff Paul Bright also issued me an “Ada number” just like all the coppers had–Vern was Ada 121 and I was 2550.

It was the beginning of half a century of friendship and untold news” scoops” when deputies and Boise PD officers would radio dispatch (and me as i listened to the scanner) “We need 2550 out here.”

The following GUARDIAN story is a fitting tribute to the Bisterfeldt legacy.

ORIGINALLY POSTED APRIL 2009

Mention the name “Vern” to anyone who has lived in Boise more than a few years and it conjures up the image of a squinty eyed bald guy who carries a gruff demeanor that can explode into raucous laughter without notice.

City Councilor Vern Bisterfeldt began his Boise City career 50 years ago on May 13, 1959 at 9 a.m. when he was sworn in as a rookie copper by former assistant chief Gus Urresti. He claims he had never met a Basque and didn’t know what a Mormon was, but ended up working for a Basque and married to a Mormon–wife of 52 years, Shirley.

HANDCUFFING A BURGLAR circa 1970

HANDCUFFING A BURGLAR circa 1970


As a copper the Bisterfeldt legend lives big and bold. He shot 5 men over the course of his career but proudly notes, “they were all armed, in the act of a felony and one ended in a big gunfight. I didn’t kill any of them though.” (I was present at the gunfight and reported on it)

During his copper days Vern was honored often for valor, named the first “officer of the year” by the Exchange Club, and reveled in chasing bad guys all over the state.

The rough and tumble “old west” action abounded back in the Old Days (1960s and 70s). Vern would chase down the bad guys–often as not behind the wheel of his personal red Dodge 440 with police radio and grille mounted lights and siren. To make ends meet he would wash cars in a used car lot, always armed and ready to join the action. He even arrested Santa Clause at a department store after noticing the guy was a wanted felon.

Once after nabbing a pair of escaped convicts who hadn’t eaten for a couple days, he bought them burgers and fries at McDonalds. Later, one of them summoned Vern to the prison and provided the name of a killer in an unsolved murder case.

“Treat people right and they will do the same for you,” says Vern. Hundreds of citizens who call him for help with city issues will certainly agree. He does return calls.

On January 11, 1987 he officially retired with the rank of Captain from the Boise PD and next day was sworn in as an Ada County Commish where he had a colorful career, including leaving a briefcase containing a .357 magnum in a Burley motel room.

The GUARDIAN’s favorite moment was in the midst of a County Commish meeting when he angrily called a fellow Commish “Butt Breath.”

Around 1994 when their daughter was murdered by her husband, he and Shirley ended up raising two more kids and became active in the Grandparents As Parents group.

“The people of Boise were fantastic. We were absolutely overwhelmed with letters, prayers, and every kind of support you can imagine–even money,” recalls Vern.

Chronic heart disease forced Vern to resign in July 1999. Fellow Commishes named the City-County Law Enforcement Building in honor of Vern, prior to his death.

Always full of surprises, he decided not to die, underwent heart surgery and got healthy.

In their frenzy to annex more people and land into Boise, City Councilors set their sights on Vern’s southwest Boise neighborhood. He warned them they would “be sorry” if they took him into the city, saying he would run for council. They did, he did, and some are probably still sorry because Vern is often the single voice against some pet projects that don’t meet his standards.

A life long Republican, he was very active in the successful U.S. Congressional campaign of Dem Walt Minnick.

At 71, Vern is still going strong and we think he just might extend his career in public service to 55 years at the November election. (note: he actually left after 53 years in 2012 when he said he couldn’t “answer the bell” anymore)

Just click on COMMENT and tell your own Vern story.

*10-42 is cop code for end of shift

Comments & Discussion

6 comments for “Vern Calls It “10-42” After 53 Year Shift”

  1. 10-4

    Vern was the real deal!

  2. Dave Kangas
    Feb 6, 2022, 8:06 am

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with Vern and sorry for your loss of a long time friend. Boise and the surrounding area was much better place through Vern’s efforts, hard work and personality. I was not around Boise from 85-2002 so I missed a lot of story. I do vaguely remember some of his common sense statments as a city council, something that just seems to be missing today at all levels. The gruff exterior seemed to be a common theme from thosse times. Don’t mess with me or else, but if you need help here I am. A good friend’s dad HD Lee, my English teachers husband and neighbor Joeseph Munch and Vern all seem to have been cut from the same cloth. Legendary, quiet until riled, servants to the community, all well missed and respected during their time. Again sorry your loss of a good friend.

  3. Gained trust and respect for the man and local law enforcement when some of us highschoolers were only slightly illegal and were being rowdy at the burger stand drivethru. He told us to “button your lip” and “get on home” or he would be forced to report to our parents.

  4. Michael Conroy
    Feb 7, 2022, 10:21 am

    When I was Advisor to the Student Council at Meridian High School (Early 1990’s) we used the Ada County voting machines so that the students could learn how elections worked. On the day I was to pick up the 50 machines I ran into Vern in the basement garage as I was ‘shuttling’ the machines back and forth on a dolly into the bed of my truck. He asked me what I was doing and when I told him about the elections he just said ‘Well let me help you’ and stopped what he was doing to assist me in loading up. I knew who he was and it is always great to meet an ‘icon’ and they are exactly the class act you thought they where

  5. Joelon Wilson
    Feb 7, 2022, 12:20 pm

    I joined the Ada County Sheriff’s Department in 1972; but sadly the job didn’t last too long. When myself and four other deputies complained about having to put campaign signs on voter’s lawns as opposed to doing active patrol we were asked to leave by Sheriff Bright. Then, a Sgt. Bisterfeldt who was running for sheriff took us all under his wing and we then worked for his escort service. Sadly he lost and we lost contact with each other. I will always recall the kindness he and Shirley showed us. He was a fine police officer. 1042/ 2220 ACSO

  6. I had a pleasure of meeting Vern multiple times and really appreciated and respected the gentleman.

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