By DAVID R. FRAZIER
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.
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
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