George “Butch” Boackle joined the Birmingham Police Department when Richard Nixon was president of the U.S., and the 73-year-old officer is still going strong nine presidents later.
Boackle has worked under nine Birmingham police chiefs and seven mayors. He has no plans to retire anytime soon.
“I love what I do,’’ Boackle said. “When I can’t do the job or perform anymore, then it will be time to hang it up.”
Friends, family and coworkers surprised Boackle Monday with a celebration to mark his 50th anniversary on the force. Not one who likes being the center of attention, Boackle was taken aback when he walked into the Birmingham Crossplex to a standing ovation. He thought he was there to get department pictures taken.
“I was shocked,’’ Boackle said.
Boackle joined the Birmingham Police Department in November 1972, serving as a patrol officer for his first 10 years on the job. A decade later, he became a drug detection K-9 handler and now is on his fifth dog with the department.
“He’s stood the test of time,’’ said Police Chief Scott Thurmond. “You never hear him say anything negative. He’s always positive. He’s always here to do a good job. That should be a testament to all of us.”
“We talk about people just doing their 20 or their 30 (years),” Thurmond said. “But to stay 50 is a fantastic milestone.”
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin lauded Boackle for “understanding what it means to be a Birmingham police officer.” He cited Boackle’s commitment, dedication, work ethic and grind.
“We wanted to love on you while you’re still in service,’’ Woodfin said. “I’ll tell you the best part – he’s not going anywhere. I want to stress that. We forward to seeing you at work tomorrow.”
Boackle’s wife Vicky, who was shot in the line of duty as a Birmingham police officer, told her husband Monday, “I thank God you came home every day.”
Boackle’s son, Heath Boackle, formerly worked for BPD and now is a Jefferson County Sheriff Office sergeant.
“I’ve always tried to be like my father,’’ Heath Boackle said. “He is honest. He will tell you what he wants you to hear whether you want to hear it or not. He’s going to worry you to death because all he wants to do is be treated like everyone else is.”
Boackle said 50 years have gone by quickly. “It flies by,’’ he said. “When you’re successful, it makes it easier.”
Intercepting illegal drugs, he said, is rewarding. It is what he loves to do.
“It’s real satisfying to me to train a dog and then go in the real world and be successful,’’ Boackle said. “Just like people who go hunting or go fishing, I get drugs off the street. It’s real rewarding.”
Boackle’s 50th anniversary – which is actually Nov. 13 – makes him the longest-serving Birmingham police officer.
Officer Nolan Shivers retired July 31, 2007, with 49 years with the department. He wore Badge #1 his last 14 years of service and then relinquished the badge to Boackle.
Thurmond said Boackle is extremely meticulous and said his drug seizures over his tenure are “probably out of this world.”
“He still does all the things an officer should do. He does it the right way every day,’’ Thurmond said. “I challenge each and every one of you who are still in the game to be a Butch Boackle.”
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