Asked to Change His Name Tag, San Francisco Cop Instead Changed His Name

Categories: Local News
Jim Herd
Sergeant Carl T -- really
If you click on the above shot recently snapped by ace photographer Jim Herd, you'll observe that the policeman's name tag actually reads "Carl T." While first-name, last-initial is par for the course with restaurant servers, Sigmund Freud case studies, or Rollerball players, it's a bit unusual for members of the San Francisco Police Department.

In fact, a call to police headquarters revealed that SFPD personnel are required to have either their full names, first initial and last name, or last name on their name tags. But when we mentioned the name "Carl T" -- that changed things. It turns out that Carl T is this veteran cop's full name.

T -- who consulted his driver's license to determine that, yes, he has no period following his last name -- laughed when SF Weekly called him to query about his unusual moniker. The sergeant at Central Station was born 52 years ago in the city and currently lives 1.2 miles from his childhood home in the Sunset District ("I didn't get far in life at all"). Not so much has changed -- other than that name. The story of how Carl Tennenbaum became Sergeant Carl T turned out to be, well, letter-perfect. 

The cop formerly known as Carl Tennenbaum has been "Carl T" to his pals since his days at Lincoln High and before. So, half a dozen years ago or so, when the lady at the uniform store asked him what he wanted on his name tag, he spontaneously uttered, "Carl T."

T found that his Denny's-like name tag fit his policing philosophy. Even today, "I sometimes forget about my name tag, and when people call me by my first name, it really throws me off. 'How do they know my name?' But that's how I roll. I'm a down-to-earth, really easygoing guy. It really works for me."

But it didn't work for everybody. A high-ranking police commander saw the tag and remarked that it violated department protocol. This happened a second time, and a third time -- and, when T returned from a vacation not long thereafter, he found an envelope in his cubbyhole courtesy of the commander containing a pair of tags reading "Carl Tennenbaum."

Well, there was only one thing to do, wasn't there?

"Knowing the way the police department works, if I tried to buck the system, they'd just order me to change my name tag," says T. "So I did the most sensible thing, I thought. I went out and changed my name."

Yes, that sounds much easier than, say, changing your name tag. "I can become very dogmatic," admits T.

The 28-year department veteran filed the necessary court papers and advertised the pending name change in local newspapers, as required by law; he paid several hundred dollars in filing fees out of pocket. After the change became official, T submitted a department memorandum requesting all his personnel records be altered -- and his rechristening was noted in the SFPD's internal newsletter.

That led to "the exclamation point on this story," says T with a laugh. Not long after his name change was made official, he was working crowd control on Broadway and Columbus during a bicycle race when who should pull up in an oversize police SUV but the commander.

The senior police official looked the sergeant up and down and uttered three -- and only three -- words: "Carl Fucking T".

T chuckles at the memory. "I'm prone to do stuff like this," he says.




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