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.