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In more than 30 years on the job, Toledo police Sgt. Tim Noble has arrested a lot of bad guys.
He’s arrested untold numbers of alleged criminals and, quite possibly, more murder suspects than any other person in the department. Most officers won’t arrest any during their careers, some will roll handcuffs onto one or two — Sergeant Noble has picked up more than 140, and that’s just in the last 10 years.
“They’ll think they’re hiding under a rock and then all of a sudden we’re knocking on their door. You can’t describe that look on their face and they say, ‘How in the [heck] did you find me?’ ” Sergeant Noble said.
The sergeant, 56, retired Friday after 32 years on the job. In his last week — where he was a supervisor in the crimes-against-persons unit and a member of the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force — he was out chasing bad guys. Sunday, he volunteered to help at the scene of a quadruple shooting on Joffre Avenue. Wednesday night, he was out looking for fugitives. Thursday, before 6 a.m., he was on the prowl for an unidentified murder suspect.
“You can call him any time, day or night, and if there’s a bad guy to be caught, he’s there,” said Chief William Moton, who worked alongside the sergeant for years, first as road patrol crews in nearby jurisdictions and later in the detective bureau.
Understated and casual, he may be one of the most well-liked, or at least most respected, people in the department.
“He’s a really, really good police officer, and he’s a good friend,” Chief Moton said. “He’s the most honest guy I ever ran along in my life. He won’t lie. Even when he’s in trouble he won’t lie. He doesn’t change for anyone. … I find that unique in people nowadays.”
He is described by most as a common sense kind of guy who is willing to make difficult decisions at times when they matter most.
“Sergeant Noble is, if not the best sergeant I’ve worked for, he’s in the top two,” said Detective Vince Mauro. “… He still charges just as hard today as he did 25 years ago and you can’t say that about very many people around here.”
The sergeant, whose nickname is Cupcake, is a goofball. Ask for a high-five and he’ll offer 4-and-a-half. Years ago, while using a rototiller, he cut off the tip of his trigger finger.
“That same day, and this is the truth, he went fishing,” Chief Moton said. A month or two later, the sergeant had to requalify with his department-issued firearm, as all officers do on an annual basis, and he retrained himself to use his middle finger.
“That would be career ending for a lot of people,” Sgt. Joe Heffernan said.
“He went out and qualified and kept moving,” Chief Moton said. “I was kind of amazed.”
The early years
In 1979, the Toledo Police Department placed an ad in a Detroit newspaper looking for officers. A younger Mr. Noble, fresh from Ferris State College with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, applied. It wasn’t until a Wednesday in 1982 that he got the call telling him to report to the academy on Friday.
Originally from Windsor, Ont., and having grown up in Farmington, Mich., his early years were challenging.
During the academy, the officers were assigned to work “parade duty” in downtown Toledo. Visitors asked for directions and officer-to-be Noble and others shrugged. At the end, a fellow recruit asked where the police station was.
“I said, ‘I have no idea where the police station is. I know they’re building a big, tall building across the street from it, so let’s walk around until we find that.’ We were pretty clueless at that point,” the sergeant said.
Shortly after leaving the academy, Officer Noble was paired with Officer Don Kenney — now a deputy chief — working the night shift in the Detroit Avenue and Dorr Street area. Their goal was to score an on-view felony arrest every shift they worked. The sergeant’s personnel file shows as much — there are numerous exceptional performance reviews for the duo’s work in chasing down car thieves.
“I couldn’t ask for a better partner,” Chief Kenney said. “He always came in and gave 110 percent. He never [complained] or cried about anything. He was just a really dedicated guy.”
Officers Noble and Kenney were dispatched to a silent breaking-and-entering alarm call at a junior high school early one morning — about 2 or 3 a.m. — when a dispatcher asked Officer Kenney to have Officer Noble call an operator in communications because his wife was in labor.
“He told her, and this is pretty much a quote that, ‘Just wipe up the mess, hold your legs together, and I’ll be home after we catch these guys. I can’t let Kenney take all the credit.’ ” Deputy Chief Kenney said. “That’s a true story.”
From road patrol, and still an officer, young Noble went to work part time for a year on mounted patrol and then moved to vice when crack cocaine started to blow up in the city. Their record then, he said, was arresting people 12 nights in a row at the former Cherry Woods apartments — now Greenbelt Place — for selling drugs.
“We were making as many arrests as we could keep up with on the paperwork,” the sergeant said.
After vice, he worked in records and on the street again before moving to the detective bureau in 1994.
In 2005, the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force came to town and Sergeant Noble was recruited. He and the others assigned to the special unit track and arrest fugitives wanted locally and those wanted elsewhere who were hiding out in Northwest Ohio.
Since its inception the task force has tallied more than 6,000 arrests, said Bruce Birr, a Lucas County sheriff’s detective assigned to the task force.
“Without Tim, we wouldn’t be close to that,” Detective Birr said. “He’s been instrumental in helping us track down these defendants and putting them in jail.”
Putting away as many bad guys as he did, visiting as many gruesome crime scenes, knowing intimate details of heinous killings, it would seem easy to become jaded or disenchanted, but the sergeant isn’t.
Last week, he and Detective Birr made trips to Milwaukee and Chicago to pick up two men wanted for felonious assault. One shot a man and the other beat a guy with the leg of a table. On the way to Toledo, the sergeant offered his cell phone to each of the suspects so they could call their families.
“Tim didn’t have to do that. He respects everybody,” Detective Birr said. “I think that’s why, a lot of times, we go up to the door and most of the time people say, ‘Yeah, so-and-so is in the house, come and get him,’ and that’s because of Tim’s demeanor.”
Sergeant Noble said he has no plans for retirement. He has a “year’s worth” of household projects to do. He plays hockey and likes to fish and hunt. Last year, he proudly noted, he shot an elk with an arrow.
“Unless you’ve gone you don’t realize how difficult that is,” he said. “Those filthy elk are smart, and they’re usually in the middle of nowhere.”
In the detective bureau, investigators will march on. “It doesn’t matter who’s in this job. It’s not rocket science,” the sergeant said. Sgt. Kevin Korsog, who works midnights in the unit, will move to days and take Sergeant Noble’s spot on the task force.
“He’s got big shoes to fill,” Detective Birr said of Sergeant Korsog. “I think he’ll do well.”
The department will still arrest bad guys, even with Sergeant Noble off the scene. While some will lament his retirement, others — criminals — may rejoice.
“I’m sure a lot of them are going to be glad he’s retired,” Chief Moton said.