Howdy Duty

updated 11/29/1993 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/29/1993 01:00AM

AT THE FOOT OF LOMBARD STREET, which San Franciscans claim is the crookedest street in the world, officer Bob Geary and his partner are facing down a mob. Many in the crowd—composed primarily of tourists—are laughing at Geary's partner, officer Brendan O'Smarty. Geary is used to this. It's to be expected when your partner is a dummy—the wooden kind.

Geary and O'Smarty, the Bay Area's most celebrated crime-fighting duo since Karl Maiden and Michael Douglas patrolled The Streets of San Francisco, have been a familiar sight for more than two years. And now, thanks to the local citizenry, they won't have to break up. On Nov. 2, San Franciscans voted to allow Geary to bring his partner along on patrol al his own discretion—something the police brass had been trying to stop.

Geary, 53, got the idea for Brendan early in 1991 when he came across his childhood Howdy Doody puppet while cleaning out his garage. Remembering a suggestion by supervisors that officers on the beat find creative ways to deal with the public, Geary had a thought: "Why not go out there with a puppet in full uniform?" He bought Brendan for $1,750 out of a catalog—"He had a mischievous look about him...sort of like me," says Geary—and decked him out in uniform complete with a badge (No. l/2) and cap pistol.

Although Geary thinks Brendan—whom he leaves when serious police work is called for—helps him deal with some situations, especially lost children or less-serious family disputes, his superiors feel otherwise. Police Chief Anthony Ribera argued before the vole that it was okay for Geary Lo bring the dummy lo community gatherings, but the "unfettered use of Geary's own judgment" would be detrimental "lo the good order and efficiency of an enforcement agency."

Geary spent nearly $12,000 of his own money getting l'affaire Brendan on the ballot. On Election Day, 68,984 San Franciscans (51 percent) agreed with Geary, while the anti-Brendan vote totaled 66,307. Only lime will tell who the real dummies were.

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