When a group of Chicago police officers were preparing to nab a suspect wanted for a California murder, Sgt. Kent Jacobson didn’t just come up with a strategy.
He was the strategy.
It happened in the early ‘90s. An informant called police, saying a man involved in a California killing was in an apartment near Granville and Broadway.
“He put himself in front, led us to the location, developed a plan,” said John Roberts, a young officer at the time. “He didn’t have to do that.”
The resourceful “Sergeant Jake” created a ruse. He removed his white sergeant’s shirt and anything that identified him as an officer. To look sloppy, he pulled his undershirt out of his pants.
Then, he executed a touch that would have made Stanislavsky smile. He vigorously tousled his white hair. The transformation was complete.
“He turned into this disheveled-looking older man,” Roberts said. “He was able to create this ruse and get the subject to come to the door. It looked like a maintenance guy.” When the door opened, the suspect was arrested in a flash.
“That’s how I learned to be a police officer, by copying his style,” said Roberts, now a sergeant with the gang investigations unit.
Sgt. Jacobson mentored countless young officers, said retired Deputy Chief Bruce Rottner. In the 1960s and 1970s, “most of the guys were Vietnam vets, and we were all cowboys,” he said. The sergeant became their counselor and adviser. Over endless cups of coffee he brought to late-night squad car meet-ups in city parking lots, “He told us everyone out there isn’t a bad guy. The guy driving that [expensive] car isn’t necessarily a good guy, and the guy pushing the shopping cart isn’t necessarily a bad guy.”
Another time, Sgt. Jacobson insisted that a youthful thief be brought into the station for a talking-to. Years later that youth—who became a high-school teacher—thanked police for scaring him straight, Rottner said.
Sgt. Jacobson, 86, died May 22 at his Lincolnwood home. He had been a police officer for nearly 40 years, the last 13 in the Rogers Park district.
Young Kent was a basketball forward under legendary coach Frank McGrath at the old DePaul Academy High School, where his parents struggled to pay tuition. McGrath, who went on to be an assistant to Blue Demons Coach Ray Meyer, told Kent, “You’re going to get a scholarship and you’re going to finish high school.” He did, and he did. He was one of five players selected for the 1946 Catholic League senior all-star team.
Later, he joined the Marines and played on the corps’ basketball team. He learned discipline and organization, said his son, Greg. “His bed was made at 6:30” a.m.
In 1954, he joined the Chicago Police Department. Three years later, he achieved detective rank and was assigned to a sex crimes bureau.
He met his wife, Constance Sullivan, on a blind date. They wed in 1960 and were married until she died in 1993. He used to visit her grave at Rosehill Cemetery, their son said, where “He’d talk to her and tell her he missed her.” To the day he died, “he had her picture in his wallet. That was the only picture in his wallet.”
During his career, he welcomed the women who started moving up the police ranks. He’d say, “That’s somebody’s daughter,” Greg Jacobson said.
He worked on some famous unsolved cases, two in 1957: the murder of 15-year-old Judith Mae Anderson, whose dismembered body was found floating in drums in Montrose Harbor, and the slayings of Barbara and Patricia Grimes, two sisters who left home to see an Elvis movie but were later found in a ditch. Sgt. Jacobson also assisted in the arrest of serial killer Larry Eyler.
In 1958, after a fire was extinguished at Our Lady of Angels, he was assigned to go to the school where 92 children and three nuns died. It shook him. “He said the bodies were just stacked up,” his son said.
He caught a number of sex offenders. Sometimes, the “pinches’’ were linked to his favored exercise: running. He’d jog through parks orpast schools, watching his surroundings. “The guy wouldn’t look right, and he’d come back, and the guy would still in the park, by himself,’’ his son said. Another time, he looked out of the window of his home and saw and nabbed “a terrible rapist trying to enter a lady’s house.”
“He took us to plays. He took us to see ‘Les Miserables,’” his son said. “He took us to [the ballet] ‘Swan Lake’ every year. For a rough-and-tough policeman to want to see ‘Swan Lake’ is pretty unique.’’
Two years ago, he treated his family to a trip to France and Italy. “He wanted to introduce us to the culture,” his son said, and take them to the D-Day beaches.
His iPod contained songs by Pink Floyd, Frank Sinatra, Metallica, Bon Jovi and Bob Dylan. And, “he loved to go to the Green Mill and listen to jazz. [Pianist] Patricia Barber’s one of his favorites,” his son said.
He volunteered at a Queen of All Saints Basilica food pantry, donated to Mercy Home, and prayed the rosary every day.
Sgt. Jacobson is also survived by his daughters, Carol Quintana and Robin Kelly, and five grandchildren. Visitation is 2 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Cooney Funeral Home, 625 Busse Hwy., Park Ridge. His funeral Mass is at 10 a.m. Thursday at Queen of All Saints, 6280 N. Sauganash. Burial is at Rosehill Cemetery.