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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Officer William Crook chats with boys. Being an on-street officer is "where I'm meant to be," he says.

OREM — There's no joke you can tell him that he hasn't already heard a dozen times.

Yes, William Crook realizes the irony between his last name and his job as an Orem police officer.

And yes, he expects people to comment about that fact when he pulls them over.

Either that or stare at his gold name tag like it's a mustard blob on a black tie, unsure if they should point out the obvious humor.

"It's always the same thing," Crook, 35, said. "General odd comments. 'Do you know it's ironic ... ' or 'Has anybody ever said something about your name?"'

Yes. Many times, yes.

"It's to the point where I'm like, 'Oh, yeah, I've heard that one,"' Crook said. "'If you can come up with something I haven't heard, I'll give you a warning."'

Well, maybe.

On a recent weekday, Crook pulled over an Orem driver with an expired license plate.

"Yeah, that's a good oxymoron," the man replied when Crook introduced himself.

Another man got flagged down for going 10 over in a residential neighborhood. Crook gave his name and asked for the necessary papers.

"Anybody give you a hard time about your name?" Crook asked the man, whose last name is Smart.

"Yeah, but you probably get it more than I do," replied the man, who plans to be an attorney and will likely find himself dealing with lawyer jokes as well.

Crook grew up in Heber where half the town were Crooks. The other half were Sweats — more relatives.

"Nobody ever thought of it," he said. "It was just like Smiths and Jones in other neighborhoods."

As a child, Crook said his dad told stories, most likely made-up, about how his English great-great-grandfather argued with King James over the translation of the Bible and was thus banished as a "crook."

Crook got a few chuckles in college — especially when he ran, and was elected, to the position of treasurer of a law-society club with a take-off on a Nixon era comment: "Vote for Me. I am a Crook."

Crook started his career as a paralegal assistant and developed a love for the law. But he hated being cramped in a cubicle, so he opted for the police academy, where he realized his true passion was police work.

"It's where I'm meant to be," the patrolman said. "I love being on the street."

And that's when the jokes really started coming.

"Anywhere I go ... as soon as the connection is made — Crook and cop — it's always a topic of conversation," he said. "I try to play with it. It's a fun thing."

Swinging by the Orem Skate Park, Crook chatted with a few teens and a mother of a young scooter-rider.

"Ha ha, that's a good name," the mother laughed when Crook introduced himself, then added that she had a brother in law enforcement in California.

"They probably don't tease him as much as they tease me," Crook said.

"No," the woman said, still laughing.

Despite his serious tone of voice and an 11-year history with Orem, when Crook says his name, some people think he's joking.

He once called Provo police dispatchers to gather some information for an investigation. The dispatcher put him on hold while she verified with Orem dispatchers that he was a real officer.

"I try to say (my name) fast," he said. "Inevitably they will ask, 'Is this a real call?' I try to leave the (police) radio blaring in the background."

Early on in his career, Crook thought about getting a name tag with his middle name instead — Russell — to avoid the jokes and puns that would inevitably come with Crook.

Now, he said he's glad he didn't. Nobody in the office calls him Bill or William, it's just Crook.

He said his wife and five kids hear occasional jokes when meeting someone new, but eventually their name becomes normal. And actually, they actually enjoy bringing it up, Crook said.

"Hey, would you believe my dad is a policeman?" Crook says, quoting his kids.

Sometimes the unusual moniker works in Crook's favor, like when it diffuses family fights. An angry individual will turn to him for help, read the tag and do a double take, Crook said.

"A real bad situation can get a lot more lighthearted," he said.

Or, when he calls to leave messages, no one can forget his name, he said. And they don't. They call back.

But the downside is that nobody ever describes him as the tall, brown-haired officer who gave them that 20-over speeding ticket. He's no longer just "the police."

"It's officer Crook," he said. "They remember. (Even) years later. It sticks."

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