‘Roll Call’s’ roles for real

Frank Mulligan
  • A man at home with his small child answers an early morning knock on his apartment door. A man on the run from police for the past two hours, who has been dodging through backyards and scaling fences, forces his way in. The police are closing in and the suspect is desperate. He tells the man to keep his mouth shut and don’t answer the door. Then he runs into the back of the apartment to hide. Officer Thomas Larkin knocks on the door and the man answers, but is afraid to disclose that the suspect is hiding in the back. Larkin notes that he looks scared, though, and gets permission to search. Larkin, who has already tussled with the suspect during the chase, finds him hiding in a bathroom shower. The suspect attempts to fight his way out, but is subdued by Larkin and Officer Larry McAulay.
  • Detective James McGovern is called in on a Sunday afternoon to look into a double stabbing. His investigation begins at Morton Hospital where one of the victims is being treated for a stab wound to his chest. McGovern speaks to his girlfriend. She says the second stabbing victim confronted her boyfriend and a fight ensued, that her boyfriend was stabbed in the chest at some point. McGovern next goes to the station where the second victim is being questioned. He has minor stab wounds to his arm and leg. This man acknowledges there was a fight, but that he didn’t know who stabbed him or who stabbed the first victim. McGovern goes back to the hospital where he’s now able to question the first victim. He said he was stabbed in the chest after punching the second victim, that he tried to get away, but had to use a knife he wears around his neck. Both knives were recovered and both men were charged with assault with intent to murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
  • · Officers Chris Brady and Charles Brown are dispatched to a multi-family home that’s being rehabilitated. The owner tells them that he discovered two men lying on the floor in an upstairs apartment. He’s made several attempts to get them to leave, but they’re refusing to move, partly because they’re intoxicated. The officers enter and find the two men lying on a pile of clothes, beer, urine and feces and it’s apparent they’ve been staying in the building for some time. It takes some doing, but the officers are able to navigate the two men into two separate cruisers and bring them to the station where they’re charged with breaking and entering in the daytime for a felony and destruction of property over $250.

Sublime to ridiculous

Part of “Roll Call’s” appeal, viewers say, is that many of the stories are on the latter end of the “from-the-sublime to-the-ridiculous” spectrum.

Like the stories that come under the category, “What were you thinking?” where the officers recount the unlikely actions of an aspiring perp.

The intent is not to poke fun at people, Crowninshield said, and the show doesn’t have the edge of its prominent predecessor, “Taunton Crime Watch,” hosted by then Capt. Richard Pimental that won him national and even international attention during the mid-1990s for his colorful characterizations of suspects, including “toilet-licking maggot.”

“Roll Call” began as more of an informational pipeline from the police to the public, Crowninshield said.

Mayor Charles Crowley, then a city councilor, approached Chief Raymond O’Berg with the idea after a resident complained a sex offender had moved into his neighborhood unbeknownst to him.

Crowninshield joked the chief asked him to host “because I’m so shy.”

Then Crowninshield asked Bonenfant, whose first reaction was, “No way.

“I didn’t think I was geared for TV,” he said.

But he overcame his stage fright, and nervousness during the first couple of shows in which the pair focused on sex-offender information. It’s gotten easier after 90 shows, and speaking in front of community groups, as the two community police officers are often required to do, also helps.

Still, Bonenfant describes taping as both “enjoyable” and “nerve-wracking.

“You think you’re prepared and that little red light goes on and you forget everything,” he laughed.

Not that the pair spends all that much time on prep time, Crowninshield added lightly.

Show time

The informational incarnation of “Roll Call” gradually gave way to more stories right out of the police files. “We became more of a show about police news stories,” Bonenfant said, though the community-information element is still a big part of the broadcast, including breakdowns on the latest in scams.

Kim Matthews, Taunton Community Access & Media executive director, is the one-woman production staff, and she’s charged (in a manner of speaking) with everything from making sure the mics are working to directing the three-camera shoot from her computer station in the booth.

“They provide a great public service,” she said. “They talk about a lot of issues and the feedback’s been very good.”

Before taping Bonenfant and Crowninshield hoisted their backdrop banner themselves, and then spent about 10 minutes going over what they would talk about in episode 90.

Then it was show time after Matthews wished them a “Happy 90th,” and rolled the tape.

The two officers’ demeanor didn’t change when the red light came on. Their voices didn’t deepen into broadcast mode or their gazes steel-up to impress viewers with their sincerity.

They continued joshing with each other, though they would turn serious when the material warranted it.

It seemed a speedy 30 minutes and soon they were signing off with Bonenfant’s: “Thank you for watching and keep safe.”

Almost seen everything

Crowninshield’s been on the department for 25 years and his community beat is the city’s housing complexes for the elderly. Bonenfant’s a 20-year veteran who grew up in the Whittenton neighborhood he now patrols.

“Over the years we’ve seen everything,” Bonenfant said.

One thing, though, proved a surprise after they started broadcasting the show four years ago, he said.

“It’s been bigger than I ever thought it would be,” Bonenfant said. “Everywhere you go, someone will say, ‘Aren’t you the guy on TV?’”

And the age of the inquiring viewers runs the gamut. Bonenfant had to respond to one young man, “What are you doing home on a Friday night?”

“Roll Call” airs Friday nights at 8 and Sundays at 9 p.m. on TCAM15, and new shows are shot twice a month.

Taunton Call