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Vanguard Featured Article

by: Officer Juan Reyes

 

VANGUARD: Before me I have Officer Bill Leavy who has had three badge numbers during his career with SJPD. What was the deal with all these numbers, Bill?

LEAVY: That's just the way the PD was when I first came on. I was issued three different badge numbers. When I came on in 1969 I was given #32; and then badge #208. I left in 1972 to go into the Secret Service and then realized how great SJPD really was, and after about six months I made the transition back to the PD and was really glad that I made that decision. I spent nine more years here, and when I came back I was issued #1406.

VANGUARD: And that was after MacNamara became chief? Was he the one that implemented the 1000-number badges?

LEAVY: Yes, he was.

VANGUARD: Was that his number?

LEAVY: I believe he was Badge #1000.

VANGUARD: Okay. Well, Bill, not a whole lot of people know who you are. I surely do, and I think a lot of officers that read the Vanguard probably get a glimpse of you once in a while out on the NFL football fields, so I thought it would be a great time to bring you in and find out a little more about you. How is that you came to be doing what many would consider a dream job?

LEAVY: It truly is a dream job. I got into officiating after I got into the Police Athletic League in 1972 after I came back to the police department. One of the officers I worked with, Noel Lancelot was a high school football official and he asked if I'd ever considered doing any officiating. I never had, so he talked to me and convinced me to go a high school officials meeting. I liked it and went to Los Gatos High School for my first scrimmage and didn't have a clue what to do. They gave me some good direction and I learned how to officiate, and over the years I really became very interested in it. Being on the PD allowed me to manage my schedule so I could work Thursday and Friday night high school games. In my third year, they saw some potential in me and made me a referee. I enjoyed that a lot, and decided to try and to get into college ball; had very little success early on, but after 11 years of high school officiating I got a chance to work in the Golden Gate conference. I worked two years in junior college football and then was selected to go to the Big West Conference in 1984 where I worked until 1995. During my time in the Big West I was observed periodically by the NFL. I had applied to the NFL in 1987 and I thought I was off their radar. I was 48 years old and figured I was too old to begin a career in the NFL, but I got a call from Jerry Seeman in 1994 inviting me to interview. In January of '95 I went to New York and interviewed, and they selected me that year, and I've been in ever since. This will be my 15th year.

VANGUARD: Wow. Let's backtrack a bit here, if you don't mind. Tell us about where you grew up and stuff.

LEAVY: I was born in Chicago, where my dad worked for the CAA, which is now the FAA. He wound up becoming the chief of the airport in the Goleta/Santa Barbara area, so I grew up in Santa Barbara about a block and a half from the beach. I went through high school there, and two years of junior college. I was in business-related subjects and didn't really care for it. My mom worked as a secretary at an elementary school, and one of the teacher's husbands was a sheriff's deputy, and she suggested that I go for a ride-along. I went out one night and saw numerous things that I thought were pretty exciting so I started to think about becoming a police officer. I looked into schools, and discovered San José State had a highly-regarded police administration program, so I decided to give it a shot. I came up here to attend SJSU, and that was my first exposure to police officers and what police work was all about. I enjoyed the hell out of it, and had a great 2.5 years at San Jose State. I came on SJPD in '69 and I finished my degree in 1970, so I worked my last semester as a cop on the street and finished school.

VANGUARD: So you came from SoCal. Going through the SJSU program there, was there someone that recruited you, or was there a requirement for you to apply there?

LEAVY: No. I wound up living right next to the Ki Pi Sigma House-the police fraternity house-so I became good friends with Harry Mullins, Tim Skalland and Ralph Hering, and many other guys; in fact, Tim, Ralph and I wound up being roommates. I just felt that SJPD was a fine police department. I had Joe Azzerello (sp) as one of my instructors at State and he was a captain on the PD at the time. Many of my instructors were associated with SJPD and it just seemed they just really were progressive as far as doing quality police work. You had to have 60 units of college to even apply to the PD, so I decided that SJPD was the department I wanted to work for. I became really involved; got into the reserves and finally applied and got accepted when I was 22 years old. I came on in September of '69; I worked three weeks with a training officer and then I was put out on my own. I didn't attend a police academy. I was probably one of the few that did not. They just decided I almost had my degree and they felt comfortable putting me on the street, and I never went back to an academy although some guys did.

VANGUARD: Who was hired around your time?

LEAVY: Larry Lunberg was and Tim Skalland came on shortly thereafter, and Ralph Hering as well.

VANGUARD: So you guys all came on at essentially the same time. Did any of them have to go to the academy?

LEAVY: I believe Tim, Larry and Ralph did go; somehow I slipped through the cracks, maybe because I left to go to the Secret Service had something to do with it. Back then, it was a small but growing department; there were only blue and green radio channels, and I went out and did my job with the background in law enforcement that I had from SJSU's police school and the leadership of the Captain Browns, and Sgts Moir and Pulliam.

VANGUARD: So who was your FTO?

LEAVY: Don Black was.

VANGUARD: Oh, God rest his soul. Don Black was the only one?

LEAVY: He was the only one, and that was a 3-week long training, and then I was on my own. I remember going out my first day by myself and getting a call, and they were phonetically spelling the street and I was trying to write down each word that radio was giving me-I had no clue on how to do the phonetic spelling! My first call was a stolen car hit-and-run into a house; car's crashed into the house, the car thief had fled the scene, and I went out there and was trying to figure all the things I needed to do. Dave Beyers drove by and gave me a thumbs-up and said "go get um", and that was my first call. I laugh about it now because I didn't have a clue about what the hell I was doing. I asked questions, observed, and learned along the way, and eventually became competent after that.

VANGUARD: So how long did you spend on the streets in patrol?

LEAVY: I spent two years and then Tim Skalland, Ralph Hering and I all went up to SF to the Secret Service Office there. We felt like since we had a degree, maybe federal law enforcement would be a good thing to experience. We went up and interviewed and they seemed to like us. We all tested and we all got accepted to go into the Secret Service. I was assigned to Los Angeles with Ralph; Tim went to Portland. I went back to Treasury School in D.C. which I think that was a 6-week course, and then I went back to L.A. where I worked forged government checks and counterfeiting along with some protection details. It didn't take long to start to rethink my decision to leave SJPD. The starting pay was $8,600/year; when I left SJPD I was probably closer to $10k or $12k and we were on a 4-day week/10-hour day and I missed San José. Los Angeles wasn't my type of city as far as size and traffic and all the travel that the Secret Service required. I was going to be facing the '72 election and having to be assigned a candidate which meant being gone for weeks on end and I just felt like I made a mistake leaving San José so I decided to come back. I had taken a year's leave of absence so it was relatively easy to come back. I talked with Chief Ross Donald during my reentry interview and he was very instrumental in getting me back on the department. He also was instrumental in directing me towards PAL which he felt was something that would be a positive experience for me. I wanted to try something new and do something positive with the police department besides patrol, so I interviewed and was accepted into the PAL.

VANGUARD: What happened with Tim and Ralph?

LEAVY: Tim and Ralph stayed with the Secret Service for a while longer, but subsequently they also came back to SJPD which fired up the Secret Service! I think they almost made a directive that they didn't want to take any more SJPD officers because San José was such a fine department that guys saw that the grass wasn't always greener on the other side. Ralph eventually left SJPD and went to Multnomah County Sheriff's Department in Portland, Oregon and Tim Skalland had an outstanding career with SJPD and wound up leaving as a deputy chief I believe. He then went up to NorCal and got another job up there. We were all three very tight and very good friends, and I'm still in touch with both of them.

VANGUARD: We have internal officers that have left to go to the FBI; they get their training and as far as I know they've all come back.

LEAVY: I'm sure most of them come back as San Jose is such a great department.

VANGUARD: And that's okay. They come back with a different view and more experience.

LEAVY: Sure, and it speaks highly of SJPD.

VANGUARD: You bet. And not only is our reputation one of the best, but I think the pay and the benefits that the POA has gotten us, and the work ethics and the amount of specialized units that come out of this department-you can't find that in any other agency. You can go up north and work with a small PD but you're stuck with limited opportunities and here it's a big department and the economy's tough, but it's a department that I think everyone likes-or would wish to-work for because it is a good department.

LEAVY: I agree.

VANGUARD: And you're right-I think a lot of our captains and a lot of our chiefs end up going somewhere else to work.

So, you did a stint at PAL-who were the officers you worked with?

LEAVY: Sgt. Jim Guido, Phil Beltran, Dave Bartholomew, and Noel Lancelot and then Don Carraher came on board. I had 5 great years with PAL and when I left I worked patrol and then the Information Center. I worked with Jim Hellam, Kerry Smith, Mike Bell, and a group of other great people both sworn and non-sworn. After the Mayor Moscone, Harvey Milk shooting in San Francisco, I interviewed for the newly created position of security for the mayor and City Council of San Jose. I was fortunate enough to get that position in 1978. I worked that job until 1981 when I was offered a job with the San Jose fire department, and I took that opportunity.

VANGUARD: It looks like you were having some choice jobs here with the PD, so what made you jump ship to the fire department?

LEAVY: I did; I was very fortunate and I loved the PD, but to be quite candid, Don Carraher had left SJPD and joined the fire department, and every time I saw him he was off, and I said, "What's the deal?" And he told me, "We only work 10 days a month and we get the rest off." I thought that sounded pretty good; I had a great job, and I was working for Bobby Burrows out of the Chief McNamara's office and Bill Mattos was right next to me on the 2nd floor of PAB, but I applied to fire because Don told me how great the fire department was. I did remember working a beat car one day on patrol. I was over at Station 8 and I had my vest on, and I remember the sweat trickling down my chest on a hot summer night. I was taking a burglary report while one firefighter was barbecuing, another was lifting weights, one guy was watching TV and one guy was talking about what he was going to do on his days off, and that stuck in my head. I stayed with the PD for many years after that night, but I remember thinking that those fire guys had a pretty good job. I decided to apply, took the test, and interviewed and finished high enough to be accepted. So then I had to make a decision. I made the decision to leave and to be honest, it was a good decision. I had a great time-17 years with the fire department. The fire department also allowed me flexibility to continue with football officiating, I was able to work out on duty, and be in a position that was positively perceived by the public. It's different; when the police show up, we're generally not well accepted many times. When the fire department shows up, it's always, "Hooray, they're here!" I liked that I was doing a really positive thing and that the public accepted what we were doing, as opposed to being a cop which wasn't always so well accepted. Unfortunately as a cop, a lot of times people aren't really excited to see you and what you have to do.

VANGUARD: How was the relationship between police and fire back then?

LEAVY: It was very good. The police and fire guys had their competitions in football games and softball games; there was a healthy competitive attitude, but I think the guys respected each other and that only increased after 9/11. I think police and fire have the attitude that we're all in this together, and we have to do the work; we each have a role, and we can respect what the other does.

VANGUARD: Were you ever married?

LEAVY: I got married in 1992 and I wound up getting divorced in 2007. Never had any children. With the NFL schedule, it's very demanding-about 26 weekends per year that you're gone-and that's hard on a relationship.

VANGUARD: So, how about when you were with PAL?

LEAVY: PAL had football, and I officiated many of those games at PAL stadium and at local schools-Lincoln, Camden. I'd work four games in a day. I was really excited-it was a vocation that fulfilled my physical requirements for exercise, and I enjoyed the challenge it provided. It just progressed from doing those games to doing junior varsity and then high school football. It's different now-kids get in, and after 2-3 years they're working big time high school games, and some go into college a lot quicker.

VANGUARD: I know that in the West Catholic League, there are some officials that shouldn't even be there.

LEAVY: Well, I'll leave that alone.

VANGUARD: When you have to take out a credit card to run it between the marker and the ball for a first down, give me a break.

LEAVY: Yeah, not a good thing!

VANGUARD: We should have beaten Serra that day.

LEAVY: I worked Serra, Bellermine and Saint Francis a number of times along with the other WCL teams. That West Catholic league is a great league. Lot of good football there still is to this day. I know all the experience I had at the high school level and the good instructors I had got me where I am today. I belonged to FerMar which was the organization that Dwight Martin and Dick Ferguson formed to oversee officiating for all high school sports in the area. Dick was an NFL official himself, and they expected each official to give his or her best when we were on the field. Of course I also expected that from myself. SJPD taught me that as well; you are required to always give your best. So I carried that over into my football officiating and it helped me when I got into college and now in the NFL.

VANGUARD: Do you think that being with the PD or FD for those years made you a better official?

LEAVY: I absolutely do. I was fortunate to have been a hostage negotiator with the PD and dealing with people that are somewhat out of control has helped me now with players and coaches who are emotionally charged. I learned how to handle those situations. The chaos that I experienced on the PD or FD allowed me to remain calm while on the field, and as a referee, you have to remain steady when both sides are breaking down and yelling about a play. The experiences I had as a police officer and a firefighter helped me greatly.

VANGUARD: When Madden talks about you on TV, he always says, "We've got an old San José cop and firefighter here, Bill Leavy." And he's lauded you before for being able to make split decisions and quell situations right away. How many retired officers are actually officials?

LEAVY: It's a small number. A guy who just retired was CHP officer; there's an LAPD guy who just got hired and there's a firefighter from back east who is currently working. There have been very few guys in the occupation that wound up in the NFL; at least to my knowledge. There may have been some before me that I didn't know, but currently it's not a big number. There are only 17 referees in the entire country that are in the NFL; it's a very small club and I'm proud to be in it. It's an honor to be there and a tough place to get to.

VANGUARD: What's the referee?

LEAVY: The referee is the guy with the white hat; he's the guy that's in charge of his crew. I was hired as a back judge and I worked six years in that role. He's the guy that works the deep middle-25 yards off the football. NY asked me to be a ref in NFL Europe in 1998, to see if I could do the job. I worked 7 years in NFLE and got great experience. NY eventually liked what they saw so they asked me to become an NFL referee nine years ago.

VANGUARD: So what would you tell someone that's doing the officiating now? I know some officers on their days off like to officiate sports. What's the work level like to get to the dream job that you have?

LEAVY: When I first went in, I had no thought of going into the NFL someday. That was a pipe dream to me. I felt like all I wanted to do was work as hard as I could to be the best high school official I could be. I liked it and excelled at it, and then I tried to do the same thing in college. I think it's a drive and a passion that's in you. If you have that, and you really focus on that as a dream, then you have to make the commitment to know the rules, know the mechanics, be the best official you can be in your local area. Get the moniker of being the top official in your league. That will get you noticed for moving up into college, and keep doing that in order to get noticed by a higher college conference or the NFL.

VANGUARD: What college division did you officiate?

LEAVY: I was in the Big West which was San José State, Utah State, New Mexico State, Long Beach State and Fullerton State. Fullerton and Long Beach unfortunately gave up their football programs, so the Big West disbanded its football group. I was one of two guys-Chad Brown was the other one-who were the only two officials ever taken directly from the Big West into the NFL. I am very proud of that. A lot of guys get in the league from the WAC, the Mountain West, PAC 10, or one of the other big conferences, but I was selected out of the Big West conference.

VANGUARD: Did you officiate any other sport?

LEAVY: I did, I umpired high school girls softball. The day Jerry Seeman called and asked me into the NFL was March 27, 1995. That day I was assigned to be the umpire at a Mitty high school Junior Varsity girls' softball game. I wound up going out on the field on cloud 9 because I just had been accepted into the NFL. Then I'm working the game being told by 16 y/o catholic girls that I wasn't worth a crap as an official! During the game I was smiling inside knowing that I was actually going to be in the NFL and my high school softball days were going to be over.

VANGUARD: What did you have to go through when you got the call? Obviously you worked your way up, you did the best you could in everything you did officiating, you worked your way through the collegiate level, you got pulled out of the Big West into the NFL, what is the requirement, did they do background checks?

LEAVY: Heavy, heavy-duty background checks. They were close with what I went through with the Secret Service. They went out and interviewed neighbors of mine. They did economic background credit checks. They did job checks. The background check was very complete. You have to take a psychological test. I flew down to Los Angeles and I met with a psychologist that the league works with and was given a 2-hour interview and had to take a test at the end. They do base part of their decision on taking you into the league based on what he says about how he thinks you will perform in the NFL. The background checks that they do are very extensive and they are ongoing. With the unfortunate incident of the NBA official who was caught in the gambling scheme, the scrutiny just increased. Ultimately, the integrity of the game is all they have. Everybody has to know that the games are being played and officiated fairly. When that hit, that changed some things. We used to be given our entire years schedule; the commissioner decided we would go back to the previous way of doing things and now only release games three weeks in advance. As we are speaking, I know three weeks from now what game I will work. I will find out next week the game after that. The Commissioner made other adjustments as well. They increased the frequency of background checks and the detail they investigate. We are drug/alcohol tested at least twice a year and sometimes more. We take urine tests at the stadium on the day of the game. They keep pretty good tabs on us, as they should, because it is an important factor that we provide the league.

VANGUARD: Where is the main headquarters for the NFL?

LEAVY: The NFL offices are at 280 Park Avenue in New York. They have a big office building and they occupy three floors. Officiating is on the fifteenth floor, where they have the command center. They have a huge screen to look at plays, it is probably 15 feet by 15 feet, and they look at plays very closely. There are monitors at eight different stations in the command center. During the regular season, Mike Pereira, who is in charge of NFL officiating, stands there and he has people watching every game that is going on. As unique plays, replay reviews, penalties come up during the games, he will look them to see if there potentially could be an issue he will have to deal with later. Occasionally announcers call him during the game and he will answer any questions they have so that they can sound informed when explaining a play. Mike will also note plays that he wants to use for that weeks training tape that we all see. He is all over it as far as monitoring every game that is going on each week.

VANGUARD: What happens when there is a major screw up?

LEAVY: If there is a mistake you get downgraded, and if you have consistent downgrades, you can be let go. Almost every year there are officials let go? They grade every play from the coaching tape from the sideline, the end zone, and from the TV tape and NFL films who are at the games as well. The scrutiny on us is incredible. Since we work only one day a week there is plenty of time to review our games thoroughly. Major league baseball and basketball play so many games each week that it is not feasible to look at every game and every play. Aren't we lucky!!

VANGUARD: So you are critiqued as a group or as an individual? You're the head referee.

LEAVY: Basically you are graded individually, but each crew is graded as a group as well at the end of the season. I don't have to wait long to be graded this year as I am going to be working the Pittsburg/ Tennessee to open the season Thursday night September 10th.

VANGUARD: This is the first big game out of the chute.

LEAVY: The first big game of the year, which will be kind of exciting to work knowing that everybody is watching.

VANGUARD: How did you get picked to be the referee for that game?

LEAVY: They make the schedule back in New York each year and it is more a luck of the draw than a reward. Actually I finished up last year San Diego at Pittsburg in the divisional playoff game. So I will have closed Pittsburg last year in January and I will open up in September in Pittsburg. Which is unusual? Our schedule is done six to eight weeks out, and midseason they will finish the schedule. The idea is to try to keep somebody from seeing a team more than twice during the year, because if there is an issue you do not want to see a team too many times. I have never had the opening game so I am excited. I had never had the Hall of Fame game before this year either. So in my fifteenth year in the NFL I'm able to work the Hall of Fame game and the first regular season game.

VANGUARD: Who are the guys on your team?

LEAVY: My umpire is Darrell Jenkins who lives in Oakland, CA. My head linesman is Mark Baltz out of Indianapolis, and I have a rookie side judge Greg Bradley who is also out if Indianapolis, he came out of Conference USA this year. My line judge is Mark Perlman who I worked with in the Big West; he is out of Lake Havasu. The field judge is Clete Blakeman a second year official out of Omaha, Nebraska; my back judge is Keith Ferguson whose dad was Dick Ferguson who I mentioned earlier, and was also an NFL official. Keith lives here in San Jose.

VANGUARD: When you guys travel, who pays for your room and board?

LEAVY: The league gives us very good compensation. They give us a per diem of $260 per day, and then $50 for any extra day. They pay for our hotels. They fly us first class to all our games if it is available. On Saturday, we get to the game city as we are required to get to the site the day before the game. We have a pre game meeting that Saturday that lasts from 2 ˝ to 3 ˝ hours.

VANGUARD: Who conducts those?

LEAVY: I am in charge of those as the referee. We usually have a supervisor, trainer, or observer with us who is officially designated to be the acting person in charge from New York, and he usually attends as well. We read the memos that come out each week. We watch a training tape that is 20 to 25 minutes long from plays from the previous week. We look at a replay tape that the replay coordinator puts together on all the replays that happened good and bad from the prior week. Then I conduct a review of our last week's game. I show plays that were either graded correctly or incorrectly or calls that we did not make and should have. That usually takes another 45 minutes. Finally we take a weekly test. Then we usually go to dinner, relax, and watch some college football. On a normal Sunday if you are in the Midwest you are going to do a game at 12:00 (Noon). So you get up have breakfast at 7:30 leave for the stadium by 8:30, you get there at 9:00, three hours prior to the game. You need that much time to perform the duties you are required to do before every game.

VANGUARD: Do you guys have separate changing rooms from the NFL guys?

LEAVY: We have a locker room that is designated strictly for NFL officials. There is a sign up outside the locker room saying Positively No Visitors. If I want to let somebody in, it is on my authority as the referee. We have Ball Boys, chain gangs, and clock operators who sometimes come in and sometimes we meet them outside the locker room. I have to go over a TV production meeting an hour and half before kickoff with both team's PR guys plus the production director and producer of the TV contest and the green hat and orange sleeves who are very integral on the field to get the game to work smoothly. It really is a performance; it is a production not just a football game. We spend 10 to 15 minutes going over all the TV breaks, when they can take them, and all the extensions for that particular game. We do a 100-minute security meeting 100 minutes prior to kickoff. We have the security meeting with the FBI, head of security, head of stadium security, and both PR guys. We have that meeting to talk about what we are going to do in an evacuation, or if there is an attack of some kind or if fans become unruly. Then we go out 50 minutes prior to the game and we walk around the stadium. I check my microphone, I check the replay booth and talk to my replay guy who is up in the press box and make sure we can communicate. I go to see both head coaches, go to both quarterbacks. That is just my responsibility. My head linesman is doing things with the chains. My back judge is observing each team's punters and checking the goalposts to make sure the uprights are straight. The line judge is talking to ball boys. So we all have things to do. We watch the teams practice; we go back in the locker room when one of the teams leaves the field. We come back out and I do the coin toss 2 minutes prior to kickoff, then we get going.

VANGUARD: What type of coin do you use?

LEAVY: Actually it's a coin my dad gave me when I was a kid, a silver dollar. Both my parents have passed away and I take a moment to think about my Mom and Dad when I take the silver dollar out of my case prior to the game and know it is time to get ready to do the game.

VANGUARD: That is very special. To just be there in a major stadium especially before a major football game is awesome. When you do a recall, when you go to the replay booth, who makes that decision upstairs for you?

LEAVY: First of all, outside of 2 minutes of either half the coach has to decide whether he wants to challenge or not, he will throw the red flag. They are given 2 challenges per game if they have a timeout available. If they get both of their challenges right during the game, they get a third one, if they have a timeout available. Inside of 2 minutes, if my replay assistant decides we need to check something, he makes that decision and also in overtime. Once the challenge is either made by the coach or my replay assistant, I go over to the booth; I tell them on the headset what our ruling was on the field so they understand completely what happened. Then I ask them if they have a good shot for me. Which is my way of asking "Do you have something I can use to confirm or change this particular play"? We only get 1 minute and that minute goes by real quick once I go under the hood. My replay assistant has to look at all the aspects of the play and he will finally say, "I have something". Once I go under the hood the clock starts and I get to look and ask, "Let me see that again, I want to see if his knee is down". Do you have shot down the sideline? Can I see the football; do you have a shot that shows me the football?" So we are conversing. Ultimately he may say, "Bill, I think this is an incomplete pass." But it is on me to make the final decision and I may say "Nope that is not enough; I am not going to change it". However, we are very rarely in disagreement. As we are talking in the background I can hear the guy we call the communicator counting down "5, 4,3…" and I know at 1 the screen will go blank and I cannot look anymore. At that point I step out of the booth and I talk to my replay guy a little more, and if I made the decision to reverse the call, I need to know all the details of the correct decision, where the ball is going to be spotted and what the correct time on the clock is. I have to make all those decisions and then I go out and make the announcement.

VANGUARD: Now, before you make the announcement, do you confer with the guy who actually made the call?

LEAVY: That is a good question. He does come over with me but only to answer any questions that I may have before I go under the hood. After I make my decision I tell him quickly what I decided and then I tell my back judge who is also with me what I am going to do and what I am going to say. To sound semi coherent, if I say it to him first, by the time I get on the field I can make a better announcement. Some of the announcements can become very intricate and you can get tongue tied if you are not really focused on what you want to say. You want to make good showing in front of 20 million people watching. There will probably be more than that this coming Thursday night. The back judge writes down everything, if there is a change to make sure that we get everything correct. Then I go out and make the announcement and we reset the clock, the chains, and re-spot the ball. If I decide to stay with the ruling, then I just make an announcement that "The ruling on the field is confirmed, the receiver did have two feet in with control of the ball, it is a completion, and San Francisco will be charged their first time out". If the coach was right then I say the challenge is upheld and San Francisco is not charged a time out. If it was his second successful challenge, I would say San Francisco is given a third challenge during the game.

VANGUARD: So just to finish up a little bit here, because I know you are on time constraint here, getting ready to fly back east. Which is the first game you officiated in the NFL?

LEAVY: The first game was a preseason game. Buffalo at Dallas on about a 100-degree night in old Cowboy stadium. I was wide eyed and very honestly, just as every guy that works his first game I was questioning "can I really do this"? Am I a good enough official to be in the National Football League? About half time I realized, yeah I can do this. Some guys come in and after 2 or 3 years they are gone. The game is just too fast for them. They cannot process what they are seeing. They do not have the right feel for the game. I never played football. I never played organized football. I played on the San Jose PD team in the late 70's against another police department. I played a lot of intramural football, but never played organized tackle football. I am probably a unique case to officiate in the NFL having never played the game. I swam in high school and played a little baseball in junior college, but never played football. I just love the game, I feel like it is one of the top games in the country, probably the top. Everybody talks about it all the time. Its 12 months out of the year. I get out there and just do the best I can every time I go on the field.

VANGUARD: What do you remember as being your worst call?

LEAVY: No doubt it was making a call in Super Bowl XL when I called the quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, for going low in the process of making a tackle. He had thrown an interception and on the tackle I thought he went thru a blocker to make the tackle. The rule is you cannot go low, even to make at tackle, through another player. From my angle on the field there was a player in front of the ball carrier. I thought he made contact with him, before he made the tackle. Subsequently, it showed that he did not touch him. That was an incorrect call in the Super Bowl, not a good thing to have happen. I worked two; I worked Super Bowl XXXIV which was the Rams and Titans, as the back judge. An exciting game that ended on the 1-yard line, with no controversy, that's the kind of Super Bowl you want to have. I was very excited about that one. But to have an incorrect call in Super Bowl XL was very disheartening to say the very least, because I take it seriously and to make a mistake fun to go through and it still bothers was not me to this day. I think about it a lot but it is over and I can't change anything. By the time this article comes out, I will have finally gotten to work the Seattle Seahawks again. They are going to play the Forty Niners in the second week of the season. I will be able to meet-up and actually apologize to Matt Hasselbeck for making that incorrect call at the Super Bowl. I feel that I owe him that. I go out every game and do my best as I did in Super Bowl XL, but I made the wrong call. Not a good memory.

VANGUARD: I think your peers in the PBA were a little tough on you also.

LEAVY: Oh, absolutely, Pittsburg thought I did a great job. The Seattle fans were more than willing to let me know that they thought I stunk up the place. I came to a meeting very soon after the Super Bowl and did a Mea Culpa as to what I had done. I did discuss another controversy that I got right in the game but still created a lot of buzz. It was the Roethlisberger touchdown that I did not reverse and agreed that he scored. On the field the guy ruled that he had scored, and when I looked at it in replay I felt like there was not enough evidence to overturn it so I stayed with the call on the field. I would have stayed with the call if the HL had ruled that he had not scored. It was that close. Another call that was questioned was my back judge who made an offensive pass interference call in the end zone, which was the correct call. However a lot of announcers and talk show hosts commented on that call, saying that was not really a call that he should have made, when in fact he should have made it. So there were a number of calls in that game, and it magnified it over time, and it became a big issue. Hey, you got to move on, you got to have broad shoulders and if you make a mistake you own up to it and move on and keep doing the best you can. And I have been relatively successful since then and I am looking forward to a good 2009 season.

VANGUARD: We look forward to seeing you out there. Let me ask you this one, how much do officials get paid?

LEAVY: When I first came in as a rookie I made $1400.00 per game, as opposed to the $700.00 I was making as a college official, so I thought that was a lot of money. We did go thru a lockout in 2001 and missed 1 regular season game before we settled. It was right after 9/11 that we agreed with the league and settled the contract. The pay went up significantly and we are very well compensated now. This year as a fifteen-year official, I will make $7250.00 a game. Twenty-year veterans I think are at $8500.00 per game. With the per diem and the league paying for hotels it is a nice package that we get. It clearly isn't the reason that I do it, but it is a nice benefit obviously. It is a nice second job for a retired fire fighter! I know most officers and fire fighters would love to have a second job that is right around $150,000.00 per year for something that they love doing. I am very blessed and appreciate it very much.

VANGUARD: Do you officiate every week?

LEAVY: Pretty much during the season. You get 4 pre-season games and then you get 15 regular season games out of the 17 weeks. You do get 2 byes like the teams get byes. I worked the Hall of Fame game, so I actually worked 5 pre-season games this year. If our crew does well enough, and we are selected as a crew to work a playoff game, that will be the 21st game that I will work this year.

VANGUARD: What do you do on your off-season?

LEAVY: Actually, I have a house now in Palm Desert. I go down there and I play golf. I meet up with Don Carraher, and Milo Bardwell who was a firefighter that I worked with for a long time at Station 7. So we hang out together. I work out, play golf and I do a little bit of stock market dabbling, and enjoy my dog, have good time, and relax.

VANGUARD: Bill, again, squeezing you in and I know you are getting ready to fly east; actually you look very good, if you don't mind me asking how old are you?

LEAVY: I am 62.

VANGUARD: You look good, you look very good. There are some officials out that look pretty darn buff. I don't want to get into the ingredients of the milkshakes they are drinking. There is one in mind that looks probably more buff than most football players out there.

LEAVY: I keep in the best shape that I can. I try to do 6 days a week in the off-season of working out, which I probably should have mentioned as to what I do to keep busy, that is part of my day. I work out at least an hour to an hour and a half a day six days a week lifting weights. Then I do 4 days a week of aerobics like riding a bike or doing Nordic track. Just recently I have added wearing a 20-pound vest and 2, 10-pound ankle weights while I go out and ride 7 miles on my bicycle. I appreciate the nice compliment about being in shape, as it takes a lot of work. I dedicate myself to doing that because I want to stay on the field at least a couple more years. Then I will ride off into the sunset after a 39-40 year career in football officiating.

VANGUARD: Again, I want to thank you for the opportunity. I always look for interviews of officers that have been here and retired and moved on. I think you are one of the few that has done what I consider a dream job. It's awesome and it's an honor to hear your name out there and be able to sit back and watch football and see you out there running around and having to take control of situations.

LEAVY: Juan, I appreciate you asking me to do this. It is an honor for me because like I told you before, it is humbling to even think that people want to know what the hell I am doing. My young years were with San Jose PD, and my heart is still with San Jose PD, and it always will be. I wish all the officers that are reading this article safety and healthy career and that they get to do something in addition to police work that they enjoy as much as much as I have enjoyed officiating.

VANGUARD: Well, again, thanks for the opportunity, best of luck, maybe one of these days you will have a chance to officiate the best NFL football team there is, the Chicago Bears.

LEAVY: We will see, hopefully I will.

VANGUARD: Thanks Bill.

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