- Walter Novak
- Spankmeister Robert Surgenor, keeping a teen in line.
Words to inflict pain by, from one of the few spanking experts who hasn't gone the way of the pterodactyl. His name is Robert Surgenor, Berea police detective in charge of bad kids, and he doesn't want to see the apple of your eye in his office someday, explaining why she burned the neighbor's house down. That's why he wrote No Fear, a 239-page spanking instruction manual that skewers passive parenting.
Wondering where to hit? Surgenor doesn't endorse face-slapping, though it works in a pinch. "I know of numerous parents who have given the open palm to the cheek of a sassy offspring, with no noticeable adverse effects," he writes.
Got a surly teen too big to spank? A strategic squeeze on the trapezius, a muscle located at the base of the neck, works like a charm.
When not nit-picking the Old Testament (spare the rod and wake us when it's over), No Fear is an ornery guide for the "brainwashed" parent. Who's doing the brainwashing? Why, the anti-spanking underground -- mainly child psychologists who've "convinced an awful lot of people that it's wrong to spank their children," says Surgenor.
What the youth of America really need is less P.C. and more C.P. -- corporal punishment -- he claims. But Mommy and Daddy are afraid to lay a hand on their delinquents-in-training.
"I'll say to a parent of a 13-year-old kid who says F-you, 'Why don't you give him a spanking?'" remarks the clean-cut Christian, sitting near his wife's vast ceramic-pig collection in their Fairview Park home. "'Oh, I'm not going to jail. I'm not getting arrested.' Well, who said you were gonna get arrested if you spank your child?"
In Ohio, you can legally paddle your demon spawn, provided they're under 18 and you don't put them in a sling. But sometimes even cops and social workers confuse the rules.
"They drill the domestic violence laws into every cop's head at the academy, and the cop believes that it applies to children also," says Surgenor, who wrote the book to spread the word. "And it doesn't."
His encyclopedic knowledge of state corporal punishment laws includes, ahem, all 50, reprinted in the book's appendix. In Florida, you can get arrested for leaving a red welt on your kid's arm, he warns. Planning a trip to Arkansas? If you slap Junior's face, you could be sending a postcard from jail.
Young Robert learned the subtleties of a good ass-whupping at a relatively early age, thanks to his dad, a steelworker-turned-tent-revivalist preacher from Fairview Park.
"I never got any marks," the Spankmeister reminisces. "I would get the belt, but I'd get it on the back end with my pants on. And it stung like crazy. But I never got any marks or any bruises. No welts, no scratches, no nothing."
Interestingly, Dad was a disciplinarian both before and after a runaway crane in the mill nearly killed him and he became born again. During his son's crucial teenage years, he'd show up unannounced at high-school parties to keep him in line.
That was enough to make Surgenor run screaming from the house when he turned 18. But eventually, he came back to visit.
"I knew my dad loved me," he says. "He would tell me. He would take us places. I remember him giving us hugs."
The father of three spankees, Surgenor also has two stepsons who are acquainted with Mr. Belt, thanks to their mom, Nancy.
"You know, one of the reasons I married her, when I first came over to her house, there was a belt there," he confides. "I said 'Matt, what's the belt for?' 'Uh, my mom gives that to us when we get out of line.' I'm like 'Yeah!' Because most single moms are kind of weak when it comes to discipline."
A man obsessed, Surgenor weighs down delinquents' parents with handouts on corporal punishment -- charts, graphs, Bible verses, and paragraphs from the Ohio Revised Code, prompting the chief to grumble that he's wearing out the copy machine. Surgenor compiled his own statistics in the book, basing them on exhaustive post-arrest interviews.
His tally: Two percent of kids in Berea who commit crimes were spanked; 98 percent weren't.
Fellow officers say Surgenor gets a real thrill from detail work. "As a rookie, he was really gung ho," observes Don Adrukat, a D.A.R.E. officer who plays good cop to Surgenor's bad one. "When he'd go out on a case, he'd do investigative reporting. He'd take it from step one. He wouldn't just turn it over to the detective bureau. He'd work through the whole thing, and that's really unheard of. He's anal, yes. How's that?"
In 1995, Surgenor claimed the juvenile beat because nobody else wanted it. "I got along with kids real good. I spent a lot of time with them." He'd even turn on his radar when they were racing their remote-control cars so they could clock their speed.
Well-spoken as well as outspoken, he's no stranger to the evening news, where the camera closes in on his handcuffs and gun as he prescribes a licking for unruly young'uns. In 1988, he was on the cutting edge of cop TV when he installed a video camera in his cruiser to record footage for Real TV, World's Scariest Police Chases, and World's Most Amazing Videos.
Just in case No Fear doesn't convert the cowering, he's working on book No. 2. "I'm making the title of that one No Clue," he says. "It's about the psychology world -- I'm actually reading all the books that are out on parenting. And you wouldn't believe some of the garbage that's in those books." Bend over, world. Daddy's home.