11. The Police Commission
A proposed amendment to the city charter recommended the establishment of the police commission in 1923. The police commission had been recommended as many within the city felt this proposed three member board was necessary to keep politics out of the police department. This three man commission would control hiring, firing, pay increases, budget expenditures and would be a “watchdog” for the department. A city wide vote was taken and the proposed amendment passed establishing the commission.
The mayor appointed the police commissioners, who then went before council for approval. The first commissioners appointed were Clarence Snyder, George Burke and John Swisher. The commissioners served one to three year terms. Most officers supported the police commission and felt you received a “fair shake” when a complaint was brought to them
The police commission was disbanded on April 9, 1956, due to a new city charter passed by voters. When the city charter was passed it ended the police commission, making the police chief report directly to the city administrator.
I was lucky enough to find a box of the police commission minutes in the basement of city hall. Attending the meetings were the commissioners and the chief of police. The meetings usually took place in the chief's office. Following are some of the agenda items that were discussed at their meetings from 1941 to 1956.
May 1941-Part of the commission's agenda during this meeting was to discuss the illness of Officer Herman Suma, a longtime member of the police department. Officer Suma was deathly ill and the commission decided to grant him a leave of absence. This was well before the days of insurance and Officer Suma's family obviously suffered without their main wage earner. The commission later granted Officer Suma leave with full pay during the course of his illness. Officer Suma died later that year.
The commission also discussed the necessity of better protecting industrial properties within the city due to World War Two. While America was yet to be involved in the conflict, one would guess the commission felt these properties needed the appropriate protection as they were probably producing material for the war effort. In a subsequent meeting in June of 1941, Chief Cook and the commission agreed to provide whatever protection was necessary and that the department would assist with working with the plants on security concerns.
Discussed at length was the difficulty of obtaining new officers due to the low wages. Interestingly, the commission felt that while it was difficult to obtain new officers, they did not want to lower their standards just to fill vacancies.
July 1941-During this meeting the commission elevated Sgt. Mortenson to the rank of chief of police due to the unexpected death of Chief Cook. The commission also voted to pay the widow of Chief Cook one month's pay. Officer Rolland “Barney” Gainsley was promoted to sergeant.
September 1941-At this meeting the commission voted to have all patrol vehicles painted and identified as “Ann Arbor Police” vehicles. Up to this point the vehicles were marked differently, if at all as police vehicles. The commission wanted all of the vehicles marked the same for consistency.
The commission voted to abolish the rank of senior sergeant and instituted the rank of lieutenant. This new lieutenant, Casper Enkemann, would receive the pay of senior sergeant, which at that time was $2316 a year. With the commission's vote, Casper Enkemann, became the first lieutenant in the department's history.
It was also during this meeting that the commission discussed the hiring of a full time police woman. I believe this was the first discussion of the hiring of a female officer. In a subsequent meeting the commission sent a letter to the city council asking for permission to hire a female officer. This officer would be assigned to the traffic bureau. Officers who were assigned to the traffic bureau were assigned administrative tasks. They did not go out on patrol and seldom made arrests. This was still a big step in the process of assimilating women in the department. In fact, up until the hiring of this female officer, the work done in the traffic bureau was done by male officers.
May 1942-In the previous meeting the commission voted to promote Officer Robert Mayfield to the rank of sergeant. Officer Mayfield had been with the department for only a short period of time. This promotion did not sit well with many of the more senior officers and Officer Mayfield wrote a letter to the commission declining the promotion. In his letter he makes it clear that he does not want the promotion as he believed it would cause ill will within the department. He stated, “Gentlemen, this is the way I feel about the matter, which has hurt me more than I am able to state at this time.”
Officer Mayfield must have been well-liked by command officers as after considering his letter, the commission denied his request and his promotion stood. This promotion gave rise to the first steps towards a labor union by the officers.
June 1942-The commission gave Chief Mortenson permission to purchase a new Harley Davidson motorcycle for $293.50.
The commission also approved the application of Officer Ann Vanderpool for inclusion in the police officer's retirement system. Officer Vanderpool was one of the first woman police officers.
February 1943-Due to the shortage of qualified men because of World War II, the police commission waived the age limit for officers. This enabled older men to apply for positions within the department.
April 1944-The department continued to have a shortage of officers due to the war. The commission discussed what shifts and beats would be cut due to the manpower shortage.
The commission also discussed the budget and proposed a 10% wage increase for all male officers in the department. The female employees did receive raises, but not to the extent of their male counterparts.
June 1944-The commission voted to promote Officer Al Heusel to sergeant and Officer George Stauch to detective. The commission also gave permission to Chief Mortenson to attend two war conferences, one in Charlevoix and one in Cleveland.
July 1944-Chief Mortenson reported to the commission that the police department employed 31 officers, seven short of the allocated strength.
December 1944-The commission was advised that Officer Kenneth Payne had returned from service in the armed forces and was ready to report for duty. The commission approved his immediate reinstatement. Officer Payne would die in 1946 as a result of injuries he received as a result of a traffic crash on his police motorcycle.
March 1945-The commission approved the department's upcoming budget for the fiscal year, which was $116,961. The commission also accepted the resignation of Officer Harry Krumrei, who was on leave due to illness.
June 1945-The commission granted the request of Chief Mortenson to allow the department's pistol team use of a departmental patrol car to attend a pistol match in Louisville, Kentucky.
August 1945-The commission discussed the fact that the state police would no longer provide assistance at U of M football games. They decided to contact local departments to secure their assistance.
September 1945-The commission suspended two officers for their conduct on VJ Day (the end of World War Two). Evidently these officers participated a bit too much in the celebration and the police commission became aware of their actions.
The commission also set standards for new police recruits. Potential officers had to be at least 5'10” tall and weigh at least 165 pounds.
February 1946-The commission discussed a gift of $25 that was sent to Officers Huizinga and Schulpe for the help they gave an accident victim. The father of the accident victim sent the officers $25 for the help they gave to his daughter who suffered a broken leg in the accident. The father was impressed with the “excellent service” the officers gave to his daughter. The commission voted to let the officers keep the money.
Also discussed was the appointment of a juvenile officer and consideration was given to numerous officers. It was the commission's opinion that Officer George Simmons was most qualified for the position and Chief Mortenson was to work on establishing this position.
March 1946-The commission reviewed the budget for the upcoming fiscal year and proposed a 15% pay increase for the officers. The commission approved a budget of $137,114.45 for the year.
April 1946-The commission gave permission for Chief Mortenson to attend the National Safety Conference. which was held in Washington D.C. The minutes of the meeting stated, “Consideration was given to the request of President Harry S. Truman to Chief Mortenson for him to attend the National Safety Conference in Washington D.C.”
The commission also authorized the hiring of James West. West would be hired by the department and die shortly thereafter in a motorcycle accident. Also approved was the appropriation of $4000 for expansion of the pistol range.
May 1946-The police commission ordered Chief Mortenson to make contact with the managers of all of the private clubs in the city and instruct them to remove slot machines, pinball machines and all other gambling devices within their clubs.
Most don't realize the amount of gambling that occurred in the city during this period of time. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were gambled away at area clubs. Chief Mortenson and Detective Lt. Eugene Gehringer were soon to lose their jobs because of a gambling investigation.
December 1946-The commission agrees to raise the salary of “Mrs. Ann Tapp as head of the Traffic Bureau and policewoman to $2532 (per year).”
The commission also agreed to allot $80 for the purchase of a kerosene heater to be used at the outdoor pistol range. This heater would allow the range house to be heated for the officers when using the range in the winter months.
The commission commended Detective Simmons on his investigation of a stolen vehicle. Detective Simmons noted a discrepancy on a vehicle's license plate and this led to the arrest of a suspect for auto theft.
June 1946-The commission suspends Chief of Police Sherman Mortenson and Lt. Eugene Gehringer for their role in a gambling investigation conducted by Judge James Breakey. This investigation centered on the police department's participation and/or lack of control in combating gambling in the city. Captain Casper Enkemann was appointed acting chief and Sgt. Al Heusel was appointed acting head of the detective division.
The commission had been served with notice that Chief Mortenson and Lt. Gehringer desired to testify before Judge Breakey and a date was then set.
July 1946-Due to the workload in the detective division, the commission authorized Acting Chief Enkemann to promote Officer Walter Krasny to a detective.
August 1946-The commission issues written notices of suspensions to Chief Mortenson and Lt. Gehringer.
September 1946-The commission accepts the resignation of Chief Sherman Mortenson. They agree to pay Chief Mortenson $660.61 as part of a resignation package.
The commission also authorizes the expenditure of $650 for new “guns, badges, blackjacks, handcuffs, belts and holsters for the additional patrolmen authorized for the department.”
November 1946-The police commission “unanimously appoints Acting Chief Enkemann to chief of police.” The commission also made eight other promotions.
The commission agreed to pay raises for a number of command officers. Following is the wage schedule the commission approved.
|Rank||Name||Present Salary||Adjusted Salary|
|Patrol Woman||Ann Tapp||$2324.00||$2868.00|
The commission also discussed a report sent to them by the University of Michigan Regents, detailing a proposed rate of pay to be made to the city for services provided by the police department.
Also authorized was an expenditure of $2,179.53 for three new Harley Davidson motorcycles.
January 1947-The police commission authorizes the expenditure of $1998 to equip four patrol vehicles with two-way radios. The commission received a report from the department's traffic bureau, which showed collections of $16,059 in traffic fines.
February 1947-The commission approaches council and asks that the department's sworn strength be increased by five officers due to the increased workload in the department.
March 1947-Captain Heusel addressed the commission on the status of the ongoing gambling investigation taking place in the city. This investigation would last for years and I believe this case was probably the longest running investigation in the department's history.
The commission received a request to allow the “employment of colored veterans.” They authorize Chief Enkemann to look into this possibility.
The commission authorizes a letter of commendation to Officer Howard Remnant, who captured a suspect that had just escaped from circuit court during a trial.
April 1947-Chief Enkemann advises the commission of the Chamber of Commerce's offer to buy the police department a vehicle for use in accident investigations. This vehicle would later become the department's “traffic cruiser.”
July 1947-Chief Enkemann is authorized to have command officers rotate shifts so they are familiar with all of the officers. The chief is also given permission to look into the possibilities of purchasing a “drunk meter.”
August 1947-Chief Enkemann advises the commission that the department had received $251 from citizens for the widow of Officer James West. Officer West had been killed in a traffic accident.
Chief Enkemann is authorized to attend the three month F.B.I. National Academy in Washington D.C.
September 1947-Sergeant Red Howard requests permission to retire on September 15, 1947, ending the career of one of the longest serving members of the police department.
Chief Enkemann advised the commission that seven officers were residing outside of the city limits, in violation of policy. The commission agrees to let officers live in adjoining townships, due to the shortage of housing in the city.
October 1947-Officer Headley Downey was given permission to receive a gift of $20 from Mrs. Alfred Farrah who was visiting Ann Arbor. While visiting she lost her handbag and Officer Downey found it and ensured Mrs. Farrah had the bag returned.
January 1948-The commission approves a departmental set of rules and regulations, many of which are still in use today.
February 1948-Future Chief of Police Walter Krasny is promoted to the rank of sergeant.
March 1948-The commission places an officer on six months probation due to his “uncivil attitude toward the public and his conduct toward fellow officers.”
The commission authorizes $600 for improvements to the squad room with the officers providing the carpentry work.
May 1948-The commission approves the request of Officer Allen to build a home on Waters Road, which is outside of the city limits.
June 1948-The commission authorizes the purchase of a new patrol vehicle. The winning bids were $975 for the new 1949 Ford Tudor Sedans.
October 1948-The commission holds a dismissal hearing on a lieutenant for conduct detrimental to the department. After the hearing the commission votes to demote him to patrolman.
December 1948-Chief Enkemann advises the commission of the resignations of several officers due to low wages. He advises them that an officer with the Ypsilanti Police Department makes more that an Ann Arbor Sergeant. The commission agrees with the chief that the wages of departmental members must be raised and they agree to go to the city council with a proposed wage increase.
February 1949-The commission promotes Sgt. Joe Huizenga to Lieutenant.
April 1949-The commission promotes Sergeant George Stauch to Lieutenant and Officer Harold Olson to Sergeant.
November 1949-Chief Enkemann reports to the commission that a sergeant had reported to work after he had been drinking, although he was not drunk. The commission suspends this sergeant for one week and deducts a month worth of leave days from him.
December 1949-Officer Hughes received two $15 checks from the U.S.Army for apprehending two AWOL soldiers. The commission allows him to keep the money due to the red tape involved in sending the money back to the army.
February 1950-Chief Enkemann reported to the commission that Lt. Hitchingham, Officer Ball and Officer Schmid were 55 years old and permission was needed from the pension board to allow the officers to keep working. The commission votes to make the necessary request to the pension board.
March 1950-Chief Enkemann reports that the “Sugar Bowl” was broken into during the early morning hours of March 6 and that an officer had failed to detect that the back door had been broken open. The commission requests Chief Enkemann investigate the “possible dereliction of duty” of the beat officer on duty at the time of the break-in. This officer was eventually found and told he would be fired if his performance did not improve.
Chief Enkemann also reports that Chief Cox, of the East Ann Arbor Police Department, had requested assistance in training 5 new men of his department in the area of firearms. The commission agrees to the requested assistance.
Sgt. Biederman requests a one month leave of absence due to illness. This leave is granted by the commission.
May 1950-The commission receives a letter from Captains Heusel and Gainsley denying the raises that they were granted by the commission. The captains point out that they were the only officers receiving a raise and did not feel it was fair to the rest of the department. They ask that the commission give the raises meant for them to the chief, as they felt he was underpaid compared to other police chiefs.
June 1950-The commission considers a request by local black activist Albert Wheeler, who requests a “Negro” be given consideration for an officer's position.
August 1950-The commission again discusses the problem of officers leaving the police department for higher paying jobs. They recommend an overtime plan to city council which would pay the officers for the overtime that they work. Up to this point officers were not paid for overtime and court duty. The commission also request a meeting with city council to discuss the poor wages of the officers and steps to improve the wage scale.
September 1950-The commission authorized the hiring of Clayton Collins, the departments first black police officer.
February 1951-The commission proposes a wage scale increase to council which would move an officer with four years experience with the department to $3620 a year. The commission advises council that the department is continuing to lose officers due to the low pay rate.
Lt. Huizenga announces his resignation, due in part to the low wages. Sgt. Krasny is promoted to lieutenant to take his place.
City council agrees to a 10% wage increase for all city employees.
July 1951-Sgt. Biederman requests permission to resign as a sergeant and return to work as an officer. The commission approves and assigns Officer Biederman to the traffic division and promotes Officer Howard Remnant to sergeant.
January 1952-Chief Enkemann advised the commission that Officer Bressler was involved in an accident with a patrol car and the investigation found that he was at fault. The commission ordered Officer Bressler to work his next six days off.
The commission agrees with Chief Enkemann to buy a row boat for the investigations of accidents on the Huron River.
February 1952-Chief Enkemann reports that Captain Gainsley is investigating a “radar speed control system” for possible use within the patrol vehicles.
June 1952-Chief Enkemann announces that Captain Al Heusel had submitted his letter of resignation. The commission accepts the letter “with regret.”
July 1952-Officer Chester Carter, in charge of the department's youth baseball teams, requested permission to take the boys to see a Detroit Tigers baseball game. The commission grants permission if complimentary tickets can be obtained.
September 1952-Representatives from the Ann Arbor News and local radio stations WHRV and WPAG complained to the commission that the department was not releasing information in a timely manner. Specifically they cited a number of incidents, including one which was the use of narcotics by students of Ann Arbor High. Another was an incident in which an officer fired two shots at a motorist in an attempt to place the driver under arrest. As it turned out the driver had done nothing wrong and the officer was suspended for his actions. The news directors also asked that the commission meetings be open to the press. The commission advises they will consider the requests.
March 1953-The commissioners submitted the police budget to the city council for the 1953-1954 fiscal year. The total budget was for $354,590, which contained small increases in wages. The commission also increased the pay of policewomen, so that they were paid the same as male officers. The commission also asked for an increase of $500 to sponsor troubled youths in recreation programs. At that time the department sponsored both a juvenile baseball and basketball team.
April 1954-The commissioners send a letter to local news directors advising them that the commission meetings would be kept closed “because of the character of the commission, some discussions are of a personal and confidential nature and the commission feels it is their duty to keep them so.” They do advise that they will give the media full reports of the meetings as soon as possible after their conclusion.
May 1953-At the meeting of May 15, 1953, a number of changes were made in the organization of the department. Captain Gainsley was placed in charge of all divisions and was made second in command of the department. Lt. Schulpe was transferred from the Uniform Division to the Traffic Bureau. Sgt. Murray was promoted to lieutenant and placed in charge of one of the uniform platoons and Officer Henry Gensler was promoted to detective.
May 1954-Police Officers Lee Bauer and Howard Zeck request permission to purchase homes outside the city limits, which the commissioners approved.
June 1954-Lt. Hitchingham advises the commission of his intention to retire the following month, on his 60th birthday. Due to his retirement, the commission promoted Sergeant Olson to lieutenant, Detective Bauer to sergeant and Officer Staudenmaier to detective.
July 1954-The commission approves the installation of a telephone at the police pistol range.
December 1954-The commission receives a letter from Officer Ben Ball requesting permission to work past the age of 60, as he was to turn 60 the following month. The commission grants his request.
July 1955-The commission receives a recommendation from the police officers association that the department go to a 40 hour work week. The commission does not act on the recommendation.
September 1955-Chief Enkemann advises the commission that he was looking into the possibility of using women as police officers to check parking meters.
October 1955-The meeting is devoted to the wage problem of the officers which was keeping the department from being able to secure “competent men.” Chief Enkemann stated the department could not fill seven vacant police positions within the department and was constantly losing officers to the private sector, where wages were much higher. Chief Enkemann proposed a wage scale increase to the commissioners which was endorsed. The commissioners drafted a letter to city council asking that the wages be implemented. These recommendations were forwarded to the budget committee of the common council. The committee voted to raise the wages of the officers, but at a lower wage than had been sought. Due to this, 38 officers resigned.
The commissioners pleaded with the officers to reconsider their resignations and advised them they would go before city council to argue their case. These resignations were then withdrawn, pending city council action.
City council approved the lower wages recommended by the budget committee and 24 officers resigned from the department. Chief Enkemann and Captain Gainsley interviewed each man and attempted to persuade them to stay. Twelve officers withdrew their resignations and the remaining 12 left the department due to the low wages.
November 1955-Due to the resignations, Chief Enkemann told the commission that the patrol officers would be forced to work 12 hour days in order “to furnish somewhere near adequate police protection in Ann Arbor.” The commission agreed that the officers working the 12 hour days would “receive extra hours at their regular pay rates.”
January 1956-The commission discussed the problems of the 12 hour shifts the officers were working and the necessity of filling the open positions within the department.
March 1956-Chief Enkemann advises the commissioners that Captain Gainsley was selected to attend the F.B.I National Academy, which would run for 12 weeks. Chief Enkemann stated that the renovations to police headquarters was complete and these renovations separated the booking area from the dispatch room. Both had been in one location with prisoners often near the dispatchers, who were male officers. Chief Enkemann stated with this separation he would “like to try a plan of lady operators” for dispatching duties. The commissioners approve of the chief's plan.
April 1956-Due to the passing of the city charter, which placed the control of the police department directly under the city administrator, this was the final meeting of the police commission. Present at this final meeting were Police Commissioners H.L. Frisinger, R.E. Reichert, Chief Enkemann and Lt. Walter Krasny.
During this meeting Chief Enkemann read and explained a complaint filed against an officer for “misusing a prisoner in an inhuman way.” An investigation was produced for the commissioners and the officer was discharged by Chief Enkemann.
The final item discussed by the commissioners was the recommendation of Chief Enkemann that Officer Bobby King be promoted to detective. The commissioners agreed with the chief's recommendation and the meeting was then adjourned.
The police commission was in charge of the police department for 23 years and served extremely admirably. While the commissioners changed over the years, there is no question the formation of the police commission accomplished exactly what they were ordered to do, “run an efficient police department and keep politics out.”