2. The 1930's
The 1930's began with Chief Thomas O'Brien leading the department. Chief O'Brien would serve as chief for over 17 years, making him the longest serving chief in the department's history.
Chief O' Brien was a very well liked chief both within the department and the community. He started with the department in 1907 and was one of six officers before being promoted to sergeant and then chief in 1916. He had previously worked for the fire department before becoming a police officer.
Chief O'Brien died suddenly of a stroke at his home at 808 Lawrence, on July 2, 1933. He was survived by his wife Agnes, sons John, Robert and Russell. Chief O'Brien was born on July 29, 1876.
The city was saddened by his unexpected death. George Lutz of the police commission stated, “I have known the chief for a good many years, both as a friend and through association as a member of the council and on the police commission. He was always faithful to his duties and conducted his office quietly and modestly. The city has lost an outstanding official and citizen.”
Mayor Robert Campbell stated, “I had been a close friend of Chief O'Brien for many years and always had been proud of him as our police chief. The citizens of Ann Arbor have lost a trusted friend and loyal officer.” There was a large turnout for the chief's funeral and he was buried at St. Patricks cemetery in Northfield Township.
Interestingly enough, Chief O'Brien's grandson still lives in the family house at 808 Lawrence Street. The home has been in the family since 1926, when it was purchased by Chief O'Brien.
After the death of Chief O'Brien, Sgt. Lewis Fohey was promoted to police chief at a wage of $2400 a year. Chief Fohey started with the police department in 1920, was promoted to sergeant in 1924 and then chief.
Chief Fohey was in charge of the department until he became ill in May of 1939. He was not able to return to work and the city council granted him half his wage while he was off on sick leave. The police commission issued a resolution stating, “Whereas, it has appeared to this commission that Lewis Fohey, who has served this department faithfully, efficiently and loyally for many years, is now disabled because of sickness and should be granted a leave of absence from active service pending his recovery and whereas it is the desire of this commission to continue the employment of the said Lewis Fohey as chief of police,
“Therefore, be it resolved:
- That on account of sickness, Chief Fohey is given an indefinite leave of absence from active service, effective May 31, 1939, subject to call to active duty by this commission if he is found to have recovered his health or if his services are required because of an emergency.
- That during the period Lewis Fohey is on leave from this department, because of sickness as aforesaid, he shall after June 30, 1939, receive one-half his annual salary, or $1380 per year”
Chief Fohey died on July 20,1939 and the Acting Chief, Norman Cook, was appointed replace him by the police commission.
When Chief Fohey started with the department it consisted of thirteen officers and upon his death it had grown to 39 men.
A large funeral was held for Chief Fohey, which the entire department attended, as did most of the fire department. Chief Fohey was also buried in St. Patrick's cemetery in Northfield Township.
Chief Cook was officially promoted to chief on July 20, 1939. Chief Cook was hired by the police department in 1923. In the early years of Chief Cook's administration he was credited with a number of progressive actions. Only two patrol vehicles had two way radio communication and the department's only motorcycle could receive, but not transmit. Chief Cook administered the completion of the two way radio system.
The police department's firing pistol range was constructed during his administration with virtually no expenditures from the taxpayers. His biggest contribution was his attitude toward the university and it's students, as he worked to improve the relationship between the university and the police department.
Up to this point the student-police relationship was very strained. Chief Cook advised his officers that they “were never to display any ill-will toward the students.” Whenever an incident involved a student the officer was instructed “not to discriminate against them because they were a student.”
Dean of Students Joseph Bursley had the “fullest praise” for Chief Cook and the cooperation that the department had shown the students during the school year of 1938–39.
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