Department Changes

In 1939, the department underwent several changes as a result of the work done by Superintendent Broom and Chief Cook. One of these measures was a disciplinary board. This board was approved by the officers of the department and it was formed to hear citizens complaints against them. The board would impose penalties on officers if they were found guilty of an infraction of police rules. The board was comprised of the chief, two patrolmen elected by the officers and two sergeants. The committee would meet whenever there was a complaint against an officer. Chief Cook emphasized that officers were considered “innocent until guilt was proven” and that policing “is a science requiring intelligence and training.”

The board could impose penalties such as loss of leave days or vacation. The board could recommend dismissal or suspension, but only the police commission could order this type of discipline. The first case of discipline brought before the board was a complaint of an officer who parked his patrol car in a one hour parking spot. The vehicle was found parked over the legal time limit and the officer was forced to work his two leave days, without pay. The board said that officers are “an example for citizens and the officer was setting a bad example.”

Another part of the work done by Superintendent Broom was to improve training for new officers. Chief Cook agreed with his suggestion that new officers receive, “70 hours of concentrated instruction in every phase of police work.”

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There was no state law regulating or licensing police officers in the state at that time. Officers did not attend a police academy before their employment with the department. Many prospective officers were asked to join the police department by someone on the force. Future Chief Krasny was in the first recruit class that underwent this “extensive police training.” The only requirements were that an applicant had to be between 21 and 30 yrs, at least 5′9″ and a high school graduate.

It is hard to imagine that only 70 hours of instruction would enable one to become a police officer and one could see how far the police profession has come. New officers today receive well over 1000 hours of training before they are allowed to become sworn officers. It was quite common in this era for officers to shoot at fleeing suspects for minor offenses. Car chases usually always involved a shot or two being fired, which today is unheard of.

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One such case in 1939 involved a 17 year old who had stolen a car. He was arrested near Michigan Stadium and was being transported to the police station, when he opened the door and fled from the patrol car. He ran east on Huron to S. Division, where he was spotted in a backyard. Officers began firing their revolvers in the air, in an attempt to scare the youth, who was re-captured.

Another case involved Officers Iller and Ogilvy, on January 12, 1940, as they were pursuing a stolen car. At Washtenaw and Stadium the occupants lost control of the car and bailed out, running from the officers. They chased the suspects into a neighborhood and only could see “shadowy figures.” The officers began firing their weapons into the air and all three suspects were captured.

Officers were also quick to use their revolvers to shoot wayward animals. In one instance a citizen at 700 Pauline was bothered by owls that were hooting and keeping him up. A call was made to the police department and Officer Henry Murray was dispatched to the complaint. Officer Murray quickly found the offending owls and shot five of them that were perched in a near-by tree. I don't think this would endear the department to the citizens in our current era. Ducks and pigeons were frequently shot while the officers were working, as they would supplement their income by taking home the deceased animals for meals.

Officers were also asked to perform duties that would be unexpected of them today. One such duty was to paint the dividing lines in the roadway. They would use the motorcycle with the sidecar for this duty, as the officer in the sidecar would paint the dividing line, while the other drove.

During this era, it is amazing how police work was different from today, yet, in many ways it was very similar. The most similar events were the crimes themselves. Ann Arbor has always suffered a high amount of larcenies and parking complaints were a problem even then. A major concern was also traffic safety as traffic fatalities numbered about what they do today.

On July 7, 1939, Officer Herb Kapp saved a baby from becoming one such fatality. Officer Kapp was on motorcycle patrol in the 700 blk of N. Main, when he observed the baby crawling in the road. He raced up to the child and stopped traffic in both directions, saving the baby from being hit. Officer Kapp then returned the child to his parents at 718 N. Main.

A few days later Chief Cook received a letter from the mother of the child, praising Officer Kapp for his actions. The mother, Mrs. Louis Schneider, stated, “We might have lost our baby boy if it had not been for Officer Kapp's quick actions. The baby had climbed under the front gate on the porch and was heading right for the middle of Main St. He quickly stopped his motorcycle and proceeded to stop cars coming and going in both directions. With the cars at a standstill, the baby was out of danger. Again we want to thank Officer Kapp for his quick thinking and for saving our baby.”

U of M football Saturdays were also similar to today's games, requiring all Ann Arbors Officers to work. They were complimented by 35 Michigan State Troopers and 15 officers from the Jackson Police Department. Approximately 75,000 attended a typical football game, which resulted in 15,000 additional cars in the city, which taxed the small police force.

Even back in the thirties there was trouble before some of the games. Before the Michigan-Michigan State game in 1939, officers braced for a riot, due to riots which occurred during the last two meetings of the teams. These “riots” consisted of students battling with the police. The Ann Arbor News complimented the officers conduct during this game in 1939, stating, “Instead of looking for trouble on the basis of what had happened in previous years, the police operated on the theory that the students would behave themselves. It was noteworthy that the police brandished no weapons. Revolvers were out of sight beneath coats, and night sticks were left at the station. The police leaned over backwards to avoid anything that might have inflamed the crowd's emotions.”
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