Establishment of the Youth Bureau

The department had long held that juvenile crime was serious in nature and had to be dealt with differently than adult crimes. In 1951, there were 753 juvenile offenders while in 1952, the figure had jumped to 841. Juvenile crime was on the rise and the department was concerned about it. Chief Enkemann spoke to a reporter about juvenile crime stating he “felt the problems with juvenile offenders rested solely with their parents and their lack of involvement with their children.” He spoke of one child who had started off his criminal career with a simple curfew violation and eventually ended up in prison. He had found the youth's father at the bar when the juvenile was arrested for the first violation and he felt the father should have been sent to prison for “lack of control over his son.”

The chief spoke at the Rotary Club about juvenile delinquency on April 10, 1952. He stated, “Too many Ann Arbor parents entrust the baby's personal safety to a casual baby sitter. They deliver their children to the Sunday School and the public school and expect teachers to bring up their children properly. In my 22 years as a police officer, I have never run across any case that could be truthfully called juvenile delinquency, but I have handled numerous cases of parental delinquency.

“Neither economic status nor race are factors in the juvenile problem in Ann Arbor. Youngsters who get into trouble come from our finer homes as well as our poorer ones. Of the 753 boys and girls whose troubles came to us, only 3 were Mexicans and 61 were Negroes. The remaining 689 were white, from all types of homes in which the parents had not done their jobs.”

Chief Enkemann felt the total amount of youths that were in trouble the previous year, was disproportionately high for the population of Ann Arbor. He stated it was a severe indictment of the parents of the city.

Due to these problems, the department began enforcing a little used city ordinance, regulating the curfews of juveniles. This law prohibited juveniles 15 and under from being out from 10:00 P.M. to 06:00 A.M. Even then this curfew law brought dispute with it. Many in the community felt the law was unconstitutional and it was eventually challenged in court.

When a juvenile was arrested for a curfew violation, the officer would normally take the youth home. Chief Enkemann felt the officers were being used as a “taxi service” and ordered the officers to take the juveniles to the station, to have their parents come and pick them up.

Due to these problems, it was felt a separate division within the department was needed to deal more effectively with juvenile crime. Prior to 1954, the department did not have the personnel for such a division.

In 1954, however, the city council authorized the establishment of the Youth Bureau, as it was then called. The Youth Bureau consisted of Sgt. George Simmons and Officer Chester Carter. Simmons was considered the department's expert in dealing with juvenile offenders. I should note that the department had taken juvenile crime quite seriously even before establishing a Youth Bureau. In 1940, Officer George Camp was named the department's juvenile officer with the responsibility of handling all juvenile investigations. Officer Camp started a number of programs for the youths of the city, one of which was a Boy's Civic Club.

The Youth Bureau began by establishing programs for juveniles within the community, like Officer Camp had done. One of these programs was the sponsorship of four baseball teams that competed in a city league. These teams were coached by eight officers, who did so on their own time.

The Youth Bureau also found jobs for juvenile offenders. If anyone had a job for a juvenile, from lawn cutting to farm work, they would call the Youth Bureau, who would then send out a young offender. These jobs were varied and included ones from the university to working for the Girl Scouts.

This job program snowballed and was thought to be the most effective way in dealing with summertime juvenile mischief. The University of Michigan used 80 boys and girls for waiters and waitresses. These youths were paid 90 cents an hour for their services.

The jobs program provided over 400 jobs for the city's youth, in the first year. A teen would apply in person at the Youth Bureau for a job and they would match them with a job, appropriate with their skills. The department encouraged home owners and businesses to call if they had any jobs available, including baby-sitting, lawn mowing and general household chores. Non-offenders were eventually allowed to apply for these jobs.

The city council also established a permanent municipal committee on youth problems. This board consisted of the officers from the Youth Bureau, principals of the junior high schools, youth counselors, a YMCA secretary and two members of the city council.

Sgt. Simmons eventually won the “Phillip H. Lord Award of Merit” for his outstanding contribution to law enforcement through his work with juveniles. Sgt. Simmons was a sought after speaker for his expertise in dealing with troubled juveniles.

Also very interesting was the assignment of an officer to the Ann Arbor High School in 1965. Officer Chester Carter was assigned to the school for not only the protection of the students and faculty, but to provide a liaison between the police department and the youth. Another Ann Arbor high school, Huron High, was opened in the 1970's, and an officer was assigned there also. To this day there is a full time officer assigned to both Ann Arbor High Schools.

Polio Vaccine

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The introduction of the polio vaccine was obviously a history making event in the 1950's. This disease left many children and adults paralyzed, as there was no cure for it. When the polio vaccine was introduced, authorities wanted it protected when Ann Arbor received its first shipment. This shipment was stored at the police department and refrigerated under lock and key. This is one of many instances I found of the police department being used for unconventional reasons.

Ann Arbor Police Budget of 1953–54

The proposed budget of the police department for the fiscal year of 1953–54 was $324,590. The police commission requested an increase of $34,916 over the previous year, most of the money to cover wages. Part of this was the rise in salary of policewomen, to match that of male officers. The commission explained to the council that they could not hire female officers, as the pay for them was to low.

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Female officers and civilian clerks continued to play a very important role in the police department. As there was not a secretary of state, driver licenses were issued by the police department. Over 1,000 people per month came to the police department to obtain their license, which taxed the resources of the department. Due to this, the records system of the department was being neglected and the commission recommended to council that an expansion of the police department and the hiring of additional personnel was necessary.

Not only was the records division in poor shape, but the detective bureau was in cramped quarters of city hall, in the basement. Since the then current city hall opened in 1937, no expansion of police department space had taken place. The commissioners stated in their report to council that the detective bureau needed more space where, “modern police methods could be put into use, instead of having to take people into the dirty, dingy basement, where, at present time, we do not have our show-up room; or having to take people into the hallway for interviews.”

The commissioners summarized the need for expansion stating, “Gentlemen, Ann Arbor is no longer the small community which some people would like to have us believe it is. The number of felony cases in Circuit Court have increased 48% since 1945.”

The commission ended their report stating that “Ann Arbor was growing at a rate in which the needs of the police department must be met, despite the costs.”

Daring Escape Ends in Gunfire

Two convicted armed robbers attempted to escape from the circuit court after being found guilty of armed robbery on June 21, 1954. The two, Charles and Gordon Ervin, were considered the most dangerous criminals that were lodged at the jail. The two had been convicted of robbing the Kroger's on Jackson Ave., of $4800.

The two were at court for their trial and after the guilty verdict was read, Judge Breakey thanked and dismissed the jury, while the Ervins were placed in a small bullpen in the rear of the courtroom. The prisoners were not handcuffed due to the orders of the judge and took this opportunity to make their break.

Detectives ran over to the bullpen as they heard breaking glass and attempted to open the door to it. As Detective Oltersdorf tried to open the door, the doorknob came off in his hands as the Ervins had removed the screws to it. Oltersdorf then kicked open the door, but both brothers had fled out of the window, which was 25 feet in the air.

The brothers walked along a five inch ledge and then jumped to the roof of the new courthouse being built on Ann Street. Both of the brothers were on the roof when Detective Oltersdorf reached the bullpen window. Charles jumped to the ground as Oltersdorf opened fire on him and he fell into a open hole leading to the basement. Because of the fall he broke his pelvis and hip and was quickly placed under arrest.

Gordon headed across the rooftop as deputies opened fire on him and struck him in the chest. He continued to run but was arrested across the street from the court, in an ice cream parlor.

Both brothers were taken to the University Hospital and treated for their wounds. They were brought back to Judge Breakey's courtroom the very next day to be sentenced with an army of 35 officers guarding the courthouse. Charles was taken to court on a stretcher and both brothers were sentenced to 50 to 60 years in prison.