Retirement of Officer Ben Ball

Another significant retirement that occurred during 1960, was that of Officer Ben Ball. Officer Ball was the longest holder of Badge “1”, which was given to the most senior officer in the department. Officer Ball was hired by the department in 1925 and retired in January of 1960, after more than 35 years of service.

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In his 35 years of service, he spent 33 of them walking the beat. When he was hired, officers worked 10 hours a day, six days a week and were paid $135 a month. Ben immensely enjoyed his work, stating, “No other job on earth is like police work. It's not like working at a factory or an office. With this you've got to take the job home with you, live with it, love it. I always did. And I was never unhappy.”

Officer Ball handled many interesting cases during his career. One of them was when he stopped a pick-up truck in 1928, during prohibition. The truck was hauling 21, 10-gallon milk cans. Officer Ball asked the driver if he could look into the cans, obviously thinking it was moonshine. The truck driver protested stating, “You can't look in there. That's special milk for babies and I've got to get it to the creamery.”

Officer Ball decided to look at this “special milk” and discovered $8,000 worth of moonshine. This moonshiner was placed under arrest for the illegal liquor.

It was well known in the city that Officer Ball loved to walk his beat, doing so for 33 years. Speaking with Officer Biederman, who worked for the department from 1940–1966, he told me that Officer Ball never had a driver's license while he worked for the police department. He felt if he obtained a driver's license, the department might force him into scout car work. When he retired, he finally obtained a driver's license and purchased a car! Officers walking the beat were expected to check every business in their area. If a break-in was reported the next day, the officer would find himself explaining to the sergeant why he did not discover it. Command officers often left notes in the doors of the businesses instructing the officers to contact them when they found the note. If the note was not found, the sergeant knew the building had not been checked. This note was left by an officer who was walking his beat and found a door to a business left open.

Russian Roulette

Most police departments have had incidents in which an officer was being careless with his weapon and the result was tragic. This occurred to our department on September 16, 1960, when Officer Milton Sinclair went to a party at his cousin's house in Detroit. Officer Sinclair had been a recent addition to the department, but had four years experience as a Detroit Police Officer.

He went to his cousin's party with his departmentally issued .38 revolver and handcuffs. While at the party, another partygoer, Martin Allard, asked to see Sinclair's weapon. Sinclair unloaded his revolver and placed the bullets on a table. He left the area and Allard picked up one of the bullets and placed it in the chamber of the weapon.

He then showed the gun to various persons at the party and asked one girl if she had ever played “Russian Roulette.” He then put the barrel of the gun to his head and began pulling the trigger. The gun went off and Allard was killed instantly.

Officer Sinclair was immediately suspended by Chief Gainsley and he resigned shortly thereafter. Chief Gainsley stated, “New officers are taught gun safety and precautions with almost as much emphasis as is placed on learning the law. We try to drill them the fact that a gun, especially their own, is not a plaything or a conversation piece. This is just one of those things that happens. Our sympathy goes out to the Allard family and Sinclair himself.”

Sgt. Headley Downey Dies of a Heart Attack

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On May 9, 1963, Detective Sgt. Headley Downey was investigating a larceny complaint on the University Campus, when he was fatally stricken with a heart attack. Sgt. Downey and Officer Frank Teachout, were taking a suspect back to the gym, so the suspect could show the officers where he had hidden a billfold. Sgt. Downey was driving to the gym when he pulled over and asked Officer Teachout to drive, as he stated he was not feeling well, but wished to continue with the investigation. He told Officer Teachout he had a pain in his chest, but did not place any significance to it.

They reached the gym and went to a downstairs locker room where Sgt. Downey stated he was too ill to walk. Officer Teachout then went back up to the patrol car to radio for an ambulance, while the suspect remained with Sgt. Downey. He was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Sgt. Downey had worked for the police department since 1946. He was promoted to sergeant in 1953. In 1960, he returned to patrolman's status, so he could transfer to the Detective Bureau. In 1962, he was returned to the rank of sergeant and assigned to the Detective Bureau. Sergeant Downey was the fourth Ann Arbor Police Officer to die while on duty. At the time of this book being written, he is the last officer to have died on duty.

Suspect Shot

Shooting a fleeing felon was still permissible in 1963, as evidenced by the shooting of an Ann Arbor man, who had stolen a car. Sgt. Marv Dann and Officer George Miller were on patrol when they attempted to stop the car, which had been reported stolen. The car was stopped at Fifth Avenue and Huron and the driver, Leroy Juide, was ordered out of the car. He was told to place his hands on the car, but ran from the officers instead. He began to run west on Huron and the officers gave chase. As Juide was outrunning the officers, Sgt. Dann fired a warning shot, but Juide continued running.

Officer Miller then fired one shot, which struck Juide in the back and passed through his body. He was taken to the University Hospital and eventually recovered from his wounds. It is hard to believe that officers were once allowed to shoot at someone for a property crime, much less someone who had stolen a car and then shoot him in the back. Truly a different era!