Retirement of Police Chief Rolland Gainsley

On September 8, 1966, Chief Barney Gainsley announced his retirement from the Ann Arbor Police Department. He had been chief since 1960, when Casper Enkemann retired. The chief retired with over 31 years with the police department. Chief Gainsley left the department to accept a position as head of the University of Michigan's Department of Public Safety.

Barney Gainsley started with the Ann Arbor Police Department on April 4, 1935. He was sworn in by then chief, Lewis Fohey. He had come to Ann Arbor in 1930 and went into the service station business. At his gas station, many of his customers were police officers, one being Police Chief Fohey himself. He told the chief he was interested in police work and the chief urged him to apply. Initially, he did not take up the chief's invitation, but did when Officer Clifford Stang was murdered. Chief Gainsley was moved by Officer Stang's murder stating. “I figured if Sid (Officer Stang) believed in what he was doing so much that he'd give his life for it, it must be something pretty special.”

He was very concerned with civil rights and felt strongly about his officers protecting these rights. He stated, “If we deny to one person the rights given him by the constitution, we're striking at the very system which the badge represents. Every conscientious officer knows this.”

Looking back on his career, he stated if he had to do it over again, “I would try to have more education before I ever went on the job. Education, training, instruction, these are things which will bring the police field up to the standard of a profession it deserves. I look for the day when only men with some college background will be accepted as patrolmen. I look for municipal governments to sponsor officers going to college, attending courses in sociology, psychology and related fields. We need to learn and to keep on learning.”

Chief Barney Gainsley died of a heart attack on April 21, 1981. He lived at 1400 Iroquois with his family for over forty years. He acquired the nickname “Barney” when he was caught speeding by a neighbor when he was a teenager. The neighbor told his father, “He drives like Barney Oldfield (a famous race car driver of the day). You better tell him to slow down.” From that day on the nickname “Barney” stuck.

Officer John Biederman also left the department in September of 1966. He wore the “number 1” badge for years, as he started with the department in 1940. Until recently, badge number assignments were made on seniority. The number “1” badge went to the patrolman with the most seniority. When the officer with badge “1” retired, this badge was given to the number “2” man and on down the line. This, of course, led to the constant changing of badge numbers and the practice was stopped in the late 1960's.

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Officer Biederman had been a sergeant from 1946 to 1951. He found being a supervisor very stressful and told me it was not worth the extra $1 a day. In 1951 he asked Chief Enkemann if he could return to patrol as an officer and this was granted. He went to the traffic section for a short period of time as a motorcycle officer and then was placed in charge of the city's traffic lights and parking meters. At that time an officer was responsible for their maintenance and repair and Officer Biederman was to became an expert in the repair of these items.

When Officer Biederman retired he complained of the change in police work. He stated, “When I joined the department in 1940, there was still a lot of respect in people for the law and the men who were chosen to enforce it. But that is all gone now. Today a police officer has to take verbal and even physical abuse, that was unheard of years past.”

When I began this book, Officer Biederman was still alive, living at 825 Miller. He had lived in this house his entire life, as it was passed down to him from his parents. Officer Biederman died in 1999.

Lt. H. D. Schluple was another officer that retired from the police department in 1966. He began his career with the department in 1937 and retired as a lieutenant. Upon retiring he echoed some of Officer Biederman's concerns about law enforcement stating, “If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't take this kind of job. There's too much grief, too much trouble. The hours are poor and the pay is bad.”

Appointment of Police Chief Walter Krasny

Due to the pending retirement of Chief Gainsley, three Ann Arbor Command Officers tested for the vacant police chief's position. Walter Krasny, who had been appointed as the interim chief, Captain Harold Olsen and Lt. Eugene Staudenmaier were the three applicants. These three went before a panel of three police executives, who graded their presentations. The results were sent to City Administrator Guy Larcom who, with city council's approval, appointed Acting Chief Walter Krasny to the position of police chief. Chief Krasny was officially named police chief on October 3, 1966.

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Chief Krasny was a long serving member of the department, who received his start in police work through an innocent encounter with Ann Arbor Police Chief Lewis Fohey in the early 1930's. At that time Krasny was delivering ice in Whitmore Lake, where Chief Fohey had a cottage. Chief Fohey was impressed with Krasny's athletic ability and told him to apply with the department.

When Krasny turned 21, he took the chief up on the offer and was hired in 1939. He slowly worked his way up through the department, receiving numerous promotions and commendations along the way. Chief Krasny was highly thought of by department members and was well received as chief of police.

When Chief Krasny took over as chief he was faced with many substantial issues. As the deputy chief's position was vacant, he was under pressure to appoint an African American to this spot. Needless to say, this was not an easy issue to deal with as the department did not have one black command officer at that time, although this would change within weeks with the promotion of Officer Eddie Owens to sergeant. Civil rights groups were demanding the chief appoint a black to this position. The Human Rights Commission sent a resolution to City Administrator Guy Larcom urging “the naming of a Negro to a command position in the police department.” Mr. Larcom said he would not go “outside of the department to fill the post, as top command appointments are made by the chief with my approval.”

Interestingly enough, the deputy chief position was not filled and was eliminated for years. It is not known if the chief thought it would not be worth the trouble to appoint a white command officer to the position and alienate the black community, or if he felt the position was not needed.

Tensions were extremely high between the black community and the police department. I have found many accounts of near riots between black youths and officers during this period. Luckily for the department, Chief Krasny was instrumental in alleviating this tension, due to a series of meetings with local civil rights leaders and community activists.

The chief was also faced with a drastic manpower shortage with 15 positions remaining unfilled. In one of his first official orders, he stated he would launch an “intensive” recruiting drive to attempt to fill these positions.

The chief was also under pressure to review the citizen complaint process against officers and ways to improve it. Many attempts and suggestions were made to the chief to improve this process. One such suggestion came in 1966, when City Administrator Guy Larcom recommended the creation of an advisory committee to handle these complaints. Larcom suggested this board to the city council, but did not feel it would field many complaints.

Under Larcom's proposed system a complaint would be investigated by a command officer within the police department. The advisory committee would be used when the complaint could not be resolved.

Making up this board would be the police chief, a police officer, the city attorney, the city human relations director, three “Negro” leaders and two “white” citizens. The committee would be appointed by the city administrator. Originally some council members had asked for the creation of a citizen's review board and this was probably seen as a compromise. After this board made its recommendation, Larcom would then go to the chief to, “work out the problem.”

One must remember that this was during the civil rights struggle and there was deep mistrust between the black community and the police department, not only in Ann Arbor, but nationwide. Chief Krasny countered with his own proposal. His would ensure that all complaints would be investigated, no matter how trivial. He stated the entire procedure would be “documented, presented to the city administrator and council, then published so that all officers and citizens of Ann Arbor would be aware of the procedure followed in registering the complaints.”

Chief Krasny's suggestion to council was adopted, but many were distrustful of this new complaint policy. Councilman H. C. Curry thought that some citizens would be hesitant to file complaints directly to the police department.

Promotion of Ann Arbor's First Black Command Officer

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Shortly after his promotion, Chief Krasny promoted three officers to sergeants, one of them being very significant. On October 27, 1966, Corporals Dale Heath, Tom Minick and Officer Eddie Owens were promoted to the rank of sergeant.

Significant about the promotions was the fact that Officer Owens was the police department's first black command officer. Sgt. Owens was hired by the department in 1953. He had served with the Army during World War Two and had achieved the rank of sergeant there.

Sgt. Owens was eventually promoted to the rank of lieutenant and was in charge of the department's Youth Bureau. Sgt. Owens handled his new assignment, and the pressure that accompanied it, superbly and was very well liked by departmental personnel.

Formation of the Ann Arbor Police Officer's Association

In November of 1966, the Ann Arbor Police Officers Association was re-established after two failed attempts to establish a police union for Ann Arbor Officers. Officer Darwin Cullin was elected as the first president of the association. The purpose stated for the formation of the association ranged from a vow to seek “economic stability” and the promise to provide legal representation to officers if needed. One of the keys to this was the protection for the officers against unwarranted and baseless charges of “police brutality.” The constitution of the association also pledged to assist financially, officers' families in the case of a line of duty death.

When the association was formed it included only patrol officers, of which there were 41 at the time. Funds for the association's operation were provided through dues, taken from the officers. Interestingly, Officer Cullin's tenure as president was very short as he was promoted in December of 1966 and was forced to resign from the association. Officer Don Johnson was then appointed as the president. The association was recognized by city council on January 19, 1969, as the exclusive bargaining unit for patrol officers. In 1974, city council passed a resolution which allowed limited duty officers and communications operators the right to join the association.