Significant Retirements in the 1970's

Retirement of Officer Robert “Robby” Robinson

Robby Robinson was a longtime, well-liked officer who retired on October 1, 1971. Robby started with the department in 1946 and was assigned as a beat, patrol and motorcycle officer, before being transferred to the Youth Bureau. It was in the Youth Bureau that he became involved in the explorer program. The explorer program was established in 1968 and Robby was the first advisor. The post is still in existence today, which is a program for youths interested in police work.

He was later transferred to the Community Relations Bureau, where he was assigned as the high school officer at Huron High. He stated the Huron High assignment was the one he liked the most in his years with the police department. “It's the most challenging and the most rewarding kind of work anyone can do,” he said. “I enjoyed the kids. Maybe they learned a little from me. I know I learned from them.”

Officer Robinson was also known as one of the top shots in the department. He won numerous trophies and plaques for his marksmanship at police pistol competitions throughout Michigan. The department “retired” three departmental trophies, after he won them three years in a row. As I wrote earlier, target shooting was something in which the department placed a great deal of importance.

Captain Eugene Staudenmaier

Captain Eugene Staudenmaier, the department's “one man intelligence unit” retired in January of 1973, after 25 years with the police department. Captain Staudenmaier started with the department in 1947 and when he was promoted he was transferred to the detective bureau, where he specialized in vice. He was the department's representative on a county-wide vice unit as at that time most pornography was illegal. The vice squad often seized photos and films that were sexually explicit.

Probably one of the most famous seizures the captain made was of the film “The Flaming Creatures” in 1967. Captain Staudenmaier and Prosecutor John Shea heard about the showing of this film and it's possible pornographic content. The film was being shown on the university campus at the architecture auditorium. The theatre was hosting a film festival, which was showing experimental movies.

During part of this film, a homosexual act is depicted and it was at this point the prosecutor ruled the film was obscene and ordered it seized. This brought an angry demonstration to city hall, where 100 people staged a sit-in. Four people were arrested for showing the film and one of them eventually pled guilty, while the charges against the other four were dismissed.

Eventually Captain Staudenmaier and Prosecutor Shea were summoned to Washington D. C., to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as they were holding confirmation hearings for Judge Abe Fortas, who was nominated to the United States Supreme Court. Evidently Fortas had liberal views when it came to such films and the senators wanted information about this one. Fortas would later be confirmed.

At the time Captain Staudenmaier retired, he was assigned to the campus, where he gathered intelligence on campus subversives and radical groups. The captain knew Tom Hayden, founder of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and John Sinclair, head of the White Panthers. Captain Staudenmaier was respected by these groups and was even allowed to sit in on their meetings.

Captain Staudenmaier stated, “Once the SDS had quite a verbal fight over whether or not to kick me out of one of their meetings. After discussing it, they finally voted to let me stay in. Naturally they pictured me as another police spy and figured I was just another political oppressor, a member of the establishment against whom their movement was aimed. But I think I beat that image. I respected certain confidences, I didn't push and I tried to present the police case while listening to their side of the issues. When it was all over, I think we understood each other.”

Chief Krasny agreed, stating, “He set up a rapport with dissident groups which was amazing. He did an excellent job, on a very difficult assignment.”

Deputy Chief Harold Olson

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Deputy Chief Harold Olson announced his retirement with the police department in December of 1977. Chief Olson had served with the department for over 32 years and worked his way up through the ranks. He was hired by the department shortly after Chief Krasny and their careers were linked together. He was a very trusted advisor of the chief, who felt he was his “top assistant.”

Chief Olson had some interesting thoughts when he retired, which seem practical even today. He stated, “Thirty years ago there was time and opportunity for a beat officer to build rapport with those he met daily on the job. An officer was more on his own, settling many disputes without the need of an arrest, because he probably knew the people involved. Now the city's bigger, the department is more widespread.

“In former years citizen complaints were rare. Now there are many complaints from citizens. It has to do with the loss of respect for authority but it even goes beyond that. Now you receive complaints because the tone of an officer's voice wasn't exactly right. While many complaints are legitimate, many we receive today amount to nitpicking, a defensive move aimed at simply finding fault.”

The chief also felt that since the officers were to busy to “visit” with citizens, “the patrolman has become a distant, unfamiliar and unwanted figure of authority who is seen only when there's trouble. Naturally in such a situation, when he responds to a call he is met with hostility and suspicion.”

A little known fact about Chief Olson was that his rank with the police department was actually Lieutenant Colonel. This fact was discovered when Sgt. Zazula purchased a number of old Ann Arbor badges from a collector and one of them was a Lieutenant Colonel's badge. Researching this badge he found that Chief Olson was actually promoted to this rank by Chief Krasny and was second in command of the department. A letter was found that Chief Olson had written to the collector stating that he had lost the badge after he retired. In this letter he stated he was just called chief instead of lieutenant colonel, as people were confused about the title and he just “let it slide.”

Detective Bill Lyons

Detective Bill Lyons retired in March of 1978, ending 30 years of employment with the Ann Arbor Police Department. Upon his retirement he stated, “I figured you treat everybody the same, no matter who they are. The best advice I could ever give a new guy breaking in on the job is treat other people the way you want to be treated.”

Detective Lyons served under three chiefs during his employment with the department. He handled a number of significant cases in his career from the recovery of an experimental car stolen which was worth over $100,000, to the arrests of kidnappers wanted in three states.

Major Howard Zeck

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Another significant retirement in the late 1970's was that of Major Howard Zeck. Major Zeck started with the police department in 1951 and left in April of 1978. He stated the biggest difference from 1951 to 1978 was the introduction of modern technology to police work. All of this technology added to a more efficient police department.

“I think dedication is the difference between the policemen of today and 30 years ago,” Zeck stated. “I was getting about $3,400 a year when I started as a patrolman. I had only two weeks of training and had to learn on the job, like everyone else. I think somewhere along the line, with all of our training and technology, we've lost the human element which has always been a major part of police work.”

Major Zeck told me that when he started and for years afterwards, he had to work a second job to make ends meet due to the low pay for the officers. Officers then truly loved what they were doing and gladly made the sacrifice of working another job, so they could remain police officers.