1. The Early Years

Officer George Camp was an Ann Arbor Police Officer from 1930–1941. In 1940, he was asked to write a paper on the history of the department by Chief Norman Cook. It is unknown why the chief asked him to write the paper, but without it, the history of the department during these early years would be virtually lost.

I was lucky enough to meet Officer Camp, months before his death in 1998, as I had gone to interview him about the murder of Officer Clifford Stang. Officer Camp's daughter gave me some photographs and a copy of the history paper her father had written, some 58 years prior to our meeting. I had very little history on the department in its formative years and this paper provided a wealth of information.

The Beginning

The origins of the Ann Arbor Police Department began on May 3, 1847, when H.K. Stanley was elected as the first marshal of the city. The marshal had no central office and received no compensation for his services, but was paid when he made an arrest. As there were very few arrests in those days, the marshal did not rely on this job for his livelihood. The marshal's only staff was a deputy marshal in each ward. The annual election for marshal continued for twenty years after Ann Arbor became a city in 1851.

In 1871, by action of the city council, it was decided that they would hire the marshal directly, dissolving the popular vote for his election. They also added new duties to his position, appointing him postmaster, superintendent of the parks and sidewalk inspector.

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The council also required the marshal to establish a permanent office so he could be reached by citizens of the community. Up to this point there was still no formal police organization. Night watchmen were employed by the merchants who were under the supervision of the marshal.

Later that year, events unfolded that led to the establishment of the Ann Arbor Police Department. A legislative committee from the Michigan State Legislature was visiting Ann Arbor, presumably on University of Michigan business. This committee would later report that they were quite surprised at the moral tone, or lack thereof, in the city and relayed their feelings to city council. Council obviously wanted to protect the university, keeping it in the city and the money that it brought into town.

Fearful of repercussions, at the council meeting of October 10, 1871, Councilman C. B. Porter made a resolution which stated, in part, “That a committee of three be appointed to take into consideration the question of employing policemen.”

Appointed to this committee was Porter and fellow councilmen, Jerimiah Peek and Joshua Leland. At that time there were 38 saloons, pool halls and gambling rooms in the city limits. One must remember that the city was geographically quite small at that time, so this was a very high number.

The police committee conducted an investigation and submitted their report to council on October 24, 1871. It stated, “The committee to whom was preferred the questions of employing a police force submit the following report and recommend the passage of the following resolution and accompanying ordinance and regulations.

“First- the police force is required for protection against burglars, situated as we are on one of the great thoroughfares of the State and with a large floating population, concerning the character of which at the best we can know but little, our City seems to furnish a safe retreat for desperate characters against whose depredations we have little or no protection.

Second- A police force is required for protection against incendiaries as well as accidental fires. It is necessary for your committee to call attention to the fact that our supply of water and fire apparatus is entirely inadequate to the wants of the City and that any general conflagration may result in the destruction of the more compactly settled portions of the City. Our only safety is in the discovery of fires in their inception and can only be done through an efficient and watchful police.

Third- A police force is required to suppress disorder and secure the enforcing of the ordinances of the city and the laws of the state. We are guardians of an important interest in the state and it is justly due to our generous patron that we should execute our guardianship faithfully and secure to our city a reputation as being a model town in all that relates to morality, sobriety and orderly conduct. There is no interest in the City that requires our fostering care to a greater extent than that connected to the University. Our future prosperity or ruin will turn upon the success or ruin of that institution. The committee have been informed and believe that the burden of the complaint of the Committee of the Legislature that visited us last winter was the moral tone of public sentiment in our midst, as was shown by the great number of saloons, billiard and gambling rooms and the riot and disorder that prevailed and was reported to prevail on our streets during the night and far into the morning.

Fourth-Other cities in our State of far less pretensions than that of our own, support an efficient police force and consider it a necessary element for their protection.

Fifth-Your committee is of the opinion that the revenue derived from the tax on billiard tables and saloons and the fines imposed for the violations of ordinances will be sufficient to nearly, if not quite, support the police force, recommended and these sources of disorder may thus be made to pay for their own regulation and control. They therefore recommend the passage of the ordinances and resolutions.”

This ordinance was passed, thus establishing the Ann Arbor Police Department. I. H. Peebels was appointed marshal by council, making him the first chief of police. Appointed as patrolmen were Jermiah Peek, Erastus LeSuer, Joseph Preston, Edwin Gidley and Warren Hamilton. The date of these hires were November 6, 1871. The pay for the marshal was $2.25 a day and for the officers it was $2.00.

The city then established an ordinance to regulate “the Police of the City of Ann Arbor.” This ordinance was as follows;

Section One: A police of the City of Ann Arbor are hereby organized to consist of the Marshall of Ann Arbor who shall be the Chief of Police and such number of policemen as the Common Council shall from time to time be resolution determined.

Section Two: The policemen shall be appointed by the Marshall, with the advice and consent of the City Council.

Section Three: Any policemen may be suspended from duty or removed from office by the Council at any time, when in their opinions, there shall be reasonable cause to do so.

Section Four: It shall be the duty of the Police Chief, in emergency, alarm or public danger and whenever in their opinion the public good shall so require, to appoint such number of special policemen for temporary duty as they shall deem expedient.

Section Five: It shall be the duty of all persons in Ann Arbor, when called upon by any member of the police, promptly to aid and assist him in the execution of his duties.

Section Six: Every person arrested during the day, if practical, will be taken before the justice of the peace. If such an arrest is made at night or on Sunday, the person shall be lodged in the Washtenaw County Jail until he or she can be brought before the justice of the peace.

Section Seven: It shall be the duty of the Chief of Police to see that the laws of the state and ordinances of the City and rules and regulations of the Council are duly enforced throughout the City.

Section Eight: The Chief of Police shall have power to promulgate such orders to the policemen as he may deem proper and it shall be the duty of the policemen to render to him and his orders implicit obedience, but such orders shall be in writing and in conformity to the law and to rules and regulations of the Council.

While this ordinance is more than 100 years old, it clearly established that the council wanted a police department that was a professional one.

The first layoffs...

The first layoffs occurred very quickly for the young department when it was dismissed in its entirety on April 14, 1875. It's believed this was due to the financial condition of the city. Shortly thereafter, two officers were hired back and these two constituted the force until one additional officer was hired in October of 1875.

In 1878 the wages for the officers were $500 a year and $600 a year for the marshal. In 1884, the wages were raised to $720 a year for the officers and $780 for the marshal. During that year council ordered a telephone placed in the marshal's office and home, so he could be reached 24 hours a day. In 1887 the department was scheduled to add another officer, but his intended salary was used for streetlights. The marshal's office was in the city offices, which were located in the 200 block of N. Fourth Avenue. The offices remained there until 1907, when city hall was constructed in the 200 block of E. Huron.

In May of 1894, two officers were added to the department for the purpose of patrolling the State Street business district during the night and downtown. In June of that year, the department made eight arrests. Four of these were for drunkenness and four were for ordinances violations. For the year of 1895, 211 arrests were made and the police budget was $3,401.80.

At the turn of the century, the department consisted of the marshal and four officers. While the department was still small, the chief decided to promote an officer to sergeant in 1901. Officer Harris Ball was appointed and he became the first sergeant in the department's history.

From 1871 to 1906, there were four Ann Arbor Police Officers shot in the line of duty. None of these officers died of their wounds. I could find little about these shootings, with the exception of the shooting of Marshal Charles Masten, which occurred in 1906. Marshal Masten was shot when he went to a northside residence to make an arrest. During the attempted arrest, the suspect shot Marshall Masten in the abdomen with a shotgun. The suspect escaped and the city council offered a $500 reward for his capture. It is unknown if the suspect was ever captured, but when Officer Camp wrote his report in 1940, Marshal Masten was still alive carrying birdshot in his stomach from the shooting.

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Officer Clayton Collins was thought to be the first black Ann Arbor Officer when he was hired in 1950. However, according to Officer Camp's report, a black officer named Thomas Blackburn, was hired in 1907. I discovered a photo of Officer Blackburn and it does not appear that he was black. Officer Blackburn was with the department for ten years and it is open for debate if he or Officer Collins was the first black officer.

Student Riot at the Star Theatre...

One of the biggest events in the early years of the Ann Arbor Police Department was a student riot at the Star Theatre. This riot took place on March 16, 1908. Interestingly enough, the Star Theatre was located at 118 W. Washington, which later became the site of Conlin and Wetherbee Clothing Store, where Officer Clifford Stang was murdered in 1935.

The riot occurred as the manager of the theatre and a pool room operator, approached a “star” University of Michigan football player and asked him to “throw” a game. The two men would bet heavily on the opposing team, therefore winning a great amount of money, of which the player would receive a share.

The football player refused and this information was kept quiet until the following spring. Somehow students learned about this and told the manager to close the theatre for good. Evidently the students felt so aggrieved that they did not want the theatre operating. The manager did not heed their warning and one week later the theatre was still in operation.

On the evening of March 16, the students assembled downtown and walked to the theatre. When they arrived, they demanded that the manager come outside and speak with them. The manager obviously felt the students wanted to do more than “talk” and ran out the back door of the theatre.

When the manager did not appear, the students began to throw bricks at the windows of the theatre. A building across the street from the theatre was under construction and there were truckloads of bricks sitting in front of the structure.

These bricks were promptly used to destroy the outside of the theatre and once this was done, their anger was turned on the interior. The riot lasted all night and futile efforts were made by police, fire and university officials to stop it. Sixty-two arrests were made and numerous officers received injuries along with torn, damaged and lost uniforms.

Among the civilians injured was Fred Cook, who lived in an apartment directly over the theatre. He was injured with a hurled brick and happened to be the father of future Police Chief Norman Cook. Future Chief Cook was nine at the time, but vividly recalled the incident for the rest of his life. The theatre was completely destroyed, inside and out.

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The First Patrol Car...

In 1910, the officers were outfitted with electric flashlights. Future Chief Thomas O' Brien also was promoted to sergeant during this year and the sergeant's salary was $75 a month, while officers made $66 a month. It was during this year that the city council received a communication from the chief asking them to consider “the advisability of procuring a motorcycle for the use of the police department.”

This was reported to the Police Committee of the Council, who did not think it was advisable to purchase a motorcycle, but did wish to purchase an automobile for patrol when funds became available.

Up to this point the only transportation owned by the department was a bicycle. On many occasions a horse and buggy was rented for departmental use. The Polhemus and Walker Liveries furnished most of the livery services for the department. If an officer was stopped in the street and told of a call that required immediate service and it was some distance from him, he would stop a horse and buggy and order the driver to take him to that location. It was considered the duty (in fact an ordinance) of the citizens to assist the officer. One of the officers also had his own horse and buggy, which was frequently used when he was working.

As there was no officer in the station during the night, if there was a problem that needed an officers attention, the telephone operator would ring a phone at the corner of Main and Huron. This would cause a red light in the center of the street to activate, alerting the officers on foot patrol to call. The police bicycle was parked near this intersection to be used if needed.

If an officer did not respond to the light, the operator would call Prochnow's restaurant, which was located on E. Huron. Mr. Prochnow would then go outside and beat an iron club on a hitching post, which was at the curb. In the still of the night, this noise was audible anywhere downtown and alerted the officers that they were needed. It was a very common occurrence for the merchants to use this method to summon the officers when needed, sort of a 911 without a telephone!

In 1911, the council passed the first ordinances governing motor vehicle traffic. Speed was restricted to 10 miles a hour in the business district and 15 miles a hour in residential sections. Unfortunately the department had no vehicle to use to enforce these ordinances, until September, 6, 1911, when council authorized the purchase of a motorcycle. This motorcycle was purchased from Staebler and Sons at a cost of $281.58. Patrolman Gustave Meyer was the first officer assigned to ride the motorcycle.

The following year a proposal was sent to council requesting the expenditure for a “police auto patrol wagon.” The mayor vetoed this as he did not want to put any “undue strain on the taxpayers.”

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In 1913, the council agreed to purchase a light automobile, as they had come to the conclusion that “the purchase of a light automobile, cost not to exceed $500 over and above what may be realized from the sale of the old motorcycle, would be better than the purchase of a new motorcycle, as a light car can be used to stop speeding and also as a light patrol wagon.”

The department bought a Studebaker-EMF-30 roadster, making it the department's first patrol car, but only two of the officers knew how to operate it. By 1915, the patrol car, which had been bought used, was in very bad shape. Chief Pardon's personal car was used frequently during this period.

I have found conflicting accounts of the first patrol car used by the department. Most accounts state the department used its first patrol car in 1923, when a Ford Model T was confiscated from a bootlegger. I believe this is inaccurate and that the Studebaker was the first vehicle owned by the department. I did find an old photo of this vehicle and the year listed on it was 1913.

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Gangsters and Bootleggers...

On August 23, 1916, Chief Frank Pardon died suddenly. Sgt. Thomas O'Brien was chosen to succeed Chief Pardon and in an odd coincidence, the next three Ann Arbor Police Chiefs would die in office.

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In 1919, the department's sworn strength was 13 men. Salaries for the officers were $149.28 a month, which were low even for this period. Due to this low salary, many officers resigned to take jobs in the industrial field, as the pay was better. This was the start of decades of trying to keep officers from accepting jobs in the private field, where the pay was higher.

The life of a patrol officer was not an easy one in the 1920's. Officers worked long 12 hours shifts for substandard pay. The city at this time consisted of 26,000 people, while the department had 15 officers and one Model T Ford, which was confiscated from a bootlegger.

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Although crime was low, the prohibition period brought gangsters and bootleggers into Ann Arbor. These bootleggers smuggled moonshine liquor into the city and officers spent a great deal of time investigating these violations.

Officers were very suspicious of people in vehicles that they were unfamiliar with, as often these were bootleggers from out of town. Officers William Marz and Erwin Keebler had an encounter with suspected bootleggers that almost turned deadly for them, during the early morning of April 15, 1927.

The officers were preparing for their shift when Officer Keebler put on a bulletproof vest and asked Officer Marz to do the same. These vests were made of lead and were quite heavy. When Officer Keebler asked Marz to wear one, he refused, stating that the vests were too heavy. Keebler persisted stating, “You'd better strap that thing on. You never know what might happen and besides it will keep you warm.” His persistence would save Officer Marz's life.

The officers went on patrol, both of them wearing a bulletproof vest. While on patrol they stopped a black Ford Coupe for suspected bootlegging and searched the vehicle. The officers did not find any liquor, but neither the driver or passenger could answer their questions about who owned the vehicle. The officers felt the car was stolen, so they ordered the driver to follow the patrol car to the police station.

In those days, most of the vehicles had running boards. When officers ordered a vehicle to the station they would stand on one of the running boards and direct the driver to the police station. As most officers walked the beat, it was a convenient way to get to the station.

The officers told the driver that he would have to go to the police station so the incident could be investigated further. The driver was ordered to follow Officer Keebler as he drove to the police station, while Officer Marz stood on the running board of the suspect's vehicle.

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They were almost to the police station when, at the corner of Fifth and Huron, the passenger in the car withdrew a revolver from underneath the seat and began shooting at Officer Marz. Officer Marz was struck five times and was knocked off the running board, into the street. The suspects fled, and were not arrested. They fled to Detroit where the gunman was later shot to death by Detroit Police Officers. What Officers Keebler and Marz did not know, was that the suspects were wanted for kidnapping and murder in Detroit. Officer Marz recovered from his wounds and was saved due to the bulletproof vest.

When I discovered that Officer Marz was wearing a bulletproof vest, I was skeptical as I did not believe the department had them in 1927. I spoke to Major Zeck about the incident and when he started with the city in the 1950's, the department still had the lead vests. He said they were in fact very heavy and the officers did not wear them.

I tried to find more information on the incident, but was unable to do so. Many of the incidents in this book were researched from old newspaper accounts. Another way I found information about incidents which occurred early in the century, was through relatives. Many grandsons and granddaughters of officers were very eager to give stories of their grandfather's career.

While the department had a patrol car and motorcycle, beat officers provided most of the policing in the 1920's. Officers Red Howard and Ben Ball were the most popular among them. Officer Ball started with the department in 1925 and retired in 1955. He was well known and liked by citizens and merchants. In the 1920's, he dealt with numerous bootleggers, watching passing cars, looking for a vehicle's rear end almost touching the ground, knowing it was generally moonshine weighing the car down.

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Many officers who started in the 1920's went their entire careers walking the beat and never driving a patrol car. Patrol cars and radios, that were used in the 1950's, when many of these officers were retiring, were felt to be novelties.

The city council continued to be in charge of the police department and many thought this was a conflict of interest. Many within the community proposed the establishment of a police commission, so the department would be run impartially, without political influences. A proposed board of police commissioners would be selected by the mayor and approved by the city council. This commission would be responsible for the budgeting, hiring and firing for the department. The chief would report directly to the police commissioners. It was felt that the commission would eliminate political pressures from the chief, insulate him from political controversies, which would enable him to focus on the day to day operations.

An amendment to the city charter was passed in January of 1923, which established the police commission. Clarence Snyder, George Burke and John Swisher were the first police commissioners and began service on May 7, 1923.

The commission served admirably for more than thirty years before it was disbanded in 1956, when the city charter was passed. When the new charter was established, it created the position of city manager with the chief reporting to this newly established position. Guy Larcom Jr. was the city's first city manager and Chief Enkemann then reported to him.

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In 1927, the police commission requested council to approve a three platoon system for the department, thereby adding a third sergeant. This reduced the officers hours from ten hour days to eight. It also forced the city to hire eight additional officers but the rank of lieutenant was abolished. The lieutenant was then made a plainclothes officer. Future Chief Sherman Mortenson was promoted to the rank of sergeant and the sworn strength of the department was now 29 men.

Up to that point officers worked long hours for little pay. They typically worked 12 hours days and vacations were earned only after three years on the force. In 1917 or 1918, the officer's hours were reduced to 10 hours a day and they received one day off a month. It was not until 1921 that the officers received one day off a week.

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