Race relations between the black community and the police department were at times tense and uneasy during the 1960's. A letter written to the Ann Arbor News in July of 1963 illustrates these tensions.
The writer stated he was informed of several instances of Ann Arbor Police Officers “stopping Negroes” in the community for no reason. The writer raised questions as to the department's policy in dealing with people of race. He also wondered if it was a covert policy of the police department to subject people of race to unwarranted questioning.
The Ann Arbor News asked Chief Gainsley directly about these allegations. The chief stated, “It is the policy of the Ann Arbor Police Department to treat everyone with courtesy and respect, without considering race, color or creed. All officers receive considerable training in public relations and many officers attended courses at Michigan State University on human relations.
“It is the desire of my office to be notified on any specific case or cases involving an Ann Arbor Police Officer who does not conduct himself as a gentleman or who should act without proper cause.”
The Youth Bureau continued to be a success in the early 1960's. Lt. Simmons was still in charge of the bureau, as he had been since its inception. Working with the schools, the Youth Bureau sought to gain the trust of the children by putting on programs for them, from kindergarten on up. Lt. Simmons stated, “We try to show the kids that policemen are human. We tell them about times we were scared stiff. We don't try to give the impression we're supermen.”
The Youth Bureau had started in the mid-1950's with a two person staff. By the early 60's, it had grown to a four person bureau. Through the schools the bureau targeted at risk youth and attempted to intercede on their behalf. These were youth that had committed no known offenses, but came from troubled homes. It was hoped that the officer's intervention and positive influence would sway these juveniles from getting into trouble. The Youth Bureau continued its program of finding jobs for youths, which was still a very successful project.
The Youth Bureau was considered one of the most effective in the state. Detective Mary Smith began her career in the Youth Bureau and served in the Detective Division until her retirement in 1997. Mary served over thirty years in the department and was well respected. Mary never was in uniform, as in her day, women police officers worked in the Youth Bureau or as secretaries. Mary often patrolled the downtown stores and local parks looking for shoplifters and truants.
In 1963, there was a rise in juvenile crime and Detective Smith attributed this rise to the “impersonal neighborhood.” She stated there was a tendency for people to call the police to settle their disputes instead of policing their own groups, as was done in years past. In 1963, there was an increase of 200 juvenile offenders from the previous year.
Lt. Simmons retired in July of 1969, after more than 24 years with the department. He spoke of what he perceived to be the problems with the youth of the 1960's upon his retirement. “Times change, styles change but the basics never do,” he said. “Kids today, like they were decades ago are basically honest, what they want are the three R's-responsibility, respect and reverence. They may shout that they want none of that “square” stuff, but there're crying for it.
“Many parents live in fear of causing trauma in their kids if they say no or deny their offspring something they want. The youngsters are secretly pleading for a firm hand and the only thing they get is a handful of bills and the keys to the car.”
Lt. Simmons was a highly recognized expert on the issues involving troubled youth and many police departments created their youth bureaus, using the model established by him.
An extension of the Youth Bureau occurred in 1965, as an officer was stationed permanently at Ann Arbor High (there was only one high school in the city at that time). Officer Chester Carter was assigned to the school and most involved were very supportive of the idea. The program proved so popular that the school system assumed the wages of the officer and to this day there are officers at both Ann Arbor High Schools.
A bizarre incident took place on August 19, 1964, at 7:30 P.M. It involved off duty Officer Raymond Landis. Officer Landis was a part time caretaker for the University of Michigan and resided on Iroquois. At that time the University owned property near Iroquois, which was a Botanical Garden. Officer Landis was walking the grounds when he observed an open manhole cover. He pushed the cover back into place but then heard a voice from the sewer below.
Officer Landis then went back to his home and told his wife to call the department for assistance. He went back to the area of the manhole cover and observed the man, later identified as Jack London, lying on the ground near the sewer entrance. Officer Landis attempted to find out why London was on the property, but he would not respond.
At that point Landis told London that he was a police officer and he was placing him under arrest for trespassing. London then sprung to his feet and attacked Landis. Unknown to Officer Landis was that London was an escaped convict with a lengthy criminal record.
A fierce struggle ensued with London punching Landis in the face. London was screaming at Landis that he had a knife and shouted, “I'll stick you.” The fight continued and London began choking Landis and did so until the officer was unconscious.
Officer Landis regained consciousness and could hear London in the sewer below. Officers Charley Fojtik and Stanley McFadden arrived and went into the sewer to search for London. Every officer in the city was called in to assist and to cover various exit points from the sewer.
The superintendent of Public Works, Fred Mammel, and Civil Engineer Erwin Carbeck, were called in to provide information about the sewer lines. The officers in the sewer continued to search for London, but stopped along the way to exit the sewer to get larger flashlights and a radio. Manhole covers were randomly lifted to assist the officers below, in the hope of finding London.
Officers Fojtik and McFadden had to crawl through sewer pipes that were less than three feet wide. The search wound below the city' streets for more than two hours. Finally, after two hours of searching, Officers Fojtik and McFadden found the suspect in the sewer below the 700 block of S. Forest, some distance away from Iroquois. Officer Landis and London were taken to St. Joseph's Hospital and were treated and released. London was prosecuted for his escape and for assault with intent to commit murder, for his attack against Officer Landis.
Ann Arbor Police Officer Arvil Patton was critically injured on May 24, 1964, as a result of a high-`speed chase. Patton was chasing a 1963 model station wagon that was being driven by a 15-year-old. This youth had taken the car without his parent's permission and his father phoned the police department to report the incident.
Officer Patton first observed the vehicle at W. Stadium and Jackson Ave. The pursuit then started and lasted over 15 miles. During the chase the youth ran three cars off the road, drove through numerous traffic control devices, made three attempts to ram head on into on-coming patrol vehicles and drove through two roadblocks.
The accident occurred as Officer Patton drove his patrol car next to the fleeing youth's. The youth slammed the side of his car into Officer Patton's. Officer Patton almost lost control, but recovered control of the patrol vehicle. He then drove back next to the suspect vehicle and the youth again rammed the squad car. This sent Officer Patton's patrol car careening out of control and smashing into a steel light pole. The patrol car then rolled end over end and then twice turned over sideways.
The result of the crash sent Officer Patton through the windshield. The back of his head hit the pavement fifteen feet in front of the car. Officer Patton was taken to the University Hospital in critical condition. He suffered a double fracture of the skull and several broken ribs.
The youth's vehicle had also careened out of control and crashed. The youth was unhurt and fled from the vehicle, but he was apprehended a short distance away. As they were arresting him, he attempted to take the revolver belonging to Officer Dale Buckland.
Once at the police station the youth admitted to intentionally ramming Officer Patton's patrol vehicle stating, “I was in enough trouble and I did not want to get in more by being caught. I am sorry the officer is hurt, I should have been killed.”
He also stated after stealing the car he drove to the westside, where he tried to commit suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide from the vehicle. When this attempt failed, he drove on W. Stadium towards Jackson, where he was spotted by Officer Patton.
Officer Patton was in the hospital for several weeks, but eventually recovered from his injuries.