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 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.
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.