On December 3, 1987, Officer Sherry Vail was promoted to sergeant, making her the department's first female command officer. Officer Debra Ceo was also promoted to sergeant, quickly making her the second. Sgt. Vail would later be promoted to deputy chief.
NCAA Championship “Celebration”
University of Michigan sports have always been a big part of Ann Arbor. U of M football has always been the passion of the university community and in 1989 this changed during the NCAA Basketball Championships. When Michigan entered the tournament they were not expected to win, much less proceed very far. Part of this was due to the sudden departure of head basketball coach Bill Frieder, who left the team just before the tournament began, to take the coaching position at Arizona State University.
While the police department was used to handling large crowds due to the football games, which bring in over 100,000 people to Ann Arbor six weekends a year, no thought had been given to what would happen if the basketball team won the national championship.
The team was quite successful as it proceeded through the tournament and eventually entered the semi-final game which was held on April 1, 1989. Officers were sent to S. University while the game was being played to assess the situation. S. University is an student area where there are many bars. Many people came from the surrounding areas to watch the game at the local sports bars on S. University, which added to the students already there.
The clock ticked down and the Michigan Basketball Team won their game against the University of Illinois, which sent them to the finals. Immediately after the game the crowd streamed onto S. University and began their “celebration,” causing thousands of dollars worth of damage to property.
Thousands of people filled the street fueled by liquor. All of the officers in the city were sent to the scene as the crowd began to become aggressive. Rocks and bottles began to fly and the officers were the recipients of them. Bottles crashed through windows of local businesses and parking meters were torn from their posts. The officers were vastly outnumbered as the crowd continued to pelt them with rocks and bottles. Eventually the crowd was dispersed and a handful of arrests were made.
The championship game was two days later, making many in the community nervous about the outcome. Deputy Chief Lunsford commented on the championship game and what the police were expecting, “We are prepared to read a developing situation during the game and respond if necessary. We simply do not have budget resources to field extra people unless really necessary.”
Needless to say the extra officers were certainly needed as the University of Michigan Basketball team won the national championship, defeating Seton Hall. The response was swift and immediate as crowds flowed out of area bars onto S. University. Again the crowd was fueled by alcohol and the large amount of people further lessened any inhibitions that keep most in check. Windows were smashed out, parking meters and street signs stolen, people were hanging from trees and throwing rocks and bottles at the police. One taxi cab was also overturned by the crowd.
When the riot was finally quelled over $78,000 worth of damage was caused to area businesses and city property. The crowd had swelled to over 7,000, which made it very hard to control. Officers were limited in arrests due to their numbers. Chief Corbett stated he only had 38 officers working in addition to 12 deputies. The department did come under fire for not making more arrests but the chief stated he only had enough officers to contain the area.
Business owners lashed out at the university for the students role in the riot and the university's “hands-off” approach to any discipline of those students who participated. One business owner stated, “The destruction of others people's property is obviously accepted by the university. It's obvious they (students) can and do what they want and when they want and there's no penalty. The law was suspended for four hours on S. University. There was no law.”
Officer's Approved to Carry 9mm's
Police Chief Corbett could be very passionate at times and was when it came to officer safety. He led the way for the formation of the department's special tactics unit and was the oldest person to go through swat school. When officers were being confronted on the street with high caliber weapons, he changed departmental policy, enabling officers to carry 9 m.m. semi-automatic pistols. Up to this point the department issued officers .38 caliber, six-shot revolvers.
He did so with no consultation from city council and this fact was no lost with some of them. Councilman Jeff Epton stated, “It is laughable, this new internal policy. If they think that carrying semiautomatic weapons will somehow improve public safety or the personal safety of the officers, they're wrong.” City Councilman Mark Ouimet held a different view stating, “Our police department should be equally equipped as the people they deal with.”
Chief Corbett stated the new policy was spurred by three incidents in which Ann Arbor Officers encountered high powered weapons on the street. One of those incidents involved Officer Brian Zasadny, who was shot at by a suspect armed with a semi-automatic pistol.
The process to professionalize police work has been ongoing since its inception. Most professions have a procedure in which they are accredited by an outside board. In 1979, a non-profit organization was formed to accredit police departments. This board, the National Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, formulated 900 standards that departments would have to meet to receive accreditation.
The Ann Arbor Police Department decided to join the accreditation process in 1986. The process is very grueling and involved the addition and rewrite of the departmental policies. The policies give officers direction in everything from the use of deadly force to the correct wearing of their uniforms. Chief Corbett stated, “The members of the accreditation team look at all the warts and all the beauty spots and make a straight, honest assessment. If your lacking in something or if you're not doing the job, it becomes part of the final report.
“It will provide documentation that we have one of the finest police agencies in the country,” the chief said. “And by following the letter to the standards set out by the commission, we can respond adequately and fairly to any criticism which might arise within the community.”
Deputy Chief Hoover stated, “It opens a police department to a very intensive review by police executives who are strangers to the community. There's always the possibility of not passing the assessment and having to explain to elected officials, city administration, citizens and the media why that happened. But we have enough confidence in our department to be willing to take that risk.”
When the idea was first proposed to city council they were not overwhelmingly supportive of the project. Some thought it was a way to avoid a citizen's review board, which the department objected to. Eventually council agreed and the department went forward with accreditation.
The accreditation team consists of a three member team of police executives that inspects the policies and operations of the department. The Ann Arbor Police Department was awarded accreditation status in 1989, after three long years of work. Many people assisted in this project, which was a success because of their long efforts. Every three years the department is reassessed to assure the standards are still being followed.