Another significant piece of departmental history occurred in June of 1984, when three of the top command officers retired at the same time. Majors Walter Hawkins, Robert Whitaker and Raymond Woodruff, were all longtime members of the department. Their retirements came at the same time, partly to take advantage of a payout clause in their contracts which caused a bit of a controversy, due to the amount.
Chief Corbett stated he was worried about being accepted by the command staff when he was hired as chief in 1980. His worries were groundless as he stated of his retiring three majors, “I had the rare opportunity to meet three of the finest men I have ever met and the most terrifically professionally. They are unswervingly loyal, extremely supportive and very candid. There is no way to measure their advice, support and assistance.”
Their retirements simultaneously created a void in the command ranks that was quickly filled by Chief Corbett. When the majors retired their contracts had expired leaving the city with a decision to make about upper command within the police department. Their decision was to abolish the rank of major and replace it with one Executive Deputy Chief and two Deputy Chiefs.
In July of 1985, in what Chief Corbett called “a significant occasion in the department's history” three officers were promoted to Deputy Chief and nine others were promoted to various ranks. It was the most promotions to ever occur simultaneously within the department.
William Hoover was promoted to Executive Deputy Chief and was the second in command of the department. Chief Hoover was an eighteen-year veteran of the department when promoted. Walter Lunsford and Donald Johnson were promoted to the Deputy Chiefs positions with Lunsford heading the patrol bureau and Johnson the detective bureau.
Tragedy Strikes Officers
Kathy Sharp was a very popular officer who was hired by the department in 1983. Kathy was an English major at the University of Michigan when her interest turned to law enforcement. After a short stint for State Security and the University of Michigan Public Safety Department, Kathy decided to become an Ann Arbor Officer. After she was hired by the department her outgoing personality was recognized by her superiors. Deputy Chief Lunsford stated, “She's got an infectious personality. She's one of those persons who enjoys public contact and the community service kind of role.”
Officer Sharp's career continued on a positive note until she went in for an annual medical check up on January 7, 1985. By the next day Kathy was admitted to St. Joseph's Hospital for what would be a fatal case of leukemia.
Kathy began a series of chemotherapy treatments that would leave her nauseous and cause her hair to fall out. Kathy bravely fought the disease with the help of her family and her friends at the Ann Arbor Police Department. As Kathy was a recent hire, she had not been able to accumulate a great deal of sick time. This would cause her to go off the payroll and face financial difficulties that would cause additional stress at a time when she needed her strength to battle the leukemia.
Kathy's brother officers rallied behind her however with “The Kathy Sharp Fund”, which raised money for her during her illness. This money was donated by the officers and members of the community. A skating party was also held at the Ann Arbor Skate Company with the proceeds used to cover Kathy's living expenses.
Officers were also allowed to donate their sick time to Kathy and over 100 officers did so, which resulted in over 2000 hours given to Kathy. This act enabled Kathy to stay on the city payroll the entire length of her illness.
After the chemotherapy treatments, doctors decided that Kathy would need a bone marrow transplant in order to keep the cancer from reoccurring. As no Michigan hospital performed such treatments, Kathy was forced to go to Kentucky for the operation. Her brother, Cornell, was a suitable donor and arrangements were make for the trip to Kentucky.
While insurance covered the cost of the operation, money was needed for travel and living expenses for her brother. Once again, officers responded and over $6000 was raised for this purpose.
The operation took place in April of 1985 and was deemed successful. Kathy traveled back to Michigan to recover and eventually returned to active duty in October. From October to December she was assigned to limited duties within the department as she continued to recover. Doctors had told her that she could return to patrol duties in April.
While the doctors thought she was cured of the cancer, they were still concerned of infection as her immune system was weak. They cautioned her to stay away from large crowds for fear of infection.
Unfortunately this turned out to be true as Kathy took a turn for the worse in December of 1985, as she battled an infection that had set in. Kathy was soon admitted to St. Joseph's Hospital and died on January 2, 1986.
Detective Diane Diponio was another well-liked female officer. She was hired by the police department in 1970 and at the time she had been a teacher in the Livonia school district.
While she had no prior police experience, Diane was found to be extremely hard working and dedicated. She was assigned to the detective bureau and as she progressed she was transferred to the major crimes division.
She developed into an excellent detective and solved many cases that appeared to have no leads. Her supervisor Lt. Dale Heath stated, “We could all cite you cases that Diane solved but one in particular comes to mind involving a vicious double rape. The case really had no firm leads but Diane started digging on it.
Finally she traced the prime suspect to Minnesota and then to Texas. She got the evidence on him and he was arrested and is in jail today. She never gave up on the case.”
Diane was diagnosed with a rare lung disease in 1978. The disease, pulmonary leiomyomatosis, is an extremely rare disease and at the time of her diagnosis, only 60 people in the entire world were known to have it. The disease has no cure but Detective Diponio fought it with vigor and continued to work until 1985, when the disease finally weakened her and she was forced to stay home.
In August of 1985, Detective Diponio died at her Salem Township home. Diane was remembered for her hard work and dedication. Deputy Chief Johnson stated, “She did everything that was asked of her and more. She worked on her own time. She came up with the facts and was a first class cop. It is going to be hard to replace her.”
While she enjoyed her work with the police department, she had a love of horses as she was an outstanding horsewoman. Diane owned, raised and showed quarter horses and had done so since she was a child.
Captain Kenneth Klinge was a 29 year veteran of the police department who was in charge of the special services section. Captain Klinge was also in charge of the U of M football detail and often traveled with the team to away games.
On October 25, 1986, Captain Klinge traveled with the team to the University of Indiana for an afternoon game. Right before the game, while in the press box, Captain Klinge suffered a heart attack. His condition was quite serious and he was transferred to a Bloomington Hospital and eventually to an Ann Arbor Hospital.
Captain Klinge was eventually discharged from the hospital and went home to recover. On November 9, 1986, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was remembered as a very loyal employee of the police department who helped start the “Safety Town” program which teaches children traffic safety. He also taught numerous personal and traffic safety programs.