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Police Power - Part Ii

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(The following is the second in a series of articles on the Ann Arbor Pólice Department. Much of the information comes from a diseertatton written by John l'erley Evans, containg confidential interviews with officers and city officials. ) Pólice Cliief Walter Krasny finally appeared beforc City Council ón Monday, October 15, 1973 to report on crime in Ann Arbor and answer questions by Council members. The questioning ranged froni cliarges of harassment of gay people to the number of men assigned to the drug squad. As the questioning went on, it beeame clear that the city Pólice Department enforces the laws it chooses, regardless of ordinances passed by Council or instructions which are passed along via the City Administratot . The problem brought up in the first article of this series (SUN, October 15, 1973) shows how the pólice use their power to both influence authority and control the people in the community (who in reality, are supposed to be the policy setters). White the study from which the information was taken showed that the AAPD has been doing as it pleases for a long time, such behavior is on the upswing under the current Republican administration. PÓLICE AND THE GAY COMMUNITY The pólice have always been known for the problems they créate for people who are outside the traditional, middle-class standards of behavior. Krasny was quick to point out to Council that "Varying beliefs and changing life sytles mark this complex and competitive society. Extremes, ideáis, emotions and bad conduct are trademarks of our society. These specific conditions work to hinder the effective operation of the pólice." As the questioning went on, it beeame clear that he meant particular groups, including gay people, drug abusers (he made it quite plain that lie did not separate marijuana from the 'hard' drugs), and various other undesireables "who are here for f ree room, free board and whatever they can rip off." Krasny went on to say that regardless of the reputation Ann Arbor has, such "undesireables" were not welcome. The questioning began when Councilperson Nancy Wechsler brought up an incident which had happened at the Rubaiyat the night before. Gay women had been goirig on Sunday nights to dance and have a good time, and see Iris Bell play. Apparently, the owner has been getting very uptight about the women displaying their affection for each other openly, and had requested Iris Bell to play only fast songs, as the slow ones were encouraging close dancing. continued on page 4 Krasny, Defending the American Way continued from page 1 Iris Bell chose to end wilh a slow tune (which is standard lor her dosing). The ownei became angry and pulled the plug. Whcn severa! of the women tried to confroat him over his behavior, hc became extremely angry. and hit one of ihem. A policeman arrived, and Nancy asked him to explain to the owner thal according to the Human Rights Ordinance, places of public accomodation could hol discriminate against people because of sexual preference. The policeman refused to do this. "Either the city should stand by its ordinance and let the Rubaiyat know its actions are clearly illegal." said Nancy, "or the city should state publicly it doesn't give a damn about gay people." "We have. of course, handled this like many other cases," Krasny answered. According to him. there are two sets of laws, the State "blue" laws and the city ordinance, creating a "conflict of law." Jerry DeGrieck then pointed out that Council had made a commitment by passing the Human Riglits Ordinance to end discrimination against gay people. "and that means that you. as the Chief of pólice, fully follow and cooperate with tliat ordinance and enforce it." ■"Hiere are two laws, and we have a mandate to enforce them both." replied Krasny. "We are going to enforce them both." lt became clear that while Krasny would nol directly oppose the city ordinance, he did not support it and his men would not enforce it. Krasny reasoned that the Human Riglits ordinance really only affected the Human Riglits Department. He actually admitted 'Tm not that familiar with the ordinance," and went on to say he thought the pólice "don't become involved in it (enforcing the ordinance) until some criminal activity has been established." Once again, the pólice are avoiding the enforcement ot a law they don't agree with. This is not a new problem. The pólice power report mentions a number of orders which carne from City Council, (such as the citizen receipt forms ordinance passed by Council two years ago. These were supposed to be issued when a cop initiated a contact with a citizen but did not issue a ticket). It was hoped this would end unreasonable harassment of innocent citizens. "Of course," the report states, "the City Pólice react to such demands by developing their own means of avoiding these direct orders." ENFORCING LIFE STYLES Throughout the questioning, Krasny used terms such as "immoral" and "undesireable," but refused to define exactly what he meant by that. At one point, Jerry DeGrieck tried to press him on what was meant by "immoral acts" so he "would know what he could be arrested for." Mayor Stephenson called his questioning unreasonable, and cut him off. On of the major points in the pólice power report is that pólice entorce value systems as well as laws. Krasny uses terms that involve moral, not legal concepts. One observor in the study (someone who worked closely with the pólice, defined the problem: "U's obvious that they do (differentiate between segments of the population). They are consistent with the other racial and class ideáis of the white majority. If the majority of the pólice are white and that which is immediately in front of them (is white), then the pólice feel they are enforcing the values of the will of the people- white middle class values. "The pólice are predominantly from the lower class and aspire to and act at the same time as middle class people. Thus there is an effort to emulate and maintain a value System which is middle class. Things like other life styles créate a real'threat. Wliat if there were another way to gain satisfaction other than the stullifying drudgery of work. It would Krasny said, "Unde sirables who are here for free room, free board and whatever they can rip off are not welcome." destroy their whole concept of life. They need to continue to emulate the middle class ethic that hard work brings self-satisfaction. "They see themselves as defenders of the 'American way of Life' and that these groups are threat;ning its existence." The pólice do not always see that City Council represents the will of the people. In speaking of Council, one officer said: "If only a small part of the population shows up and are continually vocal, they'Il get whai they want." Even a pólice official agreed that standards other than law are used to determine who gets harassed. "Prejudices do. however. enter in and many officers do work moral attitudes into their law enforcement programs." Such moral interference is directed towards people who either look or act differently than the traditional m middle class. One observor pointed out: "People are singled out in another way. They are observed doing things which are not necessarily against the law but are against the police's value system. The cops take a closer look at anyone with a physical stigma- beard, long hair, skin color, etc." A good example of this problem came up when DeGrieck asked Krasny if men "in drag" which had to be explained to Krasny, since he didn't seem to know the term) would be harassed. "I really couldfl't answer that very directly, however, if 1 were out on the street it would certainly créate some suspicion in my mind as to what this person is up to. A pólice officer is certainly going to take cognizance of somebody who is going around dressed improperly." THE "GOOD" GUYS The alliance between the Republicans and the pólice have helped encourage continued "moral" enforcement of the law. The ties between the two are old. One officer said in the pólice report, "The Republicans are more conservative, more supportive and not interested in sticking their noses into the business of the pólice." Both groups receive support from similar segments of the community. Many people in the report mentioned that business interests keep close contact with Chief Krasny. One of the most incredible instances of this relationship was mentioned by a high city official in the report: "The pressure on the Chief from the Business community is great. Any event that scares the retail-oriented merchant puts them right on the phone to him. The Chamber of Commerce president was in the Chief s office (the so-called War Room) throughout the whole South University affair (the rioting on South U in the summer of 1969). How he got there or why is anyone's guess." The ties became clearer as the Republicans joined in the questioning of Krasny at 'Council. The Republicans encouraged Krasny to continue the tough approach. In support. Councilman Henry told Krasny: "I personally am continually contacted by various citizens who are deeply concerned that the courts here in the city of Ann Arbor are so exceptionally lenient." The Republicans encouraged him to talk of crime prevention, and asked him to submit a request for all the personnel he needs, "Regardless of the current budget." Krasny admitted at one point when statistics were against him "That anyone can do anything with statistics." However, this did not stop him from using them to show that his department answered calis faster than the national average. Despite their record, much of his speech was a sob story about how he just didn't have enough personnel or money. He claimed that he couldn't even give his men additional training (such as in handling rape cases) because he couldñ't pull them off duty without creating serious problems. Krasny feit that crime had risen because the pólice were hampered in various ways, such as by the Miranda decisión, in which a person must be told his rights before being questioned by the pólice. "The victim has no rights," Krasny told Council, "but the minal has all the rights, including a free attorney appointed by the courts if he can't afford one, public defender paid for by tax monies. We get into the court system and there is plea bargaining. There is practically no bond period... There is no pain and suffering, so to speak, by being arrested." As long as the Republicans stay in power, the Pólice will continue to be free to use their own discretion as to which laws they think should be enforced. But the pólice business is also growing stronger, as one official put it, "building an empire." This leaves the people at the mercy of the pólice law, rather than the laws of the people. "The mass (of citizens) is in a paradoxical situation in relation to governmental pólice systems. On the one hand, they are vulnerable to state tyranny enforced through the pólice organization, i.e. 'a pólice state.' On the other hand, they are vulnerable to pólice tyranny when state authority is unable to directly control the I public pólice organization or hold it accountable." (from an article by Bordua and Reiss). (The Pólice and the Politics of Drugs is the topic of part 3 of Pólice Power. See the next issue for information on the pólice crackdown on marijuana since the $5 fine ended, and why they see marijuana as such a major threat.) 'The Republicans are not interested in sticking their noses into the business of the pólice." 'The pressure on the Chief trom the business community is great. Any event that scares the retail oriented merchant puts them right on the phone to him. The Chamber of Commerce president was in the Chief s office throughout the whole South University riot."