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Area Law Officials Call 1968 A Busy Year

Area Law Officials Call 1968 A Busy Year image
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Police news in Washtenaw County in 1968 included everything from murder to bombings to police unions to massive sit-in arrests. " Ann Arbor Police Chief Walter E. Krasny and Sheriff Douglas J. Harvey agree the year was the most active in a decade for their departments. The year's major action for local law agencies began in a Detroit hearing room rather than at the scene of a crime. Sheriff Douglas J. Harvey appeared before a State Labor Mediation Board examiner in January t o defend himself against nine unfair labor practice charges filed against him by former deputies he had fired in December. The deputies claimed they were fixed because of their activities with the newly formed Washtenaw Deputy Association. A score of witnesses, including Harvey, filled more than 300 typewritten pages of testimony before the three-day hearing, ended. Two months later, Examiner James R. McCormick announced he had ruled that Harvey was guilty of unfair labor practices in firing William H. Stander and Fred J. Postill and ordered the sheriff to reinstate both officers. Harvey did so but subsequently fired Postill a second time on insubordination charges and Stander later resigned to join another pólice agency. Before the year was out Harvey was to appear at two more Labor Mediation Board hearings to defend himself against more unfair labor practice charges. All involved the Washtenaw Deputy Association. One of the hearings brought a virtual clearing of the charges while a decisión on the second is expected in two weeks. In February, Harvey's deputy's discovery of 28 stolen and stripped cars which were hidden in a wooded area near Lohr and Ellsworth Rds. in Pittsfield Township. The cars, valued at $100,000, had been stolen from Wayne County cities and driven here where they were stripped of motor parts and accessories. A 17-year-old Detroit youth caught at the scene by Sheriff Harvey was turned over to Wayne County authorities for prosecution on auto t h e f t charges. Within a two-week period after the discovery of the stolen cars Detroit police, acting on information provided them by Washtenaw sheriff' s deputies, had arrested a dozen members of the teen-age ring responsible for the car thefts. In M a r c h , a controversy which still waxes and echoes in cities across the nation erupted when Ann Arbor police used the chemical spray Mace to subdue a belligerent prisoner. The police used the spray a second time a few hours later when a crowd of persons sympathetic to the man arrested gathered at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and refused to disperse Local civil rights groups charged pólice brutality and when the City Council was unable or unwilling to come to grips with the question of using the spray, Chief Krasny voluntarily suspended use of the weapon by his men. A team of medical experts and technicians at the University Medical School undertook a study of Mace and pending completion oí that study many police agencies around the country suspended or curtailed the use of all such sprays. Officials of the General Ordnance Equipment Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa., protested the uproar over their product and insisted the product was harmless. Three months after the March incident which stirred the controversy the University researchers announced that their study showed Mace could be used with safety providing certain precautions are taken by police employing it as a weapon. Krasny welcomed the medical report but to date has not yet returned Mace to his patrolmen. In late June, an Eastern Michigan University coed, Joan Schell of Plymouth, accepted a htichhike ride to Ann Arbor from the Ypsilanti campus. It was the last ride she ever took. Her nude body, riddled with stab wounds, was found five days later near a construction site off Glacier Way near Earhart Rd. at the extreme northeast edge of Ann Arbor. Miss Schell's murder joined four other local slayings which have remained unsolved in the past decade. Detectives from five área pólice agencies have compiled huge files on leads they have run down in the Schell case but no arrests have been made and $10,000 in reward money for the coed's killer is still uncollected. In August, Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley turned down a request for a grand jury to investígate financial dealings involving Sheriff Douglas J. Harvey and suggested the county Board of Supervisors question the sheriff if answers were needed. The board appointed a special committee to conduct the questioning and when that procedure was completed a part-time financial manager and adviser was named to assist the sheriff in money management. Sept. 4 and 5 of 1968 stand as dates when more arrests were made than were ever before recorded in any two-day period in the history of Washtenaw County. The arrests came as the climax of a week of heated debate between a group of welfare mothers demanding additional clothing funds for their children and county and state officials. When a "final" meeting between the Aid to Dependent Children mothers and members of the county Board of Supervisors ended on Sept. 4 in a stalemate the mothers and some supporters staged a sit-in in a second floor hallway of the County Building. They ignored warnings about arrests by county officials and when the building was officially closed at 5:30 p.m. a of 49 persons were taken into custody by sheriff's officers on charges of criminal trespass. A crowd of more than 1,000 persons gathered outside the County Jail that night to await the release on bond of the 49 persons and over 100 pólice officers ringed the jail to maintain order. No disturbances occurred. The next day, Sept. 5, another 192 persons - mostly University students - were arrested when they staged a second sit-in, this time on the floor of the lobby of the County Building. More than 400 pólice officers from a dozen agencies including a riot squad from Oakland County were on the scène for those arrests and under Sheriff Harvey's direction the 192 persons were carried or escorted from the County Building in less than 10 minutes. On Sept. 29, the first of two dynamite bombings occurred in Ann Arbor when a recruiting office for the federal government's Central Intelligence Agency was virtually destroyed by an explosive. The bomb, set off outside the door of the CIA office at 450 S. Main St, shattered glass and crumpled door frames in five other business places located in the same building. 'Federal Bureau of Investigation agents called to the scène said dynamite was used in the bombing. Two weeks later a second bomb set off outside the University's Institute of Science and Technology on the North Campus blew out 12 large windows and caused thousands of dollars damage. Ann Arbor police, working with FBI agents, said the bombing had a "defínite connection" with the CIA building blast. No arrests have been made in the campus bombing and although Detroit pólice charged a dozen persons with bombings in Wayne County in November no firm connection with the local explosions was ever announced. On Oct. 5, a University gradúate student, Joel W. Cordish, 25, of 533 S. Forest Ave., was shot in the back by an assailant as he walked alone across the U-M Diagonal at 4 a.m. The arrest of an AWOL soldier, Kenneth W. Drinkerd, 17, of 1060 N. River St, Ypsilanti, by two sheriff's deputies two weeks later led to the later charging Drinkerd with attempted murder in the Cordish shooting. Cordish, reportedly paralyzed for life from the gunshot wound, told police he was chased across the Diagonal by three youths, one of whom told another, "Shoot him! Shoot him!" Drinkerd is currently free on a $10,000 bond awaiting Circuit Court trial on the charge. He is on special leave from his U. S. Army unit. By early November two new "incorrigible" cells were in use in the County Jail and that fact was the final footnote to a controversy which began in January with a challenge by a minister over the use of punishment cells in the jail. Rev. Erwin Gaede, pastor of the First Unitarian Church, charged in January that a half-dozen U-M students, serving terms as anti-war demonstrators, were placed in a cramped, lightless cell after they started a fire in their regular cell. The minister said the cell violated state jail regulations and use of it was inhumane. Sheriff Douglas J. Harvey countered that the cell had been part of the jail's punishment system for a generation and was needed to curb recalcitrant prisoners. After a two-month, running! battle between Harvey, Gaedel and state officials, Harvey reluctantly ordered the cell closed. Seven months later two punishment cells which conform with all state regulations were completed and are now being used. The final "police story" of 1968 involves the near-record number of traffic fatalities piled up in Washtenaw County, during the 12-month period. Although there was only two fatal crashes in January, four occurred in February and the deadly pace picked up in the months which followed. Six fatalists were recorded in July and eight in August including an Aug. 3 crash which took the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Ellis Kincer as they walked along a Sylvan Township road with their teen-age son. Before the year ended 651 persons had been killed on Washtenaw County roads, only four fewer than the all-time record of 69 registered in 1966.