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Posted on Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 2:59 p.m.

EMU Police Chief Greg O'Dell remembered as 'a hero cop' during emotional memorial service

By Ryan J. Stanton

Friends and family of Greg O'Dell offered a final salute to the Eastern Michigan University police chief during an emotional memorial service today.

Several hundred people, including officers from EMU, Ann Arbor and other area police departments, attended the service inside Pease Auditorium on EMU's campus.

"Greg was a hero cop," said former Ann Arbor Police Chief Dan Oates, who worked with O'Dell and considered him a close friend.

Oates said he will forever process O'Dell's death as "yet another casualty of our dangerous and stressful profession."

O'Dell, who was well-respected in the community, died Friday at the age of 54 after committing suicide just west of Ann Arbor.


EMU Police Chief Greg O'Dell

He was remembered Thursday for his integrity and professionalism, as well as for being an avid golfer and a loving husband, father, son, brother and friend.

In addition to his wife, Kathy, O'Dell leaves behind daughters Kelly and Erin, parents Donald and Dawn, siblings Denise and Michael, as well as brothers in law, sisters in law, nieces and nephews.

Several community leaders from throughout Washtenaw County attended the event, including many local government officials.

"As we gathered last night at the funeral home, it was really precious that I recognized so many people from so many different areas of our community," said Michael Wentzel, chaplain for the Ann Arbor Police Department, who offered a prayer and read from scripture.

"I heard the the words calm, caring, genuine, compassionate, focused, organized," he said of how others described O'Dell.

O'Dell had just returned to EMU as police chief after a three-month stint as the University of Michigan's police chief. He previously served as EMU's police chief for three and a half years after retiring from Ann Arbor's department.

In addition to Oates, remembrances were offered by two other colleagues: EMU President Susan Martin and former Ann Arbor Police Lt. Mike Logghe.

Logghe said he's proud to say that O'Dell was his very best friend in life. They were friends for more than 20 years.

"Greg's family was the most important thing in the world to him," he stressed. "We talked nearly every day for the duration of our friendship — sometimes two or three times a day, sometimes even more. We were like teenage girls on the phone."

Logghe said O'Dell often talked of his love for his wife and what a great job she did raising their two daughters and supporting him.

O'Dell, who was born in Flint in 1957 and graduated from Clio High School, spent more than 20 years working for the Ann Arbor Police Department, rising to the rank of deputy chief and serving as interim police chief before going to EMU in 2008.

Logghe said he personally had a spotless record as a police officer until O'Dell, during his time as deputy chief, wrote him up — not once, but twice.

"Frankly, I was very pissed at my best friend," he said. "But he sat me down in his office and he told me the officers looked up to us and it was his responsibility to uphold the integrity of the organization. There could never ever be any appearance of favoritism."

In the aftermath of O'Dell's suicide, Logghe said many are asking why it happened and what they could have done to prevent it. But he said O'Dell wouldn't want that.

Martin remembered O'Dell for his love of EMU and the surrounding community, as well as what she described as his intense dedication to create a safe environment on and off campus. She joined EMU as president five months after O'Dell became police chief in 2008.

"We were both drawn to Eastern as a challenge and an opportunity to make a meaningful difference," she said, referring to her and O'Dell as "two stubborn people who loved Eastern."

Martin said she set forth new protocols to make sure she was not just fully informed about safety issues on campus, but over-informed, and O'Dell made sure that happened, including many late calls to brief her on incidents on campus.

Despite limited resources and challenging budgets, Martin recalled she authorized the addition of a crime response unit of three officers, which O'Dell strongly advocated for. She said that unit has helped prevent and solve many crimes at EMU.

"Our crime rates on campus fell significantly," she said, adding O'Dell made a difference at EMU and she plans to continue the work they started together.

Oates, who was Ann Arbor's police chief from 2001 to 2005, now serves as the chief of police in Aurora, Colorado, just outside of Denver.

He said he knew O'Dell for the past 10 years, and he called him his "best golfing buddy." He said they last went golfing together in August.

Oates also called O'Dell an innovator in the police profession and said he "hunted bad guys with a passion."

"He was always so serious and so intense about police work, and about his daily mission," he said. "He was there to do a job and to do it well."

Oates shared happy memories of the many competitive golf outings he had with O'Dell. He also recalled the time he let him borrow a book on the rules of golf.

"Greg devoured it in a weekend and he handed it back to me on a Monday," he said. "And I saw him walking away with photocopied pages, annotations with notes — the whole bit. And from that point on, he was a bigger rules nut than I was."

Oates also remembered O'Dell as a supervisor who was kind to his subordinates and demanding of himself. When there were tough decisions facing the police department, like budget cuts that dramatically downsized the staff, Oates said, O'Dell constantly pressed him to stay focused on doing the right thing, and he cared a great deal about others.

"In short, throughout his career, he did all anyone can ask of him to make the world a better place," Oates said.

"He was a man of exceptional integrity," he added. "The darkness of this tragedy and the illness that swept him away will not diminish these memories."

A final remembrance was offered by Bob Lee, brother of Kathy O'Dell, Greg O'Dell's high school sweetheart and wife of 32 years.

Lee said these are trying times for the family, but they're comforted in knowing that O'Dell is in a better place now.

"Greg believed in God," he said. "And he believed that he would see Kathy and Kelly and Erin again one day in heaven."

While the family is sorry for the loss of O'Dell, Lee said, "you can't really say loss because we know where he is. And if you know where someone is, then they're not really lost."

Wentzel called O'Dell "a beautiful man" and said that's what makes laying him to rest particularly painful.

"I think all of us would like to go back one week and seek to undo what happened, but we can't, and so today is particularly difficult and particularly painful," he said. "But we have gathered today for a very noble purpose.

"Together we have decided to face tragedy. Together we are remembering all the many blessings that our communities have received through Chief O'Dell."

Wentzel said a fellow chaplain in the Army once described people in three ways. He said there are shepherds, sheep and wolves. O'Dell was a shepherd, he said.

"Some have an additional calling," Wentzel said. "When there's smoke in the building, they run in instead of out. When someone collapses, they're on their phone calling for help with one hand and rendering assistance with the other. And when there's someone prowling in the night, they head out the door while the rest of us slam it and lock it."

Officers presented flags to O'Dell's family at the end of the service. "Your Song" by Elton John was played as the ceremony concluded.

The family has requested that in lieu of flowers contributions be made to EMU Athletics or the Ann Arbor Police Department.

Resources exist for people experiencing thoughts of suicide. Anyone in that circumstance is urged to get immediate help. 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is a 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline (Military veterans press #1). 734-662-2222 Ozone House is a 24-hour hotline for youth. 734-996-4747 is a 24-hour hotline at U-M Psychiatric Emergency Services.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Fri, Dec 30, 2011 : 6:05 p.m.

A fitting tribute : I liked the story along with the photos to pay a fitting tribute to the departed soul. Is there something that we could learn or change after this emotional experience? I thank the reader jns131 for the comment and the reply from reader jjc155. Apparently, people recognize the stressful nature of Police profession and the need to defend the well-being of police personnel of all ranks. These officers may benefit if they are provided with mandatory annual medical examinations to evaluate mental and physical fitness to perform their duties. A typical annual medical examination of an officer serving in armed forces involves evaluation of fitness in the following 5 categories;1.Psychological,2. Hearing, 3. Appendages, 4. Physical factors( such as weight, blood pressure, diabetes and others) and 5. Eye. The acronym that is used in India is called 'SHAPE' where 'S' represents psychological fitness. To show respect to this departed Officer, we need to take action apart from sharing the memories of his contributions at work and in personal life.


Fri, Dec 30, 2011 : 1:52 p.m.

I think that the lack of comment or participation in this service by any official from the UM is shocking. He was only here a short time, but contributed to our community. I hope his family knows that he made some very positive connections here.


Fri, Dec 30, 2011 : 8:32 p.m.

As spartygrad noted above, UM DPS was represented. Many officers were present, in addition to others from UM. The service was moving for everyone present...and fitting for a great man. God bless Chief O'Dell, his family, and all whose lives were touched by his life.


Fri, Dec 30, 2011 : 6:19 p.m.

A lot of folks are out-of-town over the Holidays, so it might not have been deliberate. A lot of folks also have a difficult time dealing with suicide. There also might be a whole lot more to the story--concerning U-M

Kai Petainen

Fri, Dec 30, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

perhaps its just pure speculation -- but perhaps the family wanted it that way. note -- donations to AAPD and EMU.


Fri, Dec 30, 2011 : 3 a.m.

I had the good pleasure of golfing with Greg in a summer golf league for the last 3 years and found him to be a very kind, compassionate man with a great heart. He was a very talented golfer, but never did it in a showy way....humility seemed to be a big part of who he was. Greg will be missed in our next season, but not forgotten - he was a first class man and I thank God I had the opportunity to know him and be a small part of his life.


Fri, Dec 30, 2011 : 1:54 a.m.

What you fail to realize is that mental illness is a disease. There is no "safety net" unless that person chooses to reveal it. What these departments did was completely fitting for someone who gave his life for his chosen profession, however it ended. We all have our battles, and it makes him nothing less of a person for succoming to his ultimate battle. Let it lie. He served well. He gave his life for what he loved. I will always think of him with the utmost respect. God speed to those who he left behind.

Kai Petainen

Fri, Dec 30, 2011 : 1:21 a.m.

*hugs* to the family.


Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 11:07 p.m.

I thank Ryan Stanton and Melanie Maxwell for their sensitive and thorough coverage of this most difficult memorial service. Although I never met Police Chief O'Dell, I grieve for his family and friends their loss, and for the multiple communities, past and present, of which he was a part.


Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 10:51 p.m.

Where were the UM police and officials? I know he was only there a short time but there should have been a respectfull presence at the memorial. I wish that Chief O'dell could have tolerated the different culture at UM. I think he could have greatly improved the department. From the stories and the little I spoke to him, I think he was a man of great integrity and a true servant to the community.


Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 11:15 p.m.

There were UMDPS Command and Officers in attendance. As usual, doesn't get all the facts straight before posting their article. Greg was a good man and will be greatly missed.


Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 10:19 p.m.

God rest his soul & give peace to the family.


Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 10:09 p.m.

I just don't understand...when he returned to EMU he was on NPR, saying he was happy to be back, and he was in a good place. My heart goes out to his family and fellow officers during this intensely difficult time. I hope he is at peace.


Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 9:24 p.m.

I thought there was a safety net to help officers like this one in trouble who are contemplating suicide. Don't the psychologists suppose to test them on occasion? This is so tragic that this had to happen when had a plethora of help to help him. So sad he felt there was no one to turn to. Good luck to the family.


Fri, Dec 30, 2011 : 12:10 a.m.

we are test pre-employment and then that it usually it. Other times (varies by dept)we are tested are prior to and after assignment to some special units, suchas undercover narcotics or SWAT, if involved in a shooting or MAJOR incident or at the discretion of the dept. As far as I know we are not even tested at the end of our career, which after 20-30years of seeing some not so pretty things might be the absolute best time to test someone to see if they have changed. Problem is that other than the pre-employment/pre-unit transfer, someone has to notice that you are having a problem AND speak up (or the office him/herself must speak up). Cops are notoriously tight lipped about stuff like this because it will typically (like 95% of the time) spell the end of your career, if you are the one having the problems. So it can often be a rock and hard place kind of situtation, ask for help and likely lose your career or be quiet and suffer.