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Posted on Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Bullies will be bullies, but cops can have a little fun, too

By Rich Kinsey

A lecturer in a police course once said that the public sees the police department as a “public department of retribution.” Justice actually is the mission of the entire criminal justice system working together to give people who violate the law what they deserve, which, in extreme cases, is a prison cell. The police do, however, have an opportunity every now and then to get a little comeuppance on those who victimize society.

John was a bully. There were no two ways about it.

He thought he was quite a tough guy with the homeless and other street people he coexisted with in downtown Ann Arbor back in the early 1990s.

John stood about 6 feet 2 inches, had wild and curly brown hair, a medium build, crazy eyes and changed his facial hair quite often depending on his current relationship with a razor. John’s facial hair usually consisted of a mustache and either a few days’ growth, a full beard, a goatee or he was clean-shaven. In short, he was a scary and intimidating guy and preyed on those who had little in life and who would seldom call the police for help.


Police on the streets — or in their cars, as shown here — doing routine checks in their cars can be the first step to preventing burglary and home invasions.

File photo

One autumn night I found John hitchhiking inbound on West Liberty a little west of South Maple. At the time I was the sergeant assigned to the Ann Arbor Police Department's Special Investigations Unit, which was a plainclothes undercover and surveillance unit. We were assigned to identify and apprehend some burglars who were breaking into businesses in the West Stadium corridor.

To do this we had five officers in different unmarked and unremarkable cars in the area. At any given moment, four of the cars were inconspicuously parked, with an officer way down in the seat scanning the area for anyone — especially those in pairs — walking or cruising the area who might be looking for a target of crime.

From experience, burglars who work in pairs or teams will drive past a business several times before they break in. They are looking for other people outside or inside the intended target, where to park without being noticed, what window or door to break in order to enter and sometimes, as we overheard on one occasion, arguing over what target to hit.

The fifth car was always moving. We took turns as the fifth car and roamed the area. This was to keep a fresh eye out and to allow an officer to pick up food or go to the bathroom. It also was to relieve the mind-numbing boredom of waiting and watching. It also expanded our search area for the would-be burglars.

Local cops know local criminals. If a known criminal was spotted and was a burglar or thief, the surveillance would change from a stationary or static surveillance, to a moving or dynamic surveillance watching a target. The target became the known criminal predator in the area.

On this cool — but unfortunately not rainy, windy or snowy, as it would make the circumstances even more perfect — evening I was the roaming car in the area and I spotted "John the Bully," and decided to have a little fun at John's expense.

John was hitchhiking, so I decided to use the old hitchhiker tease prank, worthy of a Messin' With Sasquatch commercial for Jack Link’s Beef Jerky. Ironically John the Bully had poor posture and a slightly stooped-over gait, so he might have been mistaken for a Bigfoot in the woods, had he not just been a bully and a jerk in downtown Ann Arbor.

I pulled to a stop about a 100 feet from John and motioned for him to climb aboard. John broke into a jog and headed for my car. When he almost got to the door, I acted terrified and sped off. Well in my world that was funny and served this predator right. I was on a roll — a bit of a sadistic roll I will grant, perhaps sophomoric, but a comedic roll nonetheless — so I radioed the other surveillance crew members to join in the fun.

John did not get much exercise aside from threatening the unfortunate who were down on their luck, so we decided to give him some. How long would it take for him to figure out the gag?

The answer was seven times. I got him to run after my car a second time, but when Buster stopped for him a second time, poor old John was huffing, puffing and bent over when he motioned Buster to keep going.

We ran John from Liberty and Maple past Liberty and Virginia. Now for you joggers reading this, I am sure you are thinking it's no big deal, but John was not in top physical condition, so it was quite a workout for him. Furthermore, he walked the rest of the way to the Diag and no longer tried to hitch a ride, nor did we hear any disturbance calls caused by John that evening.

I am not sure whatever happened to John, but as I have said before, sometimes the streets are self-sweeping. Bullies who terrorize innocent people long enough finally come up against someone bigger and badder, or the once-intimidated band together and force the bully out of the area. Either way, as author Kinky Friedman writes, “Justice rides a slow horse, but it always overtakes.”

Sometimes the police feel powerless within the law to help. Sometimes, however, the stars align themselves just right and at least a small modicum of justice presents itself to those who play by the rules and are patient. John the Bully never knew how so many cars would all pull the same stunt, but I hope somewhere in the back of his mind that night, he was thinking about karma — hey, cops can dream too, can't they?

Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbor.

Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for



Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 7:54 p.m.

Rich Kinsey, semper bully. If I had seen this, I would have stopped and called 911. How ironic. If I found out police were doing it, I would have taken lisc plate numbers. Oh wait, the cowards sped off! I wonder if they would identify themselves, to someone who stopped and stood up to them.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

Rich, did you write this story to point out how low some police officers can go? If so, great job! Those cops (bullies) should not be police officers. And if you find this funny, well,enough said. It speaks for itself. Obviously, we have too many police officers if even one has time to do this, much less, several officers. And not even one of these officers felt this was wrong? Based on the comments, most citizens feel this was totally wrong. I just wish even one of them had spoken up to say it is wrong. If this many citizens feel it's wrong, surely a few officers feel it's wrong. Silence indicates agreement. Speak up and represent your citizens.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

I liked you, Rich...your point of view, comments and advice, but this story made me sad. I thought much better of you...I held you above the rest of us. I gave you credit for making the right decision, protecting us, showing more courage than many, pointing out the right path and setting good examples. This story wasn't funny. This story wasn't teaching any lessons except what not to be...a bully. Sorry this ever happened. I'm not going to read your stories with the same allegiance any more. I won't post supportive remarks. Your story displayed a smug self-righteous bully behind the wheel. So, all these years of admiration...poof...gone. Perhaps you care. More than likely you don't. There could have been a better way to teach John the Bully a the Rich Kinsey I had admired would have used.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 6:41 p.m.

And now, nothing separates the police from the bully. The police are held to a higher standard than usual. Had I witnessed this, I probably would have called the police, citing harassment. You, on this night are what make people distrust the police! Unfortunately, if I am ever on a jury, I will probably think of this if the police,are involved.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 10:31 p.m.

Hearing this guy described, I'm certain he's the one who tried to drag me into an alley when I was 15 or 16 (91 or 92). He thought I had complained to the manager about him in Mcdonald's, charged me on the sidewalk, and said he was going to beat me down for it. I hadn't told on him (only went to the bathroom), I was a skinny kid, and I'm not a fighter, but after he dragged me down the alley and lifted me up I hammered his left ear and it was enough to get free. I ran for blocks without looking back.

Tracie Cooper

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

Ah, cops. The whole lot of them are heroic heroes heroically hero-ing around every day of their vastly superior existence. Their angel wings must get cramped all stuffed into their uniforms like that.

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 2:20 a.m.

If he breaks the law, arrest him and put him on trial. The police are not paid to antagonize or harass people who are not breaking the law. Studies repeatedly show that bullies often take out their aggression on others in response to external pressure. They say many bullies are bullied. So it is possible this oh so fun harassment was a trigger, and the harassment was just passed on to someone else.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 9:58 p.m.

I thought some bullies grow up and become police officers or correction officers. This way they turn bullying into a job. If nobody was ever a bully, it be like the wild west out there.

Michigan Reader

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 9:55 p.m.

Here's a story with a converse twist--In 1978, the Ann Arbor News ran a story about a sting operation targeting "Johns" on 4th ave. in the red light district. I was walking from the Capitol Market to home the next day and saw an undercover female officer near the curb dressed very sexily with her hand on her hip. Knowing it was part of the sting operation, I decided to flirt with her. I said hi, she said hi. I thought about taking a pass around the block and asking her if she was working, and when she said yes, wishing her a good night. But I didn't want to push my luck. That remained a fantasy.

Michigan Reader

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 10:26 p.m.

Correction--The Ann Arbor News reported the arrest of a few Johns during an undercover sting operation.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 10 p.m.

Gotta watch it, even say HI can be risking it. That is how Joey Buttafuoco claims he got arrested while in LA.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 8:43 p.m.

I presume printed this as a public service to make sure we know what awful people some of our police are and what bad examples they sometimes are.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 6:58 p.m.

They are what they are. And they even brag about it. I am a ER nurse who interacted with a lot of police. I like to think they are compassionate in a tough job. It's wrong they did this and even worse to brag about it. This story makes me sad.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

Good for you, Rich! let these bullies get a taste of their own medicine. I've seen this jerk in action(he doesn't "ask" me for "spare change" anymore, since I told him in no uncertain terms that 1, he doesn't scare me, and 2, get out of my face because the answer will continue to be NO), wish i could have seen this! Haters, have at it.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 7:57 p.m.

It's not often you get to hear a police officer admit to unprofessional behavior. Thank you Mr. Kinsey for confirming what most of us already know.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 10:02 p.m.

I'm sure he would point out he was not under oath, lol.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 7:18 p.m.

I will leave this here as it seems relevant. "Family accuses Latah Co. Sheriff of Facebook bullying" "LATAH COUNTY, Idaho-- A Moscow woman is accusing law enforcement of bullying a man who killed himself over the weekend."


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 5:23 p.m.

Only in the movies would this be funny.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 5:23 p.m.

Wait... John is supposed to be the bully in this story?


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 4:24 p.m.

Great story. Bullies need some form of punishment once in a while.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

"Either way, as author Kinky Friedman writes, "Justice rides a slow horse, but it always overtakes." Kinky Friedman is an interesting man. Here is a link to a interesting interview with him. BTW: " least a small modicum..." A wee, little tiny bit redundant.


Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 5:10 p.m.

I thought I liked kinky Friedman till now.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 4:09 p.m.

Here is a better link to the interview (includes links to all 5 parts).


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 3:26 p.m.

Why all the hate? I'm sure the haters complain about the presence of the "John" type of individuals and their panhandling ways and how they wish somebody, the police included, need to do something about it. One thing though, is hitchhiking even legal in the city limits? Section 7.13 of the Uniform Traffic Code for Cities, Townships and Villages expressly prohibits hitchhiking within the limits of any municipality that has adopted the code as a local ordinance, stating "A person shall not stand in the roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride, employment, or business from the occupant of any vehicle." A municipality that has not adopted the code may also have an ordinance against hitchhiking.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.

As hated as bullies are, gotta wonder what drives them. Of the two I knew in high school and one I met later on in life, all three died early in life. God rest their souls, and forgive my inability to reach them when I might have made a difference.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 10:03 p.m.

I thought they feel they are doing some good in the world, that is what drives them. People who are not like them are evil and should change in their eyes.

Mr. Ed

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

Lighten up people. I loved the story what a great way to level the playing field. I see no harm in what you did.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 8:39 p.m.

oops..."seen" ....a few

Mr. Ed

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 6:26 p.m.

Correct no one is perfect I agree with you on that one. However I still think it's a hoot. Very funny indeed!!


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 6:10 p.m.

To get a laugh at someone else, I don't care who you are, it's just wrong. I personally am a little offended at his description of this person, as "Big Foot, hunched, over, etc." No one is perfect. That...this person can't help. He is who he is. I've been a few big fat cops too.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

Just another typical case of law enforcement "do as I say, not as I do".


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

What a revoltingly hypocritical story.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 6:48 p.m.

We read it because we should not turn our head to something wrong. If we don't know about it, we can't speak up. It's that simple.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 8:31 p.m.

why then did you read it?


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 1:42 p.m.

Good story RIch. I expect the haters to be out in force now.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 11:55 p.m.

Don't you mean the haters are on the force?

Homeland Conspiracy

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 7:46 p.m.

Hater here loud & proud


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

That file photo must be from a long time ago....we have police cars patrolling neighborhoods? I don't think I've seen any outside of downtown or major streets in years. And they're usually not patrolling, but waiting for a crime to pass them. Only the ticketable ones, certainly not "home invasions."


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 8:30 p.m.

So Boo, are there a lot of home invasions in front of Scorekeeper's like the caption says??

Boo Radley

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

Neighborhoods ...? The photo is downtown in front of Scorekeepers.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

I see the police patrolling my neighborhood in Pittsfield Township quite often.

Keith Hafner

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 1:13 p.m.

I don't know about anybody else -- but I enjoy a little humor mixed with law enforcement!


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

"The police do, however, have an opportunity every now and then to get a little comeuppance on those who victimize society." I like you Rich...but even you have to see why that is wrong. As you've said many times....cops are human...and humans make mistakes. This is why it is NOT an officers place to "punish" and only to "enforce." What you perceive as "comeuppance," would actually just be plain old bullying when applied to an innocent person. How does one judge innocent or guilty when your job is only to "enforce?" You don't have the resources to make those kind of JUDGEMENT calls. In this case "John" seems to be an established bully that you could get some justice on....what about every single other person the same kind of abuse of power was applied to? Bullying a bully just brings you down to their matter how karmic it might seem...

Mr. Ed

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 6:27 p.m.

Oh get over it.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 4:34 p.m.

Agree. "Public Dept. of Retribution" is an appalling self-identity that too many police personnel embrace and apparently promote.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 12:43 p.m.

Our tax dollars at work. Cops out harassing people, while getting paid. They'll only share the minor stuff in public. You have to get them in private to hear the real stories. Some say the biggest bullies they know are cops.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 9:45 p.m.

But if you look at it from the other end cops are bullied by bullies who do not like cops. I can name a lot of instances where things like this happen. Great story. Thanks for the share.

shadow wilson

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 6:23 p.m.

You really are a drag

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 11:54 p.m.

If he breaks the law, arrest him and put him on trial. The police are not paid to harass people who are not breaking the law. Very often bullies take out their aggression on others in response to external pressure. So it is possible this harassment was a trigger, and the harassment was just passed on to someone else.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

Hey, how many people has John the Bully harassed? this is poetic justice!!


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

Great Story! As always Rich hits the mark! Just a thought . . . not to criticize, what if, while chasing car #7, the guy had keeled over in cardiac arrest? Would CPR be indicated? If unsuccessful, would relative turn-up and sue the City? Of course, if the unmarked cars just drove away and the guy croaked, who would know the cause of death? Don't mean to throw water on a great story, was just thinking of the possibilities. Just sayin' . . .


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 7:06 p.m.

What if the sun stopped shining? It hasn't and this guy didn't die. Just sayin' Why ask why when there's no chance of changing history?

Silly Sally

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 3:20 p.m.

They didn't make him run, he chose to run.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

Good point. After reading your comment I kind of stopped chuckling.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 11:38 a.m.

I love this story but there may be others who don't agree!


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 11:33 a.m.

Now you can add Aerobics Instructor to your resume.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 11:30 a.m.

So, the burglars got away during this elaborate "bum run" prank?


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 11:13 a.m.

Rich Kinsey : The only reason to read!


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 12:36 p.m.

Good story, but not the only reason!


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 11:34 a.m.