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Posted on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 5:55 a.m.

Eliminating police officers in Ann Arbor schools a nonsensical budget cut

By Rich Kinsey

When he arrived at Pioneer High School, I was a sophomore. He quickly became legendary among students because he seemed to be everywhere at once. To most he was known as “O.D.” to others more criminally inclined he was known as the “Creeper.”

The “Creeper” tag came from some paranoid dope smokers who swore that he was hiding underneath a car in the parking lot in order to catch them. His real name was Ann Arbor Police Department School Liaison Officer John Devine.

SKYLINE24 2-20 LON.jpg

Skyline (pictured here), Pioneer and Huron high schools will no longer have police liaison officers because of budget cuts.

Skyline High School

In 1992, Officer Devine — hence the “O.D ”— retired from the Ann Arbor Police Department in order to take a position as a community assistant with the Ann Arbor Public Schools. His “new” position was still involved with maintaining order in the schools, and he was still well respected by students and faculty alike. I saw him last Thursday, and he told me he was retiring from that position.

I first really got to talk to him after a high school law class. He was warm and approachable. I had been interested in police work since about eighth grade, but after Officer Devine helped get me registered for a Law Enforcement Career Camp sponsored by the Ann Arbor Kiwanis Club, The Ann Arbor Police, The Michigan State Police and The Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office, I was hooked. I had to be a cop, and my enthusiasm for police work has not waned in all these years.

Several years after that career camp, I had the honor of working with John Devine after I became an Ann Arbor police officer. I was assigned a walking beat with O.D. for a few summer evenings, and I quickly realized how he could be everywhere at once around Pioneer High.

O.D. did not walk a beat like most cops who saunter to convey an "All is well here — no need to fear — we are here to keep you safe" attitude. O.D. walked a beat like it was the last day before vacation and he had a lot to get done. O.D. walked FAST.

I had to break into a jog a few times to keep up with him. Around Liberty, State, William and Thompson we flew. Through alleys and Nickels Arcade, up stairs and down ramps in the carports; wherever we went we were high-stepping and moving fast to catch violators and criminals — no wonder he is still in such good shape!

It is ironic that I would see him during the same month that the Ann Arbor Public Schools cut the three high school liaison officers out of next year’s budget. This was a program that started around 1968 and has been tremendously effective.

Back in the 1960s when the program was initiated, the officers only worked "part-time"in the high schools. In 1972, the assignment became a full-time permanent assignment for an officer in Pioneer High. In 1974, Huron High also got a full time school liaison officer.

The most beneficial part of the program was that the abstract “POLICE” became an actual living, breathing person the students could speak to. The most important attribute for the officers chosen, for this very-sought-after assignment, was that the officers truly enjoyed interacting with kids.

The school liaison officers were tasked with keeping students and faculty safe, enforcing the law, keeping order, being an attentive ear and an instructive tongue to young adults — all the while keeping it low key in an academic environment.

The “high school” police liaison officers' primary assignment was in “their” high school, but they also served all the elementary and middle schools that fed their particular high school. Between the liaison officers they were responsible for all police issues that developed in the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

That meant that on any given day these armed plainclothes officers might have to: counsel upset frightened victims, investigate crimes — mostly larcenies and assaults —deal with irate mothers protecting their children or angry sports dads, shoo dope dealers out of the parking lots, answer a teacher’s question for his or her nephew who got stopped by the police, keep school administrators and police bosses apprised and keep order at the many sporting events after school.

The school liaison officers involved found it both challenging and rewarding. They loved their “beat” because it was largely populated by innocent, fresh-faced, bright-eyed, confident and optimistic young people with their lives ahead of them.

For police detectives downtown the school liaison officers were an extremely valuable investigative resource. They knew the all the kids in the current school year as well as previous years. The liaison officer knew the child, his or her parents, siblings, friends and enemies and this can be very important if the youth runs afoul in his or her adulthood — a reminder to readers that juvenile offenders become adult criminals in the eyes of the law at age 17 for criminal cases in the State of Michigan.

It is a terrible shame that the Ann Arbor Public Schools have axed the school liaison officers from their budget. I realize that budgets are tight and cuts have to be made, but I question the judgment of placing a community’s most valuable asset, its children, at added risk in our schools. It's akin to homeowners tightening the budget by discontinuing their homeowner’s insurance.

On a personal note the school liaison officer was instrumental in helping me realize a dream. Thank you O.D. for your years in the public schools and shoe leather you must have burned up walking the halls and parking lots — it was time and leather well spent. Have a great retirement — you earned it!

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


Matt Van Auker

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

As a former student at Pioneer, who knew Officer Devine, and was busted by him three (3) times, I really have to say we do have a way of taking police for granted. In addition, in regard to the candidacy of Jim Fink for Judge, I must say I was more than a little offended when he was grilled for his supposed-Republican leanings, nevermind his professional qualifications. As an added note, I have to admit I was busted for drunk driving in '85, and convicted by his father, Karl Fink. Could you do me a favor and thank him for me? I have three (3) years sober today, and have no use for illegal drugs either.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 1:56 a.m.

Don't have any feelings one way or the other about the guy, but my first run-in with him was in '68, I think, when a group of us were toking up in the back of a station wagon which we had left in Drive, and which was meandering, on autopilot, all around what is now Gallup park. Seemed like a good idea at the time... I'm pretty sure his squad-car partner was named Shook (sp?).

Soccer Mom

Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 10:53 p.m.

Ha ha! Class of 92 Pioneer High here. (Even though I am a "River Rat" now because of my kids :) I also remember "O.D." and had heard all of the stories about him hiding underneath cars back in the day, however, when I was there I only remember him giving parking tickets at the stop sign.... good times.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

A better article title: having police officers in Ann Arbor schools is nonsensical.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

I got busted by O.D. or Otis as we called him back when I was a Pioneer junior in 1987. We had driven to the mall to go to Burger King for lunch (which was forbidden then, the only permitted off campus area during lunch was the party store on the corner of main and stadium, now a cell phone store ) and when we pulled back into the parking lot there he was waiting....behind a tree. I had to get out of the car and make a "break for it" because if I missed one more day of drivers ed I wouldn't pass the class. He came into my class and yanked me out in front of everyone and I got a stern "talking to" in the office. Needless to say, that was my one and only time I ever got in trouble at Pioneer and I passed drivers ed with no problem. Times have changed, and unfortunately public schools do indeed need a police presence.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

I graduated in 93 and he was indeed called O.D. at the time. I met him exactly once in four years in the hallway, although I did see him several times during a week. There was a "respectable fear" of him for many kids, that is word got around about smoker and class skippers getting caught this drove kids that may have skipped to fear skipping a class. I do know personally of several kids wanting to become cops because of their interaction with him, a number of them did become cops. It's a shame that they cut the School Liaison Officers.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

"That meant that on any given day these armed plainclothes officers might have to....." I had 3 daughters at Huron from September 1996 thru June 2004. They seem to remember officer Purcell wearing a uniform most of the time.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Hahaha, I remember the rumor that he would hide under cars to catch smokers! He helped me out one time when a huge older kid took something from me. Thanks OD, and enjoy your retirement :) -1997 Pioneer graduate


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

As a Pioneer parent, I think the school police liason officers are necessary, especially with the large student population at our high schools. Pioneer had almost 3,000 students when my two oldest kids graduated, just before Skyline opened. I've got two more currently at Pioneer, and there is a need for a visible police presence in the school, in the parking lot, and on the streets of S. 7th and Stadium. There are many thefts of cash, wallets, purses, Ipods, and cell phones; those are items I know of personally, and from discussions with neighbors and friends. There are fights and assaults, which need attention from not only the principals, but an officer. Are parents now expected to file police reports at A2PD downtown? If so, they will be inundated with paperwork now. Officer Foster was a visible presence in the parking lot, especially after school when kids are in a hurry to get to their next destination, in their vehicles. I've seen lots of teenagers pulled over for running stop signs and speeding through the parking lot at Pioneer, despite the speed bumps, speed limit signs, and stop signs. Perhaps the tickets or warnings these young drivers received by him helped deter accidents on our public streets, or made them stop and think about their driving behavior. IMO, A2 Public Schools should have looked somewhere else to make budget cuts; perhaps they should take a closer look at Balas. The safety of our children, and the staff at these high schools should be of the utmost importance to our administration.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

As a parent also of Pioneer, I totally agree with this post. This guy was very approachable. Very nice and very easy to talk to. Unlike that other predecessor. At any rate, we do need a liaison in the building. Not negotiable here BOE. Reinstate the police presence at the hi school level.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

Mr. Kinsey is usually dead-on, but this time, the argument falls a little flat. On the one hand, allowing students to see a police officer as a real person is a fine idea, but that alone doesn't justify the expense. Were it that officers really were able to know all of the students and who their parents are, that would indeed be useful to investigators, but I doubt the veracity of that claim. It sounds a little like Mayberry. Is a police officer in the schools a correct approach in the modern era? Crime is, in general, down dramatically over the last 25 years, but so too is general police staffing. The cut is, on its face, unfortunate, but on the other hand, an evolution in approach might in order.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

Looks like the drug dealers will have free rein of the schools. The staff is not equipped to handle this kind of thing. From what I've read in many posts on this forum I'm not sure that will be too upsetting for many, especially those parents who support legalization. Glad I don't have kids in the schools..............

Basic Bob

Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

While I support legalization for adults, I don't think it is in the best interest of students to be drinking and getting high. Their brains are still forming patterns of behavior that will continue for a lifetime. Cops or no cops, nothing will change.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 12:12 p.m.

How many drug dealers were arrested by these school police? I didn't see any statistics to support your prediction. Police time would be better spent on more meaningful police work. School funds would be better spent on schools.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 11:27 a.m.

Just protecting the Thin Blue Line, Mr Kinsey? That money would be better spent on teachers and educating parents to be responsible for their children. Prevention is proactive. Cops are reactive.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

+1 a2citizen


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

What line are you protecting? The presence of a cop amongst 3,000+ citizens is not reactive-it is proactive.

Momma G

Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 11:50 a.m.

Good luck on educating parents to be proactive in their children's education. That's been the biggest problem lately. Thank God for those who are involved but there are way too many who aren't and police need to be in the schools because of those parents.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 11:03 a.m.

Devine had plenty of other names....but I NEVER heard him called "O.D." or "The Creeper." Those might be something the new kiddies came up with... We called him the "stalker." He was infamous for his parking lot stalking though. I've watched him with my own two eyes sneak between cars in the parking lot to bust smokers. I've also seen him standing on top of the gym with binoculars scanning the parking lot. Although I heard he didn't do it as much once they got the parking lot cameras installed. Lot easier to just mail kids a smoking ticket....also much harder for them to hide it from their parents that way.

just a voice

Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 5:22 p.m.

no one liked him, the author of this column never seems to hold what I would call a 'majority ann arbor' opinion. I know lot's of current and former Ann Arbor police that could do a much better job with this column


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 4:30 p.m.

You must be part of our class that also did not like this guy at all. He was a nut and more of a jerk then anything. he stalked a lot of us that he thought were jumping class or walking out of the building without a pass. He should have been the principal. Glad he is gone. Never liked him.

just a voice

Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 10:05 a.m.

first, from the second paragraph, his name was John Devine, you gave his title. There is a difference. second, when is ann arbor dot com going to stop labeling this a column and start labeling it opinion as it should be. These are never researched articles but mostly opinions