Ann Arbor police officer was never 'too cool' to help anyone in need
Many years ago, a citizen made a complaint that an officer responding to an emergency call was driving “too cool.”
It seems an officer I’ll call “Fred” was spotted one summer day driving with his emergency equipment activated and his left hand resting on the driver’s door instead of on the steering wheel. Truth be told, what the citizen probably couldn’t see was a lit unfiltered Camel in his tanned freckled hand.
The backbone of any police agency is its patrol force. Fred was a solid police officer. He was usually quiet and reserved, very laid back with citizens and unflappable in an emergency.
He exuded the courageous calm in the face of an emergency that all officers strive for. He was highly respected by his peers and command officers alike. He was one of the most intelligent men I have ever known, but never a know-it-all. He had a quick wit and a huge smile that erupted under a full head of red hair, twinkling blue eyes behind gold wire-rimmed glasses, rosy cheeks and a big grin. He was not a police superstar or prima donna - he was just a good solid patrol officer.
Fred had a tragic life, but he always had a smile and kind word for those around him. He had been a cop before in a suburb near Detroit. He migrated with his wife and kids to this area after attending a winter carnival on Whitmore Lake many years ago. There were people partying, children skating and sliding, snowmobiles, and a plane actually landed on the lake. This was where Fred wanted to live, so he joined the Ann Arbor Police Department.
Shortly after moving here, his wife died, leaving Fred to raise his daughters and son alone. He loved his children and he really enjoyed kids. He was a member of the Zal Gaz Grotto Clown Unit that visited hospitals to try to brighten the days of sick and injured children who were scared and away from their parents and home.
He was the absolute best “Santa’s Helper” at the Ann Arbor Police Officer’s Association Family Holiday party. He was a jolly spitting image of St. Nick himself - dressed in a red wool hunting suit he tailored with Velcro to accommodate white fur trim and armed with the aforementioned twinkling eyes, rosy cheeks and smile under a white beard.
Late in his career, his son was killed in a tragic accident. He’d been riding in a pickup truck when the driver was arrested for drunken driving. The police let Fred’s son get his bicycle out of the truck and ride home. Unfortunately, bar closing time is not a safe time to bicycle on secondary roads, and he was killed by a motorist. The ensuing court case changed how the police deal with passengers who are stranded when a driver is arrested. Hopefully, that change has saved lives.
Fred obviously had some very rough days in his life, but he was always a solid officer. We lost Fred shortly after his retirement. Too many heartbreaks or unfiltered Camels claimed a good man who was never “too cool” to help anyone in need. Thanks Fred - many officers learned to be cool from you.
Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.
Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for AnnArbor.com.