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June 05, 1969 - Image 4

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1969-06-05

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special
feature

the

summer

doily

by
holvardt
kohii

THURSDAY, JUNE 5, 1969 NIGHT E

DITOR: JUDY SARASOHN

An honest
policeman

doing his

I

ob

Earl Teeples is a cop under fire
from his superiors for violating a cen-
turies-old creed sometimes called
"honor among thieves.".e is also an
idealistic cop in a job which usually
promotes cynicism.
cop

The

year

of

the

40

FARMINGTON, MICH.
"YOU SHOULD BE a cop, Earl," his broth-
er used to say. "You look like one."
Earl Teeples has worked 13 years with
Farmington Township's finger printing sets
and .32 snubnoses, first as a patrolman and
now as a detective.
He is 6-4 and 220. He looks very big even
without a uniform. He could be a heavy in
one of Edward G. Robinson's old ,movies. He
has freckled hair and' a broken-nose face
and his grin is intimidating.
This is the year of the cop and Teeples
looks the part. He is not, however, the cop
he looks.
Instead of using his weekends to tear up
practice targets with slugs, he reads law-
books and Supreme Court decisions. And in-
stead of giving tacit support to extra-legal
police powers, he has exposed abuses by
fellow policemen.
AROUND THE police station, he is deris-
ively called the "informer" a n d the
"would-be hero."
Earl Teeples is Farmington's Thomas A
Beckett, a man who has committed heresy.
against the police at a time when such here-
sy puts him on the side of anarchists and
revolutionaries.
The township police here did not have
an official "blue" code banning police crit-
icism from - within the ranks until a f t e r
Teeples told an assistant prosecutor of po-
lice brutality in January.,
But every policeman knows of the strong
tribal taboos against telling on your tribes-
man, no matter what he does. To desecrate
the sanctity of that tradition is inviting a
court-martial.
That is why Teeples was not surprised

in the, photo room and found Maier lying
handcuffed on the floor bloodied with the
half-moon marks of handcuff slashes on his
back.
Teeples twice told his superior officer, Lt.
Russ Conway, of the beating. Conway says
he examined Maier, saw the marks but de-
cided not to take action.
Teeples was assigned to the case for two
days. But Conway pulled him off after a
complaint that Teeples was "causing bad
feelings among the men."
Conway later reported t h e incident to
Chief Irving Yakes, who had been on vaca-
tion at the time. Yakes also did nothing.
Maier was charged with assault and bat-
tery and with resisting arrest - a high mis-
demeanor. He w a s arraigned in October
and bound over for trial in February.
BUT IN JANUARY on a routine visit to
the office of J i m Williams, Oakland
County assistant prosecutor, Teeples s a w
the Maier folio and told Williams of the
police station beating.;
Williams immediately contacted Chief
Yakes but more than a month passed before
the two met to discuss Teeples' statements.
Yakes had checked out the story with Hed-
rick and Larion, who denied hitting Maier.
So he ,rebuffed Williams' advice to investi-
gate the brutality and instead closely ques-
tioned Williams on Teeples' "informer" role.
Yakes a 1 so asked Teeples to' prepare a
written statement. Teeples did, admitting he
gave information to Williams, information
that Conway and Yakes already had.
Williams reduced the charges against
Maier and the case was perfunctorily set-
tled.
But Yakes remained chagrined. After a
few more weeks of mulling and a cursory

ers on the force since its inception in 1950"
Yakes is an ex-factory worker who started-
as a one-man force and later became chief
on the basis of seniority.
Hall is the political kingpin in the Re-
publican-controlled township. As police
commissioner, he has pocket vetoed all of
Teeples' ideas and suggestions.
In addition he has opposed promotions for
Teeples. Instead he has promoted Conway,
a political campaign aide, from patrolman
to lieutenant. And he has moved Kelly up to
lieutenant ahead of Teeples although Teep-
les scored higher on the written test.
Hall said Teeples did poorly on the oral
test which he and Yakes helped administer.
Teeples has more seniority than either
Conway or Kelly and has two years of pre-
law at the University of Detroit. He also has
an excellent record on the force. As a detec-
tive, he's built cases for three murder con-
victions in less than three years, including
one against abortionist-murderer Dr. Ron-
ald Clark.
But because Hall has almost autocratic
control of township decisions, he can impose
his prejudices on the township and the po-
lice department. On two separate occasions
in the early 60's, for instance, he posted a
memo advising all policemen not to tale
their cases before Robert Nelson, then a jus-
tice of the peace,
Nelson had sentenced Hall's son on charg-
es of reckless and drunken driving on the
two occasions. Teeples was the arresting of-
ficer in one of the cases.
T O A CERTAIN EXTENT then, the con-
flict of this spring was an issue of es-
tranged personalities and petty politics.
But to a greater extent the Maier case was
the ultimate test of Teeples' personal philo-

able to go to the john. After treatment like
that anybody might confess to anything."
DO MOST POLICEMEN understand and
. accept the Court rulings that limit a po-
liceman's prerogatives?
"Actually I think they do," answers Teep-
les. "But any cop can pick up bad habits
like searching cars in a moment of anger or
on a hunch.
"Part of the fault lies with the public, too,
with those people who say 'What's the use?
Cops can get away with anything.' If a po-
liceman hears that long enough, he'll start
to think he can."
Within the township police department,
Teeples' opinions are enough to incite pro-
tests. In fact several policemen did stay
home with t h e "blue flu" to demonstrate
against the trial board's vindication.
"These are the same guys who yell about
students going out on picket lines," criti-
cizes Teeples. "I have a lot more respect for
concerned kids than I do for immature po-
licemen who act like spoiled brats."
Some patrolmen have refused to w o r k
with Teeples. And one walked away from
him while Teeples was talking. Among the
officers, Kelly has been* particularly antag-
onistic.
A few patrolmen have privately confided
to Teeples they admired his courage. But
they are a decided minority.
Even before Hall disciplined Teeples, the
Farmington Police Officers Association had
voted 18-1 to urge penalties against Teeples.
Not so coincidentally, Hedrick, one of the
patrolmen accused of beating Maier, is pres-
ident of the association.
Hedrick is a new recruit to Farmington,
coming here in March 1968 after four years
with the Pontiac police.

m

Irving Yakes, Farmington town-
ship police chief, (left), and Curtis
Hall, police commissioner, want
their policemen to hear no evil,
see no evil and speak no evil
about their fellow officers.

BEFORE THE HEARING, William Han-
ger, Pontiac police chief, claimed Hed-
rick had been "a model policeman." Later a
source in the Civil Rights Commission re-
vealed that a brutality charge is still pend-
ing against Hedrick for a 1966 Pontiac in-
cident. The Pontiac chief amended his state-
ment to say "I've never given much consid-
eration to those Civil Rights Commission
complaints."-
Then during the hearing, Teeples' attor-
ney cited four more brutality cases against
Hedrick in Farmington.
One of the alleged victims, Walter Veto-
wich, has since filed a $750,000 federal suit
against Hedrick, Yakes, Hall and the cor-
porate township. Hedrick allegedly tried to
choke Vetowich after stopping him on a
traffic violation.
Hedrick held Vetowich in the police sta-
tion for 16 hours without bail or a chance
to call an attorney before he was arraigned
on a charge of resisting arrest. Weeks later,
at Vetowich's examination date. Hedrick
presented him with a traffic citation.
The prosecution threw out the charge of
resisting arrest.
HEDRICK DID NOT take the stand in the
trial board hearing but he will probably
have to testify In the federal suit. He has re-
tained Noel Gage, intrepid counselor for the
Detroit POA.
Gage is making vague threats of a count-
er-suit against Vetowich. Another of Hed-
rick's alleged victims, John Vonsouers, who
suffered a fissured ear drum, is talking with
the ACLU about a second federal suit. And
the FBI is looking around for possible crim-
inal charges against Hedrick.

privately. "I think our man Teeples may
have cut his throat, so to speak, on this one."
In the aftermath of the appeal hearing, a
Farmington man accused Teeples of falsely
arresting his son. Teeples had, in fact, only
warned the boy after catching him stealing
flags off a surveyor's tripod.
Ordinarily the complaint would have been
routinely dropped since the records pointed
it up as completely unfounded. But Hall,
who earlier objected to making the appeal
hearing open to the p u b li c because he
couldn't then exclude reporters, volunteered
a statement to the press on t h e "newest
charge against Earl Teeples."
After a week he formally dismissed the
complaint. But he didn't bother to notify
the Detroit papers who thereby missed a
follow-up to their original story.
TEEPLES IS completely alienated f r o n
Hall and Yakes. "If they really had the
welfare of the department in mind, they'd
get back to work a n d knock off playing
games," Teeples says bluntly.
At one point a f e w years ago, Teeples
reasoned he would get better reception if
he joined in on department softball games
and parties. That experiment didn't last
long
Now he is content to let the forces of
change open up the department for his ideas.
Chuck Williams, a township trustee, re-
cently asked that Chief Yakes be fired. His
motion was shouted down by the other six
trustees. But this might be a crucial first
step.
Teeples says that for right now he doesn't
want anything to do with any noliticking

"I didn't want to pass on my feelings about
the case until everything came out in the
hearing," he explains.
For almost half a year, from July through
January, he vacillated on a moral see-saw
debating whether to let Yakes suppress
evidence and detour justice or whether to
go to the prosecutor.
No matter how iconoclastic Teeples is,
informing *on Hedrick and Larion meant
breaking one of our culture's strictest rules.
"But I was relieved when it finally came
out," Teeples admits. "I guess I knew that
it would have to.
"I have no regrets about it. I can't regret
being honest."
Teeples says he does worry a little about
possible retaliation against his family. The
couple has five children, four at home. So
far he's received a few threats; but many
more residents have actively and financially
championed him.
He's going to donate the money to a
library for young police cadets.
EVEN NOW HE says he feels physically
and emotionally exhausted from the
ordeal. And he's glad to relax in his orchard
among the multiple-level birdhouses, t h e
old-fashioned beehives and a black-faced
lamb named "Spook."
Perhaps at some other point in. time he
would have packed up and become a frontier
pioneer. He does some modest planting, in,
his yard as part of the childhood heritage
of a Detroit Depression-era kid who had to
work in summer farm fields to earn his keep.
He plants sweet corn and peas rather
than flowers and shrubs. He is a gentle
farmer vrther than aentleman ardener

when he was suspended for two weeks with-
out pay, demoted and put on probation for a
year. Only after a bitterly-contested appeal
was the sentence rescinded.
THE CASE actually beganl last July when
Patrolmen John Hedrick and Peter Lar-
ion arrested Foster Maier on the charge of

probe, he collaborated with Lt. William Kel-
ly in drawing up 12 charges against Teeples.
Most centered on the allegation "Teeples
had brought the department into disrepute
and ridicule."
Yakes presented th e list of charges to
Curtis Hall, township supervisor and police
commissioner. Hall promptly accepted Chief

sophy. Teeples had ignored previous rumors
of police brutality because he had no real
way of proving them. But he could not re-
treat from seeing a battered Foster Maier
being cut with cuffs.
"Teeples was always a strange cop, a good
one, but a strange one," remembers Ralph
Evert who rode scout cars with Teeples in

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