May 3 2018 09:42 AM

Local author’s tome recounts more than a century of police history


As the Lansing Police Department began organizing its 125th anniversary celebration, they made an important discovery: five cardboard boxes stuffed to the brim with copies of a lost book.

The book, “Behind the Badge: the History of the Lansing Police Department,” by Patricia E. Heyden, was long thought to be out of print. It will be on sale for $25 at the celebration, with proceeds going to the Lansing Safety Council’s Community Safety Program. Thanks to the discovery, Lansing history buffs will no longer have to scour private book sales, Amazon and eBay listings in search of a copy.

Heyden, a one-time board member of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing and spouse of deputy chief James Heyden, who served from 1961-1994, made the book, along with creating an archive of historical materials on the police department, her life’s work.

When Patricia Heyden died in 2015, the books were moved to the South Washington Armory and left unopened.

The Lansing Police Department plans to sell the book at its upcoming 125th anniversary celebration, which will showcase police activities, both historical and current, and feature demonstrations from special units, such as the dive team and police canines.

According to Police Quartermaster Justin Moore, who has been organizing the oneday event, the exhibits will showcase modern crime fighting tools and technology.

Heyden’s book details the evolution of city marshals, who were basically political appointees, into the modern police officer.

In Lansing, the first marshal was appointed in 1859 — the year the city was founded.

In the earliest days, the marshal would appoint three men who were responsible for “watching” the city. According to Heyden’s book, watching included keeping an eye out for fires and “keeping drunks off the street and rescuing runaway teams of horses.”

After the Civil War, a makeshift jail was built on the 100 block of East Allegan to house miscreants. Later, the city marshal and county sheriff shared offices at 204 E. Michigan, until 1896 — when the first city hall was built on the corner of Ottawa and Capitol.

“Behind the Badge” details how the major offenses in 1888 were drunk and disorderly behavior, vagrancy, prostitution, larceny and cockfighting. Another major problem was policing the 32 saloons that peppered the downtown area.

As Lansing grew, a revised city charter in 1893 helped create the roots of today’s modern police department. It called for an appointed board of police and fire commissioners, who then appointed the city’s first police chief John P. Sanford.

Heyden details the department’s first budget. The biggest cost was feeding prisoners, which carried a $7,380 price tag. Straw bedding for the cells cost $12.50, while “livery fees” were $6.50.

The author details the vast changes influenced by advancing technology. Heyden discusses the impact of the police car, the transition from street side call boxes to wireless radios, the introduction of new crime fighting units, and the 1974 introduction of Lansing’s first helicopter patrol unit.

Heyden also details how new investigative tools were used, such as the lie detector test, or polygraph, which later was decried by legal experts and subsequently phased out.

She also devotes a short section to the famous Pigs Versus Freaks football games, which began in 1970 when an East Lansing police officer confronted a group of hippies who had been playing football at a local high school. They refused to leave and a challenge was issued to see who would win at a game of football.

The first Pigs Versus Freaks game was played at East Lansing High School and attracted an estimated 7,000 fans. Later games were played at MSU Stadium with more than 30,000 fans in the seats.

Local filmmaker Jack Epps, of “Top Gun” fame, shot a 27-minute film of the 1972 game. The footage provided the inspiration for Epps to write the 1984 made-for-TV movie “Off Sides,” which will be shown at the celebration.

But Heyden’s book is not all fun and games — she details in-depth the dangers of the profession. “Behind the Badge” includes the accounts of five officers and two police dogs that were killed on duty.

One of Lansing’s most notorious cases, a 1977 bank robbery in Frandor, resulted in the death of officer Mac J. Donnelly. Donnelly gave his life saving four civilians who had been taken hostage in the bank. Shortly after Donnelly’s death, the Lansing City Council authorized the purchase of bullet proof vests.

She also writes about the infamous 1950 Market Basket robbery at 1400 East Michigan Avenue. Three police officers were shot at the scene during a gun battle with two robbers. The robbers escaped, but were found a week later in Detroit and arrested. All three officers recovered and returned to duty.

We also learn from Heyden’s book about the history of one piece of controversial technology, the radar gun. Introduced in 1965, it combats speeders on Lansing’s many one-way streets.

Despite the painstaking attention to detail, Heyden’s book does not recount the last 25 years. The Lansing Police Department would entertain a dedicated volunteer who is willing to record the missing two decades.


Lansing Police Department 125th Anniversary Celebration

Free Saturday, May 5 Lansing Center 333 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (517) 483-4648 www.lansing.org