Barnett Jones

Barnett Jones
Chief of Police
and Safety Services Administrator
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tottered on: 30 June 2006
Temperature: 63 F
Ceiling: partly sunny
Ground: unremarkable grass
Wind: calm

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TT with HD: Barnett Jones

HD: Welcome to Ann Arbor, generally.

BJ: Thanks!

HD: And also, specifically, welcome to the teeter totter.

BJ: Thank you!

HD: So how long have you been actually on the job?

BJ: 'On the job' would take me back to when I first began, but relative to Ann Arbor, this is the end of my fourth week.

HD: Is that a long enough time to develop any kind of a first impression, or is your standard response to pretty much anything at this point still, Hey, I just got here!

BJ: No, realistically, I've developed a first impression, because I've lived in this state for pretty much all my life, I went to school at the University of Michigan, and I was in and around Ann Arbor all my life.

HD: So you went to school at the U of M, what did you major in?

BJ: I majored in general studies, which were sociology, history, and psychology, three disciplines.

HD: The sociology and psychology seem to make sense intuitively just from the point of view of the kind of work you're in now.

BJ: Yes.

HD: Do you have any big Fourth of July plans?

BJ: Um, cut the grass. Yeah, cut the grass. [laugh]

HD: That's pretty ambitious.

BJ: Well, hopefully I'll cut the grass this weekend, and then the Fourth of July will be my first time participating in the Fourth of July parade.

HD: Wow. Okay, so my recollection of the parade, I haven't been in the last couple of years, but Ann Arbor's Fourth of July parade doesn't seem to have as good a reputation as, say, the one over in Ypsilanti. My recollection is that there's a lot of entries where you can't tell that a whole lot of effort was made to make them seem like they were an actual entries in a parade. There were some groups of people just walking, and you couldn't really tell in some cases what group they were representing. I kinda figure you gotta a least wear red, white, and blue, or have some bunting, or carry some flags or something. Or have a precision drill routine worked out. So let me bounce an idea off of you.

BJ: Okay?

HD: I unveiled this plan publicly for the first time yesterday to John Roberts, who's a Councilmember up in the First Ward. He was on the teeter totter and I pitched this idea to him. Too late for this year, but next year. You know these trash bins we've got, the blue bins, you probably saw mine when you pulled in. Those are the standard issue city of Ann Arbor trash bins. Relatively new innovation, they allow the automated emptying of the trash. And as I was telling John, I'm the city's biggest fan of these things. So I think it would be cool to have a precision blue bin brigade ...

BJ: [laugh]

HD: ... where you've got like 10 of these and you roll them along and, you know, you've seen the Shriners. So I was wondering, if I were to put something like that together for next year, would you be willing, as the Chief of Police, to push one of those blue bins in the parade?

BJ: [laugh] Right out on the spot! You put me right out on the spot!

HD: I mean you can't say that it's too short a notice. Well, you don't have to say yes just to be polite, I'm not going to be jerk about it.

BJ: How about I'll give you a 'tentative maybe'?

HD: A 'tentative maybe'? I'll take it. I can use that to recruit other people, if nothing else. Hey, I got a 'tentative maybe' from Chief Jones, so ...

BJ: I want to see what it's all about. I'll be experiencing my first one here coming up on Tuesday and maybe I'll say, Well, I think he's on to something. Or, Well, he's way out there!

HD: Yeah, after you see the parade, I hope you'll say, That's exactly what this parade needs, is a bunch of blue bins. What is the police department's entry going to be like this year? Is it going to be a patrol car, or is it going to be the K-9 Unit? I know in years past, that's been one of the most popular entries, the I forget his name, Bouser maybe? I think he's retired, but the dog ...

BJ: The dog this year will be Czar ... And the officer is Robinson. So there'll be a vehicle there and the K-9 officer and myself.

HD: You're going to be walking the route?

BJ: Yes, I'll be walking the route. We don't have any specialty vehicles as of yet. But I'll be working on that in the future.

HD: So will you be wearing like, well, not street clothes, but like ...?

BJ: I'll be wearing my uniform. I won't wear my blouse-jacket, because it's going to be warm, so I'll probably wear the uniform of the day, which will be white shirt and the traditional blue pants.

HD: Well, it's great that you're marching in that.

BJ: Absolutely.

HD: I was all ready to pitch it to you as something you should really do and you're already doing it! Great. So is your family going to be there watching you?

BJ: No, my family is going to be celebrating the Fourth of July without me.

HD: Oh man! Do you have little kids at all?

BJ: I've got a seventeen-, a fourteen-, and a seven-year-old at home and a 25-year-old away at school.

HD: And you're married?

BJ: Yes.

HD: Do you have an interesting story of how you proposed to your wife? I don't mean to pry, but was it anything as interesting as this police beat story about this guy recently, who, after proposing, the woman suggested that the guy strip naked and run across the street as a demonstration of his love? Your wife didn't make you do anything like that?

BJ: Uh, no. She's a realist and she knew ... nah!

HD: So that's not something you would have done?

BJ: That's not something I would have done. I'm much too old for that.

HD: Well, at the time, though.

BJ: I was much too old for that! [laugh]

HD: Ann Arbor is not all naked guys in love running across the street and guys on teeter totters, but I was wondering if there are any unique challenges that Ann Arbor poses as a community from a policing standpoint, as contrasted with specifically Sterling Heights, where you came from most immediately, or any other place?

BJ: I don't believe our community poses anything any different from anything I've already experienced. I've been a part of several police agencies, from the inner-city core department, to the suburban police department, to the rural police department. In Oakland County I got into places like Addison Township, Lyon Township, back in the early 80's, when the populations of those communities were 2000, 3000. And sometimes the job was to get the cow or the horse out of the road and back into the pasture. That was the reality ...

HD: ... so you have hands-on experience doing that specifically?!

BJ: Oh, yes!

HD: So how do you go about doing something like that?

BJ: You try not to get run over or hoofed is what you try not to do!

HD: But I mean, do you cluck at the cow, or do you just say, Shoo! or ...

BJ: ... shoo, or you make noises, you bring the car up, you click the radio, you do all kinds of things to try to get it out of the roadway. Then, hopefully, if a reporting party called, they know where the cow belongs or where the horse belongs. I've ridden horses before and I've milked cows before. Cows are gentle. So you just try to get it off the roadway and get it back to its owner.

HD: When you say you've milked cows before, was that a part of your daily routine living on a farm somewhere?

BJ: Living on a farm, yes. I grew up on a farm.

HD: Wow. How many cows did you have to milk?

BJ: We had three cows, lot of chickens, a lot of pigs, a couple of dogs, a mule. Every day I'd get up, first chore was taking out the trash, after I brushed my teeth and got clothes on ...

HD: ... and you didn't have a blue bin to help with that.

BJ: No, no blue bin. We were lucky, back then all the grocery stores gave you a brown paper bag. And some of them had little handles on them. You learned very quickly, forget those handles and carry the bag by the bottom. Or if not you have a mess to clean up.

HD: So what time did you have to get up to milk cows?

BJ: In the summertime, we'd get up, my grandparents were early risers, six-thirty, seven o'clock we'd get up. If we wanted fresh milk, we'd go out and milk the cows, and you'd get some eggs and bring those in. My grandmother would make breakfast for us. Which is kinda of cool, back then when I think about those times. Breakfast: eggs, which I don't eat eggs today, and pork, I don't eat pork today, and milk, I drink as much or as little ...

HD: ... is this on the advice of a physician that you've revised your diet, or did you just decide for yourself that it would be healthier for you?

BJ: No, years ago, I became an organic vegetarian, then I became where I only eat chicken, I eat turkey. I don't eat red meats and no pork. I keep away from those things that I've read can limit your expectation of living a long life. I watch what I eat, work out, exercise, stuff like that.

HD: Well, speaking of vegetarianism, the first year I moved in to this block, at the block party--it's the kind of neighborhood where we have an annual block party--someone who I didn't know, who I hadn't even met, by way of introduction basically, said, Don't worry, we've got vegetarian food over there. Because, I guess, based on my appearance, she assessed me as a vegetarian. And a couple of years ago, I was walking down Liberty Street, and I mean right up here on Liberty, and a an SUV full of college kids, I guess, they yelled at me out of the window, Hey, go back to temple! So I guess they assessed me as a Jewish guy. And my nickname, Homeless Dave, comes from an assessment on the part of someone who didn't know me, that I might actually be homeless. And I'm none of those things. I'm neither homeless, nor Jewish, nor a vegetarian. But I have some experience, harmless experience I'll grant you, with the stereotyping and the profiling that people do. So I wanted to ask you about profiling as it relates to policing, because on the one hand, it seems really awful, but on the other hand I do think that human beings are hard-wired to categorize things in their environment, which includes other people. So I was wondering what your take on profiling is?

BJ: As it applies to law enforcement, we have a Constitution, and the Constitution is the rules and the bounds which we go by. And also, if you're religious, then you also have religious beliefs that you respect people as you want them to respect you. Respect people the way you respect yourself. Police officers have all this authority that we get from the citizens. I mean, nobody else can go out here and stop a vehicle for whatever reason and give them a ticket. We can do that. We can stop you and ask you for your ID, we can stop you and ask you where you're going. We have all this power and this authority. If we violate the rules, which are--have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to believe that there's a crime afoot, or that this person matches a description of something we've gotten over the radio or a report that we've read--if we violate those rules to where we're just randomly stopping somebody, because we have this bias--maybe I don't like guys who wear yellow shirts, so everybody who's wearing a yellow shirt I'm stopping for whatever reason--that's wrong. But you nailed it. Because we are hard-wired to always look around. It's like environmental for us. It's sociological for us. You look around. If you see somebody who matches whatever description you have already in your brain, then you're already going to be predisposed to figure that person is up to something or that person is this type of person. So the negative context, we're not allowed to do that, because this is a free society. We have rules that we have to go by. But in reality, police officers have to use that same ability that everybody has, to pick out the bad guys. Sometimes we can pick them out before they commit a crime, because we know what the criminal element looks like, what the criminal element does. I mean, I've seen people, you know they're up to something by the way they carry their body, their non-verbal behavior, the way they walk, the way they look at you, the way they turn away from you. As a police officer, sometimes you have to react on that and say, Excuse me, I'd like to talk to you. Now, you're using profiling to prevent a crime. Now, you're using profiling, because of your training and your experience and your knowledge. Sometimes it works in a positive manner. So you have to be able to balance that because our job is to prevent crime and to protect the community from crime. And not be so overbearing as to violate the Constitution.

HD: I don't know if you've been following some of the discussion in the community now concerning development of housing, business, but also of transit systems. There's been a discussion of building regional transit. Rail, primarily, has been the focus, it seems to me. And one of the areas that might be the first to be developed is this corridor between Ann Arbor, to the airport, and on to Detroit. And I've heard the cynical view expressed that if they do that, we're going to have to hire more police officers in Ann Arbor. The implication being, that not only are Ann Arborites going to be going to Detroit and back, but Detroiters are going to be coming to Ann Arbor. And somehow Detroiters, that's a criminal element by definition, because they're from Detroit. Hypothetically, if that even is an issue, is that a matter of hiring more police, or is it a matter of saying, Well, we need to make sure that the police force here in Ann Arbor is familiar with unique challenges of policing mass transit?

BJ: I believe we'll begin with saying, let's train people to be familiar with the elements of mass transit. And saying that, I-94 runs from Ann Arbor to Detroit now. What's the perception and what's the problem? Anybody in Detroit can get in a car and drive out I-94 and get to Ann Arbor now. So now maybe the perception is that, we put this rail line, it's going to be easier? Will it be easier? Because they can already drive. We can go both ways right now. So there's a perception there. And once again, for some people, their perception is their reality.

HD: I have to say that if I were a criminal, and I wanted to go into Ann Arbor to create mischief, I would want to have a car to get away in as opposed to relying on mass transit.

BJ: Absolutely, I would be tending towards that level of discussion! I would want to have the free-will ability to be the bad guy, meaning I want to pick a spot where I'm going to be inconspicuously parked, hidden, go do my dastardly deed, run back and then take off on my own. I don't want to be doing a crime where I've got to come wait in line on the rail system, where people are going to be able to point me out. So that doesn't make sense. But people do have perceptions like that. I-94 is already there. People can drive either way on their own volition. I believe that mass transit, we need some type of regionalization. We're long overdue for it. But we're the home of the motor car, so we neglected to put that in, because we wanted people to buy cars. Now with gas and the environmental concerns, we've got to come up with some type of mass transit forms. There's always going to be someone out saying, The sky is falling. There's always going to be someone who says, This is bad. We won't know about that until we get into it.

HD: I wanted to ask you about the transition from your old job to this job in Ann Arbor. Which one of the Gregs was it, who was running the show?

BJ: O'Dell.

HD: Because there's two of them, there's O'Dell and what's the other one's name?

BJ: Bazick.

HD: So have you relied mostly on them, for the transition or have you also had communications with Dan Oates, the previous chief. Did he leave behind a letter on the desk, addressed only to his successor. You know, Here's what you will find, here's who you can trust, here's the people you have to watch out for? Anything like that?

BJ: No, he didn't do it that way. I just saw that on television, when the Presidents were exchanging, the one left the letter on the desk ...

HD: ... oh, you mean on the West Wing?

BJ: Yeah, on the West Wing. No, I spoke to Dan. He was in town and we sat down and we talked. And I've relied on his insight, the two Gregs, their insight, I've talked to the command staff, I've talked to citizens in the area, I've talked to officers. And I'm developing my own personal insight. I mean, I've been a police officer over thirty years, I've been trained by some of the best, I know my job, I'm familiar with the area, I've talked with some of the businessmen in the area. I'm developing my own insight based on their experiences, their knowledge, putting it in place. And I'll come up with my own understanding. That's how you lead. You get all the input and then you develop a plan. And I'll be in the process of looking around, understanding the culture and the nature of the community, the nature of the politics, the nature of the police department, the culture of the police department, talking to citizens, like this, you know, and trying to get a flavor for what it is that is expected of me as leader of the police department.

HD: Well, part of the culture, for me I guess, I'm almost embarrassed to say, but I'll go ahead and tell you as long as you're here. Last fall, it was Saturday morning, it was a home football game, and we were playing Notre Dame. So it was big game. Had the window open and I was sleeping. And I was woken up out of a really beautiful sleep by the sound of the U of M marching band drum corps. And it made me so mad, that I got up and--my first step before calling, and I didn't call 911, okay, I had that much sense anyway--but before calling the desk, I said, Let me at least research this and see if I even have a case. So I went online to see if there was a noise ordinance, I found the Ann Arbor noise ordinance, I read it. There's all these exemptions for regular events and parades and rehearsals, but it seemed to me that the definitive guiding principle there was: you couldn't do anything before 7 o'clock in the morning. And they were right a 5 minutes til 7. So I said, alright, I'm calling. So, you know, I got passed around from the desk, and I'm sure it was annoying to whoever was on duty that morning, but like I said, I was mad, and I was pretty sure I was right. Half-way through the phone call, it occurred to me that I'd become the stereotypical crotchety old man, who calls the police department wasting their time. And in the end, the woman said, Sir, we're just not going to go arrest the U of M marching band. So that was that. But you know, if you, happen to run into the drum major, or whoever, could you just suggest that, you know, wait til 7 o'clock, that it would be cool? I figured I'd just take advantage of this opportunity to forward on my petty complaint.

BJ: Shall I use your name?

HD: Absolutely.

BJ: So, Hey, HD says the ordinance says 7 o'clock. We mean 7 o'clock!

HD: Yeah, that'll work. Well, you mentioned the West Wing television show. Do you watch cop shows? Or did you grow up watching cop shows at all?

BJ: Yes and no. I didn't grow up watching cop shows. But I remember One Adam-12. I remember Car 54, Where are you? I'm old! But one of the things I do is teach in police academies: recruits and in-service training. And I instruct them that over the span of my career, I've learned that sometimes the things that people think of, or they write, or they sing about in songs, in books, and the big screen and the little screen, other people watch that and other people get ideas from that. Other people use those type of ideas, they co-opt them and use them for themselves. Meaning, sometimes some of the stuff that we put on television plays right into the hands of the bad guys. Because they'll say 'Duplicated from the headlines', well the bad guys are saying, Well I've never seen that, I've never heard of that, maybe I can do that over here. And that's duplicated again. So sometimes, we need to watch some of these programs to see what they're talking about and what direction they're going in. Because, obviously, other people are doing the same thing. And it could play out to One, your survival and Two, a tip, a clue, the experience and knowledge that you put in your head to help you solve a case down the line. And I've seen numerous cases where stuff like that has played out in the real pages of life from television. Heat was a movie about a bank robbery ...

HD: ... oh, I think I actually saw that, was Bruce Willis in that?

BJ: I don't know if it was Bruce Willis or the other guy ...

HD: ... Val Kilmer was in it [Ed. note: along with Pacino and De Niro, but not Mr. Willis] ...

BJ: ... but it duplicates itself pretty much to a T in Hollwood, California. And you see things like that and you go, Which came first: their plan or their plan after watching somebody else's creation on television? I watch CSI programs, because forensics is really taking off because of the technology. But there's a lot of people out there who believe that every police department has CSI. We don't have all that money, we don't have all that equipment, we don't have all the staff. For lot of crimes you can't solve them in an hour. It doesn't work that way.

HD: Anything else on your mind in particular?

BJ: How'd you come up with the teeter totter?

HD: Actually it was a wedding anniversary present. Two years ago, my wife and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary ...

BJ: ... congratulations ...

HD: ... thanks, I said, you know, I want to make something or build something special, something that people don't typically give as anniversary presents. My wife is not really a jewelry kind of woman. So I came up with the idea of a teeter totter in the backyard. So we've gotten a lot of mileage out of it, but I wanted to share it with the rest of the world.

BJ: Well, I can honestly say, if somebody asks me, Have you been on a teeter totter? I can say, Yeah, absolutely, just the other day!

HD: Listen, I want to thank you for coming over and riding the teeter totter with me. I wish you a great Fourth of July parade! I hope to make it this year. If you're throwing candy, try to throw some in my direction.

BJ: I won't throw candy, I don't like that, but I will wave!