The Troy of the past was a stable farming community with a very low crime rate and very little traffic. In the 1960s many of what are now very busy roads were still unpaved.
Nevertheless, by the 1950s there was a growing desire for the township to have its own police department so that response times would be short when emergencies did occur.
In July of 1952, the Township of Troy hired its first two police officers, Chief David Gratopp and Patrolman Willard Schwandt. In November the department added a third officer, Patrolman Eugene Sackner, allegedly so all shifts could be covered while Gratopp could get in his annual hunting vacation.
Ted Halsey was another early member of the department. He was hired in 1957 at a starting salary of $4,220 per annum. He spent one year at the original police offices in the old Township Hall, now the Museum.
The department was next headquartered at the old Fire Station No. 3 on Big Beaver before moving to its current location at City Hall. Halsey had been a welder before taking up police work. He was hired after two interviews with Chief Gratopp and Officer Robert Mortensen. He took no tests and had no formal training at that early date, but later he graduated from the first Oakland County Police Academy.
Halsey confirmed Troy was a much quieter place in the 1950s and '60s. He recalled routine duties such as checking businesses were locked (he had many of their keys in his possession) and locking and unlocking area cemeteries. Then as now, attending car accidents was a big part of the job, even though most area roads were two-lane dirt track. The department itself had only one car, he remembered, so the engine was hardly ever shut off. One officer would drive to the home of the next on duty and pick him up. That officer would in turn drive the man going off duty home.
Halsey has other memories that are still vivid. He remembers regular calls to May's Barn on Rochester Road, a local dance hall, for weekend fights. He remembers a somewhat frequent visitor escaping from the Fire Station No. 3 lockup by removing the bolt that held his shackles to the wall. And he'll never forget one of the worst sights he ever saw. He was the photographer at one of Troy's infrequent murders. A very disturbed individual murdered his wife, step-children and his own child with an axe in 1964. Halsey retired as a Detective in 1984.
George Reed was also hired in 1957. The annual report indicates the department bought three new cruisers that year and Reed remembers that cars had to be tested to see if they were up to snuff! He recalls them being taken out to Crooks and 18 Mile Road. They had to be running at 100 mph by the time they reached the top of the hill or else the acceleration was deemed insufficient for police use. Reed served as both a patrolman and a detective and he retired in 1985 as a Lieutenant.
For many years it was thought that Diane Byford, hired in 1981, was Troy's first female police officer. It is now known that Norine Ballentine (left) was hired in 1961 as a "Policewoman". Officer Ballentine's salary was $4,360.
Troy in 1957
The Police Annual reports provide a look back in time. In 1957 there were only five citations for illegal parking while there were 21 hunting violations. There were only eight cars stolen (132 in 2000) and only three people cited for driving while intoxicated (470 in 2000, though of course the laws are much stiffer now). No drug offenses were cited.
Prior to 1952, Troy was served by the Oakland County Sheriff's Department.
Several early Oakland County Sheriffs were Troy residents. Edward Martin was Sheriff from 1845 to 1848. He had served in Troy Township first as Road Overseer and Township Supervisor before his term as Sheriff.
Martin left behind a funny account of tearing his only pair of breeches in his early years as a farmer. With the pants past mending, he traded whiskey for a buckskin with some local natives to make a new pair. Those became soiled as he herded some cows and so his wife, unaccustomed to caring for such material, washed and hung them by a hot fire. They were "stiff as bones" and unwearable. Another hard lesson learned on the frontier!
Clark Beardsley was Sheriff from 1857 to 1860. Beardsley was a Troy resident from 1826 on, but later he became active in Pontiac, and finally moved to Detroit. Almeron S. Matthews served as Beardsley's Under Sheriff. He was born in Troy at his parents' farm in 1824. He spent some time in California in the gold fields before serving his term as Under Sheriff, and afterwards he saw action during the Civil War as a first lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac.
Samuel E. Beach was Sheriff from 1865 to 1868. He was born in Niagara County, New York in 1823. His family held land in Troy and Beach Road is named after them.