The assault at The Buckboard Bar in December of 1982 may have been a reflection of what was going on between law enforcement entities at the time of the murder.
As I earlier noted, there were three different law enforcement entities located in Reed City in 1983, and it doesn’t appear they were always interested in playing nice.
A Michigan State Police Department Amendment (Proposal B) was on the November 1982 ballot in Michigan as an initiated constitutional amendment.
It was heartily defeated. (Yes votes: 720,915; No votes: 2,111,802)
According to Ballotpedia, “Proposal B would have created a Michigan Department of State Police; provided for its personnel; prescribed its duties; and required minimum staffing.”
An initiated constitutional amendment is an amendment to a state’s constitution that comes about through the initiative process. Of the twenty-four states that have some degree of direct democracy, eighteen of them have a provision for initiated constitutional amendments. In several of these states, including Illinois, Massachusetts, and Mississippi, the requirements for placing a proposed amendment on the ballot through an initiative process are so prohibitively difficult that the process has rarely if ever been used.
In this case, the voters were clear by an almost 75 percent margin. It is harder to determine, however, if that high margin was due to voters understanding what the proposal was about, or if police in general get such a bad rap, that anything they asked for would have been summarily declined at the ballot box. Depending on which law enforcement entity you asked at the time, you were likely to get a different answer as to what Proposal B even was. What surrounded it, though, was a great deal of contention.
On October 28, 1982, the Osceola County Herald ran an advertisement titled WHO THINKS PROPOSAL B IS BAD FOR MICHIGAN?
Among the names on the list, along with their smiling faces, were both the Democratic and Republican candidates for Governor that year. You can’t get both parties to agree on almost anything, but apparently in 1982, neither party wanted anything to do with Prop B if they were up for election.
Even the director of the Michigan Department of State Police said No thanks.
Locally, it was Reed City Police Chief Phillip Rathbun and Osceola County Sheriff David Needham vs. the State Troopers. Dueling pieces ran together in the same edition of The Osceola County Herald.
According to the city and county cops, it went a little deeper than the “Keep Troopers on the Job” bumper stickers that were all over town would have you believe. They alleged that the state troopers wanted to be placed under the state constitution.
From the October 28th Herald Article titled Local police officers opposed to Proposal B:
“First of all, they (the Troopers Association) would have the Dept. of State Police be the only department out of twenty as part of the constitution and guaranteed their jobs. How about the nineteen other departments which are equally as important to the operation of the state? We’re sure they have equally as many, if not more, dedicated people who are serving the citizens of this state in their various capacities. Economically speaking, why guarantee a segment of public employees immunity to the checks and balances of good business?”
The State Troopers countered with this:
“The opponents of Proposal B do not want you (the taxpayer) to tie their hands as to where they spend your tax dollars. An example is that in 1981 some 80 State Police officers were laid off and at the same time the Legislature, because of special interest pressures, had given the Pontiac Silverdome $800,000 to subsidize its purchase. Concern for where your hard earned tax dollars are being spent has been a long standing problem in Michigan. Now is your chance to tell the legislature of this state where you want your tax dollar spent.”
Politics at its finest, to be sure.
After Prop B was defeated in November of 1982, the Troopers again took to the press to air their thoughts. They were not happy campers.
Even Theodore Platz—weeks after his termination from the Reed City Police Department—had something to say about Prop B within the context of his firing. (full article below)
“It’s not a secret that I had complained to the state police post in Reed City as well as my Chief on the increased activities of two state police troopers, namely the troopers that arrested me,” revealed Platz. “Also, I’m an officer who quite vocally opposed the Proposal B issue… much to the displeasure of several troopers. I should also note that after the proposal failed, some of the troopers held grudges against me.”
One has to wonder if this sort of animosity between law enforcement officers played any part in the Janette Roberson murder investigation.