No one knows better the danger that a tense circumstance can present than police in the United States. Constantly under pressure to control people who are guaranteed rights that provide them a wide latitude of no control, the scenarios that citizens can present range from the mundane to sheer terror, even for a trained professional. With that thought, we continue to reflect on moments in the history of law enforcement we wish we could get back, the sacrifices of those that have paid the ultimate price on our behalf.
Detroit Police Department
First chartered in 1861, Detroit Police Department (DPD) has had a storied history, but it didn’t start until 1865, as too many able-bodied men from the city were fighting in the civil war, which led to a lack of candidates for the department for four years. The first year saw 40 officers employed, and they made a staggering 3,056 arrests in one year! By 1893, the department was making progressive personnel decisions, hiring the first black officer, and first female officer. Coming from what would become the automobile capital of the world, DPD were one of the first agencies to use cars for patrol, and was the first agency to use radio dispatch systems, in 1922. Innovation has always been central to DPD, and that brings us to our next officers.
Officers Jon Ryckman & Byron B. Soule, Jr.
Officer Jon Ryckman was a three-year veteran, and Officer Byron Soule Jr. was a nine-year veteran of the Detroit Police Department. Both officers were members of DPD’s aviation unit, Officer Ryckman as a pilot, and Officer Soule, Jr., as an observer. Both officers had been working together for roughly a year, and were primarily assigned to the airspace over Detroit’s eastside neighborhoods. In the early morning hours of Friday, June 28th, 1974, they were patrolling the east side, and began heading towards Belle Island, a municipal park that sits on the Detroit River, along the border with Windsor, in Canada. As they approached airspace on the river, a D-18 Beechcraft began to have engine problems, and descended into an emergency landing. As the owner and pilot of the aircraft, Charles W. Weldon did this, he struck the helicopter hard, but continued in his descent, crash landing at the Detroit Airport. Officers Ryckman and Soule, Jr. plunged straight into the river, dying either in the air, or upon impact. DPD hastily organized a rescue effort, and were able to find Officer Ryckman soon after, by dredging the river. It took through the morning to locate Officer Soule, Jr.
Officer Soule, Jr. left behind a wife and two children. We know the toll his death has taken on his family. Certainly, his sons could tell you. Officer Ryckman was survived by his wife, and brother. And certainly, they both could tell you the impact his loss had on them. The loss of both these officers were the first in the history of DPD’s aviation program. And while this was an unavoidable accident, it is proof of how much life-threatening danger officers are exposed to daily, when you consider you’re more likely to die in a car accident than experiencing so much as a mechanical trouble in a helicopter, as a passenger.
In memory of Officers Jon Ryckman & Byron B Soule, Jr.