2006-02-11 / News

Judge Ned Fenlon Honored for 1935 Efforts

Former Legislator Lauded by Police

Judge Ned Fenlon, 102, was honored by the Michigan State Police Tuesday, January 3, for his work as a legislator of establishing the police agency as an independent state department in 1935. Judge Fenlon received a plaque in recognition of his efforts at the Petoskey police.

The award was presented to Judge Fenlon by First Lieutenant Aaron Sweeney, Petoskey post commander, on behalf of Colonel Tadarial Sturdivant, director of the Michigan Department of State Police. Honoring Judge Fenlon was personally gratifying for Lt. Sweeney, he said, because Judge Fenlon knew his greatgrandfather and used to frequent his dance hall in Sterlingville, north of Pickford, in the late 1920s.

As a legislator, Mr. Fenlon was instrumental in the creation of Public Act 59 of 1935, which remains the basis for State Police authority today. The act established an independent department for the agency and provided it more security, as well as setting minimum requirements for police recruit school applicants. Under the old law, the police force was named the Department of Public Safety and subject to the vicissitudes of state politics. Public Act 59 prevented widespread changes in police personnel after every gubernatorial election and helped make the Michigan State Police a professional agency attracting qualified career officers, Lt. Sweeney said.

Judge Fenlon was supportive in building the Works Progress Administration (WPA) State Police Posts throughout Michigan in the 1930s, many of which are still in use today.

In 1933, Mr. Fenlon, who was born in St. Ignace and grew up in Hessel, was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives. He introduced legislation that paved the way for construction of the Mackinac Bridge. Mr. Fenlon was also instrumental in the construction of the Blue Water Bridge at Port Huron and the International Bridge at Sault Ste. Marie.

Mr. Fenlon also served for 24 years as the 33rd Judicial Circuit Judge for Mackinac, Cheboygan, Emmet, and Charlevoix counties.

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