Jack Muller, a retired Chicago police officer who was once known for his uncompromising law-and-order attitude, died on March 11 of kidney failure. He was 81.
Born to Hungarian and Polish immigrants, Muller played football and studied law at the University of Michigan. He dropped out of school to enlist in the U.S. Navy and spent World War II serving in the Pacific theatre aboard the USS Sheldrake as a minesweeping specialist.
Upon his return to the states, Muller joined the Chicago Police Department. As a rookie cop, he was shot in the head during a shootout. The bullet deflected off the police shield on his hat and lodged in his skull, where it remained for the rest of his life.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Muller developed a reputation for his ticketing practices. He patrolled Rush Street on a three-wheel motorcycle and strictly enforced all traffic laws. Fame, fortune and status didn’t matter. If a citizen broke the law, Muller was there to write him up.
“He wrote lots of tickets,” his son Kurt Muller said.
The newspapers loved to write about the honest cop, particularly when he issued tickets to Mayor Richard J. Daley, Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse and mobsters Tony Accardo and Sam Giancanna. When Chicago Sun-Times gossip columnist Irv Kupcinet’s car was illegally parked in front of the Esquire Theatre, Muller had it towed. Even actor Jack Webb couldn’t avoid Muller’s determined pen. While Webb played straight-laced Sgt. Joe Friday on the TV show “Dragnet,” Muller ticketed him for being drunk and disorderly.
But Muller’s actions didn’t sit well with the higher-ups back at headquarters. For doing his job and being a good cop, he was demoted to the cemetery beat. Then, to save face, the city made him a detective. Detectives, after all, don’t write tickets. Unable to turn a blind eye to lawbreakers, however, Muller continued his efforts to rid the city of crime.
In the early 1970s, Muller worked a number of cases involving the theft of high-end tires. His investigation led to the arrest of several high-ranking police officials. For speaking out about the case on the local news, he received a written reprimand from police administrators. Muller fought the disciplinary action all the way to the U.S. Court of Appeals, and won. The reprimand was eventually expunged from his record.
After nearly four decades on the force, Muller retired in 1981. He moved to Benedict Lake, Wis., took up fishing, wrote his autobiography (“I, Pig: Or, How the World’s Most Famous Cop, Me, Is Fighting City Hall”) and won $1.6 million in the lottery. He was also the subject of the biography, “Cycle Cop: The True Story of Jack Muller, the Chicago Giant-Killer Who Feared No Evil,” by Paul G. Neimark.