By Stephan Benzkofer
January 1, 2012
Frank Pape leapt into the city's conscience with a gun in his hand — a gun he wasn't afraid to use during his storied career as a Chicago cop.
Before he retired in April 1972, he would be called the "city's toughest cop," "the cop all hoodlums fear" and a "hero cop." He was a tireless investigator, once staking out a street corner for 10 days waiting for a young man with a big nose driving a big sedan. The man finally appeared, and Pape and his partner broke up a burglary ring. He would rise to the rank of captain, serve as chief of detectives and be floated twice as a candidate for the top job.
His name would also be on a Supreme Court case that would add credence to accusations of brutality and mistreatment of suspects.
Pape, who was born in Bucktown and attended Lane Tech High School, joined the police force in 1933.
Four years later, on Nov. 14, 1937, the Tribune reported on the front page how he and his partner captured "three young hoodlums" after a pitched gunbattle at St. Louis Avenue and the river.
Over the next four decades, his exploits became the stuff of legend across the city. In the numerous shootouts he was involved in, nine suspects were killed. He was never injured.
Two incidents illustrate Pape's career.
In October 1954, Pape, now a lieutenant, was called in to supervise a special team hunting down Gus Amedeo, a burglary suspect and fugitive who allegedly killed a cop trying to arrest him. Pape told his men, "We want him dead or alive." When Amedeo walked into the police ambush at Clark Street and Berwyn Avenue, Pape fired the first shot, the Tribune reported. Stationed with a "deer rifle" in a second-floor window, Pape's shot hit Amedeo in the arm and knocked him to the street. Other officers opened fire, killing the fugitive. In a WGN-TV interview at the scene, Pape said: "We had a score to settle. We needed one lucky break and we got it when we learned that Gus was to be here tonight."
The Tribune reported that the coroner's jury commended Pape and his men for their bravery and fine police work, ruled Amedeo's death a justifiable homicide and "expressed regret" that Amedeo hadn't been tried and convicted for the officer's murder.
In the other incident, exactly four years later, now-Capt. Pape and 12 officers stormed into a homicide suspect's home at 4:45 a.m. Oct. 29, 1958. They rousted an African-American family out of bed at gunpoint. James Monroe and his wife, who had both been sleeping naked, were forced to stand in the middle of the living room. The couple's six children were allegedly pushed and hit. One officer allegedly kicked a 4-year-old boy. The officers cursed and used racial slurs. They hit Monroe in the stomach several times with a flashlight, the lawsuit said. The house was ransacked. Monroe was held at police headquarters for 10 hours, but no charges were filed. Pape didn't have a search warrant.
The Monroes sued the city and the officers, saying their civil rights were violated. The case, Monroe v. Pape, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 1961 in the Monroes' favor. The decision for the first time gave citizens the right to sue police officers and other city employees under federal civil rights laws.
Shortly after the ruling, Pape took a leave of absence from the Police Department to work as chief of security for Arlington, Washington and Balmoral racetracks. He rejoined the force in 1965 but was assigned to the traffic division.
"They've made it easy for me to leave," Pape said near his retirement. "I was never a traffic man. I was a major crime man."
Times were changing, as were law enforcement procedures, but Pape stayed true to his view of the streets — and a police officer's place there. "With me, it's dog eat dog," he said in 1972. "Today, the philosophy of police seems to be that you have to give them the first two shots. I wouldn't be here today if I had done that."
Editor's note: Thanks go to Tribune reader Hal Ardell of Chicago for suggesting this article.
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