March 7th, 2000
Capt. Frank Pape was known as “Chicago’s toughest cop.”
In a career spanning nearly 40 years, he sent 300 men to prison, five to the electric chair and engaged in more than a dozen gun battles, surviving without a scratch while sending nine suspects to their graves.
Capt. Pape, 91, died Sunday after suffering a heart attack in his Park Ridge home.
“Frank was probably the most feared lawman in the history of the Chicago Police Department,” said Ald. Ed Burke, himself a former policeman. “He was a legend in his own time, tough because of his courage, his nerves of steel and his skill with firearms.”
Capt. Pape never used a holster, but carried his weapon, a .38 caliber Police Positive with a bone handle, in a canvas-lined pants pocket that his wife sewed for him.
Those were the days when policemen would ambush a cop-killer in a trap, cut him down in a hail of bullets, then proudly pose for the newspapers afterward.
“My attitude was: If you shoot at me, I’m going to kill you if I can,” Capt. Pape said years later. “Of the nine people I shot, every one of them had a gun and in every instance they had used it or were about to use it. I wouldn’t take them into custody and I don’t give a damn who criticized me for it.”
He was born in Bucktown of Irish-German parentage, and joined the Police Department as a rookie at the Albany Park District in March 1933.
Capt. Pape was assigned to robbery, and never fired his gun in the line of duty until his partner, Morris Friedman–who was in the habit of firing a warning shot over suspects’ heads–was gunned down by a fleeing felon and died in Capt. Pape’s arms.
After that, Capt. Pape carved for himself a reputation for fearlessness if not ruthlessness, sometimes going after criminals with a Thompson sub-machine gun.
“He was the most famous policeman in the history of Chicago,” said Ed McElroy, a friend. “In the United States, he was probably the greatest lawman of the century.”
Capt. Pape ran the robbery unit during most of the 1950s, and was promoted to captain in 1959.
His techniques clashed with new superintendent O.W. Wilson, who wanted to send Capt. Pape back to Albany Park, so Capt. Pape took a leave from the force to run security at Arlington Park Racetrack.
When he returned in 1965, Capt. Pape found a changed world, and the last seven years of his service as a policeman were marked by protests and lawsuits from a public no longer unquestioning of such tough tactics.
He ended his career as the head of Area 5 Traffic, and was retired in February 1972. A thousand people attended his retirement dinner. Survivors include his wife Kitty, son Jerry, daughter Judy, and seven grandchildren.
Visitation will be Wednesday from 3 to 9 p.m. at Ryan Parke Funeral Home in Park Ridge. The funeral will be 10 a.m. Thursday at Mary Seat of Wisdom Catholic Church in Park Ridge.