Most cops know that police superintendents and chiefs never seem to come from the ranks of working street cops. They are too often are administrative types who will do anything and everything they can to avoid police work. The types most likely to get the top spot almost always seem to have the least real police experience.
Today I had a sad revelation that far to little information is available about the former chiefs and superintendents of the Chicago Police Department. There once was an informational display in the lobby of police headquarters but it’s been since removed. Finding out who these guys were and what they did is shrouded in mystery today.
To help put this shameful mishandling of police history in perspective I will tell a story I know of the late Superintendent, James M. Rochford. Other than this story, I can’t tell you much more about this giant of a cop.
Hostage negotiations, SWAT teams or the Chicago Hostage Barricade Team did not exist when this story unfolded. Officers confronting in these kinds of events flew by the seat of their pants since police training never prepared anyone this kind of event.
At 9521 South Exchange Avenue on April 14, 1969, there was a horrific bloodbath that resulted in the deaths of Detective Jerome A. Stubig and Sergeant James R. Schaffer. Additionally six other officers and two civilians suffered serious hand gernade shrapnel and gunshot wounds.
It began when a 43 year-old, mentally disturbed former Marine, labeled as a “Mad Bomber”, Frank J. Kulak, barricaded himself in his home. Kulak began sniping at his neighbors who called police. The first two officers responding knocked on Kulak’s door and were met by fatal gunfire and tossed hand gernades.
The entire gun, battle and siege lasted six hours. Jim Rochford responded, climbed over the bloody bodies of his comrades, Schaffer and Stubig to make voice contact with Kulak. Using incredible calm, courage and negotiation skills, an un-armed Rochford took Kulak into custody ending the carnage.
Along with some deadly booby traps set at Kulak’s front door police seized 52 unexploded manufactured bombs, hand grenades, and various paraphernalia for the manufacture of explosives including gunpowder, pipes, cylinders, tape, and military-type fuses. Also seized were two carbine rifles, two shotguns and two pistols.
Kulak never faced criminal charges for his crimes. He was declared incompetent by a court and sent off to the Chester Mental Hospital at Menard for treatment.
James M. Rochford quickly rose through the ranks succeeding James B. Conlisk, Jr. as Chicago Police Superintendent where he served from 1974 through 1979. Rochford passed away in 2004.
Sergeant James Schaffer
Detective Jerome A. Stubig