As he prepares to step away from the job after 47 years at one Division, Constable Hans-Juergen Mueller recalls the cold winter night in 1975 he and a new recruit almost lost their lives.
He and retired Detective Sergeant Mike Hamel were on patrol at the bottom of Polson Street, near the lake, when their scout car slid on black ice into the water.
Mueller, who joined the Service on July 28, 1970, retired on July 12 after close to five decades at 51 Division.
“We were on the midnight shift. I took the rookie to show him some of the areas where stolen cars were dumped,” he said. “There was the Continental Cans building there at the time and, as we went behind there and I tried to get around some ice sculptures, I touched the brake slightly and turned the car to the right. It didn’t stop.”
With the car heading into the lake, the two officers quickly jumped to safety.
“It was pitch-black and we didn’t take portable radios with us if we were in a scout car,” said Mueller. “So, I had to make my way to the nearest telephone booth on Cherry St. to call the radio room and ask for a Patrol Sergeant to come to the scene. I remember the operator asking me why and my response was, ‘just send me a Patrol Sergeant’.”
The car was pulled from the lake the next day.
The biggest test was yet to come as the officers had to tell their unit commander, Superintendent Bob Genno, what happened.
“He was known as ‘God’, so you know that wasn’t going to be easy,” said Mueller. “Of course, Mike was the rookie and he was the first one they talked to. I told him to tell them exactly what happened which he did for nearly an hour. He did a good job because they didn’t talk to me.”
Mueller said he wouldn’t be here to recount that story if the car went into the lake.
“If we had gone down with the car, it would have taken a long time to find our bodies because there was no trace on the ice that a car was there,” he said.
Born in Germany just after the end of the war, Mueller came to Canada at age 10 with his two sisters.
German males were required to enlist in the Army for two years once they turned 16.
“Even though we lived in a four-bedroom apartment and my father had a good job, he didn’t want me to be conscripted into the Armed Forces,” he said. “That’s why we moved here.”
After graduating from high school, Mueller planned to go to the University of Western Ontario, then pursue a career in sports coaching and teaching.
“Things didn’t quite work out for me to go to university, so I went to work as sheet metal mechanic for the company that my dad was employed with,” he said. “I was also playing tennis at the same time and was ranked in the province just four years after learning how to play the sport at age 12.”
Working for about 10 months during the year, Mueller’s dad insisted he find consistent employment.
“He knew I also liked policing so he told me to apply, which I did,” said Mueller, who played soccer until the age of 60. “About six months after I sent in my resume, I was hired.”
The veteran officer said much has changed since he joined the Service.
“The biggest change is the emergence of social media and the scrutiny that officers are under,” he said. “Back in our day, our dirty laundry didn’t get into the public. Now, everything is out in the open which is good in a sense. On the other hand, if an officer parks in a no-parking zone, someone takes a picture and it’s out there for the whole world to see. I think that is taking it too far.”
Mueller relished the time he spent at one Division.
“I had the opportunity to be promoted in 1978, but that didn’t work out,” he said. “One of the times I enjoyed most on the job was doing foot patrol in Regent Park with a Swedish officer and our positive interactions with the young people.”
Mueller plans to do a lot of travelling with his wife, Joanne Mueller, a civilian at 51 Division.
She retires on October 1
“We have known each other since 1993 and we tied the nuptial knot 15 years ago,” he said. “We spend a couple of weeks yearly in Vegas. We also plan to spend about three to four months down south.”