Court bailiff who provided a compassionate ear to those he dealt with as a police officer retires
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
A law enforcement officer who patrolled the streets during the Detroit riots and bonded with inmates from Crawford County recently called it a career after nearly five and a half decades in the field.
Jon Mueller was honored for his service to Crawford County last week by fellow law enforcement officers, court officials, and county employees.
Mueller worked as a bailiff in Crawford County courtrooms for the last eight years. He said he enjoyed working with the inmates, judges, prosecutors, and attorneys.
“I served a purpose, because your job is to keep the courtroom under control and to look out to see what kind of problems may develop,” Mueller said.
A native of Barberton, Ohio, Mueller graduated from Grand Rapids Junior College, where he was certified to become a police officer. He was hired to work for the City of Detroit Police Department in 1964.
Muller served as a beat cop, who was also called upon to do emergency medical service (EMS) work since there were no medics or ambulances back in the day. The officers drove around in station wagons with cots in the back.
“We did take a lot of injured people down to the hospital, which also got my interest up to do EMS-type of work,” he said.
In 1967, Muller worked a 26-hour shift as the racial riots got underway in Detroit. He and fellow officers got trapped in a home by sniper fire during the riots. They were rescued by the Michigan National Guard and Michigan State Police.
In the following days, police officers were matched with airmen from the 82nd Airborne.
“We just started working the streets in big groups,” Mueller said.
The police and National Guard still took on sniper fire until the riots quelled.
“We got sniped at a couple of times but it was nothing serious,” Mueller said. “As you talk to most combat people, you get to a point where you don’t think about it.”
Following the riots, Mueller was assigned to an emergency response unit, which responded to shootings in progress and bank robberies.
“It was anything in that ilk,” he said. “It was always in progress.”
The unit’s calls always involved racing to the complaints with full lights and sirens.
“You just go where people needed help, and you go,” Mueller said.
Later, Mueller worked as a motorcycle patrol officer, a job he loved.
“You get to ride an $18,000 Harley, and you get to wear one of the neatest uniforms you’re ever going to see, and they tell you go out and write tickets,” he said.
Mueller ended his 26-year career with the City of Detroit Police working out in the field for an accident investigation and radar investigation unit since he was certified as an accident investigator.
Mueller and his family moved to northern Michigan in 1990.
With an itch to still work in law enforcement, he first served on the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office Reserves Program, which assists deputies with crowd control at large events and during natural disasters. He was later hired to serve as a part-time sheriff’s deputy.
Mueller then moved on to work as a part-time and full-time police officer for the Richfield Township Police Department in St. Helen. During those years, he also pulled double duty and worked for the Department of Public Safety at Kirtland Community College. He also filled in shifts for the City of Grayling’s Police Department.
Mueller left the Richfield Township Police Department when the budget ax hit staffing levels for police officers.
“I worked there for a full 15 years, and I left due to budget restraints,” he said.
Two weeks after leaving that job, Mueller was hired to work as a bailiff for the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office in July 2010.
Throughout his entire career, Mueller said he enjoyed helping out people in their time of need.
“I honestly believe we’re there to protect and serve. You meet people, probably at the worst time in their lives very often, and they need the compassionate spirit. You can make a difference,” he said. “You’re snagging up people that are hurting people, in one way or another, and you’re putting them where they belong.”
Mueller added that he enjoyed searching out people involved in criminal capers and crime sprees.
“It’s kind of a game between you and bad guys,” he said. “They’re trying to stay out of your way and you’re trying to catch them doing what they’re not supposed to. It’s just been fun.”
Mueller bonded with inmates from the Crawford County Jail, and encouraged them to get on the right path. He praised his time working for Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield and Capt. Randy Baerlocher, the jail administrator for the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office.
“I loved it here,” he said. “I loved working for the sheriff and I love working for Randy.”
Baerlocher said he could always count on Mueller to handle his duties in the courts and with corrections officers in the jail.
“Jon is one of the most dedicated professionals that still had drive, was organized, and was on time, and always would do whatever it takes and everything that he was asked to do,” Baerlocher said. “He was a big link to the security and doing the bailiff work over in the court. We miss him. After 54 years, nobody that I know has a drive like that.”
Wakefield echoed those sentiments.
“He was always here on time and ready to go. He kept an eye on the courts,” Wakefield said. “He’s a very dependable, reliable guy. You can’t ask for any more. He did exactly what you told him to do. He had lots of experience and he is a good guy.”