The First Patrol Car...

In 1910, the officers were outfitted with electric flashlights. Future Chief Thomas O' Brien also was promoted to sergeant during this year and the sergeant's salary was $75 a month, while officers made $66 a month. It was during this year that the city council received a communication from the chief asking them to consider “the advisability of procuring a motorcycle for the use of the police department.”

This was reported to the Police Committee of the Council, who did not think it was advisable to purchase a motorcycle, but did wish to purchase an automobile for patrol when funds became available.

Up to this point the only transportation owned by the department was a bicycle. On many occasions a horse and buggy was rented for departmental use. The Polhemus and Walker Liveries furnished most of the livery services for the department. If an officer was stopped in the street and told of a call that required immediate service and it was some distance from him, he would stop a horse and buggy and order the driver to take him to that location. It was considered the duty (in fact an ordinance) of the citizens to assist the officer. One of the officers also had his own horse and buggy, which was frequently used when he was working.

As there was no officer in the station during the night, if there was a problem that needed an officers attention, the telephone operator would ring a phone at the corner of Main and Huron. This would cause a red light in the center of the street to activate, alerting the officers on foot patrol to call. The police bicycle was parked near this intersection to be used if needed.

If an officer did not respond to the light, the operator would call Prochnow's restaurant, which was located on E. Huron. Mr. Prochnow would then go outside and beat an iron club on a hitching post, which was at the curb. In the still of the night, this noise was audible anywhere downtown and alerted the officers that they were needed. It was a very common occurrence for the merchants to use this method to summon the officers when needed, sort of a 911 without a telephone!

In 1911, the council passed the first ordinances governing motor vehicle traffic. Speed was restricted to 10 miles a hour in the business district and 15 miles a hour in residential sections. Unfortunately the department had no vehicle to use to enforce these ordinances, until September, 6, 1911, when council authorized the purchase of a motorcycle. This motorcycle was purchased from Staebler and Sons at a cost of $281.58. Patrolman Gustave Meyer was the first officer assigned to ride the motorcycle.

The following year a proposal was sent to council requesting the expenditure for a “police auto patrol wagon.” The mayor vetoed this as he did not want to put any “undue strain on the taxpayers.”

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In 1913, the council agreed to purchase a light automobile, as they had come to the conclusion that “the purchase of a light automobile, cost not to exceed $500 over and above what may be realized from the sale of the old motorcycle, would be better than the purchase of a new motorcycle, as a light car can be used to stop speeding and also as a light patrol wagon.”

The department bought a Studebaker-EMF-30 roadster, making it the department's first patrol car, but only two of the officers knew how to operate it. By 1915, the patrol car, which had been bought used, was in very bad shape. Chief Pardon's personal car was used frequently during this period.

I have found conflicting accounts of the first patrol car used by the department. Most accounts state the department used its first patrol car in 1923, when a Ford Model T was confiscated from a bootlegger. I believe this is inaccurate and that the Studebaker was the first vehicle owned by the department. I did find an old photo of this vehicle and the year listed on it was 1913.

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