Chicago Tribune, January 24, 1917
CHIEF SCHUETTLER yesterday made a written appeal to the council finance committee for $6,000 with which to purchase fifteen inexpensive automobiles to equip his flying crime squad. The aldermen voted to provide the requested appropriation. Following is Schuettler’s letter in part:
Criminals today are using automobiles almost entirely, especially in holdups on the streets, payroll holdups and the robbery of business establishments. The criminals find the automobile a useful vehicle with which to make their escape and this department is absolutely powerless to cope with that situation because we have no automobiles in which to pursue them or to patrol the streets so that crime may be prevented.
It is not fair to allow the police to lag behind with obsolete apparatus, particularly the old horse drawn patrol wagons. The motorcycle is of some aid, but in bad weather they cannot be used, especially in the winter, when crime is more prolific than at any other time.
It is well known that gangs of desperadoes operating in automobiles consist of three or more members. The motorcycle office, being alone and having to take care of the machine, as well as to endeavor to apprehend these criminals, is badly handicapped.
Chicago Tribune, January 12, 1919
At midnight, on its first day out, the big new police car was wrecked in a collision at Michigan avenue and Eighteenth street. Three detective sergeants—Edward Baynes, George Lynch, and John J. Russell—were taken to a hospital badly injured. They were answering a call.
The police department has just received two brand new automobiles, regular speed devils, guaranteed to make seventy miles an hour. They have been manned by the best and most daring chauffeurs in the department and a picked squad of riflemen.
The battery of guns consists of Winchester automatic rifles. The men have been given orders to shoot to kill.
Thieves, pay roll bandits, holdup men, and auto thieves, here’s fair warning. Something is going to be doing. No more are you going to be able to laugh as you snap a stolen tail light at the police flivver. The little old car you know so well has rattled after the last time.
Can Catch anything.
The big new speed wagons will be able to run down almost anything on four wheels. The machines were delivered last night at 5 o’clock to Chief of Detectives Mooney and within a couple of hours had two runs.
The first run was to the offices of the James O’Donnell Teaming company, 155 East Illinois street at 5:45 o’clock, when four young men, believed to be neighborhood talent, entered with handkerchief masks and took a $400 payroll from Mr. O’Donnell.
There were six in the gang altogether, two remaining outside with a big black motor car and acting as lookouts. Mr. O’Donnell said the fellows were quite young and seemed nervous. All carried guns.
①—Detective Sergeant John Lahey, ②—Detective Sergeant Thomas M’Inerney, ③—Detective Sergeant James Kilgore, ④—Detective Sergeant William Russell, ⑤—Detective Sergeant Frank Johnson, ⑥—Chief of Detectives James L. Mooney, ⑦—Lieutenant of Detectives John Loftus.
Chase Jewelry Bandits.
The second run for the new bandit hunting wagons was to the jewelry store of E. Strassburger, Inc., 2630 Lincoln avenue. In the store, were Mrs. Gertrude Dtrassburger, widow of Ernest Strassburger, and her daughter, Margaret. The bandits got $75 from the cash drawer and about $4,500 worth of diamonds, rings, watches, lavalieres, and other jewelry from the window.
Two men, armed, entered the place and one stood outside to act as lookout. While the men were taking the stuff out of the window a passerby walked up to look at the display. The lookout said to him:
Beat it and don’t say a word or I’ll shoot your head off.
The stranger apparently followed the instructions exactly. Alphonse Petit, an optician, had just gone out for his supper, which left the two women alone. The bandits tried to compel the two women to open the safe, but they told them they could not—that the proprietor had just gone out to supper and that he alone had access to it.
Saved Heavy Loss.
But for their quick wit and courage the loss might have been considerably bigger.
With the arrival of the big new automobiles Chief of Police Garrity ordered that all police stations shall flash Chief Mooney at once every time there is a big robbery and the rifle squads will dash off at once. The big speed cars will be ready to go on a second’s notice at all times.
The men who man them will be under command of Lieut. Michael Hughes and Lieut. John Loftus. Carefully chosen chauffeurs will work in three eight hour shifts. The guns are oiled, the cars can make the seventy miles an hour that’s guaranteed, and each squad ias anxious to make the first catch.
Police Officer Kleback’s Squad
The Suburbanite Economist, August 18, 1925
Shiny new “flivvers” have been arriving at the Southtown police stations during the past week to keep the old “flivvers” company. Two of the cars arrived at the Gresham station and two came to “board and room” at the Morgan Park station.
The new cars, part of the one hundred cars given to the various stations by the city council, are inclined to “highbrow” the Ford touring cars which they found already on duty, for they are truly aristocrats of the police world.
Instead of touring cars they are roadsters and they are fully equipped with self starters and all other accessories making for speed and ease in handling. The gong is attached to the left hand door. No punctured tires will ever delay “coppers,” either, for the cars have solid rubber tires instead of pneumatic tires.
These “flivvers” have the number of the district and the star in white on a black background.
Two men will comprise each “flivver” squad. The cars will be used for patrolling purposes. It is expected that an increased efficiency will result from the wider use of cars on the beat.
Chicago Police “flivver”
Chicago Tribune, March 19, 1929
Police automobiles used by squads assigned to the detective bureau are to be painted yellow to prevent them from being confused with automobiles of a similar make, it was announced yesterday. The change follows closely upon the charge that a police car was used by killers in the North Clark street massacre.
“The word ‘Police’ will be lettered on the sides, front, and rear,” Commissioner of Police William F. Russell. “No one then will be likely to confuse our cars with others made by the same manufacturer.”
One of the defense arguments in the trials of of Anselmi and Scalisi for the murder of two policemen was that they did not know that the car pursuing them was a police car.
Chicago Police Yellow Squad Cars
Part of the 100 New Chicago Police Yellow Ford Model A’s.1
Chicago Tribune, February 14, 1931
A yellow police squad car bearing a sign which designates it as a the property of the Chicago police department was stolen last night and every roving police car in the city was searching for it. The alarm announcing that the car had been stolen was broadcast throughout the city at 11:20 p.m.
Policemen Michael O’Grady and James Graham of the central police, who manned the flivver, said they had parked it at Clark and Wacker drive, where they said they got out of the car to watch two suspicious characters. When they returned the car was gone, they reported to headquarters.
It was last seen going north on Lake Shore drive at Oak street, the police teletype said. Early this morning it was found parked at Michigan avenue and Monroe street.
Chicago Police Annual Report, 1925
In 1917. Ford cars were first used in the Police Department. Forty-two Ford touring cars were first purchased and distributed to the different districts. They were manned by four men in citizens dress. There was no mark of any kind on the car to show that it was a police car except a gong. These cars were held at the district stations and responded to all alarms.
Early Chicago Police Patrol Car
In 1921 fifty new touring cars were purchased. In 1923 fifty additional touring cars were purchased. These cars were manned by three men in uniform and toured the district reporting to the district station every half hour.
In 1925 one hundred Ford roadsters were purchased. These cars were marked and lettered on sides and too. making them easily identified from tipper windows as well as from sidewalk and street. Thev were equipped with electric lights, a gong, and cushion tires replaced pneumatic tires. These cars were manned by two men in uniform. trained in the care and driving of a Ford auto in the Police School.
The Police Ford equipment and Ford school are under the supervision of a Captain of Police who has organized an efficient branch of service by selecting tbe men best qualified for this class of work.
Ford crews report over the police telephone every twenty minutes. The territory in large districts where a small number of officers are available is now covered more thoroughly and frequently. The feeling of doubt as to a Ford being: suited to police work has been removed. The repeated requests from all Commanding Officers for additional Fords in their respective districts prove the efficiency of this type of patrol service.
An interior view of a squad car with gun rack open showing torches and other equipment.
Seven Ford sedans and coupes are in use at the Detective Bureau and Auto Detail. The Auto Detail has one car equipped with acetylene and oxygen unit complete for immediate use in tracing changed or removed numbers on stolen autos. The Bureau of Identification has a Ford Sedan to carry photographers and experts on finger prints, etc. to and from the scene of important crimes.
At the present time a request is before the City Council for forty touring cars and sixty roadsters. This will give the Department a total of two hundred and ten Fords. This will make an average of about six cars per district and with the squad cars from the Detective Bureau, the policing of the City of Chicago will compare favorably with any city in the United States.
Another view of a section of Ford squad cars with crews of two uniformed officers for each car at inspection. These squads are in communication with their respective station by telephone every twenty minutes; and are then informed of the latest development.
1 From the Chicago Tribune, September 11, 1931, Mayor Cermak stated about the 1929 purchase of 100 police flivvers, “They cost originally $51,000. Operation and maintenance of them cost $185,330. No business man would keep them in a commercial fleet as they are now.” He also stated that each car averaged for two years $911 for gas and oil, $755 for repairs and service, and $186 for tires and inner tubes. The average was eleven miles to a gallon of gasoline.
Even though the “flivver” nickname was associated with the Ford Model T, the 1929 purchase were actually Model A’s and the nickname was carried over. The photographs above support this.
1929 Ford Model A