A Day With Our Mounted Police
By M. E. Chcse,
Fort Dearborn Magazine June, 1922
At 7 :00 a. m.—about the time you and I are at breakfast, the first contingent of Chicago’s 150 Mounted Police are lining up in the big squad room at the La Salle and Illinois Streets headquarters, for roll call. ?nds his horse in the stall all saddled and groomed, and a moment later is awaiting Bugler Cairns’ call to mount as one man, and march off to duty. Even people who live on the daily line of march never cease to enjoy a thrill at the sight of these well groomed policemen and their horses as they ride two abreast to duty.
Mounted Policeman Directing Traffic at a Busy Corner
As the crossings are reached the bugle sounds and one by one the officers drop out and proceed to their posts, until only the bugler is left, when he hangs his bugle on his pommel and takes his post. Then a half hour early, Bugler Cairns returns to head quarters to lead the second, or 1 o’clock contingent to duty. At 5 o’clock, eight “extras” come into the loop, and after the second con tingent goes off duty at 7, remain until the theater crowds have left the loop.
When the Mounted Police get back to head quarters, they first unsaddle their horse, then answer roll call, turn in reports of the happenings on their beats, file any summons, and appear in court as witnesses against lawbreakers they have discovered. Once a week, the Mounted Police have drill in Grant Park.
An officer rides the same horse at all times. Naturally the men become very much attached to their mounts. Indeed, these beautiful horses are favorites with the populace in general. Serious men, messenger boys, business girls and women of leisure, all indulge them in a bit of petting and lumps of sugar. When a policeman leaves his horse for a few minutes —while it would not move from the place it was left—it sometimes steps up on the sidewalk and, in a most friendly way, bids for this attention. But if you tried to coax one of these horses down the street ‘with a lump of sugar, he would only look wistfully at the confection and remain true to his post.
But there is more than a sentimental reason for an officer always riding It is much easier on both horse and rider, as they become used to each others ways. The first three weeks, with a new rider a horse will invari ably lose weight. Most riding is done with the knees and heels of the rider. Without a word or the use of the reins officers are able to turn their horses around, and back them into position. Therefore, when a horse becomes broken to this method of command, —while it would not move from the place it was left—it sometimes steps up on the sidewalk and, in a most friendly way, bids for this atten tion. But if you tried to coax one of these horses down the street ‘with a lump of sugar, he would only look wistfully at the confection and remain true to his post. But there is more than a sentimental reason for an officer always riding It is much easier on both horse and rider, as they become used to each others ways. The first three weeks, with a new rider a horse will invariably lose weight. Most riding is done with the knees and heels of the rider. Without a word or the use of the reins officers are able to turn their horses around, and back them into position. Therefore, when a horse becomes broken to this method of command, a strange rider naturally irritates him, for he will unknowingly give wrong signals. Also a new rider will cause saddle marks to appear on a horse in one day, due to the fact that different riders do not sit the same in the saddle.
For six hours each officer of the Mounted Police works from his saddle, keeping traffic moving in the middle of the blocks. He checks automobiles to see that there is no parking between 7 to 10 a. m. and 4 to 7 p. m. on streets where there are car lines, and that on all streets in the loop, no one parks for more than 30 minutes. There is parking space in the loop for but 2,800 automobiles, with an average of 282,000 coming into the loop each day, to say nothing of other types of vehicles, plus a moving net of street cars. Nearly every street car in the city enters the loop, which is more cars than travel over any other area in the whole country. Therefore. it is to the Mounted Police, in no small degree, that the pedestrian, the automobilist, the truck driver and the street car, owe thanks that under present conditions, loop traffic can move even as rapidly as five miles an hour during rush hours, and that this moving is orderly.
Mounted Police in Action
For instance, almost any Wednesday at matinee time on Randolph Street, street cars are thick, automobiles are sandwiched in between a yellow mass of taxis, and if a coal truck emerges from an alley, it clogs traffic entirely, until, from his mount across the street. the policeman signals this one and that, and gets the wheels in this chaotic mass to turn again. The corner policeman would be powerless to control such a situation.
Also, it is interesting to watch a Mounted Policeman direct the orderly parking against the curb of the truck wagons, as they stream into South Water Street early each morning with their loads of fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers.
“How many minutes do your corner police allow for traffic to go each way?” I asked Lieut. Martin, who is in direct command of the traffic police.
“There is no set space of time. If the officer at State and Madison—the busiest corner in the world— for instance, sees that in the block south on State, the traffic is dense, and that on Madison it is easy, he will give north and south trafiic double or more right of way than east and west traffic, until that congestion passes.”
At times during the day a Mounted Policeman will relieve a corner officer. In such instances, he places his horse directly in front of one way traffic while the other moves, then in turn he takes a position in front of the traffic from the opposite direction.
The mounted police have a great advantage over the foot police in regular duty, for they are where they can look down upon the crowd for a block or more and spot pickpockets or auto thieves, or pursue a crook at gallop speed.
In numerous cases mounted policemen have chased a man racing from justice, dismounted and followed him into some dark alley and brought him forth. As the result of regular target practice, his aim is straight and sure. It is interesting to know that our own Lieut. Weideling has held the national pistol championship for several years.
In such emergencies as the fire just west of the loop, or the race riot on the South Side, one mounted policeman can accomplish as much as several officers on foot, for he is out of reach of the mob, but in an advantageous position for compelling order.
No city in the country has as many mounted police men in its business district as Chicago. Some cover only one block—others cover several, where the traffic is less dense. At one time the mounted police were scattered throughout the city. When Chief Fitzmorris took office, however, they were all concentrated in the territory between the lake and Halsted Street, Twelfth Street and Chicago Avenue, it having been demon strated that foot policemen could do as well at the out lying posts and at a less expense to the city.
Incidentally, the concentration of mounted police in the busiest portions of the city was looked upon with bitter disapproval by the children of the Nettle horst School where Officer “Cap” Anson on his horse “Jimmy,” was stationed. ‘The children immediately wrote a pleading letter to the Chief asking for their “Jimmy policeman” back. Getting no results, fifty of them marched to the Mounted Police headquarters. Not ?nding authority there to help them out, they reduced their representatives to twenty-five and with Alderman Stephens at their head, marched to the City Hall to interview Chief Fitzmorris.
“We want our ‘Jimmy policeman’ back,” they urged, “the one whose horse says ‘Good morning’ to us, and shakes hands, bows, smiles and shows his pretty teeth.” However, while they did not fail to touch the heart of the Chief, the request could not be granted.
“Cap” Anson (no he is not related to the late famous ball player, but he is quite as popular among his fellow officers and on his beats) is now stationed in the Madison and Washington vicinity, but he is on a new mount. Eleven weeks ago the police veterinary pronounced the “Jimmy.” loved by the school chil dren, too old and stiff for our pavements, so “Cap” Anson bought and retired him to a farm.
“All my horses have the same name,” “Cap” Anson said, “and all of them learn to do tricks. Some learn quicker than others. but patience will win out.”
Sergeant Dunsing, coming off his beat on his mooneyed Fritz, was introduced to me as the oldest man in the Mounted Police service.
“Back in 1906 the city took three of us off our beats and put us on mounts in the loop,” Sergeant Dunsing said. “The other two men are out of service now. Our headquarters were then at State and Twelfth Streets. Now there are 150 Mounted Police with five sergeants. A sergeant’s duty is to cover the territory occupied by his own men, to see that everything goes along smoothly and when it does not, to give extra assistance.”
Lieut. Martin took me through the stables, and as he passed along, a nose shoved out from every occupied stall, to be petted. Over each stall is a pulley to which the saddle is slung and hoisted up out of the way.
“The stable boys saddle the mounts after feeding and grooming them, the grooming being done with a vacuum cleaner instead of the old-fashioned curry comb,” Lieut. Martin explained. “Feeding begins at four o‘clock in the morning. The horses are not fed again until they come off duty and then, if the day has been warm, they are left to cool off first.
“The mounts are inspected every day and thoroughly examined twice a year. When one becomes too stiff to catch himself from falling on slippery pavements, he is sold and replaced. However, Some of the horses have been in the service fourteen years.
“There are certain rules and regulations for the Mounted Police which are made largely with the idea of saving both officer and mount.
When a man is in the saddle for six hours every day, it would be very tiring to hold the bit and curb reins so,” and Lieut. Martin indicated the method with a string. “That is all right on parade, but for ordinary duty the officers hold the bit rein in the left hand and throw the curb rein over the pommel, leaving the right hand free. The rouls have all been removed from the spurs, and the points blunted and even these are rarely used. Our horses are kept in the best condition and well trained.
“All the horses are about the same size. A horse should not carry more than 200 pounds. A saddle weighs about 30 pounds, and the of?cers range from 160 to 170 pounds. A horse can haul a heavier load more hours a day, but when. the weight is on his back, his endurance is lessened.”
Captain Lavin is chief of traffic squad. Major Bauder is drill master. Lieut. Martin is in direct com mand with Lieut. Weideling in charge of the detail. Under them are five sergeants and the mounted officers. Officer Cairns is bugler; Officer Moran, color bearer, with Chief Fitzmorris in executive control.
All in all, our mounted police give us genuine cause for pride, for from the snappy roll call and the mount ing of their horses as one man, until they return tired from their day’s work, they are erect, well groomed, courteous and efficient—a great asset to our city, well justifying the annual maintenance expenditure.