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History of America's First Motorized Patrol Vehicle

The vehicle's first assignment was to pick up an intoxicated man.

May 18, 2010  |  by

The term "squad car" likely came from early patrol days, when agencies used wagons to transport the whole squad. Image via Akron Police Department.

Ever wonder about the first motorized patrol car used in the modern era of U.S. law enforcement?

Well, we've learned that the Akron Police Department claims this historic distinction with an electric-powered patrol wagon produced in 1899.

The wagon was powered by electricity fielded on the streets of Akron. On level ground, it could reach 18 mph and travel 30 miles before its battery needed to be recharged.

The vehicle was actually a buggy built by the Collins Buggy Company and designed by city mechanical engineer Frank Loomis. The $2,400 vehicle was equipped with electric lights, gongs and a stretcher.

The first operator of the patrol wagon was Akron Police officer Louis Mueller, Sr. The car's first assignment was to pick up an intoxicated man at Main and Exchange streets.

The vehicle was caught up in a race riot in Akron on Aug. 22, 1900 and pushed into the Ohio Canal. An angry mob also stormed the city jail and police facility; officers exchanged fire with the vigilantes before fleeing a building that was burned to the ground.

The wagon was rescued the following day; it served a few more years and then was junked.

By 1909, Detroit was testing modern police cars to supplement bicycle and mounted units. The cars were in response to a need to keep up with motorized vehicles driven by offenders.

Comments (1)

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pteinert @ 5/20/2010 6:00 AM

"The vehicle's first assignment was to pick up an intoxicated man." As much as times change ... they stay the same. Enjoyed the article

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