Mounted Officers Ayala and Casasanto on patrol in Grant Park at the lakefront. (September 30, 2007)
The Mounted Patrol Unit is a unit within the Chicago Police Department and is assigned to the Special Functions Division of the Bureau of Patrol. Designated Unit 055, members utilize radio call signs in the 4900 thru 4959 series and operate on Citywide 1. The Mounted Unit provides specialized mounted patrol in selected areas of the City where such patrol can be used effectively. The unit is headquartered at the former South Shore County Club Stables located at 7059 S South Shore Drive.
Since inception of the Mounted Patrol in the parks and Loop area, it has proved invaluable in arrests for thefts, strong-armed robbery, peeping toms, exposures and helped apprehend a bank robber. Because of the excellent visibility afforded an officer on horseback, they can be utilized in numerous situations difficult for motorized vehicles or foot patrols. The unit has lost six horses in the line of duty since its inception.
Chicago Police Mounted Unit truck and horse trailer at the South Shore Cultural Center Stables. (July 14, 2014)
Chicago Police Department Mounted Patrol Unit horse stables at the South Shore Cultural Center. (October 17, 2015)
The unit was organized as the “Mounted Police Force” in 1906 and was created to meet the needs of a congested loop area and was used for traffic and crowd control. Headquartered at 12th and State Streets its compliment consisted of 40 officers. In 1922 the unit was headquartered at Illinois and LaSalle Streets and its compliment consisted of 150 officers. The unit operated mainly in the loop area, its boundaries stretching from Chicago Avenue to 12th Street and Lake Michigan to Halsted Street, until it was disbanded in 1948.
The unit was reorganized as the “Mounted Patrol” in the spring of 1974 and was created for the purpose of aggressively patroling Chicago Parks and other recreational areas. The following personnel were the first assigned to the unit: Sergeants Timothy Gainer and J. Lorenz, Patrolmen J. Brennan, A. Garcia, S. Harris, M. McDonald, Joseph Morici, F. Murczek, J. Murray, J. Petrone, Peter Poholik, G. Preski, H. Radney, and R. Vicari. Ten geldings were purchased for the unit and a contest was held to name them. Thousands of names were submitted by school children of the kindergarten through 6th Grade from public and parochial schools throughout the city. The winning name and school children were:
Portrait of Lieutenant Charles Healey, a mounted policeman shown sitting on a horse on a street in Chicago, Illinois (1908). DN-0005617, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum.
First graduating class of Mounted Patrol Officers after the units reorganiation. (1974)
Winner of horse naming contest being presented with her prize. (1975)
The unit quickly expanded and in early 1975 a second batch of twelve horses were purchased and an additional thirteen officers were brought into the unit. The horses were obtained from areas within a 4-state radius of Chicago, Ages ranged from 4 to 8 years, with an average height of 16.0 hands, Mounts had to be either black, brown or chestnut geldings and possess a sound disposition. Prior to purchase, each animal was examined and x-rayed by a Department authorized veterinarian. The units total compliment now boasted 27 men and 22 horses. The officers rotated their mounts approximately every 3 months, working the horses for two shifts with relief.
A contest was once again held to name the new horses. The winning name and school children were:
In July 1975, the new mounted officers graduated from the Mounted Patrol’s Training Academy. After 12 weeks of intensive training, the new mounted officers were ready for action. They gave their first public performance during graduation exercises before an audience of relatives, friends, department officials and picnic crowds who gathered to applaud their prowess. Deputy Chief Walter Vallee, Captain James Delaney, Sergeant Timothy Gainer, and Patrolmen Peter Poholik and Joe Morici shared their moments of glory from the sidelines, enjoying the satisfaction of the obvious results of the presentation. One officer was missing from her mount for the graduation exercises. Patrolman Jillian McLaughlin who was a member of the class sustained an injury and did not complete her training for several weeks. She was the first female member of the Mounted Patrol Unit.
Class work, care and grooming, physical anatomy of horses, first aid, stable management, tack study, plus jumping and riding for a minimum of 240 hours were part of the training program. The new mounted officers visited community riding stables, veterinary clinics and lived horses almost every waking moment. Qualifying for this unit called for men and women with five years on the force, who were under 35, weighed less than 180 pounds, no back or kidney problems and no disciplinary action of consequence. Following a preliminary board hearing and questioning by an oral board, applicants were selected on the basis of physical well being, appearance and knowledge of police work.
Unit photo of the Mounted Patrol in Butler Field against the dramatic background of Michigan Avenue skyscrapers are the men responsible for the training of the unit. From front: Deputy Chief Walter Vallee of the Special Operations Group, Lieutenant Joseph Shaughnessy, Captain James Delaney, Sergeants Tim Gainer and Emil Spal and Patrolman Joseph Morici and Peter Poholik. (July 1975)
Since its reorganization, the unit number of 055 hasn’t changed, but the units name has changed three times since its inception.
Mounted Police Force – 1906 thru 1948
Mounted Patrol – January 13, 1975 thru December 30, 1981
Mounted Unit – December 31, 1981 thru February 26, 2013
Mounted Patrol Unit – February 27, 2013 thru Present