Police Cars Began in Akron, Ohio
The southwestern city of Cincinnati prides itself as the first to establish a full-time career fire department in the United States. Not to be outdone, the city of Akron on the opposite end of the state proclaims that it is the first city to use a motorized patrol car.
By the closing decade of the 19th century, the then nascent American automobile industry was already introducing self-propelled carriages powered either by steam, electricity, or internal combustion engines. Joining the men and women who were trading their horse-drawn carriages and buggies in favor of the new invention, the Akron Police Department purchased one unit of the automobile in 1899.
The automobile was actually a buggy designed by Frank Loomis, an Akron city mechanical engineer, and built by the Collins Buggy Company. It was equipped with an electric-powered engine that could run, on level ground, 18 mph for about 30 minutes before depleting the battery and needing a recharge.
Although a policeman mounted on a horse can outpace the patrol car in a gallop, the latter can carry an entire squad of seven or nine including the driver. This, it is often believed, is the reason why police cars today are sometimes called squad cars.
Fitted with electric lights and gongs, and including a stretcher, the patrol car cost $2,400, which is about $67,000 in 2012 values.
Responsibility for operating the car was first given to Police Office Louis Mueller, Sr, and his very first assignment was to pick up a drunken man at the intersection of Main and Exchange Streets, a task many police officers still perform today, and not only in Akron.
In a race riot in 22 August 1900, angry mobs pushed the car into the Ohio Canal, but it was recovered on the following day. It continued to function for a few more years before it was finally junked.