June 1909 | Police Autos

 An early police vehicle, 1910. Utah State Historical Society

“I am proud to say that the police department of Louisville is in such a line of progress that we feel ourselves beyond the utility of the horse, and can now boast of three power-driven vehicles…”*                   
-Police Chief J. H. Haager, Louisville, KY, 1909

In June 1909, Louisville, Kentucky’s Chief of Police stood before his esteemed colleagues at the sixteenth annual meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and professed his strong belief in a new-fangled technology—the automobile. Chief Haager went into great detail on the benefits of this “machine” for policing—the rapid response time to calls, its secondary use as an ambulance, and the overall ability to haul officers and prisoners quickly around town. To top it off, the gasoline-powered vehicle was cheaper in the long run than a horse-drawn one.

Chief Haager’s praise for the new vehicles was not seconded by the local newspapers. The papers complained of the cost of the motor cars, especially the excessive purchase of three vehicles, and angrily cited multiple occasions when the police “chauffeurs” refused to obey the speed limit.

Despite the outcry, Haager rightly predicted that the automobile would soon outpace the horse:

“The horse as a means of locomotion is restricted in strength, speed and endurance, but the automobile never tires, and in my opinion it will only be a short time when it will be universally adopted for patrol services in all of the police departments of the country.”


*J. H. Haager, “The Automobile as a Police Department Adjunct,” in International Association of Chiefs of Police: Sixteenth Annual Session, Buffalo, NY, June 15-18,1909.