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Friday, June 24, 2022

Naperville Wit & Wisdom – Ride Your Best Horse First


Above: Naperville Police Officers circa 1929, in front of the old City Hall. The Police used the basement as the Police Station.

By Jon A. Ripsky – (Capt. Emeritus NPD)

Jon A. Ripsky

“Life is too short. Ride your best horse first,” is what I call this story about comparing police travel of the past and all the technology in their vehicles today.

I was proud to serve the Naperville Police Department from Sept. 6, 1962, until Nov. 21, 2003, during many changes.

Considering that October is Public Safety Month, I thought I’d give a little history about our City’s police vehicles and how far they’ve come since the days when cops walked the beat in our small town—or even rode their best horse.

Naperville’s first police constable was elected in 1857 when “the village” was incorporated. And there was no mention of transportation for Naperville Police Department from 1857 until 1913.

It can only be assumed that feet, bikes and horses were used for transportation. The community was small and the county seat was here. The transportation problem only would have come up for issues with farmers and transportation of prisoners after the county seat was moved to Wheaton.

The elected officials authorized the first police vehicle on May 2, 1913. This was a motorcycle at a price not to exceed $250. A four-cylinder Henderson motorcycle was purchased. It is unknown what the actual price was. This was the only vehicle used by the police until 1927 when a second Henderson four-cylinder motorcycle was purchased. It’s interesting to note that a big deal was made of the refurbishing of the old motorcycle. Until 1950, the NPD used motorcycles.

Information available indicates that during inclement weather when the bikes could not be used the officers would use Officer Mooney’s Model T Ford. The first motor vehicle was purchased in 1928. The vehicle was a 1929 Whippet Touring car with side curtains. The next vehicle purchased was a Willys six coach in 1930.

The first time a police car was equipped with a radio was 1939. The city purchased a radio system that included a base station receiver and transmitted (15 Watts) and a mobile unit for the single police car. The complete system cost $1,470.00. This system was to replace the call in system that consisted of strategically located red lights that would summoned the working officer back to the Police Station to inform him of a call for service. One light was located on top of the Reusse Bank building located at Washington Ave and Jefferson St.; another one was located at the intersection of Washington and Ogden Ave., while the third was on the city water tower. The radio system was unreliable and the light system was kept in place for about six years.

Until 1950, the city maintained one police vehicle, then a second car was purchased. A third unit was added to the fleet in 1958.

How’s that for the wit and wisdom of the day? Look how Naperville is prepared for emergencies now! Be safe.

Editor’s Note / From 11AM to 3PM Sat., Oct. 3, 2015, the Naperville Police and Fire Departments will host the annual Public Safety Open House, traditionally held on the first Saturday in October. The free event is open to the public and will showcase many of the emergency vehicles and equipment that help keep Naperville’s first responders safe as they serve the community. The Public Safety Open House is held at the Naperville Public Safety Campus, 1380 W. Aurora Avenue at River Road.

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PN Ombudsman
PN Ombudsman
An ombudsman is Scandinavian in origin dating back to Viking times; and refers to a community representative; usually acting independently on behalf of an organization, body of elected officials, or civic group. Thanks Scandinavia for inventing ombudsman.

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