Baltimore Police Take A Ride Into Past With Re-creation Of 19th-century Wagon

Old-fashioned Vehicle Is In Spirit Of Bicentennial

April 23, 1997|By William E. Thompson Jr. | William E. Thompson Jr.,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Police Department dusted off a piece of its past yesterday.

In keeping with the city's bicentennial celebration, Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier unveiled a horse-drawn police wagon resembling the ones used during the latter half of the 19th century. Frazier said the wagon, which will be displayed indefinitely in the lobby of police headquarters, was an example of the department's efforts to display its heritage.

History, traditions

Two officers dressed in 1860s regalia, reminiscent of London's bobbies with their navy blue coats and bell-shaped hats, removed the black tarp covering the wagon, which was used to transport officers to their posts and prisoners to jail.

"It's part of our history and our traditions," Frazier said.

The black wagon and its glittering brass fixtures, as well as the officers' uniforms, were re-created with the help of city collectors and from historical sources that included pictures of wagons from long ago, said Agent Ragina L. Cooper, a department spokeswoman.

One group, however, saw the wagon as a symbol representing where the department was losing touch with its past.

"We see this as a nice parting gift for the city," said Patricia L. Krongard , chairwoman of the Baltimore Police Mounted Foundation, the nonprofit group that donated the wagon.

Krongard said her organization had disbanded because of the department's lack of interest in having mounted police for anything other than ceremonial purposes. The group had aided the city's mounted officers since its founding in 1990 by providing saddles, bridles and reins as well as transportation and training, she said.

Force reduced

The city's mounted force consisted of about 25 horses when Krongard's group started, she said. Cooper said the mounted force now is composed of 10 horses, five officers and one sergeant.

"The department appreciates the foundation's contributions, but as the city changes so does the department's focus," said Agent Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a department spokesman.

Pub Date: 4/23/97

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