Then & Now: Montgomery County Police Department Motorcycle Unit

This blog entry is posted today to commemorate the anniversary of the Montgomery County Police Department. It was 98 years ago on July 4, 1922 that the MCPD was first established, consisting of five officers and a Chief. Each of the officers was issued a police motorcycle for routine patrol duties and was allotted $300.00 a year for the upkeep of their motor. Thus, the Montgomery County Police Department was formed upon the foundation of the motorcycle.

Montgomery County Police Department Motorcycle Unit (THEN): Posing in front of Reed Brothers Dodge on July 4, 1922 Chief Charles Cooley, center, and his men of the first mounted unit of the Montgomery County Police Force, were on their first day of duty. For several years, since there was no police station, the officers would meet for “roll call” on the steps of the Red Brick Courthouse in Rockville at 2:00 p.m. every day to let each other know they were alive and well. Chief Cooley was given the privilege of a Model T Ford. The chief was paid $1,800 a year (the chief now gets $112,564) while the officers got $1,500. Each of the officers was issued a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a .38 Smith & Wesson handgun, a black jack, law book and was allotted $300.00 a year for the upkeep of their motorcycle. Jones patrolled Silver Spring, Rodgers the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area and Burdine, Clagett and Gaither the Upper County areas.

The county’s population in the early 1920s was just 35,000 (it’s now more than 800,000). Much of the county was farmland, which accounted for the thefts of livestock. It also was the Prohibition era, when bootlegging and moonshine still factored routinely on an officer’s shift.

The officers worked 14 hours at night, 10 hours in the day, with two days off every two weeks. But they were on call at all times. Since there was no mobile radio contact (the first one-way radio system was installed in cars in the early 1930s), the officers tended to hang around the courthouse or a local firehouse that had a phone.

One of the officers came up with the idea of placing a flashing red beacon light on a pole atop the Rockville courthouse. When flashing, it would alert police that they had a call or were wanted at the office. In 1927, similar lights were used at district stations in Silver Spring and Bethesda.

Montgomery County Police Department

This is the first known photograph of the entire MCPD. Pictured left to right: Earl Burdine, Lawrence Clagett, Guy Jones, Chief Charles Cooley, Leroy Rodgers, and Oscar Gaither. Photo taken by Lewis Reed on July 4, 1922.

Montgomery County Police Department Motorcycle Unit (NOW): Currently, the Motor Unit consists of forty-two full-time motor officers who make up six decentralized motor squads. The squads are assigned to each of the six district police stations and are under the command of a sergeant. The primary missions of the squads are traffic enforcement, collision reduction, pedestrian safety and maintaining the orderly flow of traffic in the county. The squads are also involved in special details to include, dignitary and Presidential escorts, funeral escorts, the Montgomery County Fair, the Tiger Woods Golf Tournament and numerous foot races and parades.

The Motor Unit currently fields twenty-eight 2007 and 2008 Harley-Davidson Police motorcycles of which four to five are assigned to each of the district stations. The squads at each station are divided into a day work and evening shift and those officers share motorcycles as necessary. The current work period for the squads is eight hour shifts, Monday through Friday. The current work period for the squads is eight hour shifts, Monday through Friday.

The Unit also fields a Competition Team which participates in events that include both the United States and Canada. The team has received numerous awards in both the individual and team categories at these events. The Unit will also be hosting the Mid- Atlantic Police Motorcycle Safety Competition in Gaithersburg, Maryland in September of 2010.

The Montgomery County Department of Police Motor Unit continues its traffic safety mission today as well as the furtherance of police motorcycle safety and awareness throughout Montgomery County and the State of Maryland.

MCP Motorcycle Unit

MCP Motorcycle Unit Competes in Annual Motorcycle Rodeo 95 years later.

Thank you to the entire Montgomery County Police Department for all you do in keeping our community safe. Salutes!

Sources: “Montgomery County, Two Centuries of Change” by Jane C. Sween
Montgomery County Police Department

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About Reed Brothers

I am a co-owner of the former Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, Maryland. Lewis Reed, the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge was my grandfather. We were a family-owned and operated car dealership in Rockville for almost a century. I served in the United States Air Force for 30 years before retiring in the top enlisted grade of Chief Master Sergeant in July 2006. In 2016, I received the Arthur M. Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication from Peerless Rockville for documenting the history of Reed Brothers Dodge in both blog and book format. This distinguished honor recognizes outstanding achievement by writers, educators, and historians whose work has heightened public awareness of Rockville’s architectural and cultural heritage, growth and development.

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