Thursday, August 19, 2004

Teddy Hopkins: mounted police officer

Theodore "Teddy" Hopkins emigrated from Ireland to Pennsylvania in about 1881. In about 1891 he and his wife Kate, and children John, Anna, and Teddy Jr. moved to Tacoma, Washington.

In Tacoma, Teddy joined the police force as a mounted patrolman, and is listed as such in the 1900 and 1910 Census. According to his obituary "During Mr. Hopkins’ services on the police force there was a mounted detail, and he rode the North End route." He held that position until 1919. ("Former Police Officer Dead", Tacoma News Tribune, April 3, 1935)

Teddy appears to be mentioned in a history produced by the Tacoma Police Department historian, Officer Erik Timothy. Some excerpts:

By 1890, the department numbered 25 Patrolman, who covered three, 8 hour shifts, patrolling 3,840 acres of city. In addition, there were 2 Health Officers, 2 officers in charge of the chain gang (a chain gang of 15 to 18 prisoners built and maintained the streets), 1 Mounted Officer, 2 Jailors, 1 License Inspector, 1 clerk, 3 Captains and the Chief of Police. The Chief was paid $150 per month, Captains $90 and all others, except the mounted officer, received $75 per month. The Mounted Officer received $105 per month, since he had to provide his own horse and feed.

Duties of Police Officers in this era included helping ladies cross the unpaved streets. The mud was sometimes so deep at the cross streets that it came over the top of your shoes, so the officers would hitch the ladies up on their hips and carry them across the street. Horses, wagons and streetcars clogged the roads and 11th and 13th Streets were paved with wooden planks that became very slippery in the rain. . . .

Documenting incidents of crime was much different in the early days, as report writing by individual officers did not exist. Patrolman would call the Desk Sergeant, who would decide what, if anything, should be entered into the Sergeants Report Book. Here [is one] example of these entries:

July 15, 1898, at 4:00 PM: "There were three complaints up to this time. One with regard to teams driving on the sidewalks, which was referred to mounted man Smith. One with regard to horses running at large, which was referred to mounted man Hopkins, and one with regard to Mrs. O’Mally using her tongue too freely to the discomfort of Mr. Hughes." . . . .

In 1904, the department numbered about 45 officers. By 1908, there were 75 officers on the department, including the Chief, 2 Patrol Captains, 1 Captain of Detectives, 10 Detectives, 2 Jailers, 3 Mounted Patrolman, 3 Wagon Drivers, 1 Poundmaster, 1 Humane Officer, 1 Clerk, 1 Matron and about 45 Patrolman. Pay was $75 per month for Patrolman (the same as it had been 15 years earlier) and officers worked 7 days a week, with 10 days off per year! There was no pension, and the officer had to supply his own uniforms.

At the turn of the century, Patrolman were marched to their beats in formation, 3 times each day. The Sergeant would form up the new relief in front of the police station at 7th & Pacific Avenue, then march the officers, 2 abreast, down Pacific Avenue. As each man reached his assigned beat, he would drop out and relieve the man on duty. This parade turned up 13th and then north on Broadway until the last officer had dropped off, with the men assigned to outlying areas catching streetcars. This "changing of the guard" became quite a sight, and people would gather to watch the daily routine. The residential areas of the city were patrolled by officers on horseback, and one Patrolman used a bicycle to cover his large beat.

[see the history for more details]

By 1920, when he was 49, Teddy Hopkins had left the force and was working as a machinists' helper with the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad Company. He remained there until his retirement in 1930.

Teddy's son John J. Hopkins was also a law enforcement officer in Tacoma, first as chief deputy to Sheriff Robert Longmire and then chief parole officer at McNeil Island federal prison.

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