the inception of policing in Toronto, there has been a need to transport
prisoners. Once arrested, a prisoner is taken to a police facility
for investigation, then moved from jail to court and back as often
as is necessary to resolve the case. Back in the early to mid 1800s,
the arresting officer would have to hail a passing horse-drawn carriage
to transport the suspect and himself to the police station. No formal
"transport unit" existed until 1868. In that year, the Toronto Police
Force bought a horse-drawn open-caged wagon. The cage allowed the
public to see the person under arrest. Shortly thereafter however,
this cage was converted to a solid steel box to prevent escape and
protect prisoners who were occasionally injured by incensed citizens.
early years, the escorting constable was required to ride outside
on the back step of the wagon. Escorting a violent prisoner was
the exception to this rule. For some reason, it was felt it would
be safer if the constable rode inside with them. This policy changed
abruptly when an escorting officer was shot five times with his
own revolver after being overpowered and disarmed by a prisoner.
Fortunately, the officer survived.
1912, the TPF bought its first Motorized Patrol Wagon. It was
quickly nicknamed the "Black Mariah" after similar black British
vans. This wagon not only transported prisoners but it also doubled
as an ambulance until 1920 when the city took over that responsibility.
By the 1930's,
the force had increased its fleet of wagons, placing them at four
separate stations around the city.
prisoners remained a police function until 1989. Increased calls
for service and restrictive hiring budgets over the previous decade
resulted in a general shortage of patrol officers.
January 1989, prisoner transportation was civilianized. Court
Services Security staff took over weekday transportation responsibilities,
freeing police officers for regular patrol duties. Minimal weekend
and evening prisoner movements were still handled by police officers.
In July of
1995, the Prisoner Transportation Unit officially began operating
24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Fifty-nine wagon officers, two
dispatchers, five senior court officers, and one senior administrative
court officer currently staff the unit.
Transportation Unit's 16 vans travelled 500,000 kilometres carrying
170,000 prisoners in 1999.