The Cleveland Police Force was required to hold drills during the early 1800s. The weekly or monthly drills would include military foot drill, marching drill, or musket drill. As far back as 1866, they also participated in an annual review of the force for the mayor, police commission, local citizens and, on occasion, prominent visitors.
For several weeks prior to the parade, the small groups of officers participated in practice drills under the direction of a Captain or Lieutenant in the yard behind the city prison. As the parade date drew near, the entire force would gather for final drill practice. Over time, a local band was invited to participate in the parade and provide cadence for the marchers.
The regular drills eventually ceased, and in 1874 Superintendent of Police Jacob W. Schmitt issued an order to resume regular drills. As reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer,
For some time past the advisability of having the police force brought into some kind of military discipline has been discussed by the board and superior officers. Frequent drills were formerly the orders in the department, but for some reason, which no one seems able to account for, the order gradually dropped into disuse, and it has now been over two years since a drill has taken place. The need of something of the kind was made painfully apparent a few weeks ago when the general inspection was held, for on that occasion the Deputy Superintendent was forced to confess his inability to do more than place his men in line and leave them there, as an attempt to turn them in fours would result disasterly to the whole line.
The feeling that a renewal of something like the old drills was needed, and at once was finally crystalized yesterday in the promulgation of the following official order:
The fire department participated in their own inspection parade and in 1918 the two organizations joined for the first combined annual review.
The force was divided into 5 companies with 24 Patrolmen in each. A schedule was created, and each company was required to drill once a month. The police force and band participated in an annual review into the 1920s.
Not all went well as almost the entire department participated in the annual reviews. In June of 1920, as the police were holding their annual parade and drill, five bandits entered the Euclid Jewelry Shop, 7903 Euclid Avenue, posing as customers. Having selected the location and time to coincide with the police parade, they brandished revolvers and stole a considerable number of valuable rings and diamonds. They made their escape in an automobile out Euclid Avenue.
The Police went on to participate in numerous parades and many community events over the years, including the grand opening of the Cleveland Public Hall on 04/16/1922. As described in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Architect MacDowell and manager Dickey were the guides for the honor party of inspectors yesterday afternoon. The party consisted of the mayor, his directors, the citizens committee which undertook to finance the halls completion and operation, members of the city council, county officers and business and professional men. The fifty-piece police band, with its founder Lieut. Charles Woodhall as Drum Major, marched up E. 6th Street to the city hall, and met the party at the steps of the building. The police, fire, and 11th engineers bands played alternately all afternoon.”
The first official police band was organized in 1918, but Chief Frank W. Smith would not permit the band to take part in the 1918 parade. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that “The police band has not yet reached the standard Chief Smith desires and until it does the chief will not parade the unit as part of the organization.” The band made its first public appearance at the grand opening of the new Fifteenth Precinct Headquarters, 18415 Nottingham Road, on 09/07/1918. The new Precinct Station was previously the Village of Nottingham City Hall.
The police band was organized by then Lieutenant Charles A. Woodhill and Sergeant Joseph F. Blizil. Both shared the conductor’s responsibilities and Lieutenant Woodhill also served as Drum Major.
It was common practice for the police to be involved in these parades, even after the annual reviews ended. Representatives also attended the funerals of deceased police officers in groups of 10 to 20, led by a Sergeant or Lieutenant, escorting the officer to their final resting place. Over time the parade participants lost the military precision that had been achieved as they prepared for the annual review. Things changed in the 1950s. In the words of retired Lieutenant Walter Dugan (considered to be the father of the Cleveland Police Marching Unit):
In 1954 there was Teletype asking for volunteers for the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Volunteers were ordered to Report to Sergeant Louis Stickney at Third District Headquarters, one hour before Parade time. I asked all my friends I worked with in the Third District to volunteer. We fell in on East 19 Street and Sergeant Stickney marched us over to the Parade Route site and we straggled over to Euclid Ave and fell in behind other Parade units.
When Parade started, we just started out without any cadence or orders. We just kept up with the unit ahead of us. Some of our marchers even broke ranks, ran over to girls on the Parade route and kissed them even taking drinks from containers.
When we returned to Central Station, a bunch of us were discussing the details of the Parade and that we would never volunteer again. At that time Inspector Michael Blackwell took me to the side and said Walter come with me. We went to Chief Frank Story’s Office. Inspector Blackwell told Chief Story that we looked like hell in the Parade and Patrolman Dugan here was a U.S. Marine just returned from two Wars and he knew how train men to march.
Chief story put out teletype asking for volunteers for a Marching Unit and naming me as Drill Master of the Cleveland Police. We trained at Troop A which had a large space to march in and practiced numerous times there before entering a Parade. We had over 60 Volunteers, two Lieutenants and two Sergeants.
The Marching Unit went on to participate in numerous parades and community events over the years.
A small detachment of the Marching Unit officers volunteered to serve as the Funeral Detail. They attended the funerals of deceased officers, active or retired, and provide a visible escort for the deceased, continuing a tradition established with the origins of the police force. They would also serve a pall bearers if the family chose. When escorting an officer who died in the line of duty, the service is a full military funeral.
Funeral for fallen officer Patrolman Joseph Tracz, End Of Watch 9/28/1970.
Lieutenant Dugan selected a smaller group of men and formed a Drill Team. This group began entering competitions and performed in local parades, winning many awards and trophies. They also participated in competitions representing the Police American Legion Police Post 438. A few of the trophies included:
- 1958 – Best Marching Unit, Runner Up
- 1963 – VFW Loyalty Day Parade, Best Color Detail, Non-Military Winner
- 1972, 1974, 1976 – St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Best Marching Unit
- 1973 – VFW Loyalty Day Parade, Best Men’s Uniform Marching Unit
- 1976 – VFW Loyalty Day Parade, Best Men’s Uniform Drill Team
In an effort to ensure a proper cadence for parades, Lieutenant Dugan also started a Drum Corp to march with the unit.
Lieutenant Walter L. Dugan was appointed a patrolman with the Cleveland Division of Police on 11/01/1951 after serving in the U.S. Marine Corp. After becoming a police officer he continued his military service in the Marine Corp Reserves. He was promoted to Sergeant on 12/01/1966, Lieutenant on 04/03/1977, and he retired on 05/31/1978. He maintained his involvement with the Marine Corp even after moving to Florida and was the president of The Chosin Few, a select group of U.S. and allied soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in Korea, known as one of the most rugged in U.S. military history. His End of Watch was 09/17/2022. A number of these photographs were provided to the Police Museum by his daughter Barbara.