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History
The Mounted Squad:   An Illustrated History of the Toronto Mounted Police 1886-2000
By Bill Wardle
Illustrated. 498 pp.
Fitzhenry and Whiteside. US$40.00
ISBN-10: 1550416316 / ISBN-13: 9781550416312

The Mounted Squad: An Illustrated History of the Toronto Mounted Police 1886-2000 is an excellent read. History books rarely have the opportunity to treat subjects as noble as the horse. Of course, it is about the people in the Toronto Police Service Mounted Unit as much as it is about the horses, but even in the dedication the horses even rank above the people.

The horse unit of the Toronto, Ontario police was formed in 1886. The Horse Palace houses the 25-30 horses in the mounted unit. Apparently only two horses have been killed while on duty, both in motor vehicle collisions, during the 120 plus years the unit has been in existence.

The Mounted Squad: An Illustrated History of the Toronto Mounted Police 1886-2000 is a photographic and written history of the Toronto mounted unit. The many photographs of working horses are very moving and effective: horses at work carrying their riders into crowds at rallies, or perhaps waiting patiently while the mounted officer reached way down from horseback to hand a summons to a driver in a car. The horses work at managing traffic flow in everyday traffic, as well as in participating in parades, entertainment events, and all the other functions that urban police perform every day. Author Bill Wardle states, "The Mounted Unit has always been, and will continue to be, the most effective means of crowd control available to police. Containment of those violent confrontations which have occurred over the years continually demonstrates the effectiveness of the police horse."

In addition to captivating historical photography (mostly black-and-white, which somehow draws the viewer further into this equine-dominated world), the articles, historical details, and first-person accounts make this book intriguing as it gives blow-by-blow events in clear-eyed, factual prose. For example, one section is entitled, "The Visit of Premier Kosygin -- What Really Happened." It details the security events of October, 1971, when Soviet Premier Kosygin's visit to Canada was a high-risk situation for Canada's security forces, especially after two live bombs and eleven Molotov cocktails were uncovered by police in Ottawa, the nation's capital.

One headline pictured on the first page detailing these events shows the usefulness and value of a mounted police force. It states, "Using mounted police prevented a riot during Kosygin's visit here." The text continues, "Police prevented a riot without using unnecessary force during a demonstration [against] Premier Kosygin." (italics added). The Mounted Squad is a lively, celebratory historical view of the horses in Toronto's Mounted Police Unit with photographs and text that engage the reader and make events come alive.

Author Bill Wardle was a staff sergeant in the Toronto Mounted Police Unit for 19 years. Using history and advocacy, he continues to contribute -- and pay tribute -- to the horses and people in the Toronto Mounted Squads.

Sylvia Breau, for Notable Book Reviews
Notable Book Reviews received one or more copies of this book in exchange for this review.
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