Throwback Thursday | South Pasadena’s Groundbreaking Motorcycle Officers

South Pasadena’s founding Police Department was sworn to protect and born to ride!

PHOTO: South Pasadena Police Department | SouthPasadenan.com News | South Pasadena Police Department (1933)

According to the South Pasadena Police Department, the department purchased two Thor motorcycles in 1909 to help deal with speeding motorists. The first two motorcycle officers, Frank Higgins (who later became police chief) and John Lillick, were the seventh and eighth motorcycle officers in the history of Los Angeles County.

PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | SouthPasadenan.com News | South Pasadena motorcycle officers Frank Higgins and John Lillick (1909)
PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | SouthPasadenan.com News | South Pasadena motorcycle officers Arch Cooper and Frank Higgins with Indian motorcycles (1910)
PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | SouthPasadenan.com News | South Pasadena motorcycle officers stop a motorist, South Pasadena (1910)
PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | SouthPasadenan.com News | South Pasadena motorcycle officers Archie Cooper and Frank Higgins board Roy Knabenshue’s dirigible (1913)

In 1913, South Pasadena motorcycle officers Archie Cooper and Frank Higgins boarded an airship taking law enforcement and neighborhood watch to new heights. They cruised eight hundred feet above South Pasadena in a dirigible built and designed by Roy Knabenshue (who offered $25 per flight over San Gabriel Valley becoming the first passenger air service in America).

PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | SouthPasadenan.com News | South Pasadena Police Department (1933)

In the photo above, South Pasadena’s top brass stand with two leather-jacketed motorcycle officers in front of the police station on Mission next to the old city hall building (current site of city hall today). In the street are two flat-head Harleys with bicycle pedal kick starters.

PHOTO: South Pasadena Police Department | SouthPasadenan.com News | Motorcycle officer Ray Rogers and his hog, South Pasadena (1938)
PHOTO: Rick Thomas | SouthPasadenan.com News | Memorial to motorcycle officer Ray Rogers, South Pasadena City Hall

Motorcycle officer Ray Rogers was killed during a high-speed pursuit on the Arroyo Seco Parkway on April 15 in 1944. He lost control of his motorcycle and struck a utility post.

Note: Officer Rogers was the only police officer killed in the line of duty in the history of the South Pasadena Police Department. He was survived by his wife, son, and daughter.

Throwback Thursday is written and produced by Rick Thomas

 

Avatar
Author Rick Thomas is the former museum curator and vice-chair of education for the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation. He served on the South Pasadena Natural Resources Commission, helping to maintain a strict policy protecting the city’s great old-growth trees. Using touchstone photographs from his own collection—one of the San Gabriel Valley’s largest accumulations of historical images and artifacts—as well as national, state, and local historical archives, Thomas provides a window to his city’s past and an understanding of why its preservation is so important.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here