Sunset Ride For Mounted Stalwart

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 11:52 a.m. May 2, 2014

Jim Patterson had never been on horseback prior to joining the Service on July 4, 1977.

A man in TPS uniform on horseback waves
Patterson waves to well-wishers who stopped the group on Kew Beach

Riding out of the Horse Palace, the Toronto Police Service’s  Mounted home for the last time on April 30, he left a lasting legacy as a major contributor to the growth and development of the 128-year-old unit, which is the largest in Canada.

To recognize his sterling service, Patterson was permitted to rideHonest Ed, Davis and Moose from his workplace to his Pickering home on his last day on the job.

“It was quite the day,” said Patterson who made a stop at Seven Oaks Home for the Aged where his father, ex-Toronto cop John Patterson who retired in 1982, has been a resident for the last two years after breaking his hip. “He came out in his wheelchair to see me and that was a proud moment for both of us.”

Parishoners at St. Nicholas Birch Cliff Anglican Church on Kingston Road where his father worships turned out in large numbers with a banner to bid farewell to Patterson.

“That was quite touching,” he said.

Several Mounted officers, including Staff Sergeant Graham Queen, accompanied him on the eight-hour ride.

“Jim was one of the most endearing people we have had at this unit,” said Queen, who was Patterson’s supervisor for the last three and half years. “He made the unit better and he has helped make us one of the best Mounted Units in North America.”

Patterson was instrumental in creating the trading card program and he worked closely with photographer Anne de Haas to coordinate the photography and print the cards. 

His main focus was as a training sergeant.

“He was my trainer for the last six months,” said Constable Douglas McCaw. “He was just a wonderful person to work with and we will miss him.”

Constable Richard Cooper concurred.

“Jim was my immediate supervisor for the last three years and I could not have asked for a better one,” he added. “He’s fair and he was always there to help.”

A man leans over a saddle
Sergeant Jim Patterson readies his saddle

Former Mounted unit commander Superintendent William Wardle had high praise for Patterson who he met for the first time in 1987 when they were constables at 41 Division.

“Jim was a great partner and we spent many hours together patrolling in Scarborough and attending crowd management events downtown,” recalled Wardle, now unit commander at 54 Division. “I was always impressed with his work ethic and his interpersonal skills. He was very well suited to mounted duties as he was a skilled rider who possessed the policing and social skills required to be an ambassador for our Service.”

Anne de Haas Photo Journal capturing Patterson's last morning on the job

Patterson was assigned to Mounted for three years before being promoted to sergeant and dispatched to 51 Division where he spent five years before rejoining the equine officers in 1995.

“When he came back, we were both sergeants,” said Wardle. “In his new role, he worked hard to improve his equine knowledge and to hone his riding abilities. He was an outstanding operational and training sergeant, which is without a doubt the most difficult position in the unit as he was responsible for training both new horses and riders. He excelled in this position training some of the best horses the unit has ever had. He also built upon and improved our recruit training courses and in-service courses for serving mounted officers. Jim was always eager to learn and open to change. This meant his skills and abilities continued to improve. He consistently passed this knowledge on to our members and developed a training cadre that’s among the best in North America, if not the world.”

Wardle and Patterson represented the Service at United States’ President Barack Obama’s inauguration in Washington in January 2013. Patterson rode “Honest Ed”, a Clydesdale Thoroughbred cross named after Torotno retailing legend Ed Mirvish.

Jim was always eager to learn and open to change. This meant his skills and abilities continued to improve. He consistently passed this knowledge on to our members and developed a training cadre that’s among the best in North America, if not the world.

“Honest Ed” was the first of the three mounts he rode on his final day on the job.

“That horse is close to my heart because I helped purchase him 12 years ago,” said Patterson. “I have an attachment with him. Also, when you ask him to do something, he does it. He’s got a penchant for listening carefully.”

Newly acquired “Davis” was the second horse he mounted.

“He’s a young horse with a good personality that I like,” Patterson remarked.

Patterson ended his 37-year service on “Moose”, which former Toronto Maple Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke donated to the Service following his son’s death in a vehicular accident four years ago.

“Moose is super-comfortable to ride and he has a very good brain for a police horse which is a great asset,” he added.

With “Moose” recently completing his training to become a full-time police horse, Patterson cut off the horse’s forelock after his last ride to launch the horse’s career with the Service.

A man in TPS uniform holding a horse's reins while talking to a microphone and video camera
Patterson gives an interview to a reporter in the stables with Honest Ed at his side

At age 19, Patterson joined the Service after considering a drafting career. As a cadet, he was assigned to Forensic Identification Services located at the time at 590 Jarvis St. before heading to the police college in Aylmer. After graduating, he spent seven years at 42 Division before his first stint at the Mounted Unit.

Policing runs through his family. In addition to his father, Patterson’s brother-in-law John Bates retired a decade ago from the Service.

“They made their mark and I am now leaving after making my contribution,” he said. “I had a great ride. I got to meet the Queen Elizabeth II during the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine, I rode in the last U.S inauguration ceremony and I was able to join officers from North America in a ride from New Jersey to the World Trade Centre during a North American Police Equestrian Championship in New Jersey a few years ago. Those are some of the highlights of what has been a fulfilling Toronto Police career.”

In retirement, Patterson plans to spend some quality time with his family, including his wife, Alison. They met in high school at Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute as 15-year-olds’ and have been married for 32 years.

‘It’s nice to have him back home, but I will miss some of the stories he told,” she said. “My favourite is the one with Spencer, which escaped from the barn and went into a small Liberty Village brewery with an open garage. He went into the front lobby and stood in the line where they gave out free samples. That was hilarious.”

A group of men in TPS uniform on horseback cross a double row of trees
Patterson leads the group along a trail in Ashbridge's Bay Park
TPS crest watermark