Taking a break from his teaching duties in Kingston, to reunite with his colleagues and the horses at the Toronto Police Service Mounted Unit, was a respite retired Superintendent William Wardle was looking forward to.
The trip was even more significant as one of the new stable members, William, was unveiled on March 21 to honour the long-time mounted officer who retired two years ago.
“To be recognized by this unit and have a horse named after me, is special,” said Wardle, a lecturer in the Police Foundations program at St. Lawrence College. “When I was told last September about this, I was stunned. I spent almost 25 of my career with the Service here, so this, in a sense, was my home away from home for a great part of my life. It’s always nice to come back here.”
Victoria Wardle joined her dad at the dedication ceremony.
“Most of his life was dedicated to this unit, so this honour is really fitting,” said the second of Wardle’s four children, also a Service member. “He just loves horses, so this honour is really special for him and our family.”
Training Sergeant Kristopher McCarthy said Wardle fully deserves the accolade.
“I worked with Bill for 13 years and he was an outstanding mentor to me and other young officers who have been in this unit,” said McCarthy. “He possesses a wealth of information and knowledge and is great ambassador for this unit.
“He literally wrote the book on the Mounted Unit,” said McCarthy, of Wardle’s 2002 book The Mounted Squad, An Illustrated History of The Toronto Mounted Police 1886-2000. “I just think it’s fitting to have a William Wardle in the barn at all times.”
Staff Sergeant Graham Queen said the decision by his unit to recognize Wardle was unanimous.
“Not too many officers in the Service spend almost 25 years of their career in one unit,” he pointed out. “Bill was a constable, sergeant, staff sergeant and staff inspector here before leaving to go to 54 Division as the unit commander, where he was promoted to superintendent. That is an incredible accomplishment. He is just an excellent boss who was beloved during this time at the Mounted Unit.”
Jim Patterson, who retired as a sergeant three years ago after 37 years on the job, couldn’t miss the opportunity to reunite with his boss for the special occasion.
“Bill and I were constables back in the early 1980s,” said Patterson, who had two stints at the Mounted Unit. “He is a natural leader who loves horses and this unit.”
William is a five-year-old Clydesdale, just over 17 hands and 1,600 pounds, who recently completed his training and is assigned to Constables Jillian Finley-Kellough and Marisa Van Overbeek.
“William works very well by himself, which is something we like with our horses here,” said Van Overbeek, who joined the Service 15 years ago and has been a Mounted Unit member since 2009. “The better they are on their own, the bolder they are with a herd. If they can do well individually, especially when they are out in the street, that’s a huge asset for us. I have been able to go out alone quite a bit with him and the rides have been very successful.”
Last September, William participated in the North American Police Equestrian Championship in Kingston.
McCarthy said the horse was outstanding given he is a novice.
“It’s a huge challenge for horses that are new to this competition,” he said. “They were about 70 other horses he had never seen before and they are put in tents instead of large barns where they are more comfortable. That can send most horses over the deep end. Once William got off that trailer, he was ready to work and compete. He was incredible when I took him through the obstacles and he totally pulled through when I used him for some of our drill-ride practices. He’s a free-spirited independent horse who did as he was told. I was really thrilled.”
Wardle said he’s enjoyed his retirement, continuing to work part-time.
“I am helping to prepare the next generation of police officers, which I thoroughly enjoy and, last summer, I worked as a historian on a cruise ship going between Toronto and Chicago,” he added. “I was able to take my love of history and share it with American travellers.”
He said he is also impressed by the work of the officers who continue to enrich the legacy of the Mounted Unit, always regarded as the best in North America.
“We keep building and keep getting better. When I came here today and hear about the things they've done and improved on the unit since I've left, I think 'Wow, this unit is in good hands,'" Wardle said. "And I think it's important to know our history and know where we're going and making sure we're continuing to deliver the best service we possibly can and I'm very proud of everyone here.”
The Mounted Unit stable comprises 24 horses, responsible for crowd management, high-visibility patrols and acting as ambassadors to the community.
“For a lot of kids living in the City of Toronto, seeing a police horse is their only opportunity to see a horse up close because they don’t have the opportunity to get out in the country... so a horse is very special and it helps build bridges in the community,” Wardle said. “I met people who showed me pictures of them with a horse from 20 years ago and it just shows the impact that it has on people. Now this horse, William, is going to have those same impacts. And 20 to 30 years from now, kids will have those photos and they’ll never forget that experience.”