Edmonton Police Service logo

Commitment to Professionalism - Reduced Crime & Victimization - Investigative Excellence - Increased Efficiency & Effectiveness
Copyright © 2018, Edmonton Police Service. All rights reserved.

Edmonton Police Service

Dedicated to Protect, Proud to Serve

EPS Member Stories

To commemorate the anniversary, EPS members will be sharing some of their stories, and these will be posted as they become available. 

The Buffalo Coat Mystery

Constable Harry Surcon was simply checking-in with dispatch; it was a patrol task he had been doing every shift for the past year. The callboxes along the beat, situated about a half-hour’s walk from one another, were the officer’s lifeline back in the day.

“It was either November or December of 1963,” recalled Retired Sergeant Harry Surcon. “I was standing at the corner of Jasper and 96 Street (near Gibson Block), when a young man walked up to me and said he was doing a photography class at NAIT. He asked to take my picture for a portfolio on winter activities.”

The student said if the photo turned out, he would leave a print at the front counter. He then wrote down Harry’s name and regimental number. While the photo was given to the EPS, the photographer’s identity was not known and would remain a mystery for years.

“This is the original one,” said Harry while holding a framed 8x10 print. The print became an iconic image of Edmonton’s policing history and is believed to be the only photo of a beat officer on duty in a buffalo coat. “All other prints that circulated are based on the photos taken of this single print.”

The black and white vintage photo has been used on the cover of a phone book; it was sketched into the EPS 100th anniversary print (1992); and has been the cover photo on the retired member’s guild publication ‘The Call Box’ for a number of years. 

A number of retired members recalled wearing these coats. Apparently if your shoulders aligned with the shoulders within the coat, your shift was far more enjoyable than the chafing and bruising associated to an incorrectly seated coat. One member mused, “The wet, snow-covered coat was so heavy that I would have to lie on the ground during the shift and unbutton it. Essentially, I would crawl out of it. I would then use my baton to beat it free of snow and ice before putting it back on and continuing with the shift.” 

“A lot has changed over the years. Back then, as a rookie, you walked the beat and everyone aspired to have their own police car for a shift… now it’s the other way around,” laughed Harry. “It was a lot of fun. I have no regrets and I would do it all over again.” Harry served with the EPS for 34 years (1962 to 1996).

Over 50 years later, the mystery behind the iconic buffalo coat photo was solved when it was featured in the Edmonton Journal in May 2015. Janette Schwake immediately recognized the photo, and contacted the Edmonton Journal to identify the photographer as her late-husband Peter Schwake. The Edmonton Journal ran a touching conclusion to the story in June 2015.

Although Harry Surcon would have liked to meet the photographer again, he was thankful that the photographer recorded a piece of EPS history and was given the credit he deserved.

Also to commemorate the 125th Anniversary, EPS detective and police artist Ken Bruns has created a print that meticulously illustrates historical aspects of the police service. The print will be on display at EPS stations and available through the artist.

If you have any historical information, photos or artifacts that you wish to share with the EPS, please contact the EPS 125th Anniversary Organizing Committee.