A New Arm of the Law
March 1930 Radio News Article
my judgment, it will be only a few years before all police departments will be equipped with
radio," Superintendent A. A. Carroll, Grand Rapids Police Department. Such a statement could
have been deemed risky - or even career-ending back in the late 1920 to early 1930s when radio
communications was still in its infancy. A lot of public figures denounced radio for anything
other than a means of receiving entertainment at home. After all, the equipment was physically
large and very power hungry. It was considered folly by many people to believe that an automobile's
electrical generation capability would ever be able to power a vacuum tube receiver, much less
a transmitter that would have enough range to be useful. Still, police and fire departments
forged ahead and became some of the leaders in technology implementation. It was a huge deal
in 1930 when a police station installed radios in its fleet of patrol cars, often requiring
special fund raising activities or raiding of funds originally set aside for other projects.
This story give a little insight into where some of the early adopters were and how they came
about their radios.
of Contents]These articles are scanned and OCRed from old editions of the Radio & Television News magazine.
Here is a list of the Radio & Television News articles
I have already posted. As time permits, I will be glad to scan articles for you. All copyrights (if any) are hereby
Arm of the Law
More Cities Track Criminals with Radio-Equipped Cars Receiving
Their Orders from Police Headquarters
By Ralph L. Peters
Editor's Note - -Arrangements had been made for a technical article in this issue of Radio News,
taking up the various types of transmitting equipment employed by the police in different cities,
including some data on the receivers used in prowling cars. However, such widespread interest
has been created by Mr. Peters' first article, in the February number, that it seemed advisable
to print first a general summary of police radio activities in different parts of the country.
Chief John B. MacDonald of the Tulare, California Police Department, enthusiastically endorses
police use of radio.
Chief Charles H. Kelley, who directs the activities of his Pasadena, California, policemen
in their radio-equipped cars.
Commissioner William P. Rutledge, of the Detroit police, during 1929 visioned inter-city
communication as one of the development of the next few years. To him goes much of the credit
for the speed of radio's use by the police. He was one of the first police officials in the
country to become interested in the possibilities of radio, and Detroit was one of the first
points to experiment with the new weapon. Through years of poor results, he persisted in his
faith in radio and was rewarded during 1928 and 1929 with the remarkable success of the Detroit
He then turned his attention to assisting other police departments in the use
of radio, ever visioning the time when the police departments of the country would be linked
together in one big network.
He expected to resign January 1st, after thirty-five years
in police work. His successful application of radio to this work was undoubtedly the high point
of his career.
Just as his earlier predictions concerning radio's uses by individual
departments came true, so his predictions of the nation-wide network to combat the crook on
all sides are coming nearer realization every day.
How a radio system came to be established
in Indianapolis is a story in itself - a story of civic cooperation that would be difficult
Police Chief Claude W. Morley, of Indianapolis, fellow police officers,
members of the Board of Public Safety and of the Council had been advocating the use of radio
by the police for some time. Nothing definite had been accomplished. Funds were not forthcoming.
Then the Associated Employers of Indianapolis, Inc., through its secretary, Andrew J.
Allen, stepped into the picture. Mr. Allen called together representatives of thirty-three civic,
business and trade associations and luncheon clubs, the radio editors of the Indianapolis News,
Star and Times, the two local radio stations, WFBM and WKBF; representatives of the Indianapolis
Power & Light Co. and the Indiana Bell Telephone Co. together with one company representative
each from the radio wholesale trade and the radio retail merchandisers.
The group met
at a complimentary dinner. The result of the meeting was the formation of the Citizens' Police
Radio Commission, officially appointed by Mayor L. Ert Slack as a public enterprise empowered
to raise police radio funds through public subscription.
This was early in the summer.
On October 21st, the City Council passed an ordinance accepting the fund of approximately $12,000
which the Citizens' Police Radio Commission had raised as the result of its campaign. This amount
was enough to establish the station and equip ten police cars with receiving sets. In addition
to the actual money raised by public subscription, much equipment in the way of loud speaker
arms, batteries, etc., was donated by various firms and individuals.
The entire cost
of the campaign was borne by the Associated Employers as a contribution toward the establishment
of the system. In addition the organization's secretary, Mr. Allen, acted as general chairman
of the Citizens' Police Radio Commission.
There were two hundred and seventeen contributors
to the fund at the time when it was turned over to the City. Of the total amount raised, $1,000
had been given from the Police and Firemen's Benefit Fund.
Highland Park, Michigan's fleet of radio-equipped police cars. Chief William
I. Cross is standing at the extreme right.
That, briefly told, is the way in which the business and professional men of Indianapolis,
following the lead set by the Associated Employers, accomplished the task of arming the Indianapolis
police with radio.
In Berkeley, California, Chief August Vollmer has found it possible
and advisable to completely motorize the police department. Consequently, when the department's
radio station and radio receivers for the cars were complete and installed, it would mean every
police officer in the city would. be subject to orders from headquarters by means of radio.
The system had not been placed in operation at the time this article was written, but Officer
V. A. Leonard, who is in charge of the radio work of the department, said it would be a matter
of only a short time before it would be.
When Cincinnati became interested in the use
of radio ambitious plans were made. Application was made for a license, and construction of
the station was begun as soon as authority was granted. G. C. Smith, executive assistant to
City Manager C. O. Sherrill, in outlining the plans, said it was the intention of the city to
have about 150 police cars equipped with receiving sets, approximately 75 vehicles of the fire
department, 34 fire houses and 12 police stations. The radio station and the police cars were
expected to be in operation the first of the year.
Chief Charles H. Kelley expected to have the Pasadena Police Department's radio station and
nine radio-equipped cars in service by the first of the year or shortly afterward. The application
for the station has been approved.
Part of the transmitting equipment in the broadcasting room of the Indianapolis police station.
L. J. Forbes, chief of the Seattle, Washington, police,
had the department's radio station and ten cars equipped with receiving sets in readiness to
begin operation December 1st, and was awaiting the granting of a station license. Their plans
call for the equipping of all of the department's twenty-five "prowler" cars.
of Chief John R. MacDonald, of the Tulare Police Department, called for the department's station
and six radio-equipped cars to be in operation by the first of January. Instead of using loud
speakers as is the practice elsewhere, he plans to use headphones. A neon light on the dash
of the cars will inform the crew when the radio station is on the air. A member of the crew
will then plug into the receiver with his headphone and receive the order.
also plans to equip the California Highway Patrol cars operating north and south of Tulare on
the main state highway with receiving set. Then, if criminals escape from the city, the patrol
cars will be flashed the warning and be on the alert for the escaping car.
work on the Beaumont, Texas, radio station and receiving sets for eight police automobiles,
the tire boat, six trucks and cars of the fire department and three receiving sets for remote
points of the city's water works system, was undertaken during the latter part of October.
Chief Carl E. Kennedy, of the Police Department, and his signal superintendent, J. D.
Southwell, planned to put the system into operation as soon as construction, testing and administrative
details had been worked out.
Atlanta's (Georgia) police chief, James L. Beavers, is
hoping the Council will set aside funds early in 1930 for the erection of a radio station and
the equipping of twenty cars with receiving sets.
Supt. A. A. Carroll, of the Grand Rapids (Michigan) police, plans at the outset to equip at
least four cars with receiving sets and broadcast orders to them from a local broadcasting station
that has offered to cooperate. In commenting on the use of radio, he says:
|The success of radio as an aid to the police in apprehending criminals has been proved.
So much so, in fact, that its adoption is spreading like wildfire; and cities in all parts
of the country, that have not already applied for broadcasting licenses, are making preliminary
arrangements with a view to having stations of their own.
Ralph Peters has made
a close study of this growing activity, and is probably better qualified than anyone else
to write for Radio News readers the details of this new use for radio.
"In my judgment,
it will be only a few years before all police departments will be equipped with radio."
It is certain that within the next few months even more names will be ready to add to the
list of those who are awakening to the value of police-radio.
Posted February 11, 2014