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.
March 1930 Radio News
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. All copyrights are hereby
See all available vintage
Radio News articles.
A New 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.
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 system.
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
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 to surpass.
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.
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
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
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
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.
Chief MacDonald 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.
Construction 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.
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.
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.