March 1930 Radio News
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early
electronics. See articles from
Radio & Television News, published 1919-1959. All copyrights hereby
"In 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.
A New Arm of the Law
More Cities Track Criminals with Radio-Equipped Cars Receiving Their Orders from
By Ralph L. Peters
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.
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.
Commissioner William P. Rutledge, of the Detroit police, during 1929 visioned
intercity 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 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 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.
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
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.
Part of the transmitting equipment in the broadcasting room of
the Indianapolis police station.
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.
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.
Plans 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.
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.
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:
"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 April 30, 2021
(updated from original post on 2/11/2014)