A New Arm of the Law
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.
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 acknowledged.
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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"
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.
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
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
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
|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."
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
Posted February 11, 2014
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