During the lawless period of Prohibition, law enforcement and the underworld took full advantage of the automobile as their mode of transportation. The four-cylinder Ford Model T was inexpensive enough to be widely available to the masses and law enforcement. But other automobile manufacturers were making more expensive sleeker and faster cars giving gangsters the edge. The underworld had a ready source of money where the police had to go through official channels to secure government funding. Car manufacterers like Cadillac, Chrysler, Packard, Chevy, and Dodge outclassed and out-maneuvered the policeman's Tin Lizzy.
It wasn't until December 2, 1927, that Ford Motor Company introduced its V-8 engine making the Model A the car to beat. It left the in-line six-cylinder engines of its competitors in the dust. The Detroit Police were quick to buy thirty Ford Phaetons equipped with a new weapon in their fight against organized crime.
|Ford Phaeton, V-8, radio-equipped Detroit police car. |
Notice the bullet deflector protecting the radiator.
Detroit Police began experimenting with radio-equipped patrol cars in 1921. At first, it was one-way communication that could dispatch cars but not receive signals from patrol cars. Patrolmen had to find a phone booth to report to the station. In those days, the Detroit Police shared a frequency with a commercial radio station and cut into its programming to dispatch patrols.
Seven years later on April 7, 1928, Detroit Police radio operators broadcast throughout the city for the first time on a dedicated frequency from the Belle Isle police precinct. The new radio system reduced police response times and increased arrest rates. It was an instant success, quickly making radio-dispatching standard police practice nationwide.
In 1987, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers honored the technical achievement of the Detroit Police Department with a plaque on the front of the now deserted Belle Isle precinct station, commemorating the electrical engineering milestone of dedicated police radio communications.