Law Enforcement Technology

JUL 2015

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COMMUNICATIONS 8 Law Enforcement Technology July 2015 I t's so easy in today's technol- ogy filled world to read the word "communications" and think of a great number of electrical devices: radios, cell phones, home phones, com- puter-based and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communication appli- cations. With all the electronic commu- nications tools we have, which include not only the hardware pieces but also the software support, it's not often we think about the time before we had such tools. Can you imagine being a police officer on the street without a radio? How about not even a phone. Let me take you back. Way, way back. There was a time before any signal- ing devices, where all communications were done either by voice (shouting if necessary) or by hitting something to make a series of sounds. Whistles were probably the first widely used signaling devices and even the earliest whistles weren't metal or (obviously) plastic. The earliest whistles could be shaped out of hollowed out items like acorns or plum pits. By scraping off both ends—usu- ally done by rubbing them on rocks and then digging out the meat inside—an object that could be held between the lips and blown through to make a whis- tling sound was created. Some societies used these crude devices to alert villages if enemy troops were approaching or for calling for help. Jump to the 1880s—police officers were trying to communicate through the use of rattles. In 1884, a gentleman named Joseph Hudson showed his brass "pea whistle" design to Scotland Yard and they adopted it for use. The use of such a whistle grew across Europe and then around the world, and many agen- cies still use the whistle today as part of directing traffic or other duties where getting someone's attention is necessary. The first police telephone was installed in Albany, New York in 1877. The first police call box was put into service in Chicago, Illinois in 1880. During the 1880s, several large cities in the U.S. installed call box systems: Washington D.C., Boston, and Detroit among them. Some of the earliest call boxes even included a rotary dial feature that signaled, via telegraph, a (and what's still ahead) From acorns and rattles to telephones and radios, police have had to get creative to get their message across by Frank Borelli The evolution of police communications Photo from ThinkStock

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