Communications: The Radio Room

The Cleveland Police Department installed a new communication system at Central Station in 1929. The radio was designed by Ralph C. Folkman and using the call letters WRBH, the station connected patrolmen with the station quickly and efficiently. With the advent of radio, response times were reduced from 30 minutes under the telegraph/telephone system to 8 minutes or less.

Central Station at 2001 Payne Avenue with radio antennas
Chief George Matowitz and an unidentified citizen posed in front of a CPD Radio Cruiser, the first with a recall light, on display at a public show.

How it worked:

  • Police telephone operators received an emergency call at Central Station
  • The dispatcher broadcasted the call to radio-equipped police cruisers.
  • Officers in the police cruiser, “The Flying Squad,” heard the call on their one-way radio.
  • Officers used the nearest call box to notify Central Station they were on their way to help.
Chief Jacob Graul, Lieutenent Jerry Murphy, CIty Manager William Hopkins and the PD mobile unit recreating the first Cleveland Police Department radio broadcast from Central Station to a CPD “Flying Squad” mobile unit.

A 1920 Buick Touring car and its unidentified crew, one of the radio equipped “Flying Squad” vehicles. The vehicle and its crew are shown posed on the street in front of the old Second Precinct Station at the corner of Oregon and Oliver Streets., ca 1930

The 1920 Buick Touring Car was one of the Cleveland Police Department’s first radio equipped vehicles. A sergeant and four patrolmen were assigned to each “Flying Squad” radio car. Response time was reduced from 20-30 minutes for officers dispatched from the precinct house, to 8-minutes or less by a Flying Squad unit, radio-dispatched by Headquarters.

A “Flying Squad” in a Peerless Model 125, Straight 8, Radio Equipped Patrol Car and its crew. Standing is Sergeant Carl Fix and Patrolmen Henry Spilker #32 and Frank Hejna #883.

Radio Room and Telephone Exchange, 1930s

Radio Exchange Room in Central Station on Payne Ave, October, 1937.
Radio Operator Ralph C. Folkman #1268 is standing in front of the Western Electric Radio Transmitter and Patrolman Melvin Stahley #693 is seated at the dispatcher desk.

Radio Control Room, ca 1930
Radio Control Room, ca 1930
Radio Control Room, ca 1930

By 1937, the Cleveland Police Department installed two way radios in the patrol cars and motorcycles, which allowed the police officer to call Central Station via the radio. Cleveland was the second major city in the United States to provide their motorcycle officers with radio communications.

This 1937 Chevrolet was one of the first CPD cars equipped with a two-way radio
Patrolman Frank Dalhausen, #931, receiving a radio message from the station, 1938
This Cleveland Police Department 1939 Harley-Davidson motorcycle was the first department motorcycle equipped with a two-way radio.
An interior view of a 1950s Cleveland Police Department Ford patrol car with a two-way radio and a recall system mounted below the radio control head. The original recall system was installed in 1947 and notified a patrolman of a radio call, when he was out of the patrol car, by flashing a light mounted on top of the cruiser.

“The Radio Aerial That “Calls all Cars”
Photograph taken by Police Raido Operator Ralph C. Folkman in October 1929 showing the large ceramic insulator
on the guy lines of the antenna on top of Central Station.

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