Police Telephones and Signals
A New System

Rapid and reliable means of communication are just as essential for the efficient for the efficient functioning of a police force as they are for the operations of an army in the field.

Police forces today are becoming more and more alive to this truth, and where not oppressed by false doctrines of economy they are making bold efforts to adapt to their requirements all the means of communication which present day science has made available.

The post, the telegraph, and the public telephone systems of the country, as well as wireless telegraphy and telephony both stationary and mobile are all means of communication which police generally employ and most forces have also pressed into their service the modern fast motor vehicle for communication purposes as well as the rapid transport of personnel.

Here and there in the past an enterprising police authority has provided throughout its area a system of private telephones for police use, but no close study of the particular problems of Police communication appears to have been undertaken until after the Great War, when an investigation was begun which has resulted in the carefully planned system now manufactured and marketed by Ericsson Telephones Ltd.

This new system was first demonstrated to Police Authorities in 1930, when an early model equipment was set up at Police headquarters in the City of Glasgow and was there inspected by the Chief Constables and senior police officials of Scotland.

The first authority to realise that in this new system lay the solution of local police communication problems was the Renfrewshire Constabulary, and orders were speedily placed for two complete installations for the towns of Renfrew (1931) and Johnstone.

The Chief Constable of Renfrewshire, Mr John Robertson, had long been a keen advocate of the more ample use of the telephone for police purposes, and had been striving to find reliable means for making the police telephone network available also to the public, to the end that the police might the more efficiently fulfil their role of public servants as well as Guardians of the peace. To him great credit is due as the pioneer user of this new system, and the experience obtained in the operation of these two initial installations should prove of great benefit to his area as well as to the police forces of the country at large.

Following upon the enterprise of the Renfrewshire authority many other forces became interested in the facilities afforded by the system and the General Post Office decided to adopt it as their standard system for police purposes.
At the beginning of 1932, the city of Edinburgh Authorities signed the first contract for the provision of the system by the Post Office. This contract covers the whole of the police divisions of the City.

General interest then led to an invitation to the Post Office to arrange an address on the subject to the Annual Conference of the Chief Constables Association and a most interesting and instructive paper was read before that body at the Guildhall, London on 17th June, 1932, by Mr L. Simon, Director of Telegraphs and Telephones G.P.0.

The system is fundamentally of the common battery type, and it embodies a party-line feature which considerably economises in line plant requirements. Another feature, which is of much value in keeping down the line fault duration figure, is a system of continuous electrical line test, whereby any class of line fault is indicated at the police station immediately upon its occurrence.

Kiosk Unit - Public View Kiosk Unit - Police Side View

With a view to minimising the duration of apparatus faults, the whole of the equipment associated with the police lines is constructed in units which can be jacked-in and out without the need for undoing terminals or unsoldering connections.

Spare units are held in reserve at the police station, and can be used for speedy replacement when a fault develops in any equipment unit.

Signalling on the party line is fully selective to three stations, and where out-ward calling facilities are not required, additional stations can also be connected to the same line.

For the street points an equipment can be provided either of the pillar type or for mounting in the wall of a police kiosk and the signal call lamps may be mounted upon wall brackets, suspended from over-street wires, or fixed upon the tops of the street pillars (shown in the picture below).

At the street points dual telephonic facilities are provided, namely, (a) by normal microtelephone available only to police or other authorised persons in possession of a key and (b) by loud speaking telephone available to the public at large upon simply holding open a door which is self closing but non-locking.

The class of call originated at a street point is automatically signalled to the answering operator at the police switch-board, a police call being indicated by a green light and a public call by a red light.

The loud speaking telephone for public use is located behind a protective grill and requires no handling by the caller. It is only necessary to pull and hold open the door and thereafter to speak in a normal manner in the general direction of the grill. The answering voice of the police operator can be clearly heard, even in street traffic noises as an amplifier at the police station is employed in the circuit.

In order to reduce the risk of false calls and skylarking, the action of opening the public door can be arranged to cause the associated signal lamp at the street point to light up as a steady signal throughout the period during which the door is open. This arrangement is also useful for indicating to any police officer within vision that a member of the public is communicating with the police station and if the officer is not more seriously engaged he would proceed to the street point in order to investigate the reason for the signal, or to render such assistance as may be desired.

The same signal lamp is employed when the police operator rings out to call any nearby officer to speak on the telephone, but in this case the lamp operates as a flashing signal. The operation of calling out to street points is entirely controlled by the police operator. He can switch on the ringing condition to one street point, or to any number of these simultaneously and can likewise terminate the flashing of the signal call at will.
No re-setting of relays at the street points is involved. As soon as an outward call is answered at the street point, ringing is automatically disconnected from the line concerned and a reply signal given to the police operator by the glowing of a white lamp associated with that line.

In the event of a line being already in use from one street point, a public call which may be originated from any other point on that line will still set up the public call signal at the police station, so that priority is always assured to calls from the public, on the assumption that such calls will generally be brought about by some emergency calling for immediate attention.

Public exchange facilities for the purposes of the police, are provided by the General Post Office in connection with this system, but connection of public callers beyond the police system proper is barred.

The provision of exchange facilities is of great value to the police, particularly in view of the greatly increasing mobility of the criminal.

The extent and requirements of different police areas varies within wide limits and to meet this several sizes of switchboards have been developed.

A Police Switchboard for small areas

Taken from The Ericsson Bulletin, January 1933, Number 2, Page 30.

Planning of Police Communications

In our last issue the general features of the Ericsson Police-Telephone System were described in a brief way, and it may now be useful if some consideration be given to factors which have to be taken into account in planning for application of the system to a police area.

In the first place we wish to clear up a misapprehension which appears to exist in some quarters. The adoption of the Ericsson police-telephone system does not replace the box system, but rather renders it much more efficient than when worked with an ordinary telephone system, as is the practice in many areas to-day. On the other hand, the employment of the Ericsson police-telephone system in an area not having the box system does not involve the introduction of the latter.

Compared with ordinary telephone systems the Ericsson system offers many advantageous facilities, and where properly applied to an area it affords some useful economics in annual expenditure.

In order that the fullest benefits may be reaped from its adoption, a careful study of the police area is essential and for this purpose Ericsson Telephones Limited offer, to interested chief constables, the free services of an expert in police communication matters so that the most efficient scheme may be planned and the greatest economy effected.

In planning an installation, the first requirement is that the nature of the Ericsson system and the facilities it affords should be fully understood. This is best attained by inspection of one of the installations already in operation in the service of a Police Authority. At the time of going to press, installations are already in use at many centres including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Blackburn, St. Helens, Seaforth, etc. Alternatively, a demonstration equipment may be inspected at the Ericsson Works at Beeston, near Nottingham.
Thereafter, an ordnance survey map of the police area, on a scale of six inches to the mile should be obtained, and the most effective distribution of telephone communication points plotted on it. At this stage it should be considered whether any existing police stations can be dispensed with as a result of the provision of efficient wire communications, as the economics thereby effected are usually of considerable proportions.

In this connection it is interesting to note what has been achieved at Edinburgh, as mentioned in the article following.

In plotting the telephone communication points, special regard should be paid to making it easy for the general public to get into quick touch with the police station. If this is given its due weight there will be a definite end to the old-time reproach that a policeman is never there when he is wanted. Too much attention appears to be attached, at present, to disposing the telephone equipment's on sites selected purely from considerations of the control and direction of the beat officers from the police station. Such considerations are, of course, essential, but it is of equal importance that information, which is the beginning of all police action, should be easily and rapidly acquired, and this cannot be fully achieved if the person with information to impart is under the necessity of first knowing where to find a police telephone and then having to travel perhaps half a mile to make use of it.

The speedy collection and distribution of information is the basis of all effective police attack on crime and the day is not far distant when it will be regarded as essential that a police communication point should exist at practically every street corner.

Communication on a basis of one box per beat, as is general at present is definitely wasteful and inefficient. The cost of police boxes varies within the wide limits of 25 to 100 or 150 and for such sums, telephone points In the form of street pillars can be greatly increased in density, and communication efficiency thereby improved. We commend to the consideration of chief constables who are planning to use box system working, the employment of section boxes rather than beat boxes and, with the savings thereby effected, the provision of a greater number of communication points may be achieved.

When the question of the disposition of the telephone points has been settled, there must then be determined the grouping of the various points to be worked on each party line. This is of the utmost importance as it is the annual rental for the line wires that weighs most heavily in the costs of police communications. In this matter our police communications experts can be of some assistance, and we would press chief constables to call upon our services in this connection in the earliest stages of consideration of any scheme.

Taken from The Ericsson Bulletin, July 1933

To the Ericsson Police equipment page

Police Progress at Edinburgh

Edinburgh city and royal burgh, Capital of Scotland, with a population of over 427,000, and an area of over 52,000 acres, the largest urban police area in Scotland; brought into use, in the month of May, the new police organisation, planned by Roderick Ross, C.B.E., M.V.O., Chief Constable of the city. The force now operates on the box system with its communications provided by an installation of the Ericsson Police-Telephone and Signal System. Very great annual savings will result from this change in the organisation of the force, and the Chief Constable is to be congratulated upon bringing to conclusion the many months of arduous preparatory work which ensured that at zero hour, the new system came into operation without a hitch.

In the Edinburgh box system the Ericsson police-telephone and signal system has been provided through the General Post Office on annual rental terms, and in the course of installation over 500 miles of underground and overhead circuits been provided by the Sectional Engineer, J. Y. Ryder, and his staff. A task of this magnitude does not fall to the to the lot of the engineering staff in a section every day of the week, and considering that the work was undertaken in addition to the normal work successful of the section. it reflects to the credit of the installation staff.

The introduction of the new system has permitted the re-organisation of the City of Edinburgh police area into 5 districts, and has made it possible to close down no less than 25 police offices. The savings which result from this, year by year, as may well be imagined, amount to an appreciable sum.

At the civic luncheon in connection with the inauguration of the Edinburgh system, the Lord Provost and other speakers paid very high tribute to the progressiveness and outstanding ability of the Chief Constable and his staff.
F. J. Crawley, Chief Constable of Newcastle-on-Tyne, pioneer of police box organisation, was present as an honoured guest and unstinted acknowledgement of the help and advice he had afforded in the development of the scheme in Edinburgh was voiced by the Chief Constable of Edinburgh and suitably acclaimed by the assembled company.

Taken from The Ericsson Bulletin

BACK Home page BT/GPO Telephones Search the Site Glossary of Telecom Terminology Quick Find All Telephone Systems

Last revised: December 14, 2010