The Wireless Patrol: A World First
Victoria Police was the first police force in the world to use wireless communication in patrol cars. Invented by Senior Constable Downie in 1922, the new technology had a major impact on operational policing.
Before the introduction of wireless enabled cars, police on patrol had to find a telephone every 30 minutes and call headquarters for crime reports. By this time an offender could have escaped with the spoils of their crime and police would be left scratching their heads.
When a small fleet of cars were fitted with the new wireless radio technology, the results were unparalleled. Police were able to be on the scene within minutes of a crime being reported.
The equipment worked by sending Morse Code messages via radio waves from headquarters to patrol cars. Initially, the wireless patrol could only receive messages, and were required to phone in after attending a scene. This meant that dispatch did not know the status of the patrol, meaning they could not be sent assistance if they ran into trouble. To rectify this, the cars were soon fitted with the ability to send as well as receive messages.
Cars were fitted with a transmitter and receiver and a huge 6-meter aerial, set up when sending messages. Messages were decoded and sent by an on-hand Morse code operator who sat in the back of the patrol vehicle.
Hailed as an elite squad, the wireless patrol were in operation until the early 1970s. In their day, the members were easily recognisable in their V12 Daimlers with trusty mascot, P.C. Bully, riding on the sideboard.