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Calling All Cars

Calling All Cars: Radio Dragnets and the Technology of Policing

Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Calling All Cars
    Book Description:

    Calling All Cars shows how radio played a key role in an emerging form of policing during the turbulent years of the Depression. Through close analysis of radio programming of the era and the production of true crime docudramas, Kathleen Battles argues that radio was a significant site for overhauling the dismal public image of policing.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7336-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. introduction: Heeding the Call
    (pp. 1-32)

    As historians of policing generally agree, radio in combination with the automobile represented a significant shift in police practices during the years of the Depression. Radio became a technological solution to a number of problems facing police, many of which were tied to the increasing use of the automobile. The automobile enabled increasingly fast mobility for criminals, taxing the fragmented arrangement of law enforcement in the United States. Radio and automobiles formed a powerful rejoinder to criminal mobility. For example, Kelling and Moore (1996) argue, “The patrol car became the symbol of policing during the 1930s and 1940s; when equipped...

  4. chapter 1 Policing Perception: Public Image Management and the Creation of the Radio Crime Docudrama
    (pp. 33-70)

    Like the soap opera and variety program, among others, the radio crime docudrama drew on existing cultural forms but was nonetheless unique to radio. While vigilante-styled dramas had clear precedents in pulp fiction, the origin of those programs that claimed to present true stories of policing is less obvious and ultimately more complicated. Created in cooperation with police forces intent on improving their public image, by advertising agencies devoted to furthering the commercial interests of their commercial clients, for broadcast on commercial radio networks concerned with government interference in their efforts, the programs grew out of the contradictory attempts to...

  5. chapter 2 The Sound of Intimate Authority: Professionalism and the Reformation of Police Officers
    (pp. 71-104)

    In publicity for his upcomingG-Menprogram, Phillips H. Lord emphasized one of the key concerns in the creation of radio dramas: how to represent events in the world through sound alone. While, as discussed in chapter 1, Lord clearly overstated his adherence to facts in an effort to publicize his programs, he nonetheless identified a problem many in radio faced during the first years of the Depression: How do you create meaning about the world through sound alone? Images already saturated culture. Photography, advertising, and cinema filled the United States with visual representations of many aspects of life. By...

  6. chapter 3 Gang Busting: Criminals and Citizens in a Professional World
    (pp. 105-146)

    Reformers found public attitudes toward criminals particularly troubling. They marveled at public interest, sympathy, admiration, and seeming desire for criminality. The public devoured newspapers with famous gangsters and desperados on their covers or paid hard-earned money for a glimpse into the glamorous world of the screen gangster. Citizens seemed far more attracted and reverent toward criminals than toward police. Clyde Barrow, boyfriend of and partner in crime with Bonnie Parker, was certainly one of the most romantic of these criminal figures. Newspapers and magazines treated the couple’s life of crime as resulting more from romantic desperation than from any inborn...

  7. chapter 4 The Dragnet Effect: Space, Time, and Police Presence
    (pp. 147-186)

    Donald S. Leonard, a key figure in supporting radio in police work during the 1930s, was justifiably proud of the accomplishments of his force, the Michigan State Police. In this short description of a “spectacular example” of the power of police radio is condensed many of the issues key in the adaptation of two-way radio to police work. Few crimes better symbolized the hard times of the Depression and public distrust of its capitalist institutions than bank robbery. Yet, in this statement, there is no populist celebration of a modern-day Robin Hood. Instead, there is a bold endorsement and celebration...

  8. chapter 5 The Shadow of Doubt and the Menace of Surveillance
    (pp. 187-228)

    As argued up to this point, the radio crime docudrama was developed as an entertainment formula that was largely complicit in naturalizing a progressive definition of policing as a profession producing, and thus possessing, its own body of expert knowledge about criminality, policing, and the proper role of citizens. This was achieved both through the narrative content of the programs, which continually worked to construct the police as professional laborers, and in the formal elements that were particular to the production of meaning in the radio medium. The narrative content constructed the police as self-assured authorities in matters of policing...

  9. conclusion: Hearing the Echoes
    (pp. 229-240)

    In this remarkable statement, Colonel H. Norman Schwarzkopf, head of New Jersey State Militia and host ofGang Busters, made clear the lofty expectation that radio might somehow revolutionize the relationship between police and citizens.¹ His faith in the ability of radio to transform this relationship seems at once hopelessly naïve and eerily prescient. In his hope that radio might foster “a respect for law and order” among the “enfranchised citizenry” and those “youth” who so many feared had easily “succumbed to the lure of crime,” Schwarzkopf certainly seems naïve. Yet, replace the wordradiowithtelecommunicationsin additional statements,...

    (pp. 241-244)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 245-256)
    (pp. 257-270)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 271-282)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 283-283)