Radio-CB    "CENTRAL"

CB - CD - CU

Through the years NYPD radio has had several different designations- the Communications Bureau, Division and Unit
but it is more commonly just known as-

"Central" on New Years Morning 1969
during the late tour in "CB".
View from the Bronx radio room looking
into the Queens radio room.
- photo courtesy of Charlie Tahaney -

The New York City Police Department did not complete the process of installing two-way radios in all of its patrol cars until about 1950. Early patrol cars had only receivers. Messages would be sent out alerting cars of a condition and giving the address to respond to or to contact the Communications Bureau (each of the 5 boroughs had it's own center) or the precinct station house for further instructions. Technological advancements in the 1930's saw the development of the mobile two-way radio but World War II was the likely reason that the fleet was not fully equipped until the late 1940's.

In the 1940's few people had home phones but by the 1950's that changed and with the fleet now fully two-way equipped the number of requests for assistance rose and so did the number of radio runs. Borough commmunications centers expanded with multiple operators who hand wrote the assignments before placing them on a conveyer belt that transported them into the radio room where the dispatcher sat.

In the 1960's the system was modernized. A new "Emergency" phone number - 440-1234 (NOTE: Spring 3100 was the original telephone number for the New York City Police Department) - was set up and a new computer system called SPRINT was installed. Calls coming into 440-1234 were automatically routed to the correct borough operators. By the 1970's keyboards and computer screens replaced the old conveyer belt system and the 5 borough communications units were all centralized in the new headquarters at One Police Plaza in Manhattan with 911 replacing 440-1234 as the citywide emergency number.

Here are some photos of the communications units from the 1930's into the 1970's.

Telephone Switchboard
Police Headquarters 1920

photo courtesy
John Reilly, NYPD ret'd

CB Borough of Richmond
circa 1940's

also Staten Island CB

telephone operators

radio station of the NYCPD

also WRQP

CB - 1940's

CB - 1950's

also 1950's

telephone operators

CB - 1960's

CB console


SPRINT radio console

The Department was also one of the few police agencies that used a radio-telephone type handset microphone. It was used until the Department converted to UHF radios with repeaters in the 1970's.

1958 RMP radio setup

1940's RMP interior
note "cup" handset holder

1940's RMP interior
note "hook" handset holder

1940's interior




The Department began using "Handi-Talkies" in the 1960's. Eventually they became standard equipment for every officer.

The photos on the right show Motorola HT200 models with "speaker mics" from the
mid-1960's. The photos on the left show Motorola HT220 models used in the early
1970's.  -  photos and information courtesy of APO Mike DiPalma, NYPD HWY 1
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