Police Call Boxes

Police Call Box
Police Call Box

I was just doing a little research on these, as I’ve seen them here in DC for years but didn’t know much about them. Washington DC was one of the first cities in the US, and perhaps even in the world, to get them. They were first implemented in Albany, New York in 1877, and in Washington DC in 1883. The most famous ones, of course, are the blue kiosks from the UK, made so by the Dr. Who tv series. In the UK, they phased them out in the 1970s, but they remained in use in Washington DC until the early 1980s, so they had a run of almost a full century. Surprisingly enough, their physical remains have outlasted the pay phone – it is easier to find a (gutted, non-functioning) police call box here than it is to find a functioning pay phone now, despite the fact that public phones are still in use.

I found a video online from a DC Police Department historian who talked about the police call boxes, and he had a very funny story to relate – back in the day before police radios were implemented, if a patrolman had to arrest someone, the only way he had to contact central dispatch to get a wagon to come pick up the perpetrator was to physically bring the perp to the call box, call for the wagon, and wait at the call box. So that would explain why patrolmen in the past were a bit rougher and meaner during the arrest process, as they often had to subdue a perp for not just long enough to get them in his vehicle, but for a several block walk and then an additional 10-15 minutes waiting for the van!

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