The Call Box System

When the Desk Lieutenant needed to convey a message or a call for police service to the Patrolman on his assigned  beat, he would, from the stationhouse, signal the Patrolman by


-    Activating the light mounted on top of the call box
-    Blasting the horn, also mounted on top of the call box


The Patrolman on his beat would hear the horn see the light turned on, then from the call box, call the stationhouse for his message

Patrol Booth

Buffalo, NY Police Communication Division


The Nerve Center of the entire police department is its Communication Division. 


It is the control point through which contact is made between the police department and the public. 


Absolute accuracy are of paramount importance in this phase of the departments work, for it is the communication division that serves as a veritable lifeline. 


Without the communications division the entire department would be paralyzed. 


A patrol call box system and patrol booths were installed on January 10, 1888. T


he call box system provided a source of communication between the Desk Lieutenant at the precinct stationhouse and the Patrolman on his assigned beat. 


Patrol booths, similar in size to telephone booths, were placed throughout the city. 


The patrol booths were used as a holding cell for persons arrested by the patrolman on his beat. 


Arrestees were housed in the booth until a patrol wagon would arrive and transport them to the precinct lockup.


The Buffalo Police Departments first communication was the Morse Telegraph adopted in 1875, which is described as a system of communication employing electrical apparatus to transmit and receive signals in accordance with a code of electrical pulses.


For the next 54 years there was no changed until early in the year of 1929 when the teletype system of communication was developed by the New York Telephone Company and than put in to service by the department connecting headquarters, precincts and bureaus.


Buffalo Police Headquarters Teletype Room


On September 15, 1931 the New York State Telephone Typewriter System was installed in Police Headquarters. 


This System connects with the States of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.


The year 1931, found the Buffalo Police Department equipped with more communication systems than any other police department in the world, consisting of the telephone, the Morse telegraph, the telephone typewriter system and the radio.


Radio Station "WMJ" which began operation On October 3, 1930 was one of the first police broadcasting stations in the United States to be licensed, broadcasting at 2,422 kilocycles.

At this time only a few police cars were equipped with receivers, and these were of the home-made variety. 


Even the transmitter had a low power. 


This was only a one way communication, Patrol Officers could receive calls, but could not "talk back" to the dispatcher.


The first location of the radio station was in a small room on the second floor of Seneca Vocational High School. 


Police personnel stationed on the second floor of  old police headquarters, located at Seneca and Franklin Streets, turned over calls for service received by telephone to the dispatchers at the school, who, in turn broadcast them over the radio. 


Radio communication soon became a real asset to police in reaching the scenes of crimes, and steps were taken to equip all police cars with receivers. 


The number of calls broadcast greatly increased, and it soon became necessary to increase the staff and find larger quarters.


The radio station was moved to the police garage on Glenwood Avenue where both call taking and dispatching was done. 


Here was the inaugurated the "TW" or Two-Way communication between station and police cars

Buffalo Police Radio Station Delaware Park


In 1945 Due to the increase volume of calls for service, it became necessary again to find larger quarters. Police Radio "WMJ" was moved to a new radio station located on the South Meadow Drive of Delaware Park

Special Order 296 of 1948, issued by then Police Commissioner
Thomas J. McMahon, served notice that a Central Complaint Room had been organized and would begin operating at 8 a.m. March 15, 1948.


From that time the order states each and every complaint brought to the attention of the Buffalo Police Department, by telephone, in person to a stationhouse, to a police officer or otherwise, must be reported to the Complaint Desk in the communications centers on the second floor of police headquarters. 


This is where the term  "CD Number" originates from. 


The adoption of the Central Complaint Reporting System insures a more complete record, more attention to the investigation of complaints and better service to the public.


On July 18, 1949 the department installed micro-filming equipment and began micro-filming approximately 2,500,000 pieces of old and little used department records.




Thomas J. McMahon
Police Commissioner 1946 - 1949


Complaint Desk Buffalo Police Headquarters

Buffalo Police Headquarters

Contributed By Jim Carroll

In 1967 the Buffalo Police Departments first 911 System was installed, followed by a county wide Enhanced 911 System in 1988. 


In 1993 the conveyor belt that transported complaint cards from the 911 call takers desks to the dispatchers was turned off for the last time and a new Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) was implemented. 


1997 the Buffalo Police Department moved into its newly renovated Communications Dispatch Center on the second floor of headquarters.


The project planned and implemented by then Communications Captain Gerald Schoenle, called for new, state-of-the-art operating systems.


In 1998 Mobil Computer Terminals (MCT's) were installed in patrol vehicles, now allowing dispatchers to dispatch voiceless by sending calls directly to the patrol cars computer. 


Police Officers are now able to perform plate and license checks, lookup prior calls, communicate with other officers via computer.




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