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Calling All Cars

Radio Dragnets and the Technology of Policing

2010
Author:

Kathleen Battles

Calling All Cars

How the cops became more popular than the crooks

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.

Kathleen Battles fills a gaping hole in the literature on early radio. By limiting her focus to the intersection of radio and crime narratives/policing practices, Battles provides us with an engaging cast of characters who move through an interesting world. She has mined the radio crime genre for almost everything that it has to offer to social, cultural, radio, and crime history.

Kathy M. Newman, author of Radio Active: Advertising and Consumer Activism, 1935-1947

Calling All Cars shows how radio played a key role in an emerging form of policing during the turbulent years of the Depression. Until this time popular culture had characterized the gangster as hero, but radio crime dramas worked against this attitude and were ultimately successful in making heroes out of law enforcement officers.

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. However, it was not simply the elevation of the perception of police that was at stake. Using radio, reformers sought to control the symbolic terrain through which citizens encountered the police, and it became a medium to promote a positive meaning and purpose for policing. For example, Battles connects the apprehension of criminals by a dragnet with the idea of using the radio network to both publicize this activity and make it popular with citizens.

The first book to systematically address the development of crime dramas during the golden age of radio, Calling All Cars explores an important irony: the intimacy of the newest technology of the time helped create an intimate authority—the police as the appropriate force for control—over the citizenry.

Calling All Cars

Kathleen Battles is assistant professor of communication and journalism at Oakland University.

Calling All Cars

Kathleen Battles fills a gaping hole in the literature on early radio. By limiting her focus to the intersection of radio and crime narratives/policing practices, Battles provides us with an engaging cast of characters who move through an interesting world. She has mined the radio crime genre for almost everything that it has to offer to social, cultural, radio, and crime history.

Kathy M. Newman, author of Radio Active: Advertising and Consumer Activism, 1935-1947

Calling All Cars provides the most in-depth research to date on this overlooked genre.

Journalism History

A highly detailed case for the parallels between 1930s broadcast radio and police radio.

Choice

For anyone interested in the representation of crime, Kathleen Battles’ study of the radio crime drama in the 1930s is essential reading.

Screening the Past

Calling All Cars is a superb cultural study not only of 1930s radio programming within a socio-historical context, but of crime culture and the shifting image of law enforcement in the 20th century.

Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television

A well-defined and clearly argued book.

Technology and Culture

Calling All Cars

UMP blog - From the dragnet to Prism: The history of government surveillance in the U.S.

Revelation of the U.S.'s massive data gathering operation known as Prism has invoked a broad array of public reactions and debates. On the one hand, people seemed shocked to learn that the NSA has been spying on Americans’ phone calls, texts, and Internet activities, while on the other, there were those who pointed out that government surveillance has not exactly been a secret. And, while the enormous scope and breadth of Prism left a great number of Americans angry, an equal if not greater number seemed less concerned.

Read the full article.