Michigan definitely has many American firsts…and here’s another that’s not known or remembered by many of us. Michigan was the first state to implement police radio dispatch; in other words, they were the first to broadcast on their own interrupted frequency.

In 1893, the Detroit Police Department built an impressive stone building on Belle Isle, becoming the second-oldest structure on the island. This building was also used as a hospital and was home to the local harbormaster.

In the early 1920s, the Detroit police department’s method of communication was much different. On a local radio station, announcements would be made between songs, with messages and information on local crimes, missing children, stolen vehicles, and traffic.

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Why did they build it on Belle Isle?
It was an isolated area that would not be subjected to interference from other radio station frequencies.

But it wasn’t until 1928 when the Detroit police used this station to use their own frequency to broadcast their own announcements to patrol cars throughout Detroit. It became the first time anywhere that police were able to broadcast on their own dedicated frequency, revolutionizing police communications throughout the entire United States. Also, thanks to its unique secluded location, it was instrumental in cracking down on the bootleggers who attempted to smuggle illegal alcohol from Canada to Detroit across the Detroit River.

You can find this building at the junction of Inselruhe Avenue & Riverbank Drive on Belle Isle. Still standing stately, the structure has its own Historical Marker and is being negotiated to become a Welcome Center.

Michigan's (and America's) First Police Dispatch, Belle Isle

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