INSIDE AN ADAM-12-ERA PATROL CAR

Editor’s note: The following article is printed with permission from Michael Sellars, editor of The Rotator, The Newsletter for LAPD Reserve Officers, Volume 11, Winter 2012. The photographs are from this author.

1973 AMC Matador as seen on Adam-12

1973 AMC Matador as seen on Adam-12

Jack Webb was a stickler for detail and authenticity in his television series Dragnet and Adam-12. For Adam-12 (which ran from 1968 to 1975), the inside of the Rampart station was duplicated exactly on the Universal sound stages, right down to the doorknobs. Mark Galoustian, a specialist with the Corps, is equally meticulous when it comes to the refurbished Adam-12-era car he owns and carefully maintains.

He describes the inside of a “shop” during those days:

“The ‘Hot-Sheet’ (the latest off of the teletype at the start of the shift) would slidedesktop

behind the Plexiglas and was illuminated by two small bulbs from behind at night. Your partner would scan the sheet for stolen or wanted license plate numbers. The shotgun was locked in front of the front seat and an additional shotgun rack was in the trunk. There were handheld spotlights and a four-channel Motorola radio (Ch. 1—dispatch, Ch 2-4—‘tac’ frequencies). You could not hear other officers talking to dispatch; you couldadam12_RADIO

not talk to other officers in the field without switching to a tac frequency; and you could not hear dispatch when switched to tac. At the time, there were no ‘rovers’ either. Officers would hang the mic out the window during stops in order to hear the radio. The batons were slid into radiator hoses on both front doors that MTD installed. The supervisor cars had a second or third radio installed to monitor other channels at one time. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that the standard patrol cars had ‘cheater’ radio installed. The cheater would allow officers to still hear dispatch while talking to other units on the tac ( a second speaker was mounted on the rear deck above the rear seat).

“The two ‘can lights’ on the roof were used by LAPD from the early 1950s until 1978. The early lights were made by S&M Lamp Co. (Model 757) and were red/red. California did not adapt the rear amber light requirement until 1964. That year, S&M Lamp Co. went out of business, so Trio-Sales Co. made the lights for LAPD as Model T-2 lights with flashing ambers to the rear and steady red to the front. To be ‘LAPD correct,’ the ambers flashed separately: They didn’t want a shop to go out of service for a burned-out flasher, so each light had its own flasher. On Adam-12, the lights alternated the flash. These can lights eventually had to be replaced due to side warning issues. Also, the Olympic Games were coming to Los Angeles, and the international visitors typically recognized blue as emergency vehicle lighting. Most of the old can lights were scraped, making them hard to find and thus priced at a premium.” The “Hot-Sheet” desks were also scrapped, and Marks says he knows of only four or five that are still in existence.

“This era car had no A/C, no power windows, a bench seat (bad news if the driver was shorter than the passenger), bias ply tires (no metal reinforcement) and no power steering.”

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1911 LAPD: A Leader in Technology … Well, Sort Of

In 1911, the Los Angeles Times warned “Lawbreakers Beware” as the Los Angeles Police Department was at again. You see, LAPD loves technology—whatever it takes to get one-up on the bad guys. Seemingly always outnumbered, the department of 1911 had to be inventive; so as they would throughout their history, its leaders instinctively turned to technology.

An LAPD officer trying out the "Power Skates."

An LAPD officer trying out the “Power Skates.”

With the benefit of cutting-edge devices, the modern LAPD patrolled the entire city in the early 20th century using automobiles and motorcycles, leaving the old, dependable foot beat cop in the dust. The new machinery only seemed to emphasize the slowness of patrolmen. But the street-smart cop was not about to fade away like his four-legged friends.

So when a local citizen came to then Chief Charles Sebastian (1911-1915) with an invention to literally propel the foot beat cop as fast as those in the new automobile, the chief quickly ordered a field trial of what Mr. Herbert Chamberlin termed his “Power Skates.” According to his design, these specially created skates would allow properly equipped foot beat officers to “speed past” their motorized colleagues. There were two types of these skates: One had two wheels and was a “high-speed” design that would allow the cop to reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour; the other had four wheels for each skate and was for regular, slower foot beat duty. The skates were propelled by the weight of the officer stepping forward as if walking; a worm gear “commuting the vertical to circular motion” drove the officer forward—or so it was promised.

As history would have it, the “Power Skates” were not approved, possibly saving hundreds of days of lost time from injuries—as the one big drawback of the design was clear: no brakes!