In 1887, Cleveland Police Commissioner J.H. Bradner persuaded a Western Union lineman by the name of Jerry Murphy to work for Cleveland's City Signal System. The innovative Murphy devised a telegraph/telephone system as a call box for police officers on patrol. The original call boxes were so large that citizens complained about the seven foot tall, three foot wide metal structures forcing Murphy to produce a more compact version. The new version, later coined the Murphy System was produced in 1890.
An original "Murphy System" police call box is on display at the Cleveland Police Museum.*
The way it worked:
Patrolmen on their beat were required to ring-in at pre-determined times. This was accomplished by pulling the lever inside the box that sent a coded message via telegraph to the precinct house.
The boxes were numbered and the coded message coincided with that number.
1 Pull signaled that the officer was on post and alright.
2 Pulls was a request for a patrol wagon to pick up an arrested person or render assistance.