Hidden Objects: Catching Speeders in the ’70s

While it may look like luggage, this is actually a complete RADAR speed detector kit from the 1970’s – then considered state-of-the-art. A far cry from the speed detectors used by police today, including one currently being developed by a Virginia company to not only detect speed but also tell the officer if someone is texting.
RADAR was developed in the 1930’s and greatly improved during the Second World War. It wasn’t until after the War when engineer John L. Barker Sr. thought of other applications. In 1947, the town of Glastonbury (CT) deployed Barker’s first machine on Route 2, causing some outcry from the community that a machine couldn’t possibly be accurate.
And argue they did. A Connecticut woman in 1955 attempted to contest her speeding ticket in court after flying through a 25-mile-per-hour zone. Her lawyer further protested about a “lack of fair play” on the part of the police for pointing this high-powered, wartime technology at drivers. Barker was called in as an expert witness and insisted his radar machine didn’t lie. His son later said his father was often in court defending his invention.
Today, police departments use digital radar detection devices that are highly effective at greater distances and more accurate.
The National Law Enforcement Museum has thousands of law enforcement artifacts in our archives; too many to display at once. We offer this regularly scheduled blog to give you a peek into our archives.