Police Departments have had record keeping systems for many years. In the early days, police departments discovered the need to keep track of crime and other incidents in their jurisdictions and to record the names of persons involved in such incidents. We know that in the early 1900’s the San Rafael Police Department kept a mug shot book of criminals they arrested for various crimes. It is assumed that they had some type of report writing system to go with those photos. Many crimes were also documented by the local newspapers, some of which can still be looked up today.
In the 1930’s, the San Rafael Police Department used log books to record calls for service and persons arrested. It is interesting to note that if you look through those books, the crimes listed back then have not changed much from what the police department deals with today.
As time progressed, SRPD established a card and report system that was in use in the 1950’s and perhaps some years before. By the 1960’s reports were being written by officers and person’s names were entered on a 3x5 card and put in a file. It was a pretty simple system, however it worked very well. Simply look up a person’s name in the card file and it would list that person’s record with a report number after it. You could then go to the report file and pull the case.
By 1968, the San Rafael Police Department had amassed a large number of 3x5 cards that were kept in file drawers that stood about five feet tall. Thousands of cards were in those file drawers that held the names of many citizens in town. If you knew the alphabet, the system remained stable as long as the cards were filed properly.
The persons who were most responsible for filing and maintaining the card system were cadets, which was a program that was started in August of 1966. On a graveyard shift in about 1969, something happened that made the department start to look at a better way to keep those cards in order. The story goes that two cadets, who might not have had enough to do, got into a playful shoving match. One cadet pushed the other cadet into one of those free-standing card files and the whole cabinet, about one third of the thousands of cards on file, fell over onto the floor spilling a good many 3x5 cards all over the place. Rumor has it that it took about a week to get all those cards back in the proper order.
In the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, the police department finally decided to have a better way to hold their 3x5 cards. They purchased a new state of the art card holder that took the place of the old file cabinets, and with this new piece of equipment, there was no chance that it could be knocked over. The machine was electric and when you pressed a button, the drawers rotated to the correct part of the alphabet that you wanted.
It was quite an improvement for the Records Division and when you like something, you of course must name it. Thus, this new card contraption got the name of “George.” George performed well, however at times it would break down freezing the drawers. But not to fear, George had a metal rod that you could stick in its side and you could crank your way to the desired drawer.
George served with honor and distinction for many years. The police department, wanting to upgrade their system, went to a strip file system where names could be moved around in the holder so the file could still be in alphabetical order. In addition, a Complaint Dispatch Report (CDR) system was put in place to record calls that came into the department. Both of these systems were manual ones, until they were replaced by the police department’s first computer system in September of 1991, which was called S.R. Card. Interestingly, the hardest part of getting the new computer system up and running was to get agreement on what it was going to be called. In January of 2003, S.R. Card was replaced by a newer computer system called Rims, which is still in use as of this writing.
Attached is a photo of dear old George sitting in the front office at the San Rafael Police Department in 1983.
Bonus Points: Can you name all the employees in the photo who are hanging out with George?
Copyright 2017 Harry Barbier – All Rights Reserved