12 Best Police Scanners in 2017

There was a time when you could stroll into any Radio Shack and pick up a Police scanner. Well, those days are long gone as scanners are no longer that easy to come by in brick & mortar stores. They are also not called police scanners anymore and are more commonly referred to as Scanner Radios more often than not.

Due to the name change and the fact that some manufacturers list Ham Radios as “police scanners” finding the best police scanner for your needs can be difficult, to say the least. We have simplified the process by breaking things down by scanner type and offering up a wide selection of digital and analog units.

Top 12 Police Scanners Ultimate Table

DesignNameTypeStyleRating (1-5)
  1. Uniden BC365CRS 500 Channel Clock/FM Radio Scanner Desktop Analog 4.2
  2. Uniden BCD996P2 Digital T.T. V Desktop Digital 4.2
  3. Uniden BCD436HP HomePatrol Series Digital Handheld Scanner Handheld Digital 4.0
  4. Whistler WS1065 Desktop Digital Scanner Desktop Digital 3.9
  5. Whistler WS1040 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio Handheld Digital 3.9
6. Whistler TRX-2 Desktop Digital Scanner Desktop Digital 3.9
7. Whistler WS1080 Handheld Digital Trunking Scanner Handheld Digital 3.8
8. Whistler WS1010 Analog Handheld Scanner Handheld Analog 3.8
  9. Uniden BC355N 800 MHz 300-Channel Base Mobile Scanner Desktop Analog 3.6
  10. Uniden BC75XLT: Public Safety Scanner Desktop Analog 3.6
  11. Uniden BCD325P2 Handheld TrunkTracker V Scanner Handheld Analog 3.6
  12. RadioShack Pro-668 SCAN IT Handheld iScan Digital Scanner Handheld Digital 3.5

How to Choose a Police Scanner

Buying a scanner to listen in on various agencies or emergency services has never been easy. Today’s scanners are just as tough to figure out, so keep these tips in mind going forward.

Analog or Digital Scanner?

While there are several variations of the classic police scanner, there are two main styles these days with analog and digital scanners. If you owned a scanner in the past 20 years or so, there is a high chance it was analog as that was the frequency most used by law enforcement, firemen and for public safety monitoring. These are also the cheapest type of scanner you can buy, but not always a good fit as it comes down to where you live and the frequencies you want to pick up.

Digital scanners are high-tech and the next step up from analog. They are more expensive, but worth the money if you want a top-tier scanner that can pick up digital bands. That said, you will still not be able to pick up certain encrypted channels although a digital scanner can do everything an analog one can. In other words, if you want future-proof, go digital as eventually many services and agencies will go that route.

Scanner Type

Our best police scanner list consists of two styles of scanners with handheld and desktop models. Some may offer up more features than others, but both work in the same fashion, so it comes down to convenience and preference here. The main difference is handhelds will run off batteries base stations generally use a wall socket or car charging port for power.

Once you decide which style is right for you, you will want to think about trunk-tracking scanners. Trunk-based radio systems are two-way setups that require a particular type of scanner if you want to listen in – and they aren’t encrypted. They are often used by government agencies, but it varies from county to county in some cases. Regular scanners cannot follow a “trunked” conversation as it follows a different type of frequency.

Frequencies

We aren’t going to go too deep down the rabbit hole here but will keep it simple. Bear in mind the frequencies you want to listen to or have an interest in. Once you decide which frequencies you want to dig into, you will want to check them against the frequencies offered up by the scanner. Nothing is worse than wanting to listen to Maritime or Railroad radio only to find out your scanner won’t pick up the frequency.

Top 5 Best Police Scanner Reviews

1. Uniden BC365CRS 500 Channel Scanner

Our top choice is a great pick for amateurs or those that want a scanner but don’t need all the bells & whistles. Uniden’s BC365CRS 500 is a scanner with an alarm clock built in, and as it’s a desktop or base station model, it will look right at home on a nightstand or desk. Want to listen to the radio? It can take care of that as well with 30 FM presets or give you alerts if the weather gets nasty outside.

This scanner offers up 500 channels set in 10 banks, so you have plenty of space out of the box. It is narrowband compliant, but not the type of police scanner you’ll want you live in an area that mainly uses digital frequencies. This one is more geared towards general use, public safety, air shows and marine use due to its analog nature.

While you can’t do trunking with this unit, it is a fantastic analog scanner that’s perfect for home use. It comes with everything you need to get started out of the box, but you will have to program it yourself so keep that in mind if you are new to the scanning scene.

2. Uniden BCD996P2 Phase 2 Base

If trunking is your think, you will be hard-pressed to pass up the Uniden BCD996P2 Mobile Base scanner. This one can be used in your car or home but will leave a small footprint wherever it is placed. Like lots of storage and channels? If so, you will appreciate the whopping 25,000 this little unit brings to the table.

Unless you are trying to listen in on encrypted airwaves, this scanner will pick up anything put in its path. That includes Motorola, Phase 1, Phase 2, x2-tdma, and adpco 25 along with ltr and edacs trunked systems. The advanced recall system allows you to pull up your favorites with ease or you can use RF capture tech to grab signals from other nearby scanners. As it is a digital scanner, it can pick up all the old analog frequencies as well.

From continuous band coverage on 25MHz to 1.3GHz to its GPS compatibility, the BCD996P2 is a very capable scanner that’s not necessarily built for beginners. If  you are planning to choose this one as your first scanner, you may want to rethink that decision unless you have someone on hand to help with programming. The scanner comes with an AC adapter for home use but can be powered from a 12V DC jack as well.

3. Uniden BCD436HP Home Patrol Series Scanner

Uniden’s third entry onto our list is an actual handheld model and arguably the best portable unit on the market. It’s from the company’s Home Patrol series and is a digital scanner with the model number BCD436HP. It has the same narrowband reception as our top choice although this one can do far more including picking up ProVoice bands if you go with a pro subscription.

Another perk of this model is the fact it uses the S.A.M.E. protocol for weather. This is the standard employed by the EAS and NOAA in the states and up north in Canada. Thrown in location-based (zipcode) scanning, a favorites list, temporary avoid and a large display, and you’ve got yourself a solid digital unit that will hold up for years to come. It does run off batteries, but can be powered by an external source if you are low on juice.

The Uniden BCD436HP is essentially a mini computer that can scan everything from Motorola to APCO 25 phase I and II. It’s a great unit for trunking use and the best portable option on our list as well. It also comes with more extras than most with several carrying straps, an SMA to BNC adapter, USB cable, and rechargeable batteries.

4. Whistler WS1065 Digital Scanner Radio

If you were wondering when we would ever get to a product from another brand, wonder no more. Whistler is responsible for half of the picks on our best police scanner list including the digital Whistler WS1065 scanner. It is a desktop model although it comes with a mount so it can be used in your vehicle as well. It is also a real trunking scanner with storage for over 38,000 scannable objects.

That’s right; this model supports object oriented scanning which helps take the guesswork out of programming for consumers new to scanners. Virtual Scanner mode handles 21 scanner configurations, and you’ll get access to Skywarn through a dedicated button as well. Other features of interest include V-Scanner tech, the ability to store up to 1,800 frequencies and context sensitive help. We would be remiss if we did not mention the Digital AGC as well, which assists if you have low audio levels.

This scanner may look high-tech, but it’s object oriented scanning and easy to use interface make it an option for beginners. It is not portable, so you will have to jack into AC or DC power depending on where you plan to use it. If it’s the latter, you will have the option of using the included in-dash DIN-E installation kit.

5. Whistler WS1040 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio

If you don’t fancy Whistler’s larger scanners but like what they bring to the table, prepare to meet the Whistler WS1040. This is a digital handheld scanner that offers up a similar set of features to the WS1065 but in a much smaller form factor. That means digital AGC and Skywarn Storm Spotter are present along with plenty of other goodies.

Being able to track inclement weather is handy, but not as nifty as the company’s free-form memory organization. This allocates memory as it is needed, instead of randomly which increases performance where it counts. You can still setup your scan list any way you would like however courtesy of object oriented scanning and their V-Scanner tech which lets you save up to 21 backup radio configurations.

While the Whistler WS1040 can’t scan as many objects as some of its competitors, it is no slouch with around 1800. Programming may still be difficult despite the contextual help menus, and the battery life is not going to be great unless you are using rechargeable AAs. It doesn’t come with those out of the box, but we would advise you to pick some up if you opt for this particular model.