RRD is reader-supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Read more.

What is The Best Police Scanner of 2020

Purchasing a police scanner is no joke, especially when you need it for emergencies and safety reasons. Don’t just pick out the first scanner you see online—make sure you’re getting the ideal product for the right price tag.

To help you out, here’s a list of the best police scanners we’ve personally tested and used through the years.

Best Handheld
Whistler TRX-1
Best Overall
Uniden HomePatrol-2
Best for Beginners
Whistler TRX-2
Whistler TRX-2 Desktop Digital Scanner
This multi-system adaptive scanner features multiple tech for superb scanning and monitoring.
Simple program & features, plus a quick installing procedure make this scanner friendly to any type of user.
This pre-programmed scanner is packed with features that make scanning so easy, even for beginners.
Best Handheld
Whistler TRX-1
This multi-system adaptive scanner features multiple tech for superb scanning and monitoring.
Best Overall
Uniden HomePatrol-2
Simple program & features, plus a quick installing procedure make this scanner friendly to any type of user.
Best for Beginners
Whistler TRX-2
Whistler TRX-2 Desktop Digital Scanner
This pre-programmed scanner is packed with features that make scanning so easy, even for beginners.

Top Police Scanners Reviews

1. Whistler TRX 1 – Best Digital Police Scanner

Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio

Features:

  • Object-Oriented Capabilities
  • Scan sets
  • Weather alerts
  • Alarms
  • Monitors Encrypted Channels
  • Comes with various search modes
  • Spectrum Sweeper (near-field search)

Overview:

First in our list is the TRX 1 handheld police scanner. If you are looking for the best digital police scanner with tons of features, it’s one of the models you’re going to want. While this model has an expensive price tag, it offers better performance than budget models.

Compatibility

We like that the TRX 1 digital scanner model can be used to monitor encrypted channels from agencies. It is able to tune into AM, FM and digital radio frequencies as well.

A great feature is that this handheld scanner is micro-SD card suitable! The SD card has the ability to store over millions of objects are among its accessories. With a 32 GB maximum, there is a lot of space available for channels in the unit.

Also, you have the ability to save up to 200 configurations on the memory card.  This saves you from the hassle of going to reprogram the settings from scratch in manual mode.

Multi-Adaptable Scanner

Another thing we’ve noticed was that this is a multi-system adaptive trunking scanner. This handheld scanner includes tech such as Motorolla P25 Phase I, Phase II, and DMR, X2-TDMA, so it can also monitor a few trunking systems.

Consumer Opinion

Along with adaptive compatibility, this handheld police scanner also has an alarm clock feature, intuitive controls, and an extensive list. All of these system features have been received positively by consumers, which makes the TRX 1 the best police scanner around.

You can listen to local police, fire, EMS, aircraft, or other local transmissions.

However, beginners shouldn’t take this if they’re looking for the right product to start with first. It’s one of the top models for more advanced users.

We suggest that beginners either take a while to get used to every scanner feature in the unit or buy a cheaper police scanner model until you’re ready to use such models. Click for our full review of the TRX 1.

PROS:
  • Crisp audio
  • Programmable backlight
  • Suited with Micro SD Card

CONS:
  • Small display can take a bit of time to get used to
  • For amateur users rather than pros
  • Steep price

Check Today’s Price

2. Uniden HomePatrol-2 – (Alternative Good Police Scanner)

Uniden HomePatrol-2 Color Touchscreen Simple Program Digital Scanner

Features:

  • Quick-recording & playback
  • Instant replay
  • Simple programming for finding channels
  • Comes with S.A.M.E. Alerts
  • Trunk Tracker V

Overview:

The third model on our portable police scanners list is the Uniden HomePatrol-2 digital scanner. Using the HomePatrol USB cable, anybody with a device from the HomePatrol series can update their database at any time.

By typing in your area zip code, you can look for channels within a local area like fire, public safety agencies, and road conditions as well.

For our in-depth review of this Uniden model and every feature, follow this link: https://www.ratedradardetector.org/police-scanner/uniden-homepatrol-2-review/.

Ease of Use

The Uniden HomePatrol-2 digital scanner gained its current reputation as a “simple program scanner.” Unlike competing base mobile radio scanners, the Uniden HomePatrol-2 is portable and simple to use. This Uniden mobile device is easy to install as well.

Every feature in the Uniden unit is simple to use. Its battery power lasts long, while the included USB cable makes it easy to fill the battery up again. For GPS, you can buy a separate GPS accessory.

Recording Functionality

If you want a tool for the documentation of the local transmissions you listen to, the Uniden HomePatrol 2 has you covered. A micro SD card is included in the model as well so you have the ability to keep your area-specific recordings later. 

Consumer Opinion

A consumer noted that the Uniden HomePatrol model does not identify encrypted radio transmission. Some communication channels are encrypted, not all of them. Just because a channel is on the reference database of the radio system doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get info from it.

There were some minor flaws as well in the HomePatrol scanner’s control system. Still, the Uniden HomePatrol-2 mobile radio device is a great option if you need a Uniden home scanner that’s easy to use and receptive enough to spot multiple traffic.

The built-in antenna on the Uniden HomePatrol digital mobile scanner ain’t that good as well.

PROS:
  • Easy to use
  • Offers intuitive user capability
  • Comes with enhanced Scanners
  • Good price

CONS:
  • Great Uniden device for newbies but lacks control for experts
  • Display might sometimes respond a bit slow

Check Today’s Price

3. Whistler TRX-2 Police Scanner

Whistler TRX-2 Desktop Digital Scanner

Features:

  • Spectrum Sweeper
  • Comes with removable magnetic head
  • IF Discriminator Out
  • Simple Zip Code Programming
  • DCS and CTCSS audible detector
  • Digital Scanning

Overview:

The TRX-2 digital desktop scanner provides a different set of features than the TRX-1, but has the same excellence and range. The desktop designed for TRX-2 weighs 2.1 pounds and has a carrying handle, which acts as a small stand lift when placed on a flat surface at home.

External accessories to keep it upright aren’t necessary.

SKYWARN Button

There’s a weather button and SKYWARN button to determine inclement conditions that will give weather alerts hours before the news. For those trying to be notified quickly, this base model will give you real-time weather reports to listen to.

Scanning Capabilities

This adaptable base mobile scanner supports Phase I, Phase II, DMR, Motorolla P25 Phase I, making it capable of finding unencrypted systems such as:

  • Hytera XPT
  • MotoTRBO “Connect” Plus
  • MotoTRBO Capacity Plus
  • MotoTRBO Linked Cap Plus

You’re able to associate with multiple channels with this quality scanner. It can browse up to 70 channels per second and reception is good too. And because it supports an SD card, you can store millions of channels on this one.

You can listen to police, EMS signals, fire, aircraft, road conditions, and others in your location. The main scanner bands are “low band” (25 to 88 MHz.), “high band” (108 to 174 MHz.), “UHF Aero” (225 to 406 MHz.), “UHF” (406 to 512 MHz.) and “800) (750 to 950 MHz.)

Consumer Opinion

Consumers like how the TRX-2 is pre-programmed with a nationwide database. It allows you to enter a zip code and will start surveying signals within the right area.

Another reason why consumers like this pre-programmed top scanner product is it does feature frequent radio updates so you’re informed of any emergency. It can also perceive via NXDN after installing the device’s firmware. 

PROS:
  • Pre-programmed
  • Get free radio updates
  • Stores different functions with V Scanner
  • User-created profiles

CONS:
  • The supplied USB cable shorter than is usually expected.
  • Doesn’t have a sleep timer/automatic shut off.

Check Today’s Price

4. Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Police Scanner

Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner

Features:

  • 40,000 Frequency range
  • Comes with a Do Not Disturb Mode
  • Includes both Military & Civil Aircraft Bans
  • Offers alpha tagging systems
  • Well-placed buttons
  • Easy search with direct access

Overview:

The Uniden Bearcat BC125AT is a versatile handheld scanner that has a solid grip and over 40,000 frequencies to listen to. The main feature of the model is it allows you to organize 500 channels by location, department, area of interest, or any other form you’d prefer your channels.

Performance

Performance-wise, you’ll find that the Uniden Bearcat BC125AT portable police scanner is a highly effective device and simple to use. As for the reception, the VHF-High can pick up signals from police stations.

Thus, you can use this radio scanner model to listen to anything from a range of fire departments, air agencies, road conditions, and local transmissions in your area. It’s more convenient with alpha tagging systems and close call capture technology.

This radio scanner offers good audio as well. Cranking the volume to its highest, the handheld scanner causes some audio distortion, but not too much.

LCD Screen

The large screen of the Uniden device is one of its standout features compared to other models around.

You’d see the alpha tag, frequency range, mode, strength meter, number, and PL tone. Also, the LCD even shows weather priority symbols, if it is activated.

We wish there’s a feature that offers the option to dim the backlight in the device although the display is easy to read. We find it not too bright, but we wish we could save power. It would be nice if it can find a way to switch off the backlight by just pressing a button.

Or you can program it to come on with keypress only, squelch only, or both.  

Consumer Opinion

Direct access is one of the main reasons why consumers buy it because the feature makes it easier to do a quick search especially in a local area or during an emergency.

For example, if you want to listen to the local cops on Channel 300. To directly go to it, click the Hold button, then the 300 buttons to find the channel. Now that will be on Ch.300 waiting for a transmission!

PROS:
  • Offers CTCSS/DCS features
  • Weather Alerts
  • Portable 
  • 500 channels

CONS:
  • It only charges the batteries when the unit is off.
  • Manual can be improved.

Check Today’s Price

5. Uniden Bearcat BC75XLT Police Scanner

Uniden BC75XLT, 300-Channel Handheld Scanner

Features:

  • 10 Programmable Search Range
  • Close call RF Capture Technology
  • Allows programming of 300 Channels
  • PC desktop programming port & free software
  • 2 AA alkaline or Simple cord-charging
  • NOAA weather channels

Overview:

The last model on our list is the Uniden BC75XLT, a handheld digital scanner type with a small and compact build that makes it portable for listening even during disasters and extreme situations in a location.

Programmable Memory

With this great quality handheld police scanner around, you get the option of having up to 300 radio frequencies programmed into the scanner. This scanner programming allows seamless switching to tune into various events or road conditions after nearby transmissions are saved.

Close Call RF Capture Technology and NOAA Weather

It monitors the weather with a close call RF capture technology feature for long-range frequencies, much earlier than the current news.

New owners will find weather and close call transmissions in this handheld scanner helpful, especially for public-service workers that need good reception to look for any close sign of any emergency in their local area to guide everybody in observing emergency precautions with their car, home, and family.

Consumer Opinion

Customer’s reviews range from good to bad, with many wanting to recommend the product and some finding it hard to operate the handheld digital scanner. However, positive reviews outnumber the negatives. Here are some of them:

It’s easy to set up with mounting accessories, as well as reliable power in linking to signals even in a railroad vehicle or yard.

In their reviews, people like that it works while events are in action, and programming is also easy. Monitoring of frequencies isn’t that necessary in operating the BC75XLT handheld police scanner because 300 channels can be stored in the memory.

However, as some buyers try mounting the BC75XLT they felt the poor construction of its body.

PROS:
  • All-system compatible
  • Long battery power
  • Clear signal reception compared to other top models

CONS:
  • Use isn’t allowed while charging
  • Bulky for some, especially on the base part

Check Today’s Price

Buying Recommendations For Police Scanners

Still confused about which one of the police scanners you need to purchase? Here are some buying tips to help you pick which new handheld or desktop scanner on the market is the best for you.

using a police scanner

How Police Scanners Work

If you know one or two things about how AM/FM radio stations work, then you already know how scanning devices work as well. AM/FM sends broadcasts via radio waves. So are cellphones, CB radio, and television.

A radio scanner allows you to communicate with UHF and VHF range. This range allows users to listen to conversations between sanitation workers, emergency workers, and even others within your community. If you’re not familiar with the police codes on scanners, check out this page.

Uses

Here are the most common uses:

  • Neighborhood watch
  • Hospitals
  • Dispatch centers and patrols
  • Corporate security workers
  • School structure
  • Radio hobbyists and home workers

Frequency Coverage

Many different agencies use different frequencies, and various models and options cover a wide frequency range. With advanced scanners, you can search frequencies within your local agencies that you’re going to follow in your area or location.

Types of Radios

Conventional

If your new handheld or desktop police scanner uses one frequency for each communication channel, it’s a conventional radio system. You can’t use conventional radio scanners to hear a trunking conversation.

Trunk Tracking

With trunk tracking, trunking, or trunked radios, a myriad of agencies can use a few frequencies. Trunked systems allow sharing frequencies in congested circumstances. 

Modes

Analog and digital are the two modes you can get. Some scanners support both analog and digital, but what’s the difference?

Digital

For one, most larger cities have switched from analog to digital. This new model type also has better quality and signal response compared to analog.

parts of a digital scanner

Analog

Analog is the most basic, inexpensive, and common models of scanners available. Analog scanners are usually found in smaller towns and rural communities. 

Features

What should you look for when shopping for ideal analog or digital police scanners? Here’s an overview that helps you pick the best selection that’s way more than just quality accessories in devices.

Channels

How many channels do you need? Before, only 10 channels are available in devices. If 10 to 20 channels is enough, then you’re probably listening to only a few agencies in your local area.

Today, many handheld and desktop models offer a large number of channels, with some providing 300 channels or even 500 channels in devices.

Lists & Banks

Lists or banks give you the power to organize many channels into “banks.” For instance, you can pick and store different frequencies such as Police, Fire, Aircraft, and local transmissions. If the police scanner has Dynamic Memory Allocation, you may also have Listed.

This is also similar to banks, except that users have authority over what channels are on each list.

Search Speed

This tells you how quick devices can search throughout channels. 

display screen scanner

Alpha Tags

Trunked radio systems allow the device to get the right mode for any available frequency. This lets people override the selection more if necessary.

Dynamic Memory

It’s great if you want more supervision over banks. When using a fixed memory scanner, the banks have the same size. That means if all slots in the bank aren’t filled, it removes the remaining slots.

If your handheld or desktop radio scanner features a memory system, you can customize the bank sizes so you can have room for smaller banks if you need them. 

Sensitivity

You want this if you live in a rural area or monitoring aircraft. Often this is going to depend on the antenna, so make sure to get a scanner with the reliable antenna installed, no matter if you’re using a handheld or base scanner. A good antenna may be purchased as part of separate accessories.

Emergency Use

Some excellent police scanners are even better designed for crises than other options. If you want or need a digital scanner that’s quick so you can listen to local weather or public safety transmissions during a disaster, consider the feature of automatic connections to a weather station like S.A.M.E.

This way, you have the ability to hear many details before they hit the news.

police talking on the radio

Legality

The majority of what you can listen to from your police radio scanner is legal to hear. Some unavailable communications are encrypted or scrambled communication services. 

Most prosecutions are attempts to disclose phone calls to mess with privacy or tamper with local police or law enforcement. Listening is mostly legal unless you’re tampering with the signal or information communicated.

That’s when trouble with law enforcement starts. Much like radar detectors are legal in most states, while police laser jammers are not.

Scanners who want to listen to emergencies such as vehicle accidents or home fires should not enter the emergency site. Listeners should also make sure not to block access to the district officials who might be under space conditions.

The Best Police Scanner Of 2020 – Whistler TRX-1

Whistler TRX-1

Check Today’s Price

Whether its a regular, portable handheld, base mobile scanner, this review has different kinds to help you search and buy the best device you need for your personal use, inside the vehicle or in public. For an overall high-quality device that can keep track of miscellaneous frequencies, go for the Whistler TRX-1.

If it’s your first time, take the Uniden Home Patrol 2 or the Whistler WS1040 as good alternatives. Whichever device you pick, you’ll have one whose offers and value will meet its price tag. For other options not on this list, you may see our separate reviews for Uniden BCD536HP and Uniden SDS200.

Do you have any questions about buying leading police scanners?

Tell us in the comments below or explore more of our website.

William