How To Program A Police Scanner

police scanner image
16th Feb,2022

If you’ve recently purchased a police scanner, programming is the most difficult part. And there are some devices that have faulty manuals, or too many steps to get one channel programmed correctly. Fortunately, we’ve created this guide to help you along the way (or a list of our recommended police scanner apps for your phone if you want listening in to be simpler). Here are some tips and tricks to help you program your scanner so you can communicate more efficiently.

Tips for Programming Your Police Scanner

Read the Manufacturers Guide

We suggest reading the scanner’s manufacturer’s information before turning on your police scanner. When you purchase your scanner at an electronics store, it will come with a brochure filled with details for its model and make. 

Since each scanner model has a different setup, you should follow its individual directions. This allows you to understand how your radio works and utilize its features effectively. 


Various agencies within your region use different channels or “frequencies” for communication purposes. They are used to help you find the right channel.  And you’ll be able to find frequencies for the various agencies that are within your area. 

Check your radio and see if it has the frequency range needed for your desired police channels. If you want to find local frequencies, you should look online for the information, or ask the retailer where you’ve previously purchased the scanner. 

Connect the Equipment

After finding your desired frequency, its time to connect the scanner and the antenna. Make sure to turn it on to ensure that there are no problems. Since you haven’t programmed local frequencies, don’t be alarmed when you hear white noise. It’s normal sound when searching for the right radio frequency.

Next, you’ll want to look for the programming button. Depending on your police scanner model, it might be labeled “PGM” or “Prog.” The button might be located in certain places. Either look at the user manual or ask the retailer to show the difficult area.  If you’re looking for an advanced model, check:

Once you’ve found the programming button, you’ll be able to start saving channels into your radio. Then, you’ll want to press the programming button, or you can hold down the button, and it will appear within seconds. 

Look at the upper portion of the screen. Most radio devices have the words “CH” on display. This means that it is ready to start programming channels. 

After finding the channel number, you can look for the frequencies of your desired station. The frequency number is 5 or 6 digits long with a decimal point. Enter in the digits using the numeric keypad. For instance, if the frequency number is 456123, you would enter the keys in that order: 4-5-6-decimal-1-2-3. 

Keep a running list of everything you’ve found. For instance, keep a channel for fire, police, and other emergency agencies. Keep another channel for the local utility companies and the local news media. This way, you can revert back to that channel at a later time. 

Press enter after finding the channel. This logs the frequency in that channel and helps with organization. 

To verify that the process was successful, simply go to another frequency and start pressing “MAN, 1,0,1, MAN”. Once you’ve entered that sequence, the frequency channel will appear. If any issues occur with the test, make sure to reprogram the scanner. 

Continue this process until you all of your favorite channels are organized to your liking. When you’re fully done programming, press the “PGM” or “Prog” button again to exit out of the programming mode. 

Can I Program a Handheld Radio?

Programming handheld radios like the Uniden SDS100 is similar to programming complete police scanner sets. Since handheld radios use battery power, you’ll have to charge it fully to ensure that it works. As we stated earlier, you can start collecting frequencies while your radio is charging so you’ll be equipped with a fresh set of channels once it’s completed. 

handheld police scanner

Next, start by placing your scanner on manual programming mode. You have to press the “Manual” button to start entering frequencies manually, which is followed by pressing the “Manual” button again. 

Alternatively, if you want to explore or you don’t have a list of frequencies (source), you can press the “SCAN,” and the device will scan the nearest frequencies in your area.

Just like you would with a standard police scanner, you’ll want to start entering frequencies onto the handheld scanner. Remember, you’ll have to use the number pad and decimal to enter in your frequency correctly. 

To save your frequency, press the “E” button on your after entering the frequencies on your device. Once the display flashes, you’ll know that you entered the frequency correctly. If the scanner beeps instead of flashing, then you’ve entered the frequency somewhere else. You can press the “Enter” button and store it into the scanner for a second time. It’s quite easy, like learning how to program BaoFeng UV-5R in one of our articles.

Additional Tips

After you buy your first police scanner, start reading the manual fully to know its capabilities. Start asking questions on one of the radio scanner groups on the internet. Here are some extra tips to help you fully utilize your police scanner. 

  • Start collecting frequencies. First, start by having a small database collection on your computer or index cards. Start learning how to search within a band. Look for a 1 MHZ segment and start recording the interesting frequencies you can find. 
  • Find a way to use your radio from an emergency power source if you currently have a desktop model. This allows you to listen to fire crews and police during severe weather and power failures. 
  • Store similar frequencies in the same bank. This way if you want to listen to fire, aviation, or the police, scan just the memory bank that you’re interested in and it will “lockout” the others.
  • Listen to local radio operators between 144-148 MHZ. There are volunteer radio spotters that can be heard during a weather warning or a weather watch. 


Conclusively, programming a police scanner is simple. Find frequencies, tune your radio to program the channel, and start listening to the police announcements within your location. Once done correctly, you’ll find it easier to stay connected with news and stay alert on crime that’s nearby.  

William Johnson

William Johnson is the owner and founder of He writes about car accessories, with his passion stemming from a deep enthusiasm for all things automotive. His website, RRD, focuses on in-depth reviews of car accessories to help people find the best and latest products in the market.