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Police Scanners Vs CB?
in Technology

Most of the cops are using police scanners these days, and even civilians are using police scanners with FCC license in the states where it is legal, but my question is different. I want to ask which one is better a police scanner or a CB radio. Yes, I admit CB radios are cheap and have no legal restriction but which pros are making police scanners more reliable and popular among users?

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  • I am not sure that you understand how all of this works.
    (At least, not in the United States of America anyway)

    Cops don't "use police scanners", they use police RADIOS, two way radios that function on frequencies (aka "channels") which are exclusively reserved for their local police department in that city or town that they have jurisdiction over.

    In other words, an LAPD officer's radio may be operating on 462.350 mHz (one of MANY channels available) and NO other person or group is allowed to use that channel because it is exclusively reserved for the LAPD's use in L.A. County.

    A scanner is a radio RECEIVER capable of scanning a large number of channels. Cops don't use scanners, civilians do.

    There is no general legal restriction against the use of police scanners by the public but some local jurisdictions prohibit their use in a motor vehicle with a motor vehicle scanner permit, but the use of a radio scanner is not bound by licensing in any other way in the United States.
    You are allowed to listen to whatever radio communications are unencrypted without any license.
    However, it's important to note that a goodly number of police departments are now considering encryption of most of their radio communications, and it is illegal to "break" that encryption, which of course would eventually render the use of scanners null and void, at least where interception of police communications is concerned.

    CB radios are NOT police radios. They are strictly for use by civilians and businesses. There are TWO TYPES of "Citizens Band" radios, Class D, which is the 11-meter band (27 mHz) and Class E, which is also known as the Family Radio Service and is in the 460 mHz portion of the radio spectrum.

    Cops generally do not use CB radios for police work, although some jurisdictions might monitor some CB frequencies, particularly Channel 9, which is reserved on Class D as an emergency channel.

    "The Left ones think I'm Right, the Right ones think I'm wrong."
    ---Leon Russell, "Magic Mirror"

  • Oh...forgot to include one other factoid. There actually IS a legal restriction for Citizens Band radios: OUTPUT power.
    A Class D CB radio is limited to four watts output power, and a Class E CB radio (FRS) is generally limited to TWO watts output power.

    A police radio, by comparison, might be putting out anywhere between 20 and 250 watts, depending on the frequencies they use, the terrain of their jurisdiction and overall square mileage of their service area.

    A rural police department might equip their patrol cars with a 250 watt radio simply as a means of assuring that their signal can be picked up by a base station radio at precinct headquarters which might be as much as 25-30 miles away in an area that has a lot of hills and other geographical features that might hinder reception and transmission.

    Since pretty much ALL modern police radios transmit using "frequency modulation" (FM) instead of amplitude modulation or sideband like CB radio, a 250 watt transmitter is a pretty good way of making sure that the patrol vehicle can be heard 25-50 miles away. The FM signal "captures" the receiver and all background noise gets blanked out due to FM's reception characteristics, which are dramatically different from AM.
    "The Left ones think I'm Right, the Right ones think I'm wrong."
    ---Leon Russell, "Magic Mirror"

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