Listen to police channels via websites such as Broadcastify and TuneIn, with a smartphone using an associated application, or with a police scanner. While a physical scanner offers professional level reception, online methods allow for following channels regardless of their geographic location.
Another determining factor is budget. Users listen to streaming police scanner broadcasts for free online or with a smart phone application while a purchased police scanner costs $60 to $300 and up. However, a physical scanner offers more options to monitor local police broadcasts as well as EMS and fire department stations.
By contrast, online sites such as Broadcastify and TuneIn allows visitors to listen for free to broadcasts nationwide. Likewise, similar products are available for smart phones and tablet devices. Android offers Scanner Radio and Police Radio Scanner SE while Apple offers Emergency Radio Free, 5-0 Radio Police Scanner Lite and Cop Radio for iPhone and iPad users.
Police broadcasts are available to the public because very few police departments encrypt their radio traffic. According to John Banzhaf, Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, this is mainly due to the fear that communication between different police departments and other emergency services could be hampered during an emergency situation in which different departments are using different encryption methods. To avoid this potential problem, most law enforcement agencies have chosen to avoid encryption altogether.