Intro to Transcribing NYPD

Last edited: Monday July 21st, 2020

Questions? DM us on Twitter @NYPDPoliceRadio!



This is a guide and a reference for turning NYPD jargon into useful tweets for those on the ground. That means that this document will have two main goals: helping you figure out what the cops are talking about, and helping you reframe that information in a way that’s more comprehensible for people who aren’t as familiar with police lingo or organization. As part of both goals, there will be a focus on helping you figure out what information is and isn’t useful for protestors. Some things to keep in mind as you learn to (and eventually) transcribe are that we’re here to help people, and that it’s always ok to ask for help yourself. There’s no shame in asking to get a second pair of ears on a sound bite, especially if it’s going to help us get more accurate information out to the people on the ground.


It can be helpful to have a couple of tabs open so you can quickly search them while listening to the radio. A searchable map, a list of local thoroughfares, and a list of local cop jargon are all incredibly useful. Cops also often refer to precinct numbers so it could be useful to have a map with those labeled on it too. Here are some NYC-specific links:

NYPD Radio Codes

General Radio Codes


Understanding what the cops are saying

There’s a lot of shorthand that’s used on radio that can make it difficult to tell what’s going on at first. It’ll be confusing, but you’ll get the hang of it. There are some lists online that you can find by searching “nypd radio codes” or “nypd 10 codes”. Note that different police departments may assign different meanings to the same codes, so make sure you’re using a list that aligns with your region (or an nypd specific one if you’re scanning new york).

You don’t have to memorize all of them! It’s good to be familiar with the most common ones, and have a reference sheet open for the ones you don’t recognize.

Most relevant codes:

Other things you’ll probably hear:

Usually cops start by identifying themselves with a position and/or unit number

ex. DI Knickers (Detective Inspector Knickers), 29 C.O. (Commanding Officer of the 29th precinct), Aviation 20 (chopper 20), 3 Boy (Unit 3B), 401 (Mobile Field Force 401)

You might hear the locations of command posts pop up, especially during times when there are a lot of protests. The location of the command post will often be referenced by the cop calling in, and then repeated by the command post. Their locations move around a bit based on “need,” but this is where they’ve been:

A longer list of NYPD cop lingo (alphabetical)

Communicating what the cops are saying

This section is to guide you in figuring out what information is tweetworthy and what the best way to tweet it is.

Figuring out what to tweet

Not everything you hear on a police scanner will be protest-related, and even things that are protest-related are not always useful for people on the ground. Our general rules of thumb are:

What it’s useful to tweet

What it’s not useful to tweet

Early on it’s hard to figure out what is and isn’t “normal” to hear on the scanners. Here’s a list of things that you’ll probably hear pretty frequently.

There are other things that might seem urgent or tweet-worthy, such as violent crime, suspects fleeing, burglaries, etc. Keep your focus on protests and protest-related incidents.

Framing the tweet

Make sure to maintain a calm tone in what you tweet out - it doesn’t actually help to yell in all caps or make the situation sound dire - simply describe what is happening. To the inexperienced listener, routine and expected police activity may sound more relevant or urgent than it is. Get a firm grasp on the jargon and implications before you editorialize too much, but do translate anything you understand into plain language for the protestors on the ground.

We need to keep in mind that in listening to cop radio, we’re only getting one side of the story. Everything we’re hearing from the scanners contains a bias that we need to take into consideration.

Avoiding cop language and cop framing should be a goal when writing your tweets:


That being said, sometimes it’s helpful to relay the specifics of what cops are saying.

Sometimes they’ll outline a specific plan of action, which it’s incredibly helpful to relay. Here are some examples of we’ve heard:

In general, it’s good practice to take all cops’ words with a grain of salt. Cops lie.


It’s normal to feel disheartened at first. It’s hard to hear what they’re saying through all the static, clicking, and humming. You’ll get the hang of it. If you have any questions or need any help, don’t hesitate to reach out. No matter how experienced you are, there’ll always be that one garbled transmission you need a second pair of ears on- there’s no stigma in asking for help.

There’s no denying that this work can be taxing. It’s hard to find anything uplifting in listening to cops talk to each other for hours on end. But every once in a while, you can hear a group of protesters shouting so loud that central can’t make out a word the cop is saying. Remember that we’re doing this for the people on the ground. Tell them what the cops are planning.