Despite the existence of Find My iPhone, real-time crime centers, and Domain Awareness Systems, a cop's basic technological lifeline is their radio. Today the Times' beat reporter at 1 Police Plaza delves into the practice of "keying the microphone"—or holding down the talk button to prevent colleagues or superiors from talking—and how the practice is discouraged by traceable radios and the threat of severe punishment. "Keying radios is juvenile at best and potentially life-threatening,” NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly told the paper. “The minority of officers who engage in it are at risk of detection and disciplinary action now more than ever.”

According to the report, some officers will "whistle or quack like a duck to show their disdain for whoever preceded them on the airwaves," presumably after they learned the art of sound effects at the Police Academy. But keying the radio, or "stepping on someone," could prevent a distress call from being sounded. It also prevents an order from being given: one officer said that radios were keyed during a car chase in April of 2008 after a gunman stole a ConEd vehicle, to prevent superiors from calling off the chase because it was too dangerous.

Top NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told the Times that only six officers since 2012 were punished for keying their radios, and two who "keyed over their sergeant" were docked 30 vacation days and put on probation. "That got their attention, and others' too," Browne said. Traceable radios have also cut back on the practice.

Turing to the NYPD's unofficial internet sounding board, Thee Rant, we have some interesting accounts of alleged radio keying.

From TOPD8949:

Some of the funniest things that I have heard while messing around on the radio, I have never in a 22 year nypd career heard of or witnessed anyone getting hurt because of a quick remark. Or when we used to key the mic so the boss couldn't call off chase. Before you bad mouth a cop taking a hit, know the circumstances. Just sayin

From OKHorrific:

Plus I know someone very near and dear to me that did it to save someone's career. Now that I think of it, that same person tried to dryfuck that near and dear person every turn she got so yeah, don't ever key your mics.