In the early 1950’s, listeners were losing interest in police shows that portrayed officers as incompetent and foolish. 21st Precinct was a welcome new portrayal of police life filled with action, drama, and suspense from start to end. Like Dragnet, 21st Precinct episodes were based on true stories and it gained popularity, as audiences were eager to hear gritty stories of police life.
CBS chose the world's largest city New York City as the setting for the thirty-minute police series that chronicled the daily events of a single police precinct named, the 21st Precinct. 21st Precinct was presented with the official cooperation of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, an organization of more than 20, 000 members of the Police department, City of New York, whose stories were inspired by actual police cases and were said to be a factual account of the way the NYPD operated.
From the beginning of each show, Stanley Niss would pull listeners into the drama and action until the final report was written. A call would come into the Precinct’s switchboard and a Sergeant would take down the information and that night’s case would commence.
One distinctive feature about 21st Precinct is that the show did not use music (although some Armed Forces Radio Service Broadcasts used an instrumental version of I'll Take Manhattan as the opening and closing music).
At the end of every show, another call would come into the switchboard and the Sergeant would record the details. This call would introduce the topic of the following week’s episode and so whet the listeners’ curiosity to tune in the following week.
The final closing words were delivered by the Captain to emphasize the importance and dedication of the police force: And so it goes, around the clock, through the week, every day, every year. A police precinct in the city of New York is a flesh and blood merry-go-round. Anyone can catch the brass ring. Or the brass ring can catch anyone.