In Cities With Largest Police Forces, Most Officers Live Elsewhere


In Ferguson, Mo., more than two-thirds of the civilian population is black. Only 11 percent of the police force is. The racial disparity is troubling enough on its own, but it’s also suggestive of another type of misrepresentation, says Given Ferguson’s racial gap, it’s likely that many of its police officers live outside city limits. If so, Ferguson would have something in common with most major American cities. In about two-thirds of the U.S. cities with the largest police forces, the majority of police officers commute to work from another town.

This statistic is intimately tied to the diversity of the police force: Black and Hispanic officers are considerably more likely to reside in the cities they police than white ones. In New York City, 62 percent of the police force lives within the five boroughs, a comparatively high figure. There’s a stark racial divide. Seventy-seven percent of black New York police officers live in the city, and 76 percent of Hispanic ones do, but the same is true for only 45 percent of white officers. These data come from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Census Bureau, which together provide detail on the racial composition of government workers in large American cities.

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