Police Officer Numbers Fail to Keep Up With Growing US Population: Report

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Photo by Carl Wycoff via Flickr

The number of law enforcement officers has failed to keep up with the increase in U.S. population, decreased over the past decade, according to a new report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Although the numbers of sworn officers increased by 52,000 (up by 8 percent), the report found that from 1997 to 2016, the rate of full-time sworn officers per 1,o00 decreased by 11 percent. During the same period, the general population in the U.S. increased by 21 percent.

Author Shelley Hyland, Ph.D., a BJS statistician, collected survey data from the Law Enforcement Agency Roster (LEAR) database, which includes a census of 15,810 general-purpose law enforcement agencies, including 12,695 local and county police departments, 3,066 sheriffs’ offices, and 49 primary state police departments.

Noting a steady decrease in police officers from 2000 to 2016, the report found the the 2016 rate of full-time sworn officers per 1,000 residents was also lower than the rates in 2000 (down seven percent), 2003 (down eight percent), and 2007 (down seven percent).

Other findings include the following:

  • The number of full-time employees in general-purpose law enforcement agencies increased by about 174,000 (up 20 percent from 1997 to 2016.
  • From 1997 to 2016, the number of full-time sworn ofcers in local police departments increased by about 48,000 (up 11 percent).
  • The number of full-time sworn officers in primary state police agencies increased by about 5,000 (up 10 percent) from 1997 to 2016.
  • From 1997 to 2016, the number of full-time civilians in general-purpose law enforcement agencies increased by about 121,000 (up 53 percent).
  • From 1997 to 2016, the number of full-time civilians in sherifs’ officers increased 110 percent, or by about 98,000.

A full copy of the report can be found here. 

This summary was prepared b y TCR staff reporter Megan Hadley.

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