Public outcry over the killing of Black Americans by police and the protests that followed have called for an overhaul of law enforcement tactics and training, as well as the demilitarization of police departments around the country.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the number of police department employees for every 100,000 people in the 1,843 U.S. cities with populations of 20,000 or more from the FBI’s 2018 Uniform Crime Report (UCR).
While many of the nation’s largest cities are on this list, there are also relatively small cities with large police forces. For example, two cities on our list have populations of fewer than 35,000 people but more police per capita than New York City — the city with the nation’s largest police force. For reference, there are about 282 law enforcement employees per 100,000 people nationwide.
Relatively high numbers of violent crimes are reported in the majority of the cities with the largest police forces. Thirty-five of the 50 cities on this list have a higher reported violent crime rate than the national average.
According to a report in 2019 from USA Today done in collaboration with the Marshall Project and the Memphis Commercial Appeal, there is scant evidence that deploying more police correlates to less crime. Alexander Weiss, a police staffing consultant, said in the story that most police departments have more issues about how law enforcement resources are deployed and scheduled, and fewer concerns about their actual staffing numbers.
Across the nation, majority Black communities are more likely to have relatively large police departments than areas with relatively fewer Black residents. In roughly 4 out of every 5 cities on this list, Black residents make up a greater share of the population than the national share of 12.7%. (Here are the worst cities for Black Americans.)
Relatedly, poor communities are considerably more likely than more affluent ones to have among the largest police departments. Of the 50 cities on this list, 37 have higher poverty rates than the national 14.1% rate, and many have among the highest poverty rates of any U.S. city.