Special Report

States With the Most Police Officers

The last couple of years have been tumultuous for American law enforcement. Outrage over several high-profile police brutality cases, particularly the 2020 murder of George Floyd, fueled movements to defund police departments across the country. Now, however, over two years later and facing a spike in violent crime, Americans are more likely to call for increased investment in law enforcement. (These are the states where the police kill the most people per capita.)

According to an October 2021 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 47% of American adults say they want increased police spending in their area, up from 31% in June 2020. In this year’s State of the Union address, President Biden even called for increased police funding to boost hiring, improve training, and invest in new resources. 

According to data from the FBI, there were an estimated 660,300 men and women working as police officers in the United States in 2021, or about 233 for every 100,000 Americans. In some parts of the country, the concentration of police officers is far higher. 

To identify the states with the most police, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. Both the number of police officers and the population they serve are current as of 2021. Supplemental data on the violent crime rate – the number of violent crimes for every 100,000 people – is also from the FBI and is current as of 2020. States are ranked by the number of police officers for every 100,000 people, based on FBI population data.  

Click here to see the states with the most police officers.

Police officers, as defined by the FBI, are individuals who have full arrest powers, typically carry a badge and a gun, and are compensated with public funds. The number of police officers ranges by state from as few as 135 per 100,000 people, to over 400. The states with the fewest police officers per capita are concentrated in the West, while the 10 states ranking highest on this list span the country. 

The concentration of police officers in a given state appears to be partially a reflection of need. While there are exceptions, states with fewer police officers tend to have lower than average violent crime rates, and those with a higher concentration of police often have more violent crime. (Here is a look at America’s most dangerous states.)

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