In the wake of several high-profile police brutality cases, law enforcement has come under intense scrutiny in the United States. Outrage, particularly over the 2020 murder of George Floyd by a police officer, erroded trust in the justice system, sending public confidence in police to a record low, according to a Gallup poll. Many communities even began to question the continued existence of a police force.
However, as violent crime rates have surged in parts of the country, Americans are now far more likely to call for increased investment in law enforcement. In this year’s State of the Union address, President Joe Biden also called for increased police funding to boost hiring, improve training, and invest in new resources.
Rapidly shifting public sentiment has resulted in turmoil in police departments across the country. One national survey of about 200 police departments found that retirements surged by 45%, and resignations climbed by 18% from April 2020 to April 2021 – a period in which rising crime rates underscored the importance of effective policing. (Here is a look at the cities with the most murders so far this year.)
These social and political forces have led to volatility in the size of police forces – in some states more than others. Using data from the FBI, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the number of police officers and police officers per capita employed in each state in both 2020 and 2021. States are ordered alphabetically.
It is important to note that these police employment numbers are a reflection of what local police departments submit to the FBI, and each year, some departments do not provide employment data. As a result, we only reviewed data in the 41 states in which at least 85% of the total population fell within the jurisdiction of police departments with published employment figures.
The largest decline in police officers per capita among the states on this list was from 2.8 officers per 1,000 people in 2020 to 2.3 per 1,000 in 2021. The largest increase, meanwhile, was from 2.0 per 1,000 in 2020 to 2.3 per 1,000 in 2021. (Here is a look at the cities where law enforcement makes the most arrests.)
Click here to see how the size of each state’s police force changed in the last year.
Click here to see our detailed methodology.
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