Special Report

The Largest Police Departments in the US

Police departments are designed to serve and protect society. Despite calls to defund the police, they remain an essential part of most communities, fighting crime and keeping residents safe. On average, nationwide, there were about 2.4 police officers per 1,000 people. In some places of low crime, this may be enough, while in others, significantly more police are needed.

Despite the many documented occasions of police not following procedures and acting in problematic, even illegal, ways, police forces across the nation are attempting to change certain rooted practices. Police also continually evolve, adopting new technology and administering new laws. And despite defunding calls, police funding has increased in many U.S. cities, according to ABC News. (Here is how the size of each states police force changed in the last year.)

Police departments have grown substantially over the years to accommodate growing populations, but recently there have been shortages, especially since the pandemic. There have been considerable police resignations and retirements in the past two years. (These are the most dangerous states to be a police officer.)

Still, some police departments are far larger than others. To find the largest police departments in the U.S., 24/7 Wall St. reviewed law enforcement employment data from the FBI’s 2021 Uniform Crime Reporting Program. We ranked each department in terms of its total of officers and civilians employed. We excluded law enforcement agencies that extend beyond county lines such as State Troopers and Highway Patrol. 

It is important to note that not all departments report this data to the FBI, and there are cities that are missing data. In cases of the 50 largest cities in the United States that did not report to the FBI, we reviewed city budgets and other documents to best identify comparable city department sizes. These include Philadelphia and Chicago. We did not add police per 1,000 people for these cities as we did not want to use non-matching population data.

Obviously, sizable metropolitan centers are going to have some of the larger police departments just because of the sheer number of local residents. As such, this list includes several major population centers on the Eastern Seaboard as well as others dispersed throughout the country.

Here is a look at the largest police departments in the United States:

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