Special Report

The Largest Police Force in Every State

An estimated 665,380 police and sheriff’s patrol officers are employed in the United States, according to May 2021 data. The vast majority of these officers work for local governments, with only about 10% working for state governments, and only a fraction working for universities, hospitals, schools, and other entities.

On average, there are about 2.4 police officers per 1,000 people and 3.4 civilian law enforcement personnel per 1,000 people. Considering the differences across states and urban population centers, police departments vary in size but often fall somewhere near the national average.

States like New York and Utah are vastly different by many measures and demographics, and their police departments reflect this. Within each state, too, population centers vary in size and require matching police departments. A small rural community does not need as large a police department as a large metropolitan area. And most states have at least one if not several large urban centers. (These are the most dangerous states to be a police officer.)

To find the largest police department in every state, 24/7 Wall St. referenced law enforcement employment data from the FBI’s 2021 Uniform Crime Reporting Program for 2021. We ranked each state in terms of its total of officers and civilians employed by a department. We excluded law enforcement agencies with greater jurisdictions than cities or counties, such as State Troopers and Highway Patrol. 

It is important to note that this list is reflective of the departments that reported this data to the FBI. Several large cities do not report this 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. Those cities include Philadelphia, Chicago, Columbus, and Indianapolis. For these cities we did not include police personnel per 1,000 population. (These are America’s most heavily policed cities.)

It is not surprising to find New York City and Los Angeles topping the list in New York and California, respectively. The two  are the most populous and second-most populous metropolitan areas in the U.S. And while Ada, Idaho, and Polk, Iowa,may not be readily familiar, they respectively encompass Boise, Idaho’s largest city, and Des Moines, Iowa’s largest city. 

Still, although these are the largest police departments in their respective states, the largest police department in Vermont is Burlington, which employs 99 police and civilians. Compare that to New York City’s police department employing over 50,000 personnel.

Here is a look at the largest police department in each state:

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