Special Report

How Police Firepower Compares in the World's Largest Countries

When it comes to the countries with the most police firepower, size matters.

For example, the United States has been channeling billions of dollars of surplus military equipment to thousands of its local police department for decades, and as a result has about 1.6 guns per police officer. While that is high compared to countries with larger populations, it is relatively low compared to countries with small populations, like Belarus, Belgium, and Finland, which have 1.9 or more firearms for every police officer. (Here are America’s most heavily policed cities.)

To determine how police firepower compares in the world’s largest countries, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from Small Arms Survey, an international firearms-monitoring organization. We ranked the 27 counties in the survey with populations of at least 50 million people by the estimated number of police firearms per sworn police officer in 2017, the most recently available year of police firearm data. Population-adjusted police officer figures were calculated using 2021 population data from the World Bank. 

Among the countries with larger populations, the U.S. ranks sixth, just below Iran but more than Bangladesh. The more than two dozen countries with populations higher than 50 million people have between 0.7 guns per sworn officer in China to nearly two guns per officer in Russia.

The two largest countries by population, China and India, have more police officers than firearms. Japan, Tanzania, and the Philippines also have fewer guns than law enforcement officers. Germany, France, Russia, and South Africa, however, have more guns than police officers and rank in the top five countries with the highest ratio of guns per law enforcement personnel. (Here is every country that has abolished the death penalty and when.)

When it comes to the number of police relative to the population, Egypt is a major outlier, with a staggering 12 police officers for every 1,000 residents. By comparison, China, a country well known for policing its population, has only two officers for every 1,000 residents. Egypt has 1.2 firearms for every police officer, in line with the global average, compared to China’s 0.7 guns for each police officer.

How police firepower compares in the world’s largest countries.

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