Special Report

New York City Has Far and Away the Largest Police Department in the US

Policing in American cities has become a hot topic issue. While police violence shows up in headlines almost weekly, crime statistics have also jumped in a number of metro areas. And even as police are struggling with new challenges, some forces are losing personnel. One question on the minds of people who run cities is how many police should their cities have. It may not be surprising that the most populous city, New York, has the largest police department nationwide.

At least 25 cities nationwide have a police force of over 2,500 people, and four have police forces over 7,000, according to law enforcement employment data from the FBI’s 2021 Uniform Crime Reporting Program. New York’s police force that dwarfs those of most other metros. The city’s police employed  50,029 officers and civilians in 2021. One drawback of looking at FBI data is that reporting is not mandatory. (Also see, the standard issue police sidearm in each of americas 10 largest cities.)

Adjusting for its population, however, New York’s police force is not the largest, 5.9 police personnel per 1,000 people. To compare, the police force of Los Angeles, which is the second largest, employs 15,286 officers (35,047) and civilians (14,982), or 16.6 per 1,000 residents. (See is NYC’s police force is among the most militarized local police departments in America.)

Despite revelations by the New York Times that New York City’s police paid $121 million to settle police misconduct cases in 2022 alone, more than half of New Yorkers (52%) think the police budget should be increased, according to the Spectrum News NY1/Siena College survey. Just 17% of respondents said the budget should be decreased as it seems that dealing with crime often trumps other considerations.

See 24/7 Wall St.’s list of the largest police departments in the U.S.


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