Trends in Full-Time Law Enforcement Employment

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has conducted the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) survey every four years since 1987. LEMAS collects information on a variety of topics related to law enforcement agencies at the state, county, and local level. In Full-Time Employees In Law Enforcement Agencies, 1997-2016, BJS complied employment statistics for full-time employees in general-purpose law enforcement agencies. General-purpose law enforcement agencies include police departments, highway patrol agencies and sheriff’s offices at the state, county, and municipal level, but exclude special-purpose agencies with jurisdiction over government buildings, schools, parks, and tribal lands.

The report has found that the number of full-time sworn officers in general-purpose law enforcement agencies has increased 8% from 1997 to 2016. However, since the U.S. population increased by about 21% during that time, the number of sworn officers per 1,000 has actually decreased from 1997 to 2016.

Other findings include:

  • The average number of full-time sworn officers per 1,000 U.S. residents decreased from 2.42 in 1997 to 2.17 in 2016 (down 11%).
  • From 1997 to 2016, the number of full-time sworn officers in general-purpose law enforcement agencies increased by about 52,000 (up 8%).
  • The number of full-time employees in general-purpose law enforcement agencies increased by about 174,000 (up 20%) from 1997 to 2016.
  • Among local police departments, the number of full-time sworn officers increased by about 48,000 (up 11%) from 1997 to 2016.
  • From 1997 to 2016, the number of full-time civilians in general-purpose agencies increased by about 121,000 (up 53%). The number of full-time civilians in sheriffs’ offices increased by 110%, or about 98,000.

The HSDL offers many statistic-related sources, as well as other resources from the BJS. Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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