USDOJ: There’s a massive plummet in the number of cops in America – is there a connection to rising violence?

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Highlights

New numbers of law enforcement agencies and personnel from the US Department of Justice.

The collective data indicate that local policing in America is in trouble coinciding with rising violence in cities and record fear of crime.

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Finding good data on law enforcement is difficult, and the time frame is often delayed. The report below from the Bureau Of Justice Statistics (BJS) of the US Department of Justice provides insight as of 2018 compared to 2008 (and other dates).

Context From Other Sources

There needs to be some context before we look at the new USDOJ data. Partially based on this report, some writers are suggesting that we haven’t lost police officers. I offer contextual content from other sources.

The Bureau Of Justice Statistics report cites an increase in 22,000 sworn officers from 2008 to 2018, but the rate of officers decreased. There was a two percent increase in local police officers (most cops-2008-2018) while the US population increased by 6 percent.

Rising Crime

2014-2015 was the beginning of riots and protests regarding police use of force and the calls to defund law enforcement. Many believe that the calls to defund were the emphasis for many officers leaving their jobs and forgoing proactive policing (possibly the most effective form of crime control per the USDOJ).

2015-2018 saw a 28 percent increase in violent and serious violent crimes per the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Multiple data state that urban violence is increasing dramatically.

Cops Leaving

We lost tens of thousands of police officers in recent years per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. New York City is projected to lose over 4,000 officers this year, a 42 percent increase in cops leaving.

We have problems with recruitment; a 63 percent decrease, Cops Leaving. Media is reporting that calls for law enforcement in some cities are going unanswered or are considerably delayed. Data states that (72%) of officers are now less willing to stop and question suspicious persons, Pew.

In March 2020, The Police Executive Research Form reports that there was a 29% reduction in the hiring rate for agencies with 250-499 officers. There was a 36% reduction in the hiring rate for agencies with 500 or more officers.

Per another report, there were 11.5% fewer officers per capita in 2016 than there were in 1987.

Most violence is city-centered.  67 percent of law enforcement agencies are local and are being hard hit by resignations and recruitment.

Summary Of The Bureau Of Justice Statistics Report-2018 Compared to 2008 (And Other Dates).

The rate of police officers decreased.

The use of civilian personnel dramatically increased by 65 percent.

There was a two percent increase in local police officers in 2018. The US population increased by 6 percent since 2010.

Local police officers are 59% percent of full-time sworn personnel.

State and local law enforcement agencies added 80,000 full-time employees, including 22,000 sworn officers and 58,000 civilians.

Those of us writing about cops and crime used a total of 17,000 law enforcement agencies as a benchmark. BJS now states that the number is 17,541.

There are 1,214,000 full-time sworn and civilian personnel. The past benchmark was 1 million.

There are 788,000 sworn officers. The previous benchmark was 700,000.

7,055 agencies employing fewer than 10 full-time equivalent (FTE) sworn officers made up 40% of all state and local law enforcement agencies. There are a lot of small law enforcement agencies making national initiatives difficult.

Bureau Of Justice Statistics Report

Editors note: Special jurisdiction law enforcement agencies are listed in the report and are mentioned below. Examples include natural resources, transit, and school-college police agencies.

This report presents findings from the 2018 Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies (CSLLEA). The CSLLEA gathered information on agency responsibilities, employees, and operating budgets from state and local law enforcement agencies. It excluded agencies that were federally operated or did not employ at least one FTE sworn officer.

While the number of full-time sworn officers per 100,000 U.S. residents was about 250 in 1996 and 2008, it decreased to 241 in 2018.

Local police departments employed 7,700 more full-time sworn personnel (up 2%) in 2018 than in 2008.

On June 30, 2018, state and local governments in the United States operated 17,541 law enforcement agencies that employed at least one full-time equivalent (FTE) sworn officer with general arrest powers.

These agencies employed 1,214,000 persons on a full-time basis, including 788,000 (65%) sworn and 427,000 (35%) civilian personnel.

From 2008 to 2018, state and local law enforcement agencies added 80,000 full-time employees, including 22,000 sworn officers and 58,000 civilians.

From 1996 to 2018, the agencies’ full-time civilian personnel (up 65%) increased at triple the rate of full-time sworn personnel (up 19%).

During the same time, sheriffs’ offices added 9,400 full-time sworn (up 5%) and special jurisdiction agencies added 3,900 full-time sworn (up 7%).

Special jurisdiction agencies had the largest increase in civilian personnel (up 38,000), followed by sheriffs’ offices (up 15,000) and local police departments (up 5,000) from 2008 to 2018.

In June 2018, a total of 17,541 state and local agencies performed law enforcement functions in the United States and employed 1,214,000 full-time sworn and civilian personnel, an increase of about 80,000 (up 7%) since 2008.

Local police departments accounted for 67% of state and local law enforcement agencies in 2018; sheriffs’ offices accounted for 17%; and primary state, tribal, and special jurisdiction agencies, constables, and marshals accounted for 15%.

In 2018, local police departments employed more than half (59%) of state and local full-time sworn personnel, while sheriffs’ offices employed about a quarter (24%).

From 2008 to 2018, the number of full-time sworn and civilian personnel employed by special jurisdiction agencies increased by 42,000 (up 46%).

In 2018, the 7,055 agencies employing fewer than 10 full-time equivalent (FTE) sworn officers made up 40% of all state and local law enforcement agencies, down from 45% (8,014 agencies) in 2008 and 53% (9,933 agencies) in 1996.

The 80 agencies (47 local police departments, 19 primary state agencies, 13 sheriffs’ offices, and 1 special jurisdiction agency) with 1,000 or more FTE sworn officers in 2018 accounted for 0.5% of all agencies and employed 29% (228,000) of all full-time sworn personnel.

In 2018, the portion of full-time sworn personnel who were female ranged from 8% at state and local law enforcement agencies with 24 or fewer FTE sworn officers to 15% at those with 500 or more.

Bureau Of Justice Statistics

Conclusions

There are some authors insisting that we have not lost police officers (The Marshall Project) and that funding has increased, not decreased. Some insist that we have sufficient numbers and rates of police officers acting within well-funded agencies.

Examples-Funding

From The Marshall Project: Police “defunding” is largely a myth, new statistics confirm. A survey of more than 100 police departments across the country shows that 83% have increased their police budgets since 2019 — the year before an officer murdered George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death fueled nationwide calls to spend less on policing. But in Los Angeles County, for example, where beleaguered Sheriff Alex Villanueva rails against “defunding,” the budget has gone up $250 million since 2019. ABC NEWS

While some blame rising crime on police “defunding,” an ABC analysis of 100 city and county budgets found that 83 percent increased spending on police in 2022 compared to 2019, The Crime Report.

The ABC News report states an increase of at least two percent. With violence exploding in cities, a two percent increase is the epitome of inadequate by anyone’s measure.

The big increase in violence and serious violence (up 28 percent) began in 2015-2018 per the Bureau Of Justice Statistics. The increase in urban violence per the FBI-BJS (and other sources) coincides with massive protests regarding the police use of force and endless negative media coverage of law enforcement. Per non-BJS data, the loss of police officers seemed to accelerate between 2015-2020.

The increase of violence in cities is extraordinary.

Numbers-Rates Of Police Officers

But if the Bureau of Justice Statistics states that there was a two percent increase in local police officers (most cops in the US) while the US population increased by 6 percent “and” the rate of national police officers decreased from 2008 “and” if you have a reliance on civilian personnel rather than cops (which dramatically increased), “and” if you use Bureau Of Labor Statistics numbers and data from The Police Executive Research Forum showing that we are losing tens of thousands of officers, it may partially explain the huge increase in violence in urban areas.

Much of the increase in sworn personnel and civilians is in special jurisdiction (limited geographic areas) agencies having a minimal impact on most citizens.

The totality of data suggests that we are losing cops but gaining civilian personnel. But all the research we have as to the success of crime control through proactive policing depends almost entirely on officers, not civilians.

The collective data indicate that local policing in America is in trouble coinciding with rising violence in cities and record fear of crime.

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