State and local police forces continued to grow from 1996 to 2008, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. An analysis and breakdown of this data provides insight into pre-Recession policing.
The bureau has not yet released results from its more current surveys.
Local police forces were the largest employers of sworn officers in 2008, with more than 461,000 officers on the books. The next largest employers were sheriff’s offices with 182,000 police officers. That ratio has held steady since 1996, when local police employed 410,000 and sheriff’s offices 153,000.
Some of the largest cities in the United States saw some of the most drastic changes in their employment. 2004 to 2008 saw large shifts in full-time sworn personnel employment in these areas.
The city of Detroit cut its full-time sworn personnel by 36 percent over these four years. The city was entering economic turmoil at the time as the automobile industry began to falter.
Meanwhile southern cities like Phoenix and Dallas both increased staff by at least 15 percent.
All cities included on the chart have a police department that ranks among the top 50 across the nation in employment.
Though not a city, Prince George’s County in Maryland also boasts a top-50 police department, and added onto their full-time sworn personnel by 17% over this time period.
During this time, police departments have steadily increased employment of non-sworn civilians. That number increased from 345,000 in 2004 to 368,000 in 2008, an increase of almost 7 percent. That number in 1996 was 258,000.