Five Facts on the Police

Five Facts on the Police

This week marks National Police Week, which began in 1962 when President Kennedy designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day. Each year, 25,000 to 40,000 individuals travel to Washington, D.C. to honor fallen law enforcement officers.

In honor of those who protect our communities, here are Five Facts on police in the U.S.

1. The modern U.S. policing system traces its history back to principles established in Britain in the early 1800s.

In the years after America’s founding, many U.S. towns and cities relied on citizens watches and other forms of informal law enforcement. But in 1838, Boston became the first U.S. city to adopt a force modeled on the principles of the British Metropolitan Police Force which centered on trust, public consent and safety. In 1905, Pennsylvania established the first state-wide police force.

2. In 2024, there are more than 800,000 sworn law enforcement officers serving in the U.S.

This number, which includes more than 137,000 federal law enforcement agents in agencies like the FBI and ATF, is the highest number in the nation’s history despite widespread reductions in local police forces during COVID. Today, about 12 percent of police officers are female. The largest local police department in the U.S. is the New York City Police Department, with roughly thirty-six thousand officers and nineteen thousand civilian employees.

3. More than 24,000 U.S. police officers are honored as having died in the line of duty.

Record-keeping for officer deaths in the U.S. dates back to 1786. The single deadliest day for law enforcement remains September 11, 2001, when 72 officers were killed responding to the attack on America by al Qaeda.

4. 2023 Gallup polling shows 69 percent of Americans have confidence in their local police department.

This marks a slight decline from 73 percent in 2022. More worryingly, only 43 percent of Americans had a great deal or some confidence in the police as an institution last year, the lowest figure on record.

5. A 2021 study found that a 10 percent decrease in police presence in local communities results in a 7 percent increase in crime.

The study also showed that adding a single police officer to a city can prevent anywhere from 0.06 to 0.1 homicides, which means that as few as 10 additional cops on a city’s streets can save a life.