Data Notes: The Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies

Another in a series of posts highlighting useful data for those working in the field of public management.

The Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies are high-quality data on a whole range of law enforcement agencies that should receive greater use in our field. One nice advantage here is the range includes both special-purpose and general-purpose organizations. Another is the variation at the state level of how tasks are divided across the types of agencies.

Presents the results of the Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, which is conducted every four years and covers approximately 18,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide. This report includes the number of state and local law enforcement agencies as of September 2008 and the number of sworn and civilian employees. Breakdowns are presented for general purpose agencies, including local police departments, sheriffs’ offices, and primary state law enforcement agencies. The report also provides data for agencies that serve special jurisdictions “such as parks, college campuses, airports, or transit systems” or that have special enforcement responsibilities pertaining to laws in areas such as natural resources, alcohol, or gaming.

Highlights include the following:

State and local law enforcement agencies employed about 1,133,000 persons on a full-time basis in 2008, including 765,000 sworn personnel.
About half (49%) of all agencies employed fewer than 10 full-time officers. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of sworn personnel worked for agencies that employed 100 or more officers.
From 2004 to 2008, state and local law enforcement agencies added about 9,500 more full-time sworn personnel than during the previous 4-year period.