What U.S. police spending looks like in 3 charts
The killing of George Floyd has sparked a national conversation about bias in policing—and widespread calls for police departments to be defunded or dismantled. Arrested in Minneapolis on May 25 for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes at a convenience store, Floyd was pinned on the ground by police officers. Video footage showed a white officer, Derek Chauvin, pressing his knee to the neck of the 46-year-old black man for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, and three other officers at the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting murder.
Two weeks after Floyd’s death, a veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis city council said that they planned to defund and reorganize the police department. Council president Lisa Bender told CNN that she and eight other members of the council were “committed to dismantling policing as we know it in the city of Minneapolis and to rebuild with our community a new model of public safety that actually keeps our community safe.” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, on the other hand, has come under heavy criticism from protesters for saying that he does not support abolishing the city’s police department.
In New York City, home to the country’s largest police force, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in early June that he planned to make a significant cut to the police department’s nearly $6 billion annual budget and shift funds to social services. The mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, has also said he plans to redirect money from policing into community-outreach programs. Police unions have pushed back forcefully against the idea of cutting budgets.
At a recent meeting with law enforcement leaders at the White House, President Trump made his own position clear. “We won’t be defunding our police,” Trump said. “We won’t be dismantling our police, and there’s not going to be any disbanding of our police.”
With the debate about police budgets sure to continue, here are three charts that show the scale of spending by state and local governments across the country.
According to the most recent census data, New York led all states in combined per capita spending on law enforcement, driven by the scale of the New York City police budget. Washington, D.C., spent more than $900 for each of its roughly 700,000 residents.
State and local governments spent a combined total of $115 billion on police in fiscal 2017, according to the Urban Institute, equal to about 4% of their cumulative expenditures. While that total was up from $42 billion in 1977 (calculated in inflation-adjusted dollars), the 4% portion of total spending is approximately the same and has remained consistent over the past four decades.
Among the 50 largest cities in the U.S., Washington, D.C., had the highest number of police officers per resident, according to the most recent figures available from the FBI, followed closely by New York.