Fact-finding bodies paint a still-somber picture of the law enforcement industry

“… some good news in the fact that the budget-cutting that began as early as 2008 seems to have stopped in some departments.

“The bad news is that most local police agencies are still suffering.”

– Chuck Wexler, Police Executive Research Forum executive director


In reviewing industry facts and figures for another project, I came across several revealing particulars I thought worthy of calling out.

Understanding any survey or report has its limitations, the following notes and pertinent numbers from various research and fact-finding bodies paint a still-somber picture of the law enforcement industry: the numbers indicate that budget cuts are still a reality, as well as hiring freezes throughout the United States.

However, a couple positive notes include recently announced millions in government grants for hiring or retaining LE personnel (though, as noted below, that only represents about 10 percent of what was requested by agencies nationwide) as well as a pattern of reduced cutting from years past (yet no notable budget cut plateaus).

Except where otherwise noted, the following figures are derived from the April 2012 Police Executive Research Form's "Impact of the Economic Crisis" study of 700* participating LE agencies:


  • Nearly 80 percent of respondents indicated that the local economy in general has had a negative impact on their budget during the last two years.
  • 51 percent experiencing a budget cut in their current fiscal year—a slight majority of agencies. However, a larger number—78 percent of those same 416 agencies—had reported a budget cut in the 2010 survey.
  • 40 percent were planning a budget cut for the upcoming fiscal year (compared to 61 percent of those same agencies that were planning a budget cut in 2010).
  • The average amount cut from the agencies experiencing a cut in the current year fiscal year was 6 percent.
  • Cuts were made most often in the areas of overtime (reported by 48 percent of agencies); vehicle fleets (39 percent) and training (30 percent).
  • PERF’s director also notes that the study “may also indicate that elected officials in some cities have reached a limit in how much they are willing to cut from their police departments.”
  • 54 percent of agencies have reduced or discontinued training programs.


  • Over the last two years, 50 percent have cut back or eliminated plans to implement new technologies
  • 47 percent of agencies have initiated a hiring freeze for sworn officer positions, and 50 percent have implemented a hiring freeze for civilians
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that of the top 20 industries with the largest projected wage and salary employment declines from 2010-2020, federal government sectors represent four of the industries (postal, non-defense, defense, and state & local gov), with state and local government enterprises ranking No. 12out of the top 20 projected greatest wage regression.


  • 72 percent of agencies applied for federal funding in 2012, in the form of COPS Office grants and other grants from the Justice Department or the Department of Homeland Security.
  • The COPS Office observes it is only able to fund 10 percent of the total COPS grant applicants.
  • For 2012, COPS announced in June it will fund $111 million in its hiring program, supporting an additional 800 officers nationwide. (Note: Each COPS Hiring Program Awardee agency receives an average of $139,055 per officer supported by the grant.)
  • On August 2, the COPS Office announced an additional $6.5 million in funding to support a variety of special projects at various law enforcement and related entities (universities, IACP, research institutes, etc.).

Do you have an experience at your agency that supports or contradicts the figures reported above? Please share your encounter or related figures in the comments below.


*PERF notes that of the 700 agencies participating in the recent Impact of the Economic Crisis survey, 416 had also volunteered information to PERF in 2010, which accounts for some of the comparative figures included.