Law Enforcement in 2024

Jan. 1, 2024
OFFICER Magazine's editorial team takes a look at the law enforcement landscape as we head into the new year.

It is an unfortunate reality that the law enforcement profession and the industry that surrounds and supports it works virtually at the mercy of two things in our society today: The economy specifically as it relates to real estate and the public’s overall perception of and appreciation (or lack thereof) for the law enforcement in their area. All of that is a drawn-out way of saying that the growth or shrinkage of law enforcement in our country in 2024 is (unfortunately) malleable, changing with sometimes little notice.

With that seemingly negative statement made, 2024 is looking pretty good for our profession and the supporting industry. To find out exactly how strong the growth might be, each year OFFICER Media Group undertakes a survey of the profession. We distribute that survey to our readership and analyze the data when it’s received. This year we had a strong response, and the data shows great promise for growth in 2024.

A full 69% of the respondents to our survey answered that they expected to see growth in their 2024 budget as compared to their 2023 budget. But that doesn’t mean that the other 31% expected to lose any budget strength. Only 15% indicated that they anticipated any budget reductions. The 69% expecting budget increases largely expected a 5-10% increase, but some indicated even higher – as much as 15-20% in some cases. The 15% that indicated they expected budget cuts largely only expected 5% cuts or less. Keep in mind that the other 16% not mentioned simply expect their budgets to remain static: the same numbers, year over year. Now, with inflation, the same budget loses some strength. As much as we hate to see any loss, the smart agency leaders are balancing their budget so that consumables aren’t reduced but efficiency is increased in other areas so that inflation doesn’t have a significant impact, or that impact is reduced.

Many of the respondents, roughly 30% indicated that they expected to see an increase in manpower. That’s a vital bit of information when you consider the implications. For the past two years in law enforcement, maintaining manpower has been a huge struggle and it virtually drives the support industry. With recruiting and retention as the largest challenge facing most agencies today, significant budget additions are being made to increase salaries, offer hiring bonuses and pay out incentives for officers who delay retirement.

While some equipment is lost to attrition each year, wearing out or being consumed, the industry benefits most from agency growth and new hires. Those events create the need for new purchases, moving dollars from the agencies to the support industry. As the budgets grow and manpower is increased, extra business is developed for the support industry.

The final bit of good news is that interest rates have started to come down, but home prices aren’t decreasing appreciably. With real estate remaining in a strong posture, the property taxes remain strong, supporting the financial base needed in municipalities, counties and states to support public safety as well as other programs.

With “the wave” of public perception and need coming back up from where it was a few years ago during the height of the BLM protests and riots, city and county governments are putting more funding into law enforcement. Where agencies had been cut, more manpower is being allotted. Growth is occurring.

So, keep an optimistic outlook. We’re going into an election year and public safety is a hot topic. Crime and safety are talking points for almost every politician facing reelection or campaigning to get elected. Sure, there are those who pander to votes by bashing law enforcement, but many more have realized that rising crime rates are never taken well – not even by the criminals or their families. Because of the demand being created in those places where crime rates rose as law enforcement budgets and manpower were cut, we’re seeing a reversal of those policies. Budgets are being increased. Manpower is being increased. No matter how the elections go, budgeting likely won’t be severely impacted.

2024, barring unforeseen circumstance, is looking up for law enforcement.


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