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Tuesday, July 4, 2006

america the police state

in case you weren’t feeling safe enough in this new america, i decided to scratch around some statistics to see just how safe you should feel. i’ve written previously on the prison economy, so this is a bit of a tangent from that material. today we explore the cost-per-capita and law enforcement employment statistics for the united states of america.

the bureau of justice statistics makes much of this information readily available, so this shouldn’t take much time at all.

from their most recent report on justice expenditure and employment in the united states, we can find two simple measures:

as of march 2003, there were nearly 2.4 million “full-time-equivalent employees” in law enforcement in the united states. the population of the united states in july of 2003 (closest data set readily available) was 290,850,005. july 1982 population estimate is 231,664,458.

also according to the bureau of justice statistics, we spent a total of $185 billion on law enforcement in the united states in 2003, or about $636 for every man, woman and child in the country.

more disturbing are the growth rates – law enforcement spending is up 418% from 1982 to 2003, and using a percentage-of-GDP metric, has gone from 1.1% of GDP (1982) to 1.8% (2003) – a 61% increase. law enforcement employment has gone from about 1.27 million people (1982) to 2.36 million people (2003). that works out to .55% of the population in 1982 and .81% in 2003 – a 68% increase.

and that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface when you think about security guards, private investigators, and even private armies operating in this country.

do you feel 60+% safer than you did in 1982?

oh! hello, officer!

update (2005.07.05): the same source data provides 1,118,936 police in 2003 (table 5, page 6), or 3.85 police per 1000 population, so right in the neighborhood of slovakia and the czech republic, according to this table.

posted by roj at 4:50 pm