2022’s Best & Worst States to Be a Police Officer

With President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address calling for the nation to “fund the police” with better training and resources, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2022’s Best & Worst States to Be a Police Officer.

In order to determine the best states to pursue a career in law enforcement, or to be a police officer, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 30 key indicators of police-friendliness. The data set ranges from the median income for law-enforcement officers to police deaths per 1,000 officers to state and local police-protection expenses per capita.

Here’s a snapshot of the life and work of a police officer in California (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

  • 13th – Median Income for Law-Enforcement Officers (Adjusted for Cost of Living)
  • 20th – % of Homicide Cases Solved
  • 3rd – State & Local Police-Protection Expenses per Capita
  • 11th – Police Deaths per 1,000 Officers
  • 27th – Road Safety

Note: “Law-enforcement officers” includes police and sheriff’s patrol officers, detectives and criminal investigators.
Expert commentary on law enforcement

What is the long-term outlook for the law enforcement field?

“As an optimist, I am inclined to think it is always darkest before dawn. I think the field and the profession will continue to evolve as our society evolves. Law enforcement organizations are learning organizations – but at times and in many communities/jurisdictions they can be lagging organizations. It will take a sustained and concerted effort by community residents coupled with law enforcement professionals and policymakers to co-create the needed policies and practices to improve the field and enhance community wellbeing.”
— Brian N. Williams, Ph.D. – Associate Professor, The University of Virginia

“The field will face numerous challenges in the years to come. Many police departments already struggle to recruit, train, and retain qualified applicants. Many qualified individuals opt for other employment opportunities in the public or private sectors which are less stressful and often more lucrative. The policing profession as a whole has faced increased scrutiny in recent years, which means that agencies need recruits with a wider range of talents, skills, and qualifications. In other words, recruiting standards have increased at a time when it is more difficult to recruit qualified individuals.”
— William H. Sousa, Ph.D. – Professor & Director, Center for Crime and Justice Policy and NVSAC – University of Nevada, Las Vegas

What measures should police undertake to improve relationships with the community, especially in minority communities?

“Fundamentally, there needs to be an understanding of the fact that it is going to take more than a few departmental initiatives and trendy social media campaigns to ameliorate the strained relations between the police and minority communities. However, that does not mean that nothing should be done. Law enforcement officers need to do a better job of becoming part of the communities that they police, which will increase legitimacy and decrease the perception of an oppositional relationship between both parties. Additionally, there needs to be a willingness to admit both the historical and contemporary wrongs of law enforcement. Aside from acknowledging the fact that policing enforced immoral laws throughout American history, contemporary police voices should be the most significant in decrying the behavior of officers who engage in misconduct. Reticence in calling out police misconduct only serves to confirm the most negative perceptions of the profession.”
— Chidike I. Okeem, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor, Western New England University

“First, rather than only study what police get wrong in communities of color and/or poor communities, we must also study what they get right in middle and upper-class communities. For instance, why are there fewer complaints about police use of excessive force in upper-class communities? If we find out what is working in certain communities, perhaps we can apply these lessons in other communities. Next, we need to hire persons who understand the history and realities of policing, and how this history has affected public perceptions of policing…I do not mean simply hiring more women, people of color, and persons who identify as LGBTQ+. I also mean we need to hire people who think of policing as a public service, and who are aware of what they represent in communities of color.”
— Tracy L. Tamborra, Ph.D. – Professor, University of New Haven

What strategies have proven effective in diversifying the police force so that it is more representative of the community?

“If a police department wants to hire a diverse set of officers, they need to make it a priority. This involves conducting an internal audit of an agency’s demographics and examining who is being hired, who is being promoted, and who is leading an agency. Departments should actively promote their goals to diversity-related initiatives. An agency should advertise its successes in this area and advertise its long-term goals for diversity. Hiring practices should focus on ‘selecting in’ and not weeding out candidates…Police agencies may also benefit from recruiting officers who speak multiple languages and have unique cultural backgrounds.”
— Zachary A. Powell, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor, California State University, San Bernardino

“The truth is that no department has identified a consistently effective strategy for achieving sustained diversity within their ranks, but many are trying hard. Some departments are expanding their outreach through social media efforts; others are pushing for incentives like educational opportunities or pay bonuses to entice potential recruits; and others still are revisiting hiring policies that disproportionately exclude minority candidates, like rules that make people ineligible for employment because of past marijuana use. Many of these initiatives are recent, so we still do not know how effective they will be, but there is significance in the fact that so many departments are paying genuine attention to this issue.”
— Jorge X. Camacho – Clinical Lecturer and Policy Director of the Justice Collaboratory, Yale Law School


For the full report, please click here.




Image Sources

  • Peace Officers: Shutterstock