Facts About Law Enforcement

May 02, 2017

Facts About Law Enforcement

by Ian Scofield

No matter how long you have been in law enforcement or studied law enforcement there are probably facts you didn't know about.  Let's take a look at some law enforcement facts from around the United States and throughout the years.


The Start of American Law Enforcement

Organized law enforcement in the United States started in 1635 when there were just colonies.  The Night Watch was a group of part-time officers in Boston that were not paid.  It took 77 years for Boston to employ full-time officers.  Who would do their current job for free?  At the same time, the system was similar to a block watch program with policing powers.

Technically the first United States law enforcement agents were the US Marshals.  An agency that was formed in September of 1789.

Most Risky Departments Vs. Less Risky

It seems fairly logical that NYPD has the most deaths in the line of duty than any other police department.  They have had over 750 deaths.  Despite this large number, New York is not the state with the highest death rate.  Texas takes that number with over 1,700 deaths.

Want to know where the safest place to work is?  Vermont.  The remote state of Vermont has the least deaths in the line of duty.  This is partially due to the size of the state and I would like to think due to the nice nature of everyone that I encounter while I was there, but I am not nieve enough to believe that it all comes from that.

Where Does The Term Cop Come From?

A variety of different stories exist about where the term cop come from.  My favorite might be "constable on patrol" or "citizen on patrol".  But that isn't true.  Neither is the story about the brass buttons on old patrol uniforms.

The true term comes from the use of the word cop in the form of "to cop to something."  They were described as coppers by criminals and others.  Eventually, the term became shortened to cop.

How Many Law Enforcement Officers In The United States?

As far as sworn law enforcement officers go, there are over 900,000 LEOs around the country. Statistics show that around 88% of those officers are males.

Texas Rangers

Television and movies often feature the Texas Rangers but not many people know that they are the oldest law enforcement agency in the country with jurisdiction over a whole state.  Since the 1900s the Texas Rangers are no longer their own agency but instead fall under the Department of Public Safety.

First Department Issued Handguns

Today it is very common place for a department to issue firearms to their officers.  It hasn't always been that way.  Boston was the first US agency to have department issue handguns in 1863.  While BPD has had a lot of firearms in its history, the first ones used were .38 S&W revolvers.

First Official Use Of Fingerprinting

1902 marked a very important year for forensic science. It was the first year that fingerprinting was officially used by law enforcement agencies.  Since then, fingerprinting has come a long way.  Now fingerprinting is so commonplace, some departments are training patrol officers to lift prints.

Glass Police Stations

How would you like to work in a glass police station?  Sounds a little odd and vulnerable right?  Well, the Republic of Georgia fired almost their whole police force, somewhere around 30,000 officers, in 2004.  The police department was found to be extremely corrupt.  Firing officers was just one prong of the response, the other was to build glass police stations so that the public could see what was going on at all times.


 Law enforcement is a noble career that has a long history, not all of it under the same name or with the same style.  Not all of it pretty.  Maybe you can use these facts to help your department, impress some of your coworkers, or maybe to help yourself to have some interesting facts at your next interview.  You never know.  

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