Law enforcement is a career that is always in the public eye, whether for heroic reasons or scandal. Currently, our nation’s 800,000 law enforcement officers have even more of a spotlight than usual, as they balance enforcing coronavirus lockdowns with performing their normal duties. Officers also have a much higher risk of coming into contact with COVID-19 than the general population – one in six New York City police officers is out sick or in quarantine, for example.
Even when the U.S. isn’t in the middle of a pandemic, being a police officer is significantly more dangerous than many other occupations. Because of such risks, law-enforcement agencies must offer enough incentives to attract and retain officers. To start, there’s a $65,170 mean annual wage and typically a generous benefits package which can include retirement-contribution matches, tuition assistance, ample leave time, a take-home vehicle, and access to health and fitness facilities.
How well officers are compensated varies from place to place, though, as does the quality of their work environment. Officers are more likely to be attracted to police departments that steer clear of scandal and corruption and that are transparent with their communities.
In order to determine the best states in which to pursue a law-enforcement career, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 28 key indicators of police-friendliness. Our 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. Read on for our findings, commentary from a panel of researchers and full description of our methodology.