Hispanic representation increases in law enforcement

Latinos are already the second-largest demographic group across different police forces. Almost 70,000 local and state police officers are Hispanic, a figure that has doubled in recent decades.

There are more and more reasons to celebrate Hispanics during National Law Enforcement Week. This demographic group has seen the highest increase in its representation in law enforcement in the last two decades, both in local and state police forces. They have the second most officers among all ethnic groups, tallying roughly 70,000 out of 534,255 total.

Almost 66,500 Hispanic police officers in 2020

According to the latest report published by the Department of Justice in November 2022, which analyzes data through 2020, local police forces had 473,102 sworn officers (who have the general capacity to make arrests) and 125,518 full-time civilian workers. State agencies had 61,153 sworn agents and 31,733 contracted civilians. Among local departments, 66,468 police officers (14.2%) were Hispanic, as were 6,360 (10.4%) among state agencies.

These figures mean that Hispanics rank second among all demographic groups by number of officers, and that total is growing. Furthermore, along with those belonging to "other ethnic groups," Hispanics are the only ones whose participation in police forces has increased continuously during the 23 years included in the report. In 1997, there were 32,666 Latino agents (7.8%). Two decades later, the number has practically doubled to 66,468. Police officers belonging to "other ethnic groups" increased from 8,835 (2.1%) to 19,236 (4.1%).

Share of white officers decreases 10 percentage points in two decades

The largest number of officers continues to be white people, although their total has fallen by 10 percentage points since 1997 in local police forces. In that year, the number of white officers was 329,568, which represented 78.5% of the total. In 2020, there were 320,926, 68.6%. White officers reached a high of 345,147 in 2003, at which point the figure began to decrease.

Black police officers maintain the same percentage (11.6%) in 2020 as in 1997, although their number has grown very slightly (from 48,928 to 54,344). Although the total percentage remains the same, the number reached its maximum in 2013, at 57,012. This figure sank to 52,617 in 2016, although it rose again to the final figure in 2020.

Number of Hispanic chiefs of police does not correspond to representation in the force

However, the share of Hispanics is not reflected in all positions in local police forces. In fact, police chiefs of Latino origin (3.8%) are fewer than those who are white (87.2%) and black (5.5%), despite the fact that the number of officers from the latter community is noticeably lower. In fact, taking into account that the number of chiefs from other ethnic groups is 3.5%, Hispanic representation among senior officials is far below the total share of officers in the force.

Among intermediate supervisors, although the percentage is higher for those of Hispanic origin (7.2%), it is still behind white (79.3%) and black (9.6%). They only occupy second place in the number of sergeants, with 10% of the total. The highest percentage in this ranking is white (75.3%), and black ranks third (9.9%).

11.6% of officers are black; 38.1% of leaders in large towns are black

However, there is an important nuance regarding police leadership. Among localities with more than 250,000 inhabitants, the number of Hispanic leaders amounts to 13.4%, compared to 47.4% of whites. The group that obtains a disproportionately high representation in these types of places is black people, at 38.1%.

In state agencies, 80.2% of leaders are white, 10.4% Hispanic and 6.5% black. Members of other population groups account for 2.4%.