During 2020, an estimated 53.8 million U.S. residents age 16 or older, or 21% of the population, had one or more contacts with police. This includes contacts initiated by the police, contacts initiated by residents, and traffic accidents. See Contacts Between Police and the Public, 2020.
A higher percentage of males (11%) than females (9%) experienced police-initiated contact in 2020.
White persons (22%) were more likely than black (18%), Hispanic (17%), or Asian (16%) persons to experience police contact.
White persons (10%) were more likely than black (9%), Hispanic (8%), or Asian persons (8%) to experience police-initiated contact.
White persons (13%) were more likely than black (9%), Hispanic (9%), or Asian persons (7%) to initiate contact with police.
Among all age groups measured, persons ages 18 to 24 were most likely to experience police-initiated contact (17%) or contact as the result of a traffic accident (5%).
The percentage of males (21%) experiencing contact with police was higher than the percentage of females (20%) in 2020. White residents (22%) experienced a higher rate of contact with police than black (18%) and Hispanic (17%) residents in 2020.
In 2020, about 53.8 million persons age 16 or older had one or more contacts with police during the prior 12 months. An estimated 25.5 million experienced contact initiated by police, nearly 30.0 million initiated contact with police, and 7.8 million reported police contact as the result of a traffic accident. About 16.7 million persons reported being pulled over as the driver in a traffic stop, compared to about 16.2 million persons reporting a crime, disturbance, or suspicious activity to police. See Contacts Between Police and the Public, 2020.
One difference between a sheriff's office and police department is the jurisdiction that each type of agency covers. While both sheriffs' offices and police departments are law enforcement agencies, sheriffs' offices have countywide jurisdiction and police departments' authority is limited to specific cities, municipalities, towns, or villages. In addition, sheriffs' offices are generally empowered by the state to serve counties and independent cities, while police departments are established under municipal regulations. The head of a sheriff's office is a sheriff who is usually an elected official. The head of a police department is usually the chief, who is typically appointed by a government entity, such as mayor, city manager, or a commissioner.
In 2020, about 14% of full-time sworn officers employed by local police departments and sheriffs’ offices were female. As of 2020, 4% of local police chiefs and 1% of sheriffs were female. About 9% of intermediate supervisors (those between chiefs and sergeants or first-line supervisors) in local police departments and 10% in sheriffs’ offices were female. About 10% of first-line supervisors (sergeants) in local police departments and 12% in sheriffs’ offices were female.
According to the 2020 BJS Law Enforcement and Management Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) survey, departments serving 100,000 to 249,999 and 50,000 to 99,999 residents had the lowest average ratio (1.6 officers per 1,000 residents). Departments serving populations of 1 million or more had 3.0 officers per 1,000 residents.
State and local general-purpose law enforcement agencies employed about 708,200 full-time sworn officers as of December 31, 2020. Approximately 11,800 local police departments employed 473,100 (67%) of these offices, sheriffs’ offices about 173,900 (25%), and state law enforcement agencies about 61,200 (9%).
No, some sheriff's office personnel are not sworn officers. While sheriffs' offices employed about 174,000 full-time sworn officers in 2020, some personnel had limited or no arrest authority. Sheriffs' deputies who work in jails, courtrooms, and the civil process department often do not attend police academies and do not have general arrest authority. These personnel may be civilian employees or deputies who attend specialized training for their duties. In 2020, the nation's sheriffs' offices employed about 191,000 full-time civilian employees.
According to the 2019 BJS Survey of Law Enforcement Personnel in Schools (SLEPS), there was a total of about 24,900 sworn SROs employed by about 5,500 local police departments, sheriffs’ offices, and school district police departments.
Results from the Civil Justice Survey of State Courts, 2005, show that 61% of civil cases concluded by trial involved a tort claim in which plaintiffs alleged injury, loss, or damage from the negligent or intentional acts of defendants. Cases dealing with allegations of breach of contract (contract cases) accounted for 33% of trials, and real property cases accounted for about 6%. The most frequent kinds of civil cases disposed of by trial were motor vehicle accident (35%), seller plaintiff (11%), buyer plaintiff (10%), and medical malpractice (9%).
This is a question the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) frequently receives and, unfortunately, cannot completely answer. BJS can provide an estimate of the number of living persons in the United States who have ever been to state or federal prison. At yearend 2001, more than 5.6 million U.S. adult residents, or about 1 in 37 U.S. adults, had served time in state or federal prison. See Prevalence of Imprisonment in the U.S. Population, 1974-2001.
BJS publishes reports in the Felony Sentences in State Courts series every two years, providing the number of persons convicted of a felony in state courts in a particular year.
BJS counts generated by the Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies (CSLLEA) are more inclusive than those from the UCR because they include all agencies and all officers employed with these agencies who have general arrest powers. The counts from the UCR are limited to participating agencies and to officers paid out of police funds (as opposed to jail or court funds).
According to the 2018 BJS Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies (CSLLEA) survey, state and local agencies employed about 788,000 full-time sworn officers as of June 30, 2018. Local police departments employed 466,000 of these officers, sheriffs' offices, 192,000, and the 49 primary state law enforcement agencies, 60,000.
The NCVS does ask respondents the location of their victimizations and crimes that occur abroad can be included by the respondent. These data are included in the public use data files available on the website for the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research at the University of Michigan (https://www.icpsr.umich.edu/web/pages/). However, we presently do not have a report that summarizes these data.
BJS offers information in a series of reports on carjacking.
The NCVS and UCR both offer important information on criminal victimization; however, the two programs were created to serve different purposes. The primary objective of the UCR is to provide a reliable set of criminal justice statistics for law enforcement administration, operation, and management. The NCVS was established to provide previously unavailable information about crime (including crime not reported to police), victims, and offenders. More information on the similarities and differences between the NCVS and UCR can be found in Nation's Two Crime Measures
As of fiscal year 2020, BJS estimated about 137,000 full-time federal law enforcement officers. The largest federal law enforcement agency is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which employed almost 47,000 full-time officers in 2020.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) does not have conviction and sentencing information by state. Court statistics for individual states may be available by going to the state court website for a particular state. See the National Center for State Courts site for links to state court websites.
BJS does collect national-level statistics on race for criminal sentencing in state and federal courts:
A. State court sentencing statistics:
- BJS compiles and publishes national statistics every two years on adults convicted of felonies in state courts. The statistics include information on the race or Hispanic origin, sex, and age of the person convicted. Demographic statistics of convicted felons can be found in two BJS publications series–Felony Sentences in State Courts and State Court Sentencing of Convicted Felons.
- Statistical table 2.1 of Felony Sentences in State Courts, 2004, indicates that, of the nearly 1,079,000 adults convicted of a felony in 2004 in state courts nationwide, 59% were white, 38% were black, and 38% were persons identified as American Indians or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.
- State Court Sentencing of Convicted Felons, 2004–Statistical Tables, provides more demographic statistics on felony sentence types and sentence lengths. Table 2.7 provides the average sentence lengths received among persons convicted of a felony in 2004, broken out by the race of the felon.
- Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 2009–Statistical Tables, provides criminal sentencing data in the nation's 75 largest counties. Individuals arrested and charged with a felony in state courts are sampled from 40 of the nation's 75 largest counties. Within those counties in 2009, 45% of felony defendants were non-Hispanic blacks, 30% were non-Hispanic whites, 24% were Hispanics or Latinos of any race, and 2% were non-Hispanic persons of some other race.
B. Federal Justice Statistics series presents national level statistics describing all aspects of case processing in the federal criminal justice system, including adjudication in the U.S. district courts, sentencing, appeal of convictions and/or sentences imposed.
A victimization is a single victim or household that experiences a criminal incident. Criminal incidents or crimes are distinguished from victimizations in that one criminal incident may have multiple victims or victimizations. For violent crimes (rape/sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault) and for personal theft/larceny, the count of victimizations is the number of individuals who experienced a violent crime. For crimes against households (burglary, trespassing, other theft, and motor vehicle theft), each household affected by a crime is counted as a single victimization.
At the state level, criminal records are usually maintained by the state police or public safety agency. You should contact this agency in your state concerning records they maintain and the procedures for correcting or challenging the accuracy of information the records contain. At the federal level, criminal records are maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). An individual may request a copy of his or her own FBI Identification Record for personal review or to challenge information on the record. Other reasons an individual may request a copy of his or her own Identification Record may include international adoption or to satisfy a requirement to live or work in a foreign country (i.e., police certificate, letter of good conduct, criminal history background, etc.). Instructions for requesting a copy of the record from the FBI are available at: https://forms.fbi.gov/fbi-efoia-request-form.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) was first established in 1979. To learn more about the history of BJS, visit the About BJS section of our website.
We have several reports that present statistics on race and crime. The most recent report on this topic, Race and Hispanic Origin of Victims and Offenders, 2012-15, presents estimates of violent victimization by the race and Hispanic origin of victims and offenders during the 4-year period from 2012 through 2015. We also have reports on racial groups and crime:
- Black Victims of Violent Crime
- Hispanic Victims of Violent Crime, 1993-2000 (also available in spanish) Víctimas Hispanas de Crímenes Violentos, 1993-2000
- American Indians and Crime: A BJS Statistical Profile, 1992-2002.
Data collection and processing
BJS maintains nearly three dozen major statistical series designed to cover each stage of the criminal justice system. A description of the various BJS data series can be found under the topical references on the BJS home page. The U.S. Census Bureau carries out the majority of BJS's data collection activities. However, BJS conducts several statistical programs for which other non-profit organizations serve as BJS data collection agents. BJS periodically announces solicitations for these programs in the Federal Register and current solicitations are listed at the top of this page.
Statistical and methodological research
BJS conducts, supports, and implements methodological research and initiatives designed to improve the quality of justice statistics, records, and information systems.
BJS, in partnership with the American Statistical Association (ASA), sponsors research projects designed to foster improvements in the methods used to obtain, analyze, and report national-level data on crime and criminal justice. Each year, new topics for methodological research are identified by BJS and ASA. Solicitations for new research projects are announced each year in February and October.
The BJS Visiting Fellows Program promotes criminal justice statistical research among the academic and professional justice community. Visiting Fellows participate in a specifically designed research project of particular operational relevance to the national or international justice system. The program offers criminal justice researchers an opportunity to have a significant impact on specific BJS projects as well as a chance to examine innovative approaches to the analysis and dissemination of BJS data.
National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP) provides financial and technical support to states in improving the accuracy, utility, and interstate accessibility of criminal history records and enhancing records of protective orders involving domestic violence and stalking, sex offender records, automated identification systems, and other state systems supporting national records systems and their use for background checks.
State Justice Statistics (SJS) Program for Statistical Analysis Center (SAC) offers technical and financial support to states to establish and maintain a state-level capacity to collect, analyze, and report statistics on crime and justice in order to contribute to effective state policies and programs and to participate in national data series. Through the creation of SACs, BJS encourages analyses of evolving criminal justice topics of interest within the state using data gathered from state and local agencies and promotes statistical inquiries into improved measures of crime incidence and prevalence.
Through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) Mobility Program, BJS invites individuals interested in pursuing criminal justice issues to apply for temporary assignments. Projects will be designed to focus on improving BJS's statistical programs. Assignments may vary in duration, up to 2 years, and may be intermittent, part-time, or full-time. Visit the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) Mobility Program page for deadlines and eligibility requirements.
The Act requires the Attorney General to establish for use by the states a methodology to calculate estimates of the total number of records in each of the subcategories of records subject to the grant program's reporting requirements. The Justice Department's Bureau of Justice of Statistics (BJS) has developed a data collection instrument setting forth this methodology to send to each state's National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP) point of contact agency. In doing so, BJS coordinated with representatives of the state criminal justice information repositories, state court administrators, the National Center for State Courts, the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, and others to obtain input on state record-keeping practices to help inform the development of a methodology. The data collection, State Estimates of Available Records Information Collection, which has been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has been sent to each state for completion.
The Office of Justice Programs' (OJP) Jobs page contains information about and methods of locating BJS employment opportunities as well as job openings from other ares of OJP. BJS employs a variety of positions to fulfill its mission.
At the State level, criminal records are usually maintained by the state police or public safety agency. You should contact this agency in your state concerning records they maintain.
At the Federal level, these records are maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Detailed instructions for requesting a copy of the record from the FBI are available at: https://forms.fbi.gov/fbi-efoia-request-form.
The NCJRS Virtual Library/Abstracts Database is not compatible with the program EndNote.
Many of the publications from NCJRS sponsor agencies and those housed in the NCJRS Virtual Library Abstracts Database collection are available at local libraries. NCJRS provides the "Find in a Library" service for you to search these collections. At times, it may be faster, cheaper, and/or more convenient to access documents found within the NCJRS Virtual Library at a local library.
From an abstract detail page, when you click on the Find in a Library link, NCJRS will send a formatted search to WorldCat, a consortium of over 10,000 libraries worldwide. On the WorldCat site, you can discover if the document you are interested in is available in a local library.
To learn more, view the Obtain Materials section of the Virtual Library Tutorial.
Yes, there are fees for interlibrary loans (ILL). ILLs within the United States have a fee of $15.00 per item while loans to Canada have a fee of $16.50 (USD) per item loaned. ILLs are only available to patrons in the United States and Canada. See the Interlibrary Loan section of our site for additional information about this service and how to request an ILL.
Resources may be borrowed from the NCJRS Library via interlibrary loan for a period of 6 weeks. An additional 6-week extension is available by request. See the Interlibrary Loan section of our site for additional information about this service.
The National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) Virtual Library Abstracts Database houses materials and resources produced and/or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs (OJP). Prior to October 2014, the Library collected resources from a wide variety of sources (i.e., research organizations, journal publishers, etc.). These materials remain available through the NCJRS collection.
The collection covers the broad subject areas of criminal and juvenile justice, as well as related fields of study. Topics including corrections, law enforcement, drugs and crime, juvenile justice, and crime victims are comprehensively covered. Similarly, more focused subjects within these broad topics are also covered, such as technology in law enforcement, domestic violence, drug policy, and youth violence.
You can receive weekly notifications of NCJRS Virtual Library additions by subscribing to the NCJRS Weekly Accessions List (WAL).
Items may be ordered via Interlibrary Loan (ILL) through your local or University library using the standard American Library Association ILL form. Please work with your local librarian to complete the form and submit the request. The completed form, along with pre-payment, should be submitted to NCJRS by mail or email:
P.O. Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
Payment ($15 per item in the U.S.; $16.50 per item for loans to Canada) is accepted by Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover or U.S./Canadian government purchase order. Note that all purchase order invoices must be paid by a credit card.
Additionally, many publications in the Virtual Library are available at local libraries. Use the "Find in a Library" service to search these collections and discover if the document you are interested in is available at a local library. To learn more about this, visit the Virtual Library Services page.
The purpose of the Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS) NCHIP is to ensure that accurate records are available for use in law enforcement—including sex offender registry requirements—and to protect public safety and national security. Also, NCHIP permits states to identify—
- ineligible firearm purchasers
- persons ineligible to hold positions involving children, the elderly, or the disabled
- persons subject to protection orders or wanted, arrested, or convicted of stalking or domestic violence or both
- persons ineligible to be employed or hold licenses for specified positions
- persons potentially presenting threats to public safety
For further information about NCHIP, visit the NCHIP section of our site.
Go to Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Leaders Directory
The "What is the sequence of events in the criminal justice system?" flowchart summarizes the most common events in the criminal and juvenile justice systems, including entry into the justice system, prosecution and pretrial services, adjudication, sentencing and sanctions, and corrections. An online version of this chart as well as a discussion of the events in the criminal justice system are available on the BJS site (13.5" x 7.5"; 300 DPI). A color version of the chart can also be ordered. See our How to Find BJS Products page for direction on how to submit your request.