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Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states…

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Reviewed byRachael Brennan
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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2020

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A brief overview...

  • The average funding for police departments is 6.43 percent of city revenue
  • With a rate of 12.2 to 1, New Jersey is the worst state for Black to white incarceration rates
  • At $754, Los Angeles has the highest police spending per capita out of the 20 most populous cities
  • At 76 percent, Gulfport spends the most on community services out of city revenue for all cities

The graphic below shows the 20 most populous cities in America ranked according to their greatest potential if they were to reduce their police department budgets. We’ll touch on these 20 most populous cities and the largest city police budgets more in three of the four ranking sections.

The ranking here is based on three categories: the percentage of each city’s police spending out of total city revenue, police spending in each city per capita, and the percentage of each city’s community service spending out of total city revenue.

Ranking of 20 most populated cities for greatest potential for decreasing police budget

All around the world, protesters are marching to show their support for Black people and advocate for changes in law enforcement practices, which not just discriminate and profile Black people but lead to their unjust arrests and deaths at the same time.

One of those changes is controversial, to say the least, and like most social justice or political issues in America, the proponents and detractors are divided based on political party or ideological lines.

The question is simple: Should we or should we not defund the police? In this article, we try to provide evidence and statistics for each side and put together a picture of how much police departments are spending based on city revenue or per capita.

Cities with the largest police budgets, budgets per capita, most disparate incarceration rates between African Americans and whites, and budgets with the lowest amount of money allocated to community resources, are all factors in the defunding the police debate.

Those are the four topics we cover in the ranking section. We also try to give a little context as to why people want to defund the police departments in those cities by covering situations where police officers have been corrupt or have committed acts of brutality against minorities.

In addition to cases of police brutality, we know there are police officers who behave differently towards different races and that some police officers target some races more than others. This is shown in another article we have written about the top reasons for getting pulled over and how those reasons intersect with race.

In a way, that article became the inspiration for this one. One statistic it shares is that police officers are most likely to pull Blacks over compared to other races. 9.8 percent of African Americans are pulled over annually. In addition, just around 72 percent of Blacks pulled over believe the stop is legitimate. Police brutality happens during traffic stops, as in many other situations between African Americans and the police.

We’ll cover some of these instances, including highlighting specific cases in each city. Some are recent like Minneapolis and George Floyd. Others are a couple of decades removed like Rodney King in Los Angeles. We’ll also cover some additional topics at the end. These are pertinent and impact the debate over defunding the police.

The three topics that will be discussed are:

  • Defunding the police: What this really means
  • Police officers and unrealistic expectations
  • Police unions and weeding out dirty cops

Ready? Let’s get started.

5 Cities with the Largest Police Budgets

The police do everything from going undercover and exposing gangs to responding to vehicle crashes. Should police departments be defunded? The first factor we looked at was just how large police budgets are in cities across America, as a percentage out of the city’s total revenue.

For this, we turned to the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a think tank in Boston that has financial data about local governments going back to 1977. To acquire this data, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy turned to three men who created a term called fiscally standardized cities (FiSCs).

The measures in the FiSCs data come from all major government sources in a municipality: local governments, overlapping county governments, independent school districts, and more.

From this sample set, we analyzed the financial information about the top 150 largest American cities. The year we looked at is 2017. While we eventually truncated the list to the 20 most populous cities, you can find the results for all cities here in the below graphic.

This graphic our data analytics team created is interactive. Hold your cursor over one of the blue bubbles (desktop) or touch a bubble with your finger (mobile) to see that corresponding city’s statistics.

View as image

The spread between the city with the largest percentage of its revenue going to its police budget and the city with the lowest percentage is about 10 percent: 13.61 percent in Wilmington, Delaware, and 3.06 percent in Gulfport, Mississippi.

While there are just seven cities with 10 percent or more of their revenue going to the police, there are 12 cities between 3 percent and 4 percent alone. The average for all cities is 6.43 percent, with the median being 6.23 percent. When we looked at the 20 most populous cities, we found something interesting.

The city in the 20 most populous cities that spends the largest percentage of its revenue on its police department is near the average for all cities. This city spends 7.23 percent of its revenue on the police department. This is compared to the 6.43 percent average for all cities.

For our rankings, we took the 20 most populous cities and analyzed the five worst cities for that category. The graph below shows the police department budget for each city, its total revenue, and the percentage of its budget out of the city’s total revenue.

Police Department Spending % of Total Revenue 5 Worst Cities

Ready for the background and in-depth analysis? Just a disclaimer before getting started. Though this article is aimed around police department expenditures, city revenue, and in general defunding the police, there is going to be a little bit about auto insurance at the end of most city and state sections.

It is our bread and butter, and there are certain injustices that occur in the insurance industry as well, including redlining, racial profiling, and the struggle for people in low-income, crime-ridden areas to get insurance. Let’s get started.

#5 – Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles, the City of Angels, comes in at No. 5 on this list. It comes up often in these rankings. In fact, of all its appearances, this 5th-worst spot is its best showing. The table below shows all the related statistics for Los Angeles in this section.

In the first column, you’ll see its overall police spending in 2017. In the second, the total revenue the city brought in that year. The final column shows the percentage of police spending out of city revenue.

Los Angeles % of Total Revenue: Police Spending
Total RevenuePolice SpendingPolice Spend % of Revenue
$46.1 billion$3 billion6.50%
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Out of over $46.1 billion in revenue, the city allocated around $3 billion to its Police Department. This amounted to 6.5 percent of the revenue, which is just a shade over the average value for all cities. So, while L.A. has one of the largest city police department spending compared to other cities, the percentage of that spending out of city revenue is actually not all that much.

Of course, L.A. is continually a hot point for these types of arguments. Civil rights and race riots are big parts of L.A.’s history, the most notable example being Rodney King.

The police in the past have had a rocky relationship with the neighborhoods they are supposed to serve, creating an atmosphere of distrust aggravated by situations like the Rampart Scandal.

While the raw numbers don’t point to L.A.’s police budget being overblown, it does make the list for the worst five cities out of the 20 most populous. And given its reputed gang-ridden neighborhoods and high crime rate, maybe some alternative measures for reducing crime need to be discussed.

#4 – Jacksonville, Florida

From Los Angeles, we move to the other coast in an equally sunny state — Jacksonville, Florida. It ranks 4th on this list, with the city government allocating marginally more of its revenue to its Police Department, in contrast to Los Angeles.

The table below shows the Police Department spending in Jacksonville, the city’s overall revenue, and the percentage of the spending out of the revenue.

Jacksonville % of Total Revenue: Police Spending
Total RevenuePolice SpendingPolice Spend % of Revenue
$5.6 billion$370 million6.65%
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Out of $5.5 billion in revenue, Jacksonville allocated $370 million to its Police Department. This amounted to 6.5 percent of its revenue. It’s still just a small amount above the average for all cities.

Although Jacksonville was not allocating a high amount of money to its Police Department, that amount is still a little above average. Whether the Police Department budget needs to be reduced is not the subject of this article.

However, recent news articles have spotlighted the issue of police brutality in the Bold New City of the South. Many of these incidents have occurred during the George Floyd protests.

There are situations during the George Floyd protests where the police have arrested protesters without a charge and punched protesters. While many of these incidents have been caught on cameras, few police officers have been reprimanded or fired.

In addition, a local publication documented the Police Department’s abuse of citizens, including situations where the police have killed unarmed suspects, profiled and harassed minorities, and acted without much regulation or oversight.

Community activists and journalists have noted that the police budget grows each year. Local politics have played a role, which activists are trying to influence. Another point to mention is that Blacks are not in the three highest-paid ethnicities in Jacksonville.

Wage inequity between African Americans and other races is not a new issue in the United States. Earning less money impacts upward mobility, however, and is another barrier Blacks face that many other races don’t.

#3 – Columbus, Ohio

From the West to the South, we now go to the Midwest. Columbus, Ohio, ranks 3rd out of our 20 most populous cities for its police spending out of a percentage of the city’s overall revenue. That percentage for Columbus is marginally higher than L.A. or Jacksonville, but it marks a step away from the average percentage for all cities.

The table below shows the amount of money Columbus allocates to its Police Department, its total revenue, and the percentage of its Police Department spending out of that revenue.

Columbus % of Total Revenue: Police Spending
Total RevenuePolice SpendingPolice Spend % of Revenue
$5,2 billion$362 million6.98%
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Out of $5.2 billion in revenue, the city of Columbus allocated around $362 million to its Police Department. That’s 6.98 percent of its revenue, which puts it a third of a percent higher than Jacksonville and nearly half a percent higher than Los Angeles. It’s over half a  percent higher than the average for all cities. There are both good and bad sides when it comes to Columbus’s Police Department handling of racial situations.

On one hand, a report came out before the George Floyd protests that show cops in Columbus’s Police Department disproportionately use force against minorities compared to whites in the city. On the other hand, Columbus’s Police Department was one of the police departments in which its officers knelt and walked together with protesters.

This, of course, was before the protests turned into riots. When this started, the Columbus Police Department used standard crowd dispersing mechanisms. The video above from a local news station in Columbus shows this.

The actions of Columbus’s Police Department during the peaceful protests are a positive sign. Of course, however, there are other problems between African Americans and the police in Columbus. One of these affects our main subject on this website — car insurance.

Car insurance prices will vary according to ZIP codes within a city due to issues like vehicle theft or vandalism.

Columbus has five ZIP codes listed in our ranking of the 25 most expensive ZIP codes in Ohio. The most expensive ZIP code in Columbus is 43224 and has an average annual rate of $3,668.

The most expensive insurance company in that ZIP code is Progressive at a $5,630 annual rate and the cheapest is USAA with a $1,678 annual rate. The cheapest auto insurance rates in Ohio are in Tiffin County, where residents have an average of $2,325 in annual auto insurance rates.

#2 – Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas, comes in at No. 2 on this list of cities which have the largest percentage of city revenue being used for police spending. The table below shows its total police budget, its total city revenue, and the percentage of the city revenue that goes to its police budget.

Fort Worth % of Total Revenue: Police Spending
Total RevenuePolice SpendingPolice Spend % of Revenue
$4.4 billion$311 million7.11%
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Out of $4.3 billion in revenue, the city of Fort Worth allocated around $311 million to its Police Department. This amounts to 7.11 percent of the revenue, a shade above Columbus. Unfortunately, Fort Worth (and its sister city Dallas) have been the sites of two high-profile shooting incidents between white cops and Black victims.

In Fort Worth specifically, then-officer Aaron Dean killed Atatiana Koquice Jefferson after trespassing onto her property during a “welfare check” and shooting her through a window. He was indicted for murder. The other incident occurred in Dallas when then-officer Amber Guyger shot and killed Botham Jean in his own apartment.

Guyger was charged and indicted for murder. It’s our first city and metroplex with a direct, high-profile shooting and murder of Black people at the hands of white police.

The incidents in Fort Worth received coverage throughout the nation, with the NAACP weighing in, local government officials reassuring the public, and a police chief talking about the lack of distrust between the police and minority neighborhoods, which would have to be rebuilt.

Blacks and other minorities also face financial challenges in Fort Worth. Individuals with a poor credit score often have much higher auto insurance rates. In Fort Worth, for instance, individuals with a poor credit score pay $81 more per month for State Farm insurance compared to those with excellent credit.

According to insurance companies, credit scores are a more accurate predictor of whether someone will file a claim than many other factors. Credit scores indicate risky driving behavior, which can lead to incidents where a person might file a claim. We have a guide that shows auto insurance rates by credit score in Fort Worth, so you can see the effects credit scores have on auto insurance rates.

Minorities are disproportionally affected when it comes to poor credit. Part of this is the predatory behavior of payday and high-interest loans that promise quick cash for little risk. In truth, they can destroy a person’s credit score.

#1 – Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky, comes in at No. 1 on this list of the 20 most populous cities with the highest percentage of its revenue allocated to police spending. The table below shows its total police spending, the city’s total revenue, and the percentage of that revenue that is allocated to the police.

Louisville % of Total Revenue: Police Spending
Total RevenuePolice SpendingPolice Spend % of Revenue
$2.8 billion$204 million7.23%
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Out of around $2.8 billion in total city revenue, Louisville allocated $204 million to its Police Department. That amounts to our highest percentage within the 20 most populous cities at 7.23 percent. This is nearly 1 percent above the average percentage for all cities.

Louisville has its own high profile police brutality case in the killing of Breonna Taylor. Shortly after March 13, 2020, three officers smashed in Breonna Taylor’s door while executing a search warrant. The officers shot Taylor eight times after her boyfriend opened fire on the officers because he thought they were burglars.

The officers never identified themself as being from the police. Because the officers had their bodycams off, there is no visual evidence of what happened. This has led to a battle between Taylor’s family and boyfriend versus the police over what happened.

While America was incensed primarily about George Floyd’s death initially, the movement has turned to Taylor with people, including major politicians, stating #SayHerName in social media posts. Other posts show information about how to contact Louisville officials to demand justice.

In the case of Taylor, just one officer has been fired and yet to be charged with a crime. The other two officers remain with the police force, at this point completely sheltered from any consequences for their roles in the killing.

Police brutality and racism can lead to higher auto insurance rates as well. Citations, possibly given due to prejudice and racism, can cause insurance rates to rise, sometimes by hundreds of dollars. This adds to the financial cost of being Black, which is quite high.

In Louisville, monthly rates for auto insurance in Louisville, Kentucky can increase by $8 or more per speeding ticket. This can amount to hundreds of more dollars per year.

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5 Cities with Highest Police Spending

One measure by which we can make the argument that police departments are overfunded is by looking at the percentage of police department spending out of city revenue. Another is looking at police spending per capita.

The following interactive graphic shows the 20 most populous cities top to bottom based on each’s police department spending per capita. Cities with the highest spending are at the top.

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What this statistic shows is police spending based on a single person. It is essentially a measure of how much each city resident pays for police services. For this section, we used the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy data for fiscally standardized cities again.

The following graph shows the five worst states for police department spending per capita. The idea is, the more they spend, the higher the possibility that the spending is bloated and could be cut down, with money moved to different city departments.

Police Department Spending Per Capita 5 Worst Cities

Los Angeles has the highest police spending per capita, with Austin the lowest. Where does this statistic come from? This statistic represents the amount of spending of each police department depending on that city’s population. New York City, with the largest blue figure, is the most populous city, and San Francisco is the least populous city, with the smallest blue figure.

You can see the population above in blue, along with the police department expenditures and spending per capita. Let’s start our analysis of the five worst cities for police spending per capita starting with Austin.

#5 – Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas, starts our list off at No. 5. The following table shows the amount its Police Department spends, Austin’s population, and the per capita value of the Police Department to each of Austin’s citizens.

Austin Police Spending per Capita
Police SpendingPopulationPolice Spending per Capita
$407 million940,000$433
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Austin’s Police Department spent about $407 million in 2017, while its population was around 940,000. When the total Austin’s Police Department spends is divided by its population, the result is $433. This is the per capita value of Austin’s Police Department or the value that the Police Department spends per citizen in Austin.

Austin is known as Texas’s sole liberal stronghold, with Democrat practices and a liberal local government. During the George Floyd protests, there were questions about police brutality, which the government quickly acted on.

Some of the changes that the Austin City Council made to the Police Department included banning the use of certain mob dispersion tactics unless there was an imminent and present danger.

It also banned any new city funding for militarized weaponry and equipment. In some ways, it has gone even further than that, eliminating any new positions for sworn police officers and speculating about moving those positions to other government agencies, most notably the fire department.

Even as the words “defund the police” were starting to get thrown around, Austin was already moving to act on them. They are the first city we’ve seen on this list that has taken near-immediate action to reallocate funds from the police to other city departments.

Are there any other cities on this list that are doing the same? Let’s move onto the No. 4 city on this ranking, one of the largest cities in the United States.

#4 – Chicago, Illinois

Here we are in the Windy City, our 4th-place city on this ranking of police spending per capita from our 20 most populous cities. The following table shows the police spending in Chicago, the number of people in the city, and the police spending per capita.

Chicago Police Spending per Capita
Police SpendingPopulationPolice Spending per Capita
$1.5 billion2.7 million$553
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The Chicago Police Department spent around $1.5 billion in 2017, with its population for that year being around $2.7 million. The raw total puts it in the category of the largest city police budgets. In terms of per capita, the Police Department’s spending is $553 per person, a big jump from the $433 of Austin, Texas.

There have been problems in Chicago about police using force a disproportionate percentage of the time against African Americans versus other races.

Some reports have found that even in neighborhoods where the majority of people are white, police are still much more likely to use physical force against Black people compared to whites and other races.

Statistics also suggest that white officers called to Black neighborhoods are more likely to use violence than when a Black officer responds to an issue in Black neighborhoods.

Add that to the general issue of police brutality and discrimination against Blacks, and some think the Chicago Police Department is a place that needs reform. Of course, there is the opposite take, which advocates for more police and more resources for the Police Department.

The reasons, for these critics, are simple: there are cities like Chicago with extremely high crime rates.

If the police department were defunded, with a reduced number of officers or resources, wouldn’t this increase the amount of crime? While there is merit to this argument, according to experts, there are positives to reducing the police department’s budget and reallocating to money to more social services. We’ll cover this issue more later.

The video above shows peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in Chicago just days after a white police officer killed George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death caused widespread anger across the country, with protests being held in dozens of cities, some large and some small.

Some protestors and others point to community services as a solution for crime rather than police forces. In studies, the views of these protesters have been backed up. Community and social services have been shown to reduce crime as well. Critics who believe that reducing the police budget means all criminals will run free point to cities like Chicago as an example of the danger of defunding the police.

The answer, as we’ll see in later sections, is much more nuanced than either position and involves militarized police departments, officers asked to do things that were never meant for police officers to do, and police unions.

Unfortunately, Blacks have other burdens in Chicago as well. In our auto insurance guide to Chicago, we found that African Americans are often paid thousands of dollars less compared to other races for the same job. For instance, employers pay Blacks an average of $52,000 less per year than Asians for managerial positions.

#3 – San Francisco, California

San Francisco, California is about as blue as it gets. In a state that is already liberal, San Francisco is head and shoulders the most. That’s not really hyperbole. In an article released in June of 2020 by Forbes, it was named the most liberal city in America.

What might be surprising is that out of our 20 most populous cities, it has the 3rd-highest police spending per capita. The following table shows how much the Police Department spent in 2017, what San Francisco’s population is, and the Police Department spending per capita in the Golden City.

San Francisco Police Spending per Capita
Police SpendingPopulationPolice Spending per Capita
$525 million873,000$601
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The Police Department in San Francisco spent around $525 million in 2017. At that time, its population was roughly 873,000. This means when the spending is divided by the population, San Francisco has a Police Department spending per capita of $601. This is $48 higher than for Chicago and $168 higher than Austin.

San Francisco pulls up fewer cases and examples of police brutality than many of the cities on this list. There is one particular situation in 2015 when a young Black man was shot and killed by numerous police officers after not lowering a knife he had in his hand. 

In San Francisco, this is a particular problem because the disparity: In 2019, roughly 45 percent of all police use-of-force instances occurred against Black people, when they make up 6 percent of the population. The Justice Department also did an investigation and found that a percentage of San Francisco officers used racist, sexist, and homophobic language in texts.

The DOJ recommended a number of reforms, which the Police Department has acted on, albeit slowly. San Francisco is at the forefront of another issue: banning or prohibiting the Police Department from hiring police officers from other jurisdictions with sustained misconduct charges or pending misconduct cases.

You might see San Francisco as an argument that police departments shouldn’t be defunded. After all, it has large police department spending per capita and a low crime rate.

Then there is auto insurance. Although insurers will never say that race impacts auto insurance rates, certain factors that affect auto insurance are often correlated with race. One of those factors is homeownership. Insurance companies often give discounts for homeowners as part of their discounts offering packages. While Black homeownership has always been less than other groups, it has declined significantly over the past few years.

This can affect their auto insurance rates and add to the general financial challenge of being Black in America, which includes higher insurance rates, more shouldering of student loan debt, and more.

The good news is that in California, auto insurers can’t use credit scores to set insurance rates. This may favor African Americans and other minorities.

#2 – New York, New York

New York City, another liberal city, comes in at No. 2 on this list. The following table shows how much the New York City Police Department spent in 2017, its population, and its Police Department spending per person.

New York Spending Police Spending per Capita
Police SpendingPopulationPolice Spending per Capita
$5.7 billion8.5 million$672
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With its $5.7 billion police spending in 2017 and its population being 8.5 million, the New York City Police Department spending per capita is $672. This $672 is $262 more than the average for all cities. It is also $71 more than San Francisco, $119 than Chicago, and $239 than Austin.

The New York Police Department is certainly culpable for many negative or controversial incidents towards Black people and other minorities. One of these was a controversial stop-and-frisk law that targeted and profiled young Black males.

And, of course, there was the murder of Eric Garner, a young man who was selling individual cigarettes to New Yorkers. A cop — Daniel Pantaleo — put him in a chokehold, a practice that has since been banned in many police departments across the country. Garner’s last words were, “I can’t breathe,” similar to the last words of George Floyd.

Garner’s death was a catalyst for the Black Lives Movement, along with other high-profile deaths of Black men at the hands of white cops or, in some cases, wanna-be-cops like George Zimmerman in the case of the death of Trayvon Martin. A jury acquitted Pantaleo of all charges, though he was later fired from the New York PD.

The NYPD also caused problems during the George Floyd protests, with video of a police officer ramming his car into protesters before speeding away. Police can discriminate or profile Blacks in any number of ways in the city.

This can also reflect on auto insurance rates in New York City, which are already some of the highest in the country. For instance, in New York City, a 17-year-old male’s average annual rate is $16,248. When we look at the auto insurance rates for the entire New York state rather than just New York City, the insurance rates are much lower.

For instance, New York State has a $1,361 core coverage average annual rate (core coverage refers to the bundling of liability, collision, and comprehensive coverages). This is much lower than the auto insurance rates for the same coverages in New York City. Let’s move onto the No. 1 state on this ranking. It’s a large city like New York City and also a familiar one, with an appearance in the previous ranking.

#1 – Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles, California, our No. 5 state in the previous ranking, comes in at No. 1 here. The table below shows the Los Angeles Police Department spending in 2017, its population, and the LA Police Department’s spending per capita.

Los Angeles Police Spending per Capita
Police SpendingPopulationPolice Spending per Capita
$3 billion4 million$754
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The Los Angeles Police Department spent nearly $3 billion in 2017. With its population being around 4 million, its Police Department spending per capita is $754. That number isn’t just $82 higher than New York City’s Police Department spending — the second-highest city on this ranking — but is actually tied for fifth out of our 150 cities in our dataset.

It is $344 higher than the average for all cities. The LAPD has had issues dating back decades in its controversial treatment of minorities and, in particular, African Americans. These include stop-and-frisk practices far before they became controversial and other practices that eroded trust between the police and the communities they were supposed to protect and serve.

There was also rampant corruption, as we saw in the Rampart Scandal, where police were engaging in criminal activity such as stealing drugs from the police station and selling it, getting rewards for killing or wounding people, possible cases of rape, and even bank robberies.

The video above covers the reforms put in place in the Los Angeles Police Department years after the Rampart Scandal. This scandal caused relations between minority neighborhoods and the police to become even further strained.

The Rampart Scandal didn’t help this perception and hurt the LAPD’s standing in the eyes of the community even further and led to widespread reforms.

We are going to deviate from the city police budget topic and head into the prisons to find out which states have prisons with the worst ratios between Blacks and whites — in other words, an examination of the prison systems that are the most unjust towards African Americans.

Racism Against Blacks in the Legal System

In this section and the following ranking, we are going to shelve police spending and talk about another system from which blacks suffer unjustly: the legal system. In the ranking, we’ll cover the five worst states for black-to-white incarceration ratios. But let’s have a little context first. One of the main causes of this unjust treatment of blacks comes from a 1970s policy: the war on drugs.

This set of policies and enforcement have jailed Blacks on a very high level compared to whites, specifically with respect to drug-carrying laws. In situations where a person is caught having a drug on them, the response of the judicial system in the past has been to jail those individuals for lengthy sentences.

Other justice inequalities affecting Blacks are situations that involve systemic poverty, such as African Americans routinely being unable to hire attorneys and instead are assigned court-appointed attorneys who may not have the skill or the time to devote themselves completely to a case.

Finally, there is the issue with bail. While you often see cops accused of police brutality spending $300,000 or more on bail to get out of prison, many Blacks don’t have this kind of money to do so. As such, there are a large number of Black people in city or county jails simply awaiting trial. The wheels of justice move slowly in some cases.

5 States with Most African Americans in Prison

When we looked at police department spending, we tried to get an answer to which police departments had the largest spending as a percentage out of city revenue and police department spending per capita.

For the moment, we’ll shelve the issue with budgets and turn our attention to an issue that has been at the forefront of racial inequity for decades: the percentage of Blacks in prison versus whites.

Of course, we’re well-aware of some of the issues surrounding this discrepancy, in particular drug crimes, which overwhelmingly punish African Americans more often than whites.

The war on drugs dates back to the 1970s. In this “war,” the federal laws and policies targeted Blacks in poor communities while letting the white dealers and users largely free of prosecution or imprisonment.

The following interactive graph shows the ratio of Blacks to whites in prison in all 50 states. The bluer the state gets, the worse the African American-to-white-prisoners ratio is. What is perhaps most interesting is that while the South may be seen as being the most bigoted and racist part of the country, the ratio between Blacks to whites in prison is actually smaller than in other Midwestern, Northern, and Northeastern states.

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The next graph boils down the 50 U.S. states to the five worst states for the ratio of African Americans to whites in prison. In this graph, you’ll find the worst of the worst, and these five states are firmly in just two areas of the country: the Northeast and the Midwest. Each has at least a ratio of 10.5 Blacks to 1 white person in prison.

The worst state is New Jersey, which has a rate of 12 Blacks to 1 white in prison. The other states are not far behind. It’s important to note that for all states, whites make up by far the majority in the population.

Black versus White Incarceration Rates 5 Worst Cities

Let’s take a closer look at our worst five states across the nation for this inequity. We’ll start with the one that has the lowest ratio of African Americans to whites in prison, which is Vermont. And then we’ll jump into the three Midwestern states before ending in the Northeast.

There is an important note to be made here: The Black and white incarceration rates are based on 100,000 people. Meaning, the number of Black people in prison out of 100,000 Black people in that state and the number of whites in prison out of 100,000 white people in that state.

The idea might be to say that this incarceration rate is because Blacks commit a disproportionate number of crimes compared to whites. This is in comparison to crimes committed by white people, and that is what creates the disparity in incarceration rates.

However, as you’ll see, even the population share statistics don’t justify some of the ratios between Blacks to whites in prison for these five states.

#5 – Vermont

Vermont, the Green Mountain State, comes in at No. 5 on this list. The following table shows how many African Americans are imprisoned per 100,000 people versus how many whites are imprisoned per 100,000 people as well. Finally, the ratio between Blacks imprisoned and whites imprisoned is in the far column to the right. These are statistics from The Sentencing Project.

Vermont Incarceration Ratio Blacks to Whites
Incarceration Rate per 100K BlacksIncarceration Rate per 100K WhitesIncarceration Ratio Blacks to Whites
2,35722510.5
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The imprisonment rate of African Americans in Vermont is 2,357 per 100,000 Blacks. The imprisonment rate of whites is 225 per 100,000 whites. This leads to an unbalanced ratio with 10.5 Blacks imprisoned compared to 1 white person. To put those numbers in perspective, we turn to the FBI’s Crime Explorer system for Vermont.

According to the Crime Explorer system, in 2017 there were just a little over 2,000 violent crimes reported in Vermont. There were 16,500 reported property crimes. In both cases, whites far outnumbered Blacks as the perpetrators who committed the crime.

The fact that whites commit far more crimes in Vermont compared to African Americans might not be surprising, as whites make up 94 percent of Vermont’s population.

Blacks make up just 1.4 percent of the population. However, when comparing the population to crime data, it appears whites commit fewer crimes compared to their population share while African Americans commit more.

Of course, we can certainly argue that Blacks are routinely more profiled, or police are less likely to give them a pass compared to whites. But let’s stick to the hard numbers. Even when looking at that discrepancy (population share to the percentage of crimes committed), Vermont’s prison system is kind of a mess.

With African Americans imprisoned at a rate of 2,357 per 100,000 people compared to whites at 225 per 100,000 people, the difference in these two rates is somewhat shocking and is not accounted for based on the other statistics. The prison system, which stems from police officers and the judicial system in the state, over-penalizes Black people compared to whites.

This is according to the statistics that have been shown above. As a note, in addition to the analysis of racial injustice in each state’s prison system, we’re going to cover another industry that is the focus of this site: auto insurance.

We’ll add context to systemic inequities in auto insurance coverage and why these systemic inequities can wind a minority up in jail, through little fault of their own. Vermont’s $755 average annual core coverage rate is one of the lowest in the nation. However, blacks might still pay a disproportionate amount compared to whites.

Blacks’ auto insurance rates can be much higher on average than the rates for whites. One of the reasons is that African Americans are more likely to live in crime-ridden areas that have a lot of vehicle theft. This raises rates because it increases the chances for the residents of those areas to file claims.

In the next four sections after the information about prisons, we’ll cover the issue and how the auto insurance industry has created a system of inequality based on race and income going back decades.

#4 – Minnesota

Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, comes in at No. 4 on this list. In terms of social justice issues, they are most known for their current situation where four cops have been charged on some level with killing or abetting the killing of George Floyd. This incident has sparked protests around the country.

Now, we’re going to take a look at its prison system to see if there is a racial inequity or unbalance in it. The following table shows the incarceration rate for African Americans per 100,000 people, the incarceration rate for whites per 100,000 people, and the incarceration rate of Blacks compared to whites.

Minnesota Incarceration Ratio Blacks to Whites
Incarceration Rate per 100K BlacksIncarceration Rate per 100K WhitesIncarceration Ratio Blacks to Whites
111121911
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In Minnesota, the incarceration rate of African Americans is 1,129 per 100,000 Blacks. The incarceration rate of whites is 111 per 100,000 whites. This makes the incarceration rate for African Americans to whites 11 to 1.

There were 177 violent crimes committed in Minnesota in 2017. Whites committed 61 percent, and Blacks committed 28 percent. Of the 9,105 property crimes, whites committed 29 percent, and Blacks committed 12 percent.

To put in comparison to population share, whites make up 84 percent of the population, while African Americans make up 7 percent. The crime statistics are a little more skewed this time, with whites committing a much smaller percentage of crime based on their population share compared to Blacks committing a larger percentage of crime based on their population share.

This might signal to some people that this justifies the ratio between African Americans and whites in the prison system or, on a larger level, that the police departments in Minnesota shouldn’t be defunded.

Eleven Blacks are still in prison for every 1 white, which is a gap still larger than their relative crime statistics indicate.

This makes Minnesota No. 4 on our list for the worst ratios between African Americans and whites in prison. This will be elaborated on in the next couple sections, but from the main focus on our site — auto insurance — there are also racial injustices.

While we’ve talked solely about racial injustices involving police departments or prisons, racism can affect any industry at any time. When it comes to auto insurance, insurers might charge minorities higher rates depending on the neighborhood they live in. As we’ve mentioned vehicle theft plays a role in raising rates in poor, often minority neighborhoods.

For instance, in Minnesota throughout 2018, there were 181 cars stolen per 100,000 Minnesota residents. Thieves have targeted Honda Civics and Accords for vehicle theft in the past few years.

#3 – Iowa

Iowa, the Hawkeye State, comes in at No. 3 on this list, with the third-worst ratio between Blacks and whites in prison compared to the rest of the states. The following table shows the incarceration rate for Black people in Iowa, the incarceration rate for white people, and the ratio between African Americans and whites in prison in Iowa.

Iowa Incarceration Ratio Blacks to Whites
Incarceration Rate per 100K BlacksIncarceration Rate per 100K WhitesIncarceration Ratio Blacks to Whites
1,1409411.1
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In Iowa, for every 100,000 African Americans, 2,349 are incarcerated. Do you want to hear that same rate for white people? It’s much lower. For every 100,000 white people in Iowa, 211 are incarcerated.

The crime statistics paint a picture of the crimes committed by Blacks and whites. African Americans, though they have a small population share in Iowa, commit 29 percent of violent crimes and 10 percent of property crimes. Whites commit much fewer crimes based on property share, accounting for 65 percent of violent crimes and 34 percent of property crimes.

With these statistics, whites committed a much smaller percentage of crime compared to their population share, while Blacks committed a much large percentage of crime compared to theirs. We see this trend continue into the more deadly crimes as well. 

While only making up 4 percent of the total population, African Americans committed 29 percent of the violent crimes in the entire state of Iowa.

Of course, these numbers, while skewing negatively, do not justify the ratio between Blacks and whites in prison. The video below covers the issue of racism in America’s prisons. It notes that the United States has more incarcerated people than any other country. This often affects people of color more than whites, as our statistics have already shown.

There may be instances of social injustice when relating to the court system in Minnesota, as they have been documented around the country. Blacks are more likely to be assigned court-appointed lawyers, who may be less skilled or simply busier than the lawyers assigned to whites.

A June 2020 piece by Vice showed that just by speaking in Black vernacular or some kind of variation of Black English is an impediment when speaking in court. This is because the people involved (generally white) may find it difficult to hear or comprehend that vernacular.

And while that’s in the courts or in jails, Black people and minorities face difficult problems with basic legal requirements as well, due to lack of funding.

Insurance prices are also higher for minorities, and insurance companies don’t allow for coverage in minority communities. This practice is called redlining and dates back decades.

In this situation, an insurance company might draw “red lines” around a minority neighborhood, making it harder for those minorities to get coverage. When looking at systemic racism, it’s important to consider all factors.

Even with Iowa’s annual core coverage rate of $672 being cheap compared to other states, Blacks might still have higher rates as factors like credit scores and auto theft are factored into rates. This isn’t a shot at Iowa, however. It is a general statement that insurance companies often force minorities to pay higher rates compared to their white counterparts.

#2 – Wisconsin

Wisconsin, the Badger State, comes in at No. 2 on this list, with the 2nd-worst ratio of all states from African Americans to whites in prison. The following table shows the incarceration rate for Blacks in Wisconsin, the incarceration rate for whites, and the ratio between the Blacks to whites in prison in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Incarceration Ratio Blacks to Whites
Incarceration Rate per 100K BlacksIncarceration Rate per 100K WhitesIncarceration Ratio Blacks to Whites
221254211.5
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The incarceration rate of African Americans in prison is 2,542 per 100,000 Blacks. The incarceration rate of whites in prison is 221 per 100,000 whites. Because of those statistics and the numbers behind them, the ratio between Blacks to whites in prison is 11.5 to 1 — or 11.5 Black people to every white person.

For this section, we’re going to just look at the property crimes in Wisconsin, as the violent crimes section in the FBI Crime Data Explorer has some statistical abnormalities. There were 63,561 property crimes committed in Wisconsin in 2017. Whites committed 19,427 or 31 percent. African Americans committed 14,430 or 23 percent.

Whites make up 87 percent of the population, and Blacks make up 7 percent of the population. These percentages are much closer than previous states, with Blacks far exceeding their population share with their percentage of property crimes committed.

On the flip side, whites account for a much smaller percentage of property crimes compared to their population share. As such, the ratio of Blacks imprisoned in Wisconsin might be explained a little more clearly based on the crime statistics. However, due to the aberrations in the violent crimes section, the accuracy of these statistics may be subject to error.

Still, it is impossible to tell if this is the case or if so, by how much. One note that is interesting, and this relates to the auto insurance side, is that often it’s not just police officers that put minorities at a disadvantage.

Minorities suffer more wage and wealth inequities than whites, which can lead to problems of upward mobility, the state of schools in Black neighborhoods, and a lack of generational wealth.

When it comes to mobility, minorities suffer more than just upward mobility. In many cases, minorities have less mobility, period. While the average household in Wisconsin owns two cars, Blacks may own fewer vehicles than their white counterparts. They may have to rely on public transportation more than whites and have to ask people for rides. This reduces overall mobility.

#1 – New Jersey

New Jersey, the Garden State, comes in at the top of our ranking — the state with the worst ratio of African Americans to whites in prison. The following table shows the incarceration rate for Blacks, the incarceration for whites, and the ratio between Blacks and whites in prison.

New Jersey Incarceration Ratio Blacks to Whites
Incarceration Rate per 100K BlacksIncarceration Rate per 100K WhitesIncarceration Ratio Blacks to Whites
2,34921112.2
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The incarceration rate for Blacks in New Jersey is 1,140 per 100,000 African Americans. For whites, the incarceration rate is 94 per 100,000 whites. This leads to a wide discrepancy between Blacks and whites in prison: 12.2 Black persons per white person. Unfortunately, in this section, the FBI Crime Data Explorer has no data about New Jersey.

Other resources, including the New Jersey State Police, showed no data about race or identified the perpetrator of the crimes by race. We know that police often target minorities for crimes more than whites, however.

Police even target minorities for traffic stops, as they often profile minorities for being involved in illegal activity. Even if these traffic stops turn up nothing, the officer might still write a person of color a ticket.

This has damaging effects, including raising insurance rates. In fact, traffic tickets are one of the major sources of car insurance rates increases.

There are even some cases where a ticket will cause rates to rise more than an accident would. For instance, let’s take the example of a driver who has State Farm insurance. With a clean record, this driver’s annual rate is $4,090.

If that driver were to get a speeding ticket, their annual rate would rise by $1,500, from $4,090 to $6,600. This $1,500 auto insurance rate increase for a speeding ticket from State Farm is the largest out of all the insurance companies.

You might ask: How long would this penalty last? Generally, it takes around three years for an infraction to disappear from your record. While you might have this large of an increase initially, it should slowly fall over time.

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5 Cities with the Least Community Spending

When people argue about defunding the police, generally the line of thought is that there are community services that could better use the resources than the police department. These groups could also lower the crime rate by strengthening the neighborhoods that have high crime rates.

The following graph shows the percentage of a city’s revenue that is used for community services. Like our first interactive graph, this interactive graph shows data for all 150 cities measured in the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy database. Hover your cursor or press your finger to interact with the graph and pull up an individual city’s data.

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This section covers this topic, including the five cities in America that spent the lowest percentage of their revenue on community services. The ranking methodology in this section includes education services, social services and income maintenance, and housing and community development.

As you can see in the graph below, some of our worst five cities for the percentage of their revenue that goes to community services (out of the 20 most populous cities) are familiar.

Community Services Spending % of Total Revenue 5 Worst Cities

As you can see, the gross amount of each city’s community services spending varies widely by the size of the city and the amount of revenue each has. The one category where every city spent over $1 billion was education services. These services cover public school expenses and teacher salaries, among other things.

When it comes to community services percentage out of total revenue, all five cities are below the 43 percent average for all 150 cities. Ready to dive deep into the analysis for each city? Let’s get started.

#5 – Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles, California, makes the final ranking for cities and allocated budgets, a dubious distinction for the City of Angels. It ranks 5th on this ranking for cities, out of the 20 most populous, that allocates the fewest amount of its revenue to community services.

The following table shows the funds Los Angeles allocates out of its revenue to education services, social services and income maintenance, and housing and community development.

Los Angeles % of Revenue Spent on Community Services
Total RevenueEd ServicesSS & IncomeHousing & Community% of Total for Community
$46.1 billion$7.7 billion$5.5 billion$1.6 billion32.15%
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Out of a total of $46.1 billion in total revenue in 2017, Los Angeles allocated $7.7 billion to education services, $5.5 billion to social services and income maintenance, and $1.6 billion to housing and community development. This makes up 32.2 percent of its overall revenue.

While this may seem like a large amount, the average city in the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy fiscally standardized city database spent 42.8 percent of their revenue on community services. L.A.’s average is 7.3 percent below the average for the top 20 most populous cities.

The idea of defunding the police is not new in Los Angeles, with activists calling for it for years. It appears now, as the discussion has increased across the country, that more news outlets are highlighting this issue and the movement is gaining steam, with protests extending to even the transit system.

Given the disparity between the amount of the city allocates for the Police Department versus for community services — in comparison to other cities, including the 20 most populous — they may have a point. And with a Police Department that has been known for corruption and police brutality, it may be unsurprising they are calling for it.

Curious to know about auto insurance in Los Angeles, California? Check out our Can’t-Miss Guide to Auto Insurance in Los Angeles.

#4 – Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona, the Valley of the Sun, comes in ranked No. 4 on this list. The following table shows its total revenue in 2017 and how much of that revenue it allocated to education services, social services and income maintenance, and housing and community development.

Phoenix % of Revenue Spent on Community Services
Total RevenueEd ServicesSS & IncomeHousing & Community% of Total for Community
$8.5 billion$2.1 billion$291 million$140 million30.13%
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Out of its $8.5 billion in 2017 revenue, it allocated $2.1 billion to education services, $291 million to social services and income maintenance, and $138 million to housing and community development. That makes up 30.1 percent of its total revenue. This percentage is a full 12.7 percent behind the total for the average city on our list.

It’s also 9.2 percent below the average for our top 20 most populous cities. After the George Floyd protests, activists in Phoenix called for the defunding of the police. The idea, in their view, was to reallocate the funds to other community services.

The City Council, after Floyd’s death, rejected the view to reduce the police budget and allocate more funds for community services. Instead, it actually allocated more money to the Police Department, disregarding activists’ and protesters’ desires.

Phoenix is not new to issues of police brutality. In 2019, three white police officers were fired due to confrontations with African Americans. There was an issue recently where police surrounded an SUV before shooting the driver to death.

Then in the past month, a family filed a lawsuit stating that Phoenix police mistook a young Black man who was dropping his sisters off at school for his wanted half-brother.

Although the young man looked nothing like his half-brother, police used a flash grenade, shot him with rubber bullets, and used excessive force. The young man spent 20 days in the hospital and his family is saying he will require heart surgery due to the incident.

In the incident involving the driver in his SUV, cell phone cameras filmed the exchange. The videos circulated on social media, leading to marches through Phoenix just around two months after a white officer killed George Floyd in Minneapolis.

#3 – Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas, like L.A., has been featured in these rankings previously in the article. Here, it comes in at No. 3 for being the third-worst city for the percentage of its revenue it allocates to community services. The following table shows the total revenue of Austin and how much it allocates to education services, social services and income maintenance, and housing and community development.

Austin % of Revenue Spent on Community Services
Total RevenueEd ServicesSS & IncomeHousing & Community% of Total for Community
$7.1 billion$1.3 billion$583 million$165 million29.03%
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Out of $7.1 billion in revenue during 2017, it allocated $1.3 billion to education services, $583 million to social services and income maintenance, and $165 million to housing and community development. These three categories make up 29 percent of its total revenue. This percentage is 13.8 percent below the average for all cities.

It’s also 10.3 percent lower than the average for our 20 most populous cities. This makes it just one of three of the 20 most populous cities that allocates less than 30 percent of its revenue to community services. As we saw in the previous section that spotlighted Austin, the City Council in Austin has already voted to decrease the Police Department’s budget.

The City Council also moved to reduce the militarization of Austin’s police by getting rid of certain types of equipment. To be fair, Austin is the bluest city in Texas, and it has been one of the few cities on this list to take action at reducing police budgets and end the militarization of them.

Still, Austin, while a seemingly staid city compared to more major crime areas like L.A. and Chicago, has its own share of problems. One of those is drunk driving. In fact, Travis County ranked fourth for the worst in the nation in our 2020 study of the counties with the most drunk-driving deaths.

#2 – Jacksonville, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida, which has also appeared on these rankings before like L.A. and Austin, comes in at No. 2 on this list. That means it’s the 2nd-worst city out of our 20 most populous cities in the money it spent on community services out of its revenue.

The following table shows Jacksonville’s total revenue and the money allocated to education services, social services and income maintenance, and housing and community development.

Jacksonville % of Revenue Spent on Community Services
Total RevenueEd ServicesSS & IncomeHousing & Community% of Total for Community
$5.6 billion$1.3 billion$94 million$100 million26.41%
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Of its $5.7 billion in 2017 revenue, it allocated $1.3 billion to education services, $94.7 million to social services and income maintenance, and $100 million to housing and community development. These three categories make up 26.4 percent of its total revenue in 2017.

This percentage is 16.4 percent lower than the average for all cities and 12.9 percent lower than the average for the top 20 cities. While these statistics look bad — and they certainly are — a quick look at the percent difference between its spending on community services compared to its police spending shows an even more shocking figure.

While the average for all cities shows a 36.4 percent difference in community services spending versus police department spending, Jacksonville’s percent difference is much, well, different.

The difference between how much of its revenue Jacksonville allocates to its community services versus its Police Department is just 19.8 percent.

That is a 16.6 percent drop, and not even from the top city. That’s just the average. Of course, activists have called for the defunding of the Jacksonville PD since the George Floyd protests started.

In the video above, dated four years ago, a Jacksonville police officer is seen punching a handcuffed woman repeatedly. The other officers take a minute to respond before breaking up the altercation. A quick search of Jacksonville police brutality turns many other cases up. This might indicate larger, systemic problems in the Police Department.

And when it comes to police discipline, civilians and lawmakers run into one particular hurdle: the Fraternal Order of Police. This police union has stonewalled activists’ chances of getting a Jacksonville PD citizen oversight board to review police behavior and advocate for citizens.

Many activists have cited organizations like Jacksonville’s Fraternal Order of Police and other police unions as major stumbling blocks to getting justice for police brutality.

Police unions, some say, have such a high degree of power in the United States that even an officer with a history of misconduct can just resign and move to the next town over. There, the union gets them a job, and the process starts all over again.

#1 – Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington, the Emerald City, comes in at No. 1 on this list with the cities with the lowest percentage of their total revenue allocated to community services. The following table shows the funds Seattle allocates to education services, social services and income maintenance, and housing and community development.

Total RevenueEd ServicesSS & IncomeHousing & Community% of Total for Community
$7.2 billion$1.1 billion$339 million$300 million23.71%
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In 2017, Seattle generated $7.2 billion in revenue. It allocated $1.1 billion to education services, $340 million to social services and income maintenance, and $300 million to housing and community development. That is $1.7 billion or 23.7 percent out of the total revenue.

It’s a number even more shocking than Jacksonville’s: 19.1 percent lower than the average for all cities and 15.8 percent below the average for the 20 most populous cities. Also, keep in mind: Seattle is a major liberal stronghold.

The amount Seattle allocates for community services out of its revenue is the lowest amount among the 20 most populous cities.

The difference between how much it allocates to community services versus its Police Department is 20 percent. This is 16.4 percent lower than the average for all cities. It is right in line with Jacksonville.

Both cities are in the bottom 15 of all 150 fiscally standardized cities and the two leading cities in this ranking. Activists in Seattle have also been advocating for defunding the Seattle Police Department and moving funding to community services.

Other proposals include de-militarizing the police by getting rid of military-grade equipment. However, activists might be a little disappointed by the results. Seattle allocates just 3.7 percent of its revenue towards its Police Department. This makes it the sixth-lowest city in our 150 cities in terms of revenue allocated to the police department and part of the category of largest city police budgets. It is much lower than the average for all cities at 6.4 percent.

There may be other areas that the government is allocating high amounts of money to other than police departments, which can be used to fund community services.

Due to the coronavirus, however, city budgets and expenditures are in flux. Some problems, like the need for health care workers, have likely risen, while the number of traffic cops in Seattle has likely gone down.

We cover the decreased need for police officers during the coronavirus pandemic in our study, 6 Events in History that Reduced Fatal Crashes. In March and April of the pandemic, Seattle had the third-largest traffic reduction of major cities in the United States.

Next year’s city budgets might look very different compared to this year’s. Insurance rates also will likely change as people drive less and remote work becomes more common. Telematics systems and usage-based insurance will become more popular.

The bright side for Seattle residents, aside from possible lower car insurance rates? Commuting time in Seattle might decrease, allowing people to get to work quicker and with less traffic. 

Defunding the Police vs. Staying the Course

We’ve covered the worst 5 fiscally standardized cities for police department spending per city revenue, police spending per capita, and the percentage of city revenue used for community services. We’ve also covered the worst states for Black to white incarceration rates in America.

There is that lingering question over every conversation about these issues: Should we defund the police, and what does that mean? The answer is complicated and nuanced.

“Defunding the police,” unlike what opponents think, is not abolishing the police. Instead, it means diverting a portion of police resources and budgets to other social services.

For instance, a city might cut its police budget by 10 percent and reinvest or reallocate that money to housing, schools, and health clinics, among other social services. Opponents believe that this will cause a rise in crime.

In the video below, Vox, a popular liberal news organization, looks at the issues surrounding the slogan “defund the police” and makes a note that it might not seem as radical as people think.

The argument for opponents is that if there are fewer police officers available to respond to issues of violent crime, property crime, or issues with gang intimidation and other factors, then those crimes will spread as perpetrators will understand that there is no one there to stop them from committing these crimes.

That, for some researchers, is a valid argument. Individuals at a Chicago research organization found that as police department budgets increased, the amount of crime dropped. That would seem to suggest that defunding the police is a negative policy shift. It would harm more than it would help.

On the other hand, some research shows that when a local government or organization increases community services in an area, the overall crime rate drops as well. So, there are legitimate studies that both proponents and opponents can point to when bolstering their claims to defund the police or not.

Some news organizations have found that police budgets often make up over a third of the city budget.

In our analysis of city budgets, we found that police department spending actually made up a relatively small portion of city revenue. Actual social services like education, social services, housing, and community development took up much more of the overall city revenue.

Cities spend a lot more on social services than police departments, which, while not eliminating the argument to defund the police, certainly suggests that the funds allocated from defunding the police department would not be as much as people think.

That said, let’s touch on a few reasons why defunding the police might be a good idea and then tackle the issue of police unions and the role they place in enabling dirty cops to stay in police departments. This is even after the officer has a misconduct charge against them or even further — their supervisor has grounds to fire them.

Unrealistic Expectations for Police Officers

When people talk about defunding the police, one of the arguments is that police officers are required to do jobs that they were never trained or designed to do. For instance, police officers are required to respond to situations involving mentally ill persons or forced to deal with the homeless. They are even required to be present in city schools where there is a certain amount of violence and chaos that not even security guards are not enough to influence or maintain order.

Put another way, a Dallas police chief once said that police were now being required to respond to situations that involve a societal failing. In his view, police officers were not trained, and police departments were not designed to handle those issues.

This issue where police officers respond to societal failings poses a larger problem to those populations, as police officers might respond to them differently than a community activist or social worker would do.

When it comes to the mentally ill population, studies have shown that in one in four instances where police have shot and killed someone, that person was exhibiting signs of mental illness during the confrontation. Because police officers are charged with responding to situations involving a homeless person, this increases the chance that the homeless person will wind up in prison. This likelihood is already disproportionate compared to other demographic groups.

Cops in schools can often have a negative effect on school culture and send a message to students that their behavior is so bad that an actual cop has to be brought in to handle the infractions. While a school district or principal might find them necessary, the overall message is negative, which can distract from learning and have a dampening effect on the student culture as well.

The video below from ABC News touches on this issue and profiles two police officers who are trained in crisis intervention — often called crisis intervention training. This training is said to help officers prepare for situations involving the mentally ill that often can turn deadly if the officer is untrained.

In these instances, it may make sense to decrease the police budget, eliminate the police handling of these situations, and create more community-oriented positions. These people could respond to situations in which someone is mentally ill or sleeping on a storefront, or they could handle issues within city or county schools.

One idea that has been discussed is the creation of special teams of social workers and other workers that have a better chance of resolving these conflicts.

These special teams would reduce the chance of a situation ending in violence and would not send a negative message to communities. They could keep people alive, out of jail, or still learning, just to name three situations where police officers are not trained to deal with.

Activists who are trying to defund police departments have turned their attention to the main impediment that stops police department reform. These organizations have strong legal and political power, and they advocate for cops even after they’ve committed acts of misconduct. These are the police unions.

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Police Unions & Weeding out Dirty Cops

While unions have been around for centuries in different countries such as England, it wasn’t until the 20th century that unions in America caught fire and started to significantly alter public policy.

The two major union organization umbrellas are the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Federation. Both the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Federation advocate for better treatment of workers, including police officers.

Police unions often have legislative or political bargaining chips to increase the stature of their workers and lobby for better salaries, increased benefits, and fewer punishments for committing misconduct.

Within this timeline of history, police unions were born to support, protect, and lobby for their officers. The video below from CNBC covers the issue of police brutality and police unions and how police unions act as the first defense of an officer who has been accused of police misconduct or worse accusations. It also goes through why police unions exist and how there’s a battle between police unions and activists.

Police unions have certain powers to shield their members from bad publicity in institutional punishments. These include a mixture of collective bargaining agreements, officers’ bills of rights, and other legislation. All of these are legally recognized, meaning police chiefs, legislatures, and city officials must deal with them.

There are situations in the past where police unions have created such a shield for their police officers that it becomes impossible to punish them. In situations where an officer is found guilty of misconduct, police unions can appeal to an arbiter. Then the police unions can then choose the arbiter.

This has led to a two-thirds not guilty verdict of the misconduct charge. After, the officer is allowed to resume his duties in the department. Other situations and protections include the expungement of any records related to misconduct after a two- to five-year period. The police department is legally bound to stay silent about an investigation if the officer is found not guilty of the charge.

Then, of course, there is the issue in which police officers are fired, but the police union will find them a job in the next town. Some believe police unions have become too powerful. They spend millions of dollars to influence local races and even create political action committees (PACs) that are typically associated with special interest groups (of which, obviously, police unions are).

They have become the focal point for many activists in attempts to reform police departments. Due to their legislative powers, police unions may still be powerful for a number of years. The hope is to reduce that power and allow legislators to pass laws and legislation to reform police departments.

The unions will meet them at every turn, but perhaps the shift in society will reduce their power and pave way for legitimate reform and the weeding out of the bad cops.

Arguments for and Against Defunding the Police

We’ve covered the topic of defunding the police in-depth. Now, let’s hear from three experts from around the country about whether to defund the police or stay the course, the need for police reforms, and disparity of funding between local prosecutor’s offices and the public defender’s office.

Advice from experts around the country.

“I’m a criminal defense attorney in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the ensuing protests, our firm has been working on a campaign to close the funding gap between the local prosecutor’s office and the public defender’s office. 

Both my law partner and I are former Virginia Beach public defenders who served a combined 17 years before going into private practice. The reason that we left is not that we didn’t love the job or believe in providing excellent legal representation to the poor. Like almost all of those who leave the Public Defender’s Office, we left because we couldn’t afford to continue working there. 

For the fiscal year 2020, the City of Virginia Beach provides a supplement of slightly over $6.3 million to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office (prosecutor’s office). The Public Defender’s Office receives nothing.

This has resulted in drastic salary disparities and frequent turnover in the Public Defender’s Office including several attorneys who have left the Public Defender to join the Commonwealth’s Attorney. The end result is that defendants in Virginia Beach are often represented by lawyers with much less experience than the prosecutors on the other side of the courtroom.  

An entry-level public defender makes roughly $20,000 less than an entry-level prosecutor. The difference in pay is even more pronounced at senior level positions. A deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney makes over 75 percent more in salary than a comparable public defender.

Almost all of the attorneys in the Public Defender’s Office make less money than experienced secretaries in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. This entire discrepancy is a result of the City of Virginia Beach supplementing the Commonwealth Attorney’s office but not supplementing the Public Defender’s office.   

The disparity in funding particularly affects people of color because they disproportionately have their cases handled by the Public Defender’s Office. Very simply, the city of Virginia Beach is saying that it values the prosecution of individuals more than ensuring the protection of its citizens’ rights. This is unfortunately true in other cities all over the state and throughout the country.

We’ve proposed to our City Councilmen to provide a 15 percent supplement to the salaries of all Virginia Beach public defenders (excluding the Head Public Defender and Chief Deputy) which would cost the city only approximately $205,000. For this relatively small investment, the city would be taking a giant step forward in ensuring that our citizens are getting the criminal justice system that they deserve.”

Taite Westendorf partner with criminal defense firm Westendorf & KhalaTaite Westendorf, Esq. is a partner at Westendorf & Khala.
He was previously a public defender in the city of Virginia Beach for 11 years.


“The police represent law and order in our society. Defunding the police would be like chaining up a guard dog that protects its owner’s house as a thief makes off with the loot. 

Even if those funds are diverted and reallocated into programs like job training, education, and prevention, there are people out there that will continue to commit crimes. 

The militarization is a direct result of the increase in crime over the years and the way crime has evolved. We have seen an escalation in the militarization of our police in this country over time. Police carried Tommy guns back in the 1920s to fight crime.

Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, militarization became more prevalent as police realized standard issue pistols weren’t enough during the city rioting that came with political change. As the war on drugs started in the ’80s and then escalated in the ’90s, we saw an increase of police militarization and increased funding that never stopped as a reaction to fighting a new type of crime — bloodthirsty cartels we still deal with today.

Some of the militarization has been extremely productive. We saw the importance of some militarization with ideas like SWAT teams that started in the 1970s, which are essentially reservists to combat more extreme criminal activity.  Police funding has grown substantially over the years. According to the Urban Institute

‘From 1977 to 2017, state and local government spending on police increased from $42 billion to $115 billion (in 2017 inflation-adjusted dollars). The District of Columbia spent the most per capita on police in 2017 at $910, followed by New York ($529), Alaska ($493), and California ($487).’

Our society has changed drastically over time and the militarization of police has been a reaction to the increase and severity of that crime. School shootings, once unheard of, have now become commonplace and are even televised on social media outlets by the killers themselves.

With the advent of the smartphone, body cameras, and other technology like social media, police are highly scrutinized in their day-to-day duties. It’s not a surprise they may take arresting a suspect a little rougher than they should.  Police have one of the hardest jobs in our society today. They put their lives on the line every day. Any day could be their last. 

The militarization isn’t the issue. It’s the people using the gear. Police who are less experienced, cops who have been affected by the mental pressure of the job, and the racist police must be rooted out.

Police unions and the ‘brotherhood code’ put even more pressure on police to side with their fellow officers, less they are ridiculed, blackballed, or punished for being a ‘traitor.’ This propagates an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality. Yet breaking this is easier said than done.” 

What are some additional changes that need to be made in police departments for the improvement of relations between the police and Black people or people of color?

“A lot. Training. Education. Better socialization. Stricter protocols. Accountability. But all of this will take more money, not less. Also, there is another list, and that is ‘the to be improved’ list, which is very long. But don’t scrap it, fix it. 

Back in the day, people knew their local authorities by name. ‘Beat cops’ were assigned a neighborhood or geographic area (their ‘beat’) to patrol on foot. Having a police presence like this for good and bad occasions will also help. This includes having our local police do work in the community in addition to arresting ‘bad guys.’ Training officers to avoid things like chokeholds are key. We must learn from our mistakes.

The police must be taught when to listen to the perpetrator and respect their rights. Stopping tactics like racial profiling and avoiding lethal force unless absolutely necessary. 

Body cams are a good start — that shows accountability. It’s time to take it to the next level and teach social, psychological, and emotional behavioral counseling to the force. Mandatory weekly psychiatry and checkups. Better psychological profiling when they first enter the academy. 

The way to root out those ‘bad apples’ is to go after the bad apples. That way, it doesn’t matter whether they are wearing riot gear or plain clothes.  The right people wearing blue is what needs to be the focus, not a financial drain on the system.”

Alec Tuckman CEO of wealth management partners of los angelesAlec Tuckman is the CEO of Wealth Management Partners of Los Angeles.
He is an Accredited Investment Fiduciary and Certified Retirement Counselor.


“As a long-time advocate for criminal justice reform and police misconduct attorney, I have a lot to say on this topic. My years of experience as an attorney, academic, advocate, organizer, and citizen journalist help me to base my educated opinions on these matters.

Policing has definitely changed and gotten away from community-based models in the last 25 years or more. Many departments have become very militarized in terms of using armored vehicles, military-grade weaponry, drones, and combat gear.

The 1033 program needs to end and police departments at a minimum need to shift monies to social services. Defunding at a minimum means reallocating resources from the department to other agencies and resources that can help tackle the underlying issues that lead to crime.

The police unions have held an unfair advantage in bargaining power in terms of controlling disciplinary proceedings and termination actions. Politicians need to show courage in these negotiations and not simply rubber stamp or romanticize the police through this cozy relationship with the unions. This must end, and officers must be held accountable and to higher standards and not allow them to get away with violence because they are perceived to be above the law.

I’ve had several cases where we uncover a bad officer who was terminated from one department only to find refuge and employment in another department or agency. That officer who used excessive force moves to another department that allows him to continue to use excessive force and commit constitutional violations. However, we cannot simply just implement new policies or divert funding.

We must take an in-depth look at the laws controlling standards in policing. Changing the standard of reasonable force can help persons of color and minorities become less targeted.

Biases and stereotypes of persons of color being inherently dangerous allow officers to get away with murder under the current standards. But most importantly the court created qualified immunity precedent must be abolished by either Congress or the Supreme Court. Qualified immunity denies citizens their day in court far too often.

Any of these changes will improve relations between police and persons of color. Additionally, hiring more minority officers and female officers will help curtail excessive force.

Right now I believe that it is extremely difficult to recruit talented minority officers and female officers because of the underlying culture within departments. I’m optimistic that we are heading into a new day where we are going to successfully re-imagine our policing model.”

martin weinberg owner of Martin Weinberg Attorney at LawMartin Weinberg is the owner of Martin Weinberg Attorney at Law.
He is a police misconduct attorney and advocates for criminal justice reform.


Frequently Asked Questions: City Police Departments & Budgets

We’re at the tail end of the article. In this section, we cover the frequently asked questions as shown in the top of Google’s search results. They are the top questions related to the largest city police departments throughout America and we have our expert answers here.

#1 – How much does the Chicago police department cost?

According to the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, in 2017 the Chicago Police Department spent $1.5 billion, putting it in the category of largest city police budgets. Its total spending is $1.3 billion more than the average city for that year. Total, this amounted to 6.37 percent of Chicago’s city revenue for that year, a percentage that is actually lower than the average city.

#2 – How much does the United States spend on policing?

Overall, in 2017 the 150 police departments analyzed in this study spent around $32.4 billion. The three largest police departments — New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago — accounted for 31.5 percent of that total. The lowest total was from Rutland, Vermont, where the police department spent $6.4 million or 6.6 percent of the total city revenue. 

#3 – Where do police budgets come from?

In cities throughout America, police budgets come out of taxes, which provide the city with revenue. Out of that revenue and with the help of city employees, a city council votes to allocate city revenue to different city functions. Police departments are one of those functions. Police departments historically have made up between 3 percent and 6 percent of that budget. In recent years, it has risen, as we’ve seen in this article.

#4 – How many police precincts are in Los Angeles?

In Los Angeles, police stations or divisions are grouped into four command centers. The four command centers are known as a “borough.” Each bureau has a leadership team that reports to the higher-ups in central command. The LAPD also has a board of commissioners that is designed to provide additional oversight on police issues.

#5 – What is the largest sheriff’s department in the United States?

Los Angeles County, home to the second-largest city in the country, has the largest sheriff’s department. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department employs approximately 18,000 people. Among other things, the L.A. Sheriff’s Department works as security for the Superior Court of Los Angeles County and oversees the housing and transportation of inmates of the county jail system.

#6 – Who is better: NYPD or LAPD?

There are various arguments about this, with some saying that the LAPD training is superior to that of the NYPD or that the NYPD is more concerned with rank and status compared to the LAPD. Although each has had its fair share of police brutality cases and scandal, the LAPD is known widely for high-profile issues like the Rampart Scandal and Rodney King, the former of which was made into a TV show called The Shield.

#7 – Why is NYPD famous?

The NYPD is famous, in part, solely because it provides police services to one of the largest and most dense cities in the world, which is also the largest city in America. It, in turn, has the most police officers of any police department in America. It has become large enough that it retains offices in different countries and has had agents flown out to different countries to conduct “special interrogations.” It is the king of the largest city police budget category.

#8 – Is LAPD good to work for?

The LAPD has good rankings overall on Indeed.com’s company review site. Some people state that it is a good organization to work for, with good pay and benefits and coworkers that are dedicated to the citizens they serve. Some people call the LAPD out for favoritism and some racist behavior. But overall, the ratings are very good.

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Ranking Methodology: Budgets, Spending, & Black Imprisonment

In this article, we looked at a few sources of information to generate the rankings and add context in the three back sections about defunding the police, police expectations, and the damaging effects and of police unions.

The primary source is a think tank in Boston, Massachusetts, called the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. On its website, it displays data on fiscally standardized cities and other organized-population categories dating back to 1977. We chose the 2017 data for six categories:

  • Total city revenue
  • Police protection expenditures
  • Education services
  • Social services and income maintenance
  • Housing and community development

Those five categories were analyzed, combining some and creating percentages with others. For the ratio of Blacks to whites in prison, we looked at two primary sources of data. The first, which tracks racial discrepancies in the prison system, is The Sentencing Project.

The Sentencing Project organizes and presents data from the U.S. Department of Justice. The other source, to get a clearer picture of crime within the states, comes from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

When it came to the overall ranking for cities with the greatest potential for reducing their police budget, we looked at three categories: the percentage of police spending out of total revenue, police spending per capita, and the percentage of community services spending out of total revenue.

Each of the 20 most populous cities was assigned a rank in those three categories. Then, we summed the ranks to create a combined ranking score for all 20 cities. That combined ranking was then ordered 1-20, with the highest combined score at the top.

The higher the combined score, the worse a city did. In other words, the cities with the most promise in reducing the police budget and diverting funds to community services were at the top. The list was in descending order. For contextualization, we looked at three sources: Forbes, Vice, and the Fraternal Order of Police.