5,500 Cops Arrested-54 Percent Lose Their Jobs



Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Graduate-Johns Hopkins University.


Police officers are seen by some as a protected class of people who are not arrested when warranted, and when arrested, there are few consequences. The data below indicates that this belief is inaccurate.

The research documents 6,724 arrest cases from 2005-2011 involving 5,545 sworn law enforcement officers. Slightly more than one-half of the cases (54%) ultimately resulted in job loss for arrested officers.

Almost 60% of all of the cases identified in the study occurred when the officer was technically off-duty.

Most of the verbiage below comes directly from the Department of Justice funded study.

Policy Implications

This Department of Justice funded study provides a wealth of data on a phenomena that relates directly to police integrity – data that previously did not exist in any useable format. Goals of this study included:

  1. Determining the nature and extent of police crime in the United States.
  2. Determining what factors influence how an agency responds to arrests of its officers.
  3. Fostering police integrity by exploring whether officer arrests correlate with other forms of police misconduct.

The findings of this study have several direct implications for policy and practice in state and local law enforcement agencies.

  1. Employing law enforcement agencies should have written policies to compel mandatory disclosure whenever a sworn officer is arrested for a crime, as well as whenever a court issues an order of protection against a sworn officer.
  2. It is imperative that employing law enforcement agencies implement a policy of conducting annual criminal background checks of all current sworn personnel to ascertain if any sworn officer has been arrested or convicted of any crime.
  3. Agencies should have written policies in place regarding standard agency responses to when a sworn law enforcement officer employed by that agency is arrested as well as when the agency effectuates the criminal arrest of a sworn law enforcement officer employed by some other law enforcement agency.
  4. Finally, early intervention and warning systems should be utilized to track instances of officers being arrested and officers should be referred to employee assistance programs when appropriate.


Findings from the study provide three general observations about the nature of police crime overall.

First, police crimes are not uncommon. The study identified 6,724 arrest cases from 2005-2011 involving 5,545 sworn law enforcement officers.

The arrested sworn law enforcement officers were employed by 2,529 state and local law enforcement agencies located in 1,205 counties and independent cities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Sworn law enforcement officers were arrested at a rate of 0.72 per 1,000 officers and 1.7 per 100,000 of the population nationwide.

Second, police crime is an occupationally-derived phenomenon. Police work is conducive to all sorts of criminal behavior, largely because of plentiful opportunities provided by the nature of the work and police-citizen interactions.

Third, police crime is complex and multivariate. Police crime can be alcohol-related, drug-related, sex-related, violence-related, or profit-motivated. These five types of police crime are not mutually exclusive, and there are numerous significant predictors of (a) each type of police crime, (b) adverse employment outcomes, and (c) criminal case dispositions.

Distinctions between on- and off-duty police crime are often difficult to make.

Aside from these general observations, the findings can be summarized in terms of both the full data set and the five types of police crime. The most common serious offense charged in the cases overall were simple assault (13%), driving under the influence (12.5%), aggravated assault (8.5%), forcible fondling (5.2%), and forcible rape (4.8%).

Slightly more than one-half of the cases (54%) ultimately resulted in job loss for arrested officers.

The factors that influence whether an arrested officer will be criminally convicted or lose his or her job are numerous and complex, and include both legal factors (e.g., most serious offense charged) and extralegal factors (e.g., age, years of service as a sworn law enforcement officer, relationship of victim to the arrested officer).

In terms of case outcomes, the events of job loss and criminal conviction are not isolated. Job loss provides a context for the incidence of criminal conviction and vice versa.

The number of cases and officers arrested in terms of the five types of police crime were as follows:

Sex-related police crime included 1,475 arrest cases of 1,070 sworn officers

Alcohol-related police crime included 1,405 arrest cases of 1,283 sworn officers

Drug-related police crime included 739 arrest cases of 665 sworn officers

Violence-related police crime included 3,328 arrest cases of 2,586 sworn officers

Profit-motivated police crime included 1,592 cases of 1,396 sworn officers  

Source:  Police Integrity Lost: A Study of Law Enforcement Officers Arrested (pdf, 671 pages)

Crime in America at http://crimeinamerica.net

Contact us at crimeinamerica@gmail.com. Media on deadline, use leonardsipes@gmail.com.

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