The word “police” has roots in the Ancient Greek word “polis” which means “city.” Citizens have been chosen to police their neighbors for centuries; Ancient China relied on prefects to keep the peace whilst Ancient Greece utilized slaves for various duties associated with modern police forces. The Romans had a corps of Vigiles Urbani, or city watchmen, who would carry out both policing and fire-fighting duties due to the size of the sprawling ancient city. Britain’s Metropolitan Police Service (London) often claims to be the oldest modern police force still in operation, dating back to 1829 although there are older departments, such as the Saint Petersburg Police (Russia) which was formed in 1718.
The list that follows has been collated purely by the total size of the police force in each country (which makes the No. 1 and No. 2 spots pretty unsurprising). However, when the police force is calculated as the amount of police per 100,000 people, it’s actually the tiny state of the Vatican City that comes out on top, with an incredible ratio of 15,625 police per 100,000 people – although the actual force numbers just 130 officers, which is the same size as the New York City Department of Sanitation Police! The NYPD as a whole employs 34,500 uniformed officers.
The top two spots on this list have police forces that number over 1.5 million, but per 100,000 people neither of them has a ratio greater than 130 officers. Other occupants of this top 10 list offer their citizens more security with over 500 officers per 100,000 people. But is it really greater security – or simply a step closer to being a police state? The UN suggests a minimum police officer ratio of at least 222 per 100,000 people, so it’s perhaps best to avoid countries like Mali (48 per 100,000) or Niger (58 per 100,000) if you find the presence of a police uniform comforting.
10. Pakistan: 354,221 police officers
Pakistan offers a ratio of 207 police offers per 100,000 people, putting it close to the UN’s recommended minimum of 222. However, the Asian state is often considered volatile and lacking security, mostly due to its huge 1,640 mile border with Afghanistan, which is believed to be one of the most dangerous places in the world. The famous Wagah border ceremony between India and Pakistan is carried out by the police element called the Pakistan Rangers on the western side.
9. Nigeria: 371,800 police officers
The only African nation in this top 10 list, Nigeria’s 371,800 police officers provide the citizens with a policing ratio of 205 officers per 100,000 (in contrast, South Africa has 317 officers per 100,000 and Zimbabwe has 401). Nigeria is a huge country, with a population of over 174 million people (the seventh largest country by population) but is also very poor, with a per capita nominal GDP of just $1,831 (a lowly 138th in the world). The country has issues with drug trafficking, piracy and the infamous 419 scams that fill our email spam folders.
8. Turkey: 412,624 police officers
Turkey, which is a candidate state for joining the European Union, is a heavily-policed nation. Not only does it have a force numbering over 400,000, but it also has a high ratio of officers to population, with 538 officers per 100,000. That is the second largest ratio for countries in this list. Turkey relies heavily on tourism, and it has had issues with terrorist attacks, so the need for an abundant uniformed presence is necessary.
7. Brazil: 478,001 police officers
With 282 police offers per 100,000 Brazilians, the Brazilian government is clearly making an effort to deal with the crime issues that the country is renowned for. The drug trade is rife and Brazil suffers from a very high homicide rate, with a frightening total of 42,785 people murdered in 2011 alone. Police in Brazil are notorious for their no-nonsense approach toward violent crime, so while they obviously help minimise crime they concurrently actually contribute to the amount of people killed annually. In January this year, 12 men were gunned down by police officers in a spate of separate shootings.
6. Mexico: 544,000 police officers
The infamous problems inherent to the country of Mexico have led to the nation possessing a massive police force. With a ratio of around 460 officers per 100,000 people clearly the people in power are trying to fight fire with fire. However, issues with corruption and low salaries make the profession of a police officer unattractive, especially when you figure in the fact that over 4,000 federal, state and municipal police officers have been killed in the Mexican Drug War since 2006.
5. Indonesia: 579,000 police officers
Estimates for the actual size of Indonesia’s police force do vary considerably, but this is hardly surprising when you consider the logistical nightmare of trying to perform an accurate census of over 237 million people spread over 17,500 islands (although only 922 are permanently inhabited). Policing the nation, with 243 officers per 100,000, is a mammoth task and also explains why the Indonesian National Police has 12,000 marine police in its ranks.
4. Russia: 782,001 police officers
Russia is a huge country – its police force has 6.59 million square miles to patrol. This is one reason why the country needs such a huge amount of police officers. However, the ratio of police officers to population is very high, with 546 officers watching out for every 100,000 people. Of course, the USSR was a police state and even though this nation has now dissolved, Russia has inherited many of the darker aspects of its previous incarnation. However, regardless of whether Russia can still be defined as still a police state or not, its law enforcement personnel have plenty to do in dealing with arms and human traffickers, widespread corruption, murder and the incredibly powerful criminal element that is the Russian Mafia (with an estimated membership of three million in Russia alone).
3. USA: 794,300 police officers
The USA has a ratio of 254 police officers per 100,000 people, close to the UN’s recommended minimum. The country has a large police population but still aims to project the image of a democratic nation that doesn’t have to rely on a heavy uniformed police presence to keep its citizens in check. Policing in the States dates back to 1837, with the formation of the Chicago Police Department. Sworn personnel with arrest powers have to deal with high rates of violent crime and property crime, with the US also having the highest incarceration rate in the world.
2. India: 1,585,353 police officers
A giant police force numbering over 1.5 million is in place in India to deal with an even more gigantic population of 1.2 billion. But the low rate of 120 officers per 100,000 people means that police officers are overworked, towns are under-policed and many crimes go unreported. Crimes against women in India are disproportionately high and police forces have come under criticism for the common use of torture during suspect interrogations. Statistics have been collected to show that VIPs in India enjoy greater security than the av average citizen: The average Indian official enjoys the company of three police officers whereas 761 civilians have to rely on just one officer for their law enforcement needs. The gulf between the rich and poor in India is apparently not just limited to personal wealth.
1. China: 1,600,000 police officers
China has an estimated police population of 1.6 million, with the People’s Armed Police (PAP) numbering between 1.1 and 1.5 million alone (not including the Judicial Police or State Security Police). Chinese police officers have to deal with 1.3 billion people, so there is a low ratio of just 120 law enforcement personnel per 100,000 Chinese citizens. Corruption is an endemic problem; it has been documented that police stations have even been used as gambling houses with officers augmenting their salaries through bribes and protection services. Even a former head of the police services, Zhou Yongkang, has recently been arrested and faces charges of corruption.