We dove deep into the numbers and determined the best U.S. cities for police and sheriff’s patrol officers to work in.
Police and sheriff’s patrol officers are needed in every city to prevent crime, enforce laws, and protect communities. Some cities, however, require a stronger police presence due to large numbers of drugs, weapons, or crime. To add to the stress, law enforcement officers must balance the demands of their job with their lives outside of work. Annual salary and the nearby cost of living are factors that are just as important for police officers to consider as their job satisfaction. Where, then, are the best cities for police officers to work in?
Here at AdvisorSmith, we conducted a study on 374 U.S. cities to determine the best places for police and sheriff’s patrol officers to pursue their careers in. The rankings were determined by several key factors, including average annual salary, cost of living, and availability of work. Cities were also categorized into small, midsize, or large based on their metropolitan statistical area population. After careful analysis, we determined the top 50 most attractive cities for police and sheriff’s patrol officers.
Top Cities for Police Officers by City Size
The majority of the top cities in our study—40 out of 50—turned out to be a small or midsize city. The small town atmosphere may not appeal to everyone, though, so we categorized cities into different sizes, based on their metropolitan statistical area populations, to provide equal representation for a variety of lifestyles.
Below are the ten best small (population less than 150,000), midsize (population between 150,000 and 500,000), and large (population greater than 500,000) cities for police officers.
Best Cities for Police Officers
1. Laredo, TX
Laredo, Texas, is the best city, and the top mid-sized city, for police officers to work in the United States. Located in southern Texas along the Mexico border, the border city of Laredo is comprised of a majority Latino and Hispanic population and has a crime rate 6% higher than the national average. While the Laredo metropolitan area is generally perceived to be safe, the area does have a high poverty rate of 31.5% and is considered to be one of the most economically segregated metro areas in the nation. Given its place as a border city, much of Laredo’s law enforcement is involved with border crimes, including drug trafficking, smuggling, and corruption. Law enforcement workers in Laredo are paid the most among all occupations in the metro area, and with a cost of living well below the national average, there are ample opportunities for police officers.
The average annual salary for police officers in Laredo is $72,820, which is 11% higher than the average annual salary for police officers in the United States. Laredo boasts 66% more jobs for police officers than the average U.S. city and has a cost of living 15% below the national average.
2. Vallejo, CA
Vallejo, California, is the second-best city for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in the country. Located 30 miles north of San Francisco in Northern California, Vallejo has a crime rate that is 72% higher than the national average, spurring high demand for law enforcement professionals. While historically, Vallejo has been known for its poor crime statistics, in recent years, the area has experienced a real estate boom as the hot San Francisco Bay Area housing market has pushed many buyers to more affordable areas. Given its proximity to San Francisco, many young professionals have found Vallejo to be an ideal place to purchase property while still maintaining a manageable commute.
Vallejo pays police officers one of the highest annual salaries among all cities in our study at $110,560, which is 69% higher than the national average. This lucrative salary is somewhat offset by Vallejo’s higher cost of living which, at 39% higher than the average U.S. city, is on the higher end of our study. Vallejo has 69% more jobs for police officers than the average U.S. city.
3. Redding, CA
Redding, California, is the third-best city for police officers to work in the United States. Located in Northern California about 120 miles below the Oregon border, Redding has an overall crime rate that is 71% higher than the national average, which is partly due to the opioid drug epidemic. In recent years, though, Redding has experienced strong economic growth, with historically low unemployment rates and job growth averaging about 2% in the last few years, buoyed by the city’s strong startup community and tourism industry.
The average annual salary for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in Redding is $99,090, 52% higher than the national average, while the cost of living is only 6% higher than the national average. Additionally, Redding offers 14% more jobs for police officers on a per-capita basis compared with the average U.S. city.
4. Danville, IL
Danville, Illinois, is the fourth-best city overall and the top small-sized city for police officers to work in the United States. Located in central-eastern Illinois, the city has a reputation for being a high-crime area, with an overall crime rate 157% higher than the national average. Understandably, law enforcement professionals are the highest-paid profession in the metro area. Danville’s crime rate can be tied to its local economy, which historically relied heavily on coal mining. After the collapse of the local coal industry in the latter half of the 20th century, Danville converted many of the open pit mines into lakes, spurring a bevy of outdoor recreation facilities and parks. In recent years, Danville has also diversified its local economy with manufacturing and retail, and the city has outlayed a number of incentives to spur local business development.
The average annual salary for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in Danville is $51,470, which is 21% lower than the national average. The cost of living, however, is 21% lower than the average U.S. city, offsetting the lower annual salary. Danville boasts 100% more jobs than the average U.S. city, making it the city with the third-most jobs per capita for police officers in our study.
5. Merced, CA
Merced, California, is the fifth-best city for police officers to work in the United States. Located in the San Joaquin Valley about 130 miles east of San Francisco, Merced has a crime rate that is 24% higher than the national average. Merced has undergone a number of changes in the last few decades, the most significant of which is the opening in 2005 of the newest University of California campus, UC Merced. Home to almost 9,000 students, UC Merced has driven much of the growth in the city, with research centers, retail, and housing all developing in support of the burgeoning student and graduate population.
The average annual salary for police officers in Merced is $91,600, an astounding 40% higher than the national average. Coupled with a cost of living that is only 3% higher than the national average, police and sheriff’s patrol officers can live comfortably in the Merced area.
Top 50 Cities for Police Officers
Below are the top 50 cities for police and sheriff’s patrol officers. In addition to rank, we include for each city its size, average annual salary, total number of available jobs, location quotient, and cost of living.
|Rank||City||City Size||Average Annual Salary||Total Jobs||Location Quotient||Cost of Living|
|9||Atlantic City, NJ||Midsize||$78,820||800||1.39||104|
|16||San Angelo, TX||Small||$57,330||340||1.62||85|
|22||El Paso, TX||Large||$61,440||1,700||1.22||83|
|24||Yuba City, CA||Midsize||$83,440||250||1.24||114|
|26||The Villages, FL||Small||$44,610||290||2.33||108|
|29||Sierra Vista, AZ||Small||$54,600||250||1.66||91|
|30||South Bend, IN||Midsize||$57,240||810||1.34||84|
|38||Battle Creek, MI||Small||$57,380||310||1.25||83|
|47||El Centro, CA||Midsize||$77,580||240||0.91||100|
|50||Bay City, MI||Small||$57,900||170||1.13||82|
AdvisorSmith analyzed three key factors to determine the best cities for police and sheriff’s patrol officers:
1. Average annual salary for police officers
We gathered the average annual salary of police and sheriff’s patrol officers in each city and ranked cities higher if they paid police officers more. The annual average salary for police officers in the U.S. in 2018 was $65,400.
2. Cost of living index for each city
We adjusted the average annual salary of each city against a national cost of living index in order to standardize the annual salaries for comparison. Cities with a lower cost of living were ranked higher.
3. Density of jobs for police officers in each city
We utilized a location quotient to determine the density of jobs for police officers in each city. We calculated the location quotient by measuring the number of jobs for police officers against the total number of available jobs in each city. Cities with a higher location quotient were ranked higher.
There were 661,330 jobs for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in 2018, and employment for police officers is expected to grow by 5% from 2018 to 2028. This is similar to the average national job growth outlook for all occupations.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook
 Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics
 Sperling’s Best Places Cost of Living Index