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Copyright © 2021  Barry M. Baker  
There are over 18,000 police
departments in the United States, and
they come in three sizes – small;
medium, and large.  There are no firm
numbers of sworn personnel to classify
the size of a police department in
relationship to others.  For example, New
York City at 37,000 can’t be compared in
size to Baltimore with 3,000; however,
Baltimore is still a large police
department.  The PEW Research Center
classifies a large police department with
at least 2,600 police officers.

New York City has 77 police precincts;
Baltimore has 9 police districts –
precincts/districts are the same things.  
The precincts/districts are designed as
stand -alone police stations to serve a
particular geographic area.  Working in a
New York precinct will be similar to
working in a Baltimore district.  All police
departments are overwhelmingly similar
simply because they all have the same
mission.  If you’re looking for an
environment where you’ll be very busy
responding to and handling serious
incidents, a large police department
would be the logical choice.  It’s just a
matter of frequency since any police
officer anywhere can encounter anything.
I think most people choose police
departments based primarily on
convenience.  I know that most recruits
in my academy class were already
residing in the Baltimore metro area.  
Only a few of us arrived from any
distance away.  I don’t think that
circumstance has changed much,
especially since pay scales for police
officers have increased dramatically since
I became a police officer.

Aside from the obvious considerations of
salary; healthcare and retirement
benefits, you should become familiar with
the organizational structure of the police
department you’re considering.  This is
much more important than you might
think, because you don’t want to go
through all the trouble of getting hired to
just to do it all over again with another

You now have the Internet to do your
own investigation of how a police
department is organized.  Most police
departments with more than (50) sworn
personnel will have a website.  
Somewhere within that website will be an
annual report.  Among the sworn
personnel of the police department, you
want to determine the ratio of police
officer positions to supervisory
(sergeants) and management positions
(lieutenant and above).
Let’s take a look at a well-organized
police department of sixty (60) sworn
personnel from the rank of police officer
to Chief.  The
Gaithersburg, Maryland
Police Department has only five (5)
positions above the rank of sergeant –
the Chief of Police; three (3) lieutenants
commanding three (3) bureaus –
Administrative; Operations; and Special
Operations.  One (1) Emergency
Management Coordinator oversees a
range of departmental functions.

In any police department large or small,
the sergeant is a critically important
position.  The GPD obviously recognizes
the importance of the sergeant position.  
The GPD has nine (9) sergeants directly
supervising forty-six (46) police officers
and corporals.  There are nine (9)
corporal positions.  While corporals may
perform supervisory functions, corporals
normally perform the same duties as
police officers unless otherwise specified.

The GPD serves a community of over
69,000 residents.  In 2018, the GPD
responded to 37,710 calls for service;
issued 7,062 traffic citations; issued
7,379 traffic warnings; made 855 adult
criminal arrests, and took 34 juveniles
into custody.

The point here is that the GPD does not
suffer from a top heavy command
structure.  Compare the GPD to other
police departments of similar size where
nearly half of their sworn numbers are
designated as captains, lieutenants and
sergeants with maybe a couple of majors
thrown into the mix.  In such police
departments, management ranks in
particular are usually used to provide
chosen members with higher pay
grades.  In reality, this practice only
ensures a sloppy chain of command; a
reduction in the prestige of ranks and it
definitely reduces the authority of the

The GPD is a
well-paid police
department.  Instead of a top heavy
superfluous command staff, the GPD
spreads the wealth across four (4) pay
grades – POI; POII; POIII; Corporal – for
the men and women who do the work.
The bottom line is this.  You want to
choose a police department where you’ll
want to complete your police career.  
Look.  The police department is going to
investigate you, so there’s no reason
why you shouldn’t investigate the police
department to ensure that it meets with
your expectations.
"The bottom line is this.  You want to
choose a police department where
you’ll want to complete your police
career.  Look.  The police department
is going to investigate you, so there’s
no reason why you shouldn’t
investigate the police department to
ensure that it meets with your
expectations." ~ Barry M. Baker
Becoming a Police Officer
An Insider's Guide to a Career
in Law Enforcement
There are Five
Indispensable Truths
for a Successful Police
Search the WEB
Accurate crime reporting is
so important on so many
levels.  It all begins with
you and your preliminary
police report.
Page 1
Alabama to California
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Colorado to Idaho
Page 3
Illinois to Kentucky
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Louisiana to Massachusetts
Page 5
Michigan to New Jersey
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New Mexico to North Dakota
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Ohio to South Dakota
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Tennessee to Washington-DC
Progress, satisfaction and
what you learn during your
police career will
determine your level of
Choosing a