Digging into Metro’s metrics

When government trots out statistics to justify a tax hike, it pays to do a little due diligence.  Here, for example, is a Las Vegas Sun editorial that includes:

As it is, Metro has fewer cops per capita than many police agencies in the United States. Aguero’s report says the average major police department has 2.42 officers per 1,000 residents. The Los Angeles Police Department has 2.62; Metro has 1.72.

It’s interesting that an expert had to be hired to create a report. No doubt the source for the report is this web report at governing.com which documents the 100 biggest cities’ law enforcement efforts. Generally, this data indicates Metro enjoys amongst the highest staffing levels in the nation, measured on number of employees per thousand citizens.

However, the data reveals that of the police departments selected by Metro to compare itself against, Metro has the lowest percentage of employees who are police officers at 52%. The next lowest percentage is New York City at 70%. So something is different in the way Metro categorizes its employees and officers compared to all other cities.

Amongst the selected cities, Metro ranks 7th of 11 in the ratio of officers per thousand, but ranks 2nd highest of 11 in the ratio of employees per thousand.

Here are the cities selected to compare against Las Vegas in Metro’s commissioned study:

City Population Law Enforcement Employees Officers Percentage Officers
New York, NY 8,336,002 50,068 34,817 69.539%
Los Angeles, CA 3,841,707 12,754 9,858 77.293%
Houston, TX 2,280,859 7,054 5,351 75.858%
Honolulu, HI 950,268 2,554 2,066 80.893%
Austin, TX 796,310 2,141 1,605 74.965%
Albuquerque, NM 545,389 1,441 1,055 73.213%
Las Vegas Metro 1,416,401 5,130 2,696 52.554%
Tuscon, AZ 527,107 1,295 974 75.212%
Oakland, CA 409,723 935 674 72.086%
San Diego, CA 1,313,433 2,516 1,863 74.046%
San Jose, CA 970,252 1,624 1,259 77.525%

And here are the rankings for employees and officers per thousand…

City Empl/ Thou Rank Offrs/ Thou Rank
New York, NY             6.0                 1             4.2 1
Los Angeles, CA             3.3                 3             2.6 2
Houston, TX             3.1                 4             2.3 3
Honolulu, HI             2.7                 6             2.2 4
Austin, TX             2.7                 5             2.0 5
Albuquerque, NM             2.6                 7             1.9 6
Las Vegas Metro             3.6                 2             1.9 7
Tuscon, AZ             2.5                 8             1.8 8
Oakland, CA             2.3                 9             1.6 9
San Diego, CA             1.9               10             1.4 10
San Jose, CA             1.7               11             1.3 11

Sometimes, statisticians can create an impression by carefully selecting a set of comparison cities, making the target city look better or worse than it actually is. So as a double check, it’s helpful to compare Metro to law enforcement agencies serving about the same size population. So here is a sampling of departments serving between 750K and 1.5-million people.

Again, Metro is a notable outlier on the percentage of employees who are police officers, and ranks third highest of fifteen in employees per thousand residents, and twelfth of fifteen in number of officers per thousand residents.

City Population Law Enforcement Employees Officers Percentage Officers
Philadelphia, PA 1,558,378 7,532 6,734 89.405%
Detroit, MI 899,447 3,210 2,890 90.031%
Dallas, TX 1,306,775 4,241 3,666 86.442%
San Francisco, CA 818,594 2,629 2,250 85.584%
Honolulu, HI 950,268 2,554 2,066 80.893%
Jacksonville, FL 822,414 3,310 1,751 52.900%
Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC 797,733 2,187 1,696 77.549%
Phoenix, AZ 1,544,427 4,198 3,146 74.940%
Fort Worth, TX 746,433 1,918 1,505 78.467%
Austin, TX 796,310 2,141 1,605 74.965%
Indianapolis, IN 825,072 1,913 1,648 86.147%
Las Vegas Metro 1,416,401 5,130 2,696 52.554%
San Antonio, TX 1,392,198 2,949 2,303 78.094%
San Diego, CA 1,313,433 2,516 1,863 74.046%
San Jose, CA 970,252 1,624 1,259 77.525%

And here are the rankings for employees and officers per thousand…

City Empl/ Thou Rank Offrs/ Thou Rank
Philadelphia, PA      4.8332                 1      4.3212 1
Detroit, MI      3.5689                 4      3.2131 2
Dallas, TX      3.2454                 5      2.8054 3
San Francisco, CA      3.2116                 6      2.7486 4
Honolulu, HI      2.6877               10      2.1741 5
Jacksonville, FL      4.0247                 2      2.1291 6
Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC      2.7415                 7      2.1260 7
Phoenix, AZ      2.7182                 8      2.0370 8
Fort Worth, TX      2.5696               11      2.0163 9
Austin, TX      2.6887                 9      2.0155 10
Indianapolis, IN      2.3186               12      1.9974 11
Las Vegas Metro      3.6219                 3      1.9034 12
San Antonio, TX      2.1182               13      1.6542 13
San Diego, CA      1.9156               14      1.4184 14
San Jose, CA      1.6738               15      1.2976 15

What is responsible for the marked difference in employment patterns for Metro and 90% of the other cities around the country? Metro ranks amongst the highest staffed departments on employees per thousand citizens but about the nation’s largest percentage of them are doing something besides being a police officer.

Of course, conspicuously absent from this discussion is how Metro compares with other police agencies around Clark County. Here it is:

City Population Law Enforcement Employees Officers Percentage Officers
Las Vegas Metro 1,416,401 5,130 2,696 52.554%
Henderson, NV 264,280 550 346 62.909%
North Las Vegas, NV 238,004 468 308 65.812%

And here are the rankings for employees and officers per thousand…

City Empl/ Thou Rank Offrs/ Thou Rank
Las Vegas Metro             3.6                 1             1.9 1
Henderson, NV             2.1                 2             1.3 2
North Las Vegas, NV             2.0                 3      1.3 3

More cops are on the way. All this community discussion has resulted in a bunch of money being “found.” Two academies are underway and expected to add more than 100 new police officers to Metro before the year is out.

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