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Mapping Police Officer Slayings by State

Newly sworn police officer Ashley Guindon, center, was killed responding to a 911 call on her first day working for the Prince William County (Va.) Police Department. She was 28. Image via Twitter.

Newly sworn in police officer Ashley Guindon, center, was killed responding to a 911 call on her first day working for the Prince William County (Va.) Police Department. She was 28. Image via Twitter.

A rookie Virginia police officer working her first official shift was shot and killed Saturday while responding to a domestic violence dispute, authorities say. The officer, Ashley Guindon, was killed a day after being sworn in to the Prince William County Police Department.

Guindon, 28, was the 22nd police officer killed in the United States this year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which has among the most comprehensive and timely national statistics on the Web. It was the first such incident this year in Virginia.

Since 1791, according to the site, more than 22,000 police personnel — federal, state, local and tribal (and K-9) — have been killed in the line of duty. The country’s most populous states — California, Texas and New York — lead the nation in police killings. That’s no surprise given the size of their populations.

The map below, however, attempts to normalize the state totals by adjusting for the total number of police officers in each state as of 2011 — the latest data available from the FBI. (Police forces by state vary in size based on a number of factors, including density. The District of Columbia, for example, is among the least-populous “states” listed in the data, but it has the highest rate of officers per capita in the country. That’s because it experiences a huge influx of daily commuters from Virginia and Maryland each day — and because of the tourism and security that comes with being the nation’s capital).

By that crude measure, Kentucky has proportionally had the highest number of killings, with roughly 85 per 1,000 officers, followed by West Virginia (47) and Montana (42). Florida (11), Arizona (12) and New Hampshire (13) — states, incidentally, with older populations — have the lowest rates, respectively. Again, this rate isn’t perfect, but it’s better than viewing the raw totals (which looks like a population map).

Police killings per 1,000 officers: 1791-2016. Data source: Officer Down Memorial Page. Map by Matt Stiles/The Daily Viz.

Police deaths per 1,000 officers: 1791-2016. Data sources: Officer Down Memorial Page, FBI. Map by Matt Stiles/The Daily Viz.

How Many Cops Does Your Local Government Have Per Resident?

Does Washington, D.C., have more cops than other cities? That’s the question I asked myself the other day after watching a patrol car drive down our quiet, residential street. I see patrol cars everywhere — much more often than I did previous cities like Houston and Austin.

There’s a reason: Among the top 50 most-populous local governments, D.C. simply has more police officers per resident, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which surveyed large police forces a few years ago. The city has about 670 cops per 100,000 residents, well ahead of Chicago, which was second with about 472 per 100,000. Houston had about 220, and Dallas had about 260.

Of course, D.C. is the capitol and diplomatic center of the country, and it’s densely populated with pockets of high crime and poverty. So a large officer to resident rate is understandable. But it’s a bit surprising how much D.C.’s ratio eclipses that of other major cities.

This chart shows the cities among the top 50 that have the highest per-resident officer ratio:

Here are the data for all 50 cities plotted on a map made with TileMill. Larger symbols represent higher numbers of officers per 100,000 residents:

See larger, interactive version

Data source: U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics