South Africa’s police force vs the world

According to National Police Commissioner, General Riah Phiyega, the South African citizen/police ratio is currently at one police officer for every 347 citizens, or around 288 police officers per 100,000 people.

This puts the country in the lower-middle end of policing when compared to countries across the world – alarming, when considering that the country has one of the highest crime rates in the entire world – though it is within the recommended range of the UN.

According to data from the UN, the global average for police per 100,000 people is around 340 officers. The international body recommends a minimum police strength of 220 per 100,000 people.

According the SAPS’ latest annual report (to March 2014), the police service had a total workforce of 194,852 people.

This is made up of 36,304 employees in administration; 103,746 police officers engaged in visible policing; 39,748 detectives; 8,723 crime intelligence officers; and 6,331 protection and security officers.

In the year, the SAPS paid out R51.3 million in salaries to police men and women, averaging R263,200 per officer.

Policing around the world

The most populous countries in the world have the biggest police forces – with China and India each pushing forces over 1 million officers strong.

The table below details the world’s largest police forces based on available UN data from 2013.

Note that China is not included in the UN data, but estimates put the country’s People’s Armed Force at anywhere between 660,000 (government reported) and 1.5 million members.

While South Africa is not included in the UN data either, available information from the SAPS for 2013 shows that the country had the 11th biggest police force.

Biggest police forces around the world (2013)

# Country Police force Per 100,000 population
1 India 1 731 537 138
China 1 500 000 (est) 120 (est)
2 Russia 745 607 522
3 USA 626 942 196
4 Brazil 536 018 268
5 Mexico 454 126 371
6 Nigeria 360 000 207
7 Italy 276 515 453
8 Japan 257 100 202
9 Spain 246 507 525
10 Germany 245 072 296
11 South Africa 194 852 368
12 Algeria 192 679 491
13 Philippines 149 263 152
14 UK (England & Wales) 127 909 225
15 France 110 866 172

But when looking at police forces spread per 100,000 people, it is the smaller countries, with much smaller populations that have the widest coverage.

Notably, the Vatican City is well known for having a population largely made up of its security force.

Of the 450-odd population, 130 people serve as a police force, meaning there is one police officer for every three citizens.

According to the latest available data from the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Macau, a special administrative region of China, has the highest per capita police force, with 1,087 officers per 100,000 population.

The region has a police force of 6,157 among a population of 566,725.

This is followed by the Maldives, where there are 908 police per 100,000 people, and Uruguay, with 673 police per 100,000 people.

Police per capita around the world (2013)

# Country Police force Per 100,000 population
1 Macau (China) 6 157 1 087
2 Maldives 3 133 908
3 Uruguay 22 943 673
4 Montenegro 4 146 667
5 Lebanon 27 594 572
6 Bhutan 4 193 556
7 Spain 246 507 525
8 Russia 745 607 522
9 Barbados 1 403 493
10 Algeria 192 679 491
11 Croatia 20 747 483
12 Greece 53 441 480
13 Italy 276 515 453
14 Malta 1 942 452
15 Hong Kong (China) 32 128 446

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South Africa’s police force vs the world