A history on the road

Ever stop to think what policing must have been like some sixty years ago? Consider the highway patrol officer whose job functions essentially expanded and evolved right along with the very roadways and interstates he or she patrolled. From receiving your marching orders from the service station down the road to accessing just about everything via in-car computer, the job has changed but the goal remains the same: keep America's roads safe.

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  • 1930 The New Jersey Statewide Police Teletype system provides instant communications between agencies in New Jersey and other states.
  • 1941 President Roosevelt appoints a National Interregional Highway Committee to evaluate the need for a national expressway system. The January 1944 report supports a system of 33,900 miles, plus an additional 5,000 miles of auxiliary urban routes. “...to connect...principal metropolitan areas, cities, and industrial centers, to serve the National Defense, and to connect...routes of continental importance in the Dominion of Canada and the Republic of Mexico.” — Federal Highway Administration
  • 1943 Wisconsin State Patrol goes on the air, operating station WIZR on a frequency of 31.5 megahertz. It can now communicate with the patrol mobile units and most of the municipal and county short-wave stations.
  • 1949 Colorado State Patrol installs two-way radios into patrol cars. Prior to this, dispatchers would often phone local gas stations along an officer’s usual route and provide details of pending service calls. Attendants at the gas station would then post a red flag alongside the highway, alerting an officer of a call. The process worked surprisingly well.
  • 1952 Ohio State Patrol purchases intoximeters and trains officers in their use. The intoximeter consists of a glass mouthpiece, a balloon, and three glass tubes. One tube holds a sponge that changes color to indicate alcohol where sealed tubes preserve evidence.
  • 1954 Stationary radar is first used for traffic speed enforcement by Virginia State patrol.
  • 1959 Heightened Cold War tensions prompt Ohio State Highway Patrol to prepare Civil Defense Manuals for the evacuation of major target areas in the state.
  • 1962 A statewide private line teletype network in Missouri permits communications between the troop headquarters, general headquarters, and the Motor Vehicle Bureau by means of perforated tape.
  • 1963 Virginia State Patrol installs a driving course for new troopers. A figure eight and “T” course permit precision driving backward and forward between traffic cones within prescribed limits.
  • 1967 New York State Police become the first New York State Agency to maintain an on-line, real time computer system with the new Computer Oriented Police System, the forerunner of the New York Statewide Police Information System
  • 1968 Missouri troopers can query the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) in Washington, D.C. via their car radios.
  • 1970 Handheld radios are given to New York State police, providing troopers operating away from their patrol vehicles with much needed critical communications. High speed, video equipped terminals are introduced in 1974 and installed statewide in 1975.
  • 1975 New Jersey State’s traditional black and white troop cars enter the history books with boots, breeches and motorcycles. An all-white patrol car would emerge as the principle troop vehicle.
  • 1989 State Police in Virginia begin using VASCAR speed detection devices to augment radar.
  • 1991 The first video recording equipment was purchased and installed in Virginia patrol vehicles
  • 2000s Smith & Wesson rifles are issued to Iowa State troopers, and in-car computers are installed into each patrol vehicle.