A snapshot of Missouri's elite State Highway Patrol

Wednesday, January 25, 2012
This is one of the Missouri State Highway Patrol's first Ford Roadsters used on state patrol work. The uniform is that worn by the patrol at its beginning in 1931.

You see them almost every day. They are always dressed in blue. Their hats make them stand out as troopers of the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP). From the day they are sworn to uphold the laws of the state of Missouri, they are taught that they must live by a special creed of values: integrity, responsibility, respect, professionalism, compassion, character, and com- mitment.

MSHP came into being in 1931, when Governor Henry C. Caulfield signed Senate Bill 36.

At its meager beginning, 115 officers, 10 captains, and one superintendent were authorized. The superintendent is appointed by the governor and serves at the "pleasure of the governor." Since that time, 21 superintendents have commanded the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Its present superintendent is Colonel Ronald K. Reploge.

In 1931, due to budget constraints, only 55 men actually attended the first training academy. Administrative offices of the MSHP were located initially in the chief clerk's office of the House of Representatives. The new troopers were provided with Ford Roadsters, each costing $430. The superintendent wanted the troopers to keep the tops down, so the people could see the patrol cars were driven by troopers. They had no radios, and at first, the patrol roadsters had no red lights. By the completion of the MSHP's first year of operation, the troopers had recovered 381 stolen cars, arrested 14 bank robbers, arrested several murderers, and made 3,800 arrests for various offenses of state statutes.

The 1930s was the beginning era for the expansion of roads and automobiles across Missouri. A system of traffic laws and regulation of car licenses had to be established. Driver's licenses cost 25 cents. Applications for a driver license could be obtained at commercial stores that agreed to process the applications and forward them to the state. A state crime laboratory was established in 1936 to provide for analysis of evidence related to specific crime incidents.

MSHP General Headquarters and its Law Enforcement Training Academy are located in the eastern part on one of Jefferson City's hills. In this age of electronics, a vast communication network exists between MSHP General Headquarters and its nine troop headquarters located geographically across the state.

Hundreds of lines connect county sheriffs and larger city police departments with instant access to the Statewide Missouri Law Enforcement System (MULES) and the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC). With this vast system storing information on wanted criminals and stolen vehicles, a trooper using his "in-car computer," can tell in seconds if the car is stolen or whether the occupants are wanted on felony warrants anywhere in the country.

There are a number of other technologies that the MSHP has implemented to enhance the effectiveness of law enforcement in Missouri. One is called the Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). Fingerprints are transmitted electronically from troops, city police, and county sheriffs to the MSHP's Criminal Justice Information Services Division in Jefferson City. That print, if identification is not made, is transmitted to FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Turnaround time often happens within one hour from the time the fingerprint was initially taken.

The MSHP also has responsibility for enforcing gaming (gambling) statutes at 12 river boat casinos. There were 3,020 arrests of gaming law violations in 2010. Recently, the Water Patrol was placed under the jurisdiction of the Highway Patrol. The Missouri State Highway Patrol is responsible for the collection of criminal intelligence, maintaining records on crashes (vehicle accidents).

Vehicle crash records on file show that 151,349 crashes occurred in 2010, or one crash every 9.4 seconds. Over 63,100 commercial vehicle inspections were made in 2010. Driver license examinations and school bus inspections also are the responsibility of the MSHP.

In 2010, 12,250 school buses were inspected and 10,326 were approved. The MSHP is responsible for operating 22 fixed weigh stations and maintains 26 portable weigh stations for use controlling allowable weight of trucks on Missouri highways. Over 63,000 commercial vehicle violations were identified with defective equipment in 2010, resulting in 35,804 citations.

The highway patrol has instituted a number of educational programs that it hopes will result in greater public knowledge with improved safety and compliance of state laws. The "Click it or Ticket" and "Victims of Impaired Drivers" or VOID program are several of many educational programs that the MSHP operates.

While speed citations contribute to the greatest single category of arrests (117,658 in 2010), troopers made 186,000 arrests in 11 other categories of offenses. These cases are tried in the jurisdiction of the State Circuit Court in which the offense occurred.

The Information and Communications Technology Division is responsible for keeping the radios installed in patrol cars and the radios installed in troop headquarters in full operational status. Converting patrol radios to VHF (Very High Frequency) was completed finally. Cyber (virus) attacks and SPAM e-mail attempts made into the patrol computers are being identified and are rejected.

Today, the MSHP is charged with patrolling 32,244 miles of interstate, and state highways and roads. MSHP jurisdiction includes the 69,704 square miles of the State of Missouri.

Missouri citizens should know that throughout the 24-hour day, 7-day week that between 230 and 250 troopers are always on duty on state roads throughout Missouri. Troopers are trained extensively in procedures, aiding them in watching for potentially dangerous situations as they perform patrol duties, while driving alone. Additional troopers are available for backup in emergency situations, but it may take as much as 30 minutes before other troopers can arrive at the scene.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol provides assistance to county sheriffs and small city police departments that lack the expertise in investigating felony crimes.

In the halls of the Missouri State Highway Patrol General Headquarters in Jefferson City, hang the pictures of 30 MSHP troopers killed while on duty since the patrol was organized in 1931. It is a reminder that troopers of the Missouri State Highway Patrol constantly face dangerous, confrontational situations with the criminal element. To those troopers who paid the supreme sacrifice, and to those troopers we see on the roads daily, Missourians owe a debt of gratitude.

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