As early as 1906 when Virginia began registering
motor vehicles,The Secretary of Commonwealth was also responsible
for the regulatory sections of the new law dealing with traffic
movement. His staff was minimal and the burden was left to sheriffs,
constables and other law enforcement personnel. No adequate state-administered
staff existed to enforce the laws pertaining to motor vehicles
traveling the often unnavigable dirt roads of the State during
the first two decades of the twentieth century.
Limited enforcement continued during the early 1920's,
and by 1922,The General Assembly acknowledged the need for paid
professional personnel to enforce the Automobile Acts. Eight inspector
positions were created. These eight men comprised the Commonwealth’s
On March 24, 1923 the Division of Motor Vehicles
was created and became a separate department of state government.
The Secretary of Commonwealth transferred the enforcement powers
of its office, which it had possessed since 1906, to the newly
A motorcycle patrol force was formed within the
Division . The "mechanical mule," as it was irreverently named
by its courageous operators, became a part of the State Police
mobile patrol for the next 30 years. In 1928,The Division of Motor
Vehicles was authorized to hire 20 additional inspectors. Five
hundred applications were received and the Virginia Highway Patrol
grew to a total of 51. Motor vehicle operation was clearly not
on the agenda as it is stated that one new inspector was issued
a 1928 Ford which he could not drive because it had a "shifter"
and he had never driven an automobile with a shift. It was insisted
that he take the vehicle to his appointed station at West Point.
This was completed with a chauffeur and upon arrival, the inspector
was taught how to drive by the local chief of police.
In addition to highway patrol and the enforcement
of motor vehicle statutes, the inspectors began pursuing traffickers
of illegal whiskey. Hundreds of violators were apprehended during
prohibition days. Many pursuits ensued over paved roads, dirt
roads and paths through woods.
In 1932, Inspectors became empowered to enforce
criminal codes, as well as motor vehicle codes. In doing so, legislators
created a state enforcement group with the power of arrest anywhere
in Virginia. A mobile enforcement agency was now ready for duty
wherever civil strife or emergency conditions might exist that
would warrant police personnel to ensure peace and security. It
was at this time that inspectors began to be known as "troopers".
White motorcycles and white roadsters were issued to inspectors
and the citizens became acquainted with what was referred to as
"The Great White Fleet." Chevrolet agreed to sell the Division
new models for $250 each. Sirens were mounted on the right running
boards and both doors bore the Seal of Virginia. On the rear of
the car was identification of "Division of Motor Vehicles" and
the admonition "Drive Carefully - Save Lives."
100 black and white Ford V-8s were delivered to
the Division of Motor Vehicles in December of 1935. Equipment
was to include safety glass, leather upholstery, twin taillights,
two license plate brackets, horns and a siren. November 3, 1938,
an executive order officially adopted the title of "State Trooper."
The purpose of this was to identify specific members of the Division
of Motor Vehicles performing in the roles of inspector and motorcycle
deputy. The title of examiner remained in effect and identified
those members responsible for issuing operator’s and chauffeur’s
licenses. Troopers were issued a badge with a number that corresponded
with the license numbers of their vehicles. Virginia State Police
replaced "Commonwealth of Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles"
on these plates. Unmarked patrol cars commenced service in 1940,
and the following year, Twenty-five new white cars were added
to "The Great White Fleet."
Unmarked black cars displaying regular issued license
plates were used to apprehend habitual traffic law violators.
On March 14, 1942, the General Assembly abolished the existing
Division of Motor Vehicles and created two separate agencies:
The Division of Motor Vehicles and The Department of State Police.
With this separation, the State Police became responsible for
its own communication system, vehicle garage and the administration,
training, discipline and assignment of examiners of applications
for operator’s and chauffeur’s licenses. The duties of the State
Police also included supervision of inspection stations, the motor
vehicle appliances, accessories and safety devices.
In 1948, A distinctive color scheme was designed
of State Police patrol vehicles. The blue and gray automobiles
enabled the motoring public to easily recognize State Police vehicles
when assistance was needed and to help deter would-be traffic
violators. Twelve motorcycles were purchased for special occasions
and not for daily highway patrol. At large functions which attracted
scores of tourists, traffic handling and control by automobiles
was difficult but readily expedited by troopers on motorcycles.
In 1952, reflective markings which were easily recognizable
at night marked the front, rear and sides of State Police vehicles.
The lesser seal of the Commonwealth was placed on each side of
the vehicle between "State" and "Police." In 1954, the VSP began
to phase-out motorcycles.
In 1961,The canine program was instituted to afford
the State Police and all enforcement agencies the tracking abilities
of German shepherd dogs. One trooper and canine were assigned
to each State Police division. In 1982, the VSP began enforcing
a vehicle emissions inspection law in Northern Virginia. The motor
carrier safety and hazardous materials units were also created
in 1982. Staffed by troopers in each division, they ensured the
safety of commercial motor carriers and buses. The Motor Carrier
Safety Unit provided in-depth investigation of commercial vehicle
crashes and enforced rules and regulations involving the transportation
of hazardous materials. In 1985, the VSP went from red overhead
lights to blue.
In 1987,The Department reinstituted the use of motorcycles
to help control traffic and assist motorists in the highly congested
areas of Northern Virginia and Tidewater. The motorcycles were
Harley-Davidson model FXRPs and were painted the Department’s
traditional blue and gray.
The mission of the Virginia State Police is to provide
the Commonwealth with a responsive, coordinated, composite statewide
police department, independent yet supportive of local law enforcement
agencies; to preserve law and order; to enforce traffic and regulatory
laws; and, to provide security and safety services to citizens