Washington State Patrol

June 8, 1921, was the date legislation authorized the appointment of highway police with the power of peace officers. The first six patrolmen were commissioned September 1, 1921.

In 1933, the Legislature acknowledged the need for a police organization that was mobile and could be concentrated immediately at any place in the state where the public safety was endangered.

The Highway Patrol Division officially became known as the Washington State Patrol, which had been given full police powers. However, the police powers were not to be used unless ordered by the Governor or requested by other law enforcement agencies. The State Patrol was placed directly under the Governor, who was authorized to appoint the Chief.

Motorcycles for patrol were on their way out that year, and light, fast automobiles of the panel delivery type, which could be used as a combination patrol car, mobile jail, and ambulance, were proving much more versatile for all-weather work than the motorcycle.

The Motor Vehicle Inspection Division and Weight Division, created in 1943, were responsible for checking trucks for size, weight, and license violations. Both divisions previously were under the Department of Highways. In 1949, the WSP began to trade away the "paddy wagons" in favor of four-door sedans, with improved police equipment and special engines, transmissions, and high-speed rear ends.

By the late 1950s, the Patrol began to phase in its current patrol car door design, a diagonal royal blue spear and black and white badge replica. By 1968, the WSP had converted all patrol vehicles to white.

In 1991,The WSP gained international recognition for its development of the Mobile Computer Network (MCN), an innovative system linking laptop computers in patrol cars with satellite and land-based radio communication technology.

The Washington State Patrol's primary focus has been to aggressively enforce its core mission to enforce driving under the influence (DUI) laws, speeding, aggressive driving, and seat belt laws throughout Washington.

Washington State Flag

The state flag and the state seal are similar.
Passed in 1923, Washington state law describes
the flag as having dark green bunting with a state seal
in the center. It is the only state flag that is green.
It is also the only state flag with a picture of a president.


1930 issue- E= Exempt plate.

Picture courtesy of the John Yeaw Collection
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
Can you help us?

1940 issue.
Embossed steel (Approx. 5.5" x 13.5")
Courtesy of Pete Madsen


1941 issue- Embossed steel (Approx. 5.5"x13.5"). May have been used in 1943 and 1946 as well, as no records or examples of State Exempt plates for those years exist. No reserved number blocs for WSP, but lower numbers were typical.

Picture courtesy of the
Washington State Patrol

1946 issue- Embossed aluminum (Approx 5.5" x 13.5")
Green over white. Possibly first year for use of SX prefix
for "State Exempt" plates.

Plate courtesy of the Robert Ward Collection
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
Can you help us?

1949 issue- Embossed aluminum (Approx. 5.5"x13.5") Thin green paint on characters. No reserved number blocs for WSP,
but up to 3 numbers.

We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
Can you help us?


1950-1953 issue- Embossed aluminum (what's left of it!) Used to be green on white with reverse colored 53 date tab. No reserved number blocs for WSP, but usually up to 3 numbers. Last issue for SX as a prefix for State Exempt plates.(Proof positive that sometimes you gotta take what you can get!)
Plate courtesy of the Robert Ward Collection

Picture courtesy of the
Washington State Patrol

1954 issue.
13" x 5.5" embossed aluminum using Oregon dies.
Some 1954 Washington base plates were made by
Irwin-Hodson of Portland as there was a prison fire in
Washington in 1954. This event damaged the steel versions
of these plates with the familiar Washington dies.
This number (200) would make this plate highly-likely
to have been used by WSP.

Courtesy of Pete Madsen
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
Can you help us?

1954 issue with 1956 tab. 13" x 5 1/2" embossed aluminum
using Oregon dies. Some 1954 base Washington plates were
made by Irwin-Hodson in Portland as there was a prison fire
in Washington in 1954. This event damaged the steel versions
of these plates using the familiar Washington dies. Despite the
high registration number which makes this particular plate
unlikely to have been used by WSP, it is a fine example of
what the 1954-1956 plates would have looked like for WSP
patrol vehicles.

Picture courtesy of the John Yeaw Collection
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
Can you help us?

1956-1957 issue. Despite a "54" embossed below this 1957
tab, this 6" x 12" embossed aluminum plate was made in
1956 to comply with the new continental license plate size
standard.

Click picture for a larger image

1958-1962 issue.
Embossed aluminum.
Earlier issue with period after "WASH" and
regular annual validation tab for given year.


Picture courtesy of
Danny Beard

1958-1962 issue.
1958-1962 issue. Embossed aluminum.
Later issue with no period after "WASH".
Embossed Aluminum.


1958-1962 issue. white over green. Came off the press with
a 58 sticker in the bottom right corner and validated with
passenger decals thru 62

Picture courtesy of the Washington State Patrol

1963-1967 issue. Embossed aluminum.
First issue for WSP-specific license plates.
Plate courtesy of the Robert Ward Collection

Click picture for a larger image

1965-1967 issue.
Embossed aluminum. State name spelled-out in full above
and between lower bolt-holes. Validated with passenger
decals for 1965, 1966 and 1967. Painted white on backside.
Used concurrent with WASH 63 base plate as seen above
until state re-plated to all-reflective license plates in 1968.
 

1968-1979 issue. Embossed aluminum. Reflective sheeting. This issue came out around 1976 as it was the first year to sport the white and green Exempt sticker. Prior to that, regular passenger validation
decals were used. The lower the assignment number,
the higher the rank of the assigned individual.


Click picture for a larger image


1972 Washington State Patrol Dodge Polara
Pictured circa 1974

Photo courtesy of Steve Johnson

1968-1979- Command and Service car plate. This would be a 1976 to 1979 issue as it has the Exempt sticker. Need to see a photo of one of these on a vehicle for context.
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
Can you help us?

1979-1987 issue. SP followed by four digit number being the badge number of the assigned officer.

Click picture for a larger image

1987-1991 issue. Graphic of Mount Rainier with state name and "Centennial Celebration" silkscreened in red. Several variations on this design exist. This is an early issue with three numbers a small dash and WSP with exempt sticker.

1987-1991 issue. Graphic of Mount Rainier with state name and "Centennial Celebration" silkscreened in red. Several variations on this design exist. This one has XMT (exempt) embossed vertically down the left margin.

Picture courtesy of Lt. Michael Turcott -
Washington State Patrol

1987-1991 issue. Graphic of Mount Rainier with state name and "Centennial Celebration" silkscreened in red. Several variations on this design exist. This one has XMT (exempt) embossed vertically down the left margin, 4 numbers (9000 series= Pool vehicle) followed by SP.


This all flat plate was made by 3M and tested
by the Washington State Patrol in the mid '90's.
It was never put into service.

Picture courtesy of Lt. Michael Turcott -
Washington State Patrol
 

Mid-1990's to 1998 issue
with "long dash" separator
Plate courtesy of the Robert Ward Collection
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
Can you help us?

1998-Current. Graphic of Mount Rainier with state name
and EVERGREEN STATE silkscreened in red.

We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
Can you help us?


1925 issue Motorcycle plate
W followed by an underlined N (for Washington)
over "E" (for exempt) and year (25) followed by a number
in the 8000 block that was reserved for the
Patrol Division of the Washington Highway Police.
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
Can you help us?

1933 issue Motorcycle plate
W followed by an underlined N (for Washington)
over "E" (for exempt) and year (33) followed by a number
in the 8000 block that was reserved for WSP cycles.
 

Motorcycle plate - 1970's
Debossed Aluminum
I have been told by 2 Washington plate experts that the WSP used this type of Exempt plate on their Cycles.
If anyone has any additional confirmation,
please contact Coop
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
Can you help us?

Motorcycle plate - late 1970's to late 1980's
We are looking for confirmation, photographic or otherwise,
that this type was indeed used on WSP cycles.
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
Can you help us?

Motorcycle plate - Late 80's-2000
Painted, embossed border
"Washington" screened followed by "XMT"
over number and "SP" suffix
Coop needs one of these for his private
collection. If you can help, drop him an e-Mail
on the e-mail page.

Motorcycle plate - Current issue
unpainted step border and "SP" suffix
Picture courtesy of Lt. Michael Turcott and
Trooper Gabe Olson of the Washington State Patrol


Coop needs one of these for his private
collection. If you can help, drop him an e-Mail
on the e-mail page.