Rhode Island banner image
gallery of police cars

The Rhode Island State Police was formed on April 2, 1925. For the first time the state would have a highly organized, uniformed statewide law enforcement agency. The legislative intent was to create a highly disciplined, mobile police organization.

The force was designed to deal with new and rapidly expanding enforcement problems, especially those compounded by the automobile. A special effort was made to use equipment manufactured in the state. The original badges, collar ornaments and other such items were produced by native jewelry makers.

Motorcycles would be an important factor in the mobility of the new troopers. Thus the famous Police Indian, manufactured in Springfield, Massachusetts, became part of the early history of the Department. For firearms, the Colt 45 was selected. This choice was probably influenced by the military career of the first Superintendent as well as the strong Rhode Island ties to the Colt family.

Motor equipment would be critical to enforcement mobility. That was ensured by the acquisition of the following: one Marmon Touring Car, one Chrysler Roadster, one Buick Roadster, three Ford Touring Cars, and four Ford Runabouts. The trusty motorcycle remained the centerpiece of the RISP fleet.

Ten bikes completed the motor equipment as the statewide force began its first field operation in earnest. Currently the RISP is comprised of six patrol commands, referred to as barracks, located in Lincoln (RISP-Lincoln Woods), Richmond (RISP- Hope Valley), Exeter (RISP-Exeter Patrol), North Kingstown (RISP- Wickford), Portsmouth (RISP-Portsmouth), and Gloucester (RISP- Chepachet).

The department also maintains specialized units such as its Charitable Gaming Unit and Training Academy staff.




License Plates of the Rhode Island State Police


Despite being formed and running a fleet of patrol vehicles in 1925, there is no known record of the type, if any, of license plates used by the Rhode Island State Police until 1930.
The spectacular photo seen below, taken in 1930 shows two marked patrol cars of the RISP and sporting titled and dated RISP license plates. The plates were made of embossed steel and measured approximately 6 1/4 " x 12 1/8". The color scheme was white embossed characters and border over a black background. RHODE ISLAND was embossed along the top portion of the plate and STATE POLICE across the bottom. The badge number of the member was also the license plate number and embossed in the center of the plate. The year of validation flanked the assigned badge number in smaller dies with 19 to the left of the number and 30 to the right. The plates had four mounting holes in each corner and four longer mounting slots to the inside of each corner hole.
This layout and fabrication continued until at least 1941, with the color scheme alternating from black with white characters for even years and white with black characters for odd years.
There were 40 patrol cars and 42 motorcycles for the RISP in 1931, 46 cars and 46 cycles by 1939, and 48 cars with 32 cycles in 1940.



Rhode Island  police car
  • Rhode Island  police license plate
  • looking image

Subsequent issues can be surmised as being as follows:

1931: Embossed steel. Black over white. 6 1/4" x 12 1/8". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 31 (over ) STATE POLICE.

  • Rhode Island  police car1932 issue. Embossed steel. Approx. 6 1/4" x 12 1/8"
    White over black.
  • looking image

1933: Embossed steel. Black over white. 6 1/4" x 12 1/8". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 33 (over ) STATE POLICE.
1934: Embossed steel. White over black. 6 1/4" x 12 1/8". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 34 (over ) STATE POLICE.
1935: Embossed steel. Black over white. 6 1/4" x 12 1/8". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 35 (over ) STATE POLICE.
1936: Embossed steel. White over black. 6 1/4" x 12 1/8". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 36 (over ) STATE POLICE.
1937: Embossed steel. Black over white. 6 1/4" x 12 1/8". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 37 (over ) STATE POLICE.

  • Rhode Island  police license plate1938 issue. Embossed steel. Approx. 6 1/4" x 12 1/8"
    White over black.

    (Courtesy Tom Denniston)
  • looking image

1939: Embossed steel. Black over white. 6 1/4" x 12 1/8". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 39 (over ) STATE POLICE.
1940: Embossed steel. White over black. 6 1/4" x 12 1/8". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 40 (over ) STATE POLICE.
1941: Embossed steel. Black over white. 6 1/4" x 12 1/8*". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 41 (over ) STATE POLICE.
1942: Embossed steel. White over black. 6 1/4" x 12 1/8*". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 42 (over ) STATE POLICE.



Rhode Island  police license plate

As World War II unfolded with the USA's participation in it from December of 1941 until its completion in 1945, many states including Rhode Island embarked on a campaign of conserving metal among other commodities for the war effort. As a result in 1943, Rhode Island did not produce any metal license plates and validated motor vehicle registration by means of a windshield decal.
In 1944, 1945 and 1946, small 2 1/4" x 1 1/4" stencil-styled validation tabs were made to be placed over a flattened 42 embossing on the old 1942 Rhode Island license plates. It is not known if Rhode Island State Police license plates followed suit during this period or just ran the 1942 plates through 1946 when new license plates were finally issued in the state.
The 1946 plates were made of embossed aluminum and measured 6 1/4" x 11". It is believed that the same format and alternating black and white color scheme continued annually during this time into 1957.

The annual variations are believed to be:
1946: Embossed aluminum. Black over white. 6 1/4" x 11". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 46 (over ) STATE POLICE.
1947: Embossed aluminum. White over black. 6 1/4" x 11". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 47 (over ) STATE POLICE.
1948: Embossed aluminum. Black over white. 6 1/4" x 11". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 48 (over ) STATE POLICE.
1949: Embossed aluminum. White over black. 6 1/4" x 11". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 49 (over ) STATE POLICE.
1950: Embossed aluminum. Black over white. 6 1/4" x 11". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 50 (over ) STATE POLICE.

In 1951, Rhode Island reverted back to embossed steel for their license plate fabrication.



  • Rhode Island  police license plate1951 issue. Embossed steel. Approx. 6 1/4" x 11"
    White over black.

    (Courtesy Tom Denniston)
  • looking image

Rhode Island  police license plate Distinctive door emblem fixture as used by RISP until 1958. Sleak font with more spartan artwork for the center emblem
Courtesy Willie Herald


Rhode Island  police license plate

Rhode Island  police license plate Distinctive door emblem fixture as used by RISP until 1958.
A more water repellant covering, more detailed artwork for center emblem and more rigid font.
Courtesy Nick Leary


1952: WINDSHIELD DECAL- Metal conservation effort for Korean War.
1953: Embossed steel. Black over white. 6 1/4" x 11". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 53 (over ) STATE POLICE.
1954: Embossed steel. Black over white. 6 1/4" x 11". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 54 (over ) STATE POLICE.

  • Rhode Island  police license plate1955 Colonel's issue. Embossed steel.
    White over black. 6 1/4" x 11"
    (Courtesy Tom Denniston)
  • looking image

1956: Embossed steel. Black over white. 6 1/4" x 11". RHODE ISLAND (over) 19 (##) 56 (over ) STATE POLICE.
1957 to 1960 license plates used by the Rhode Island State Police are stated to have continued in the same alternating fashion, however there is debate if the 1961 "shields" plate may have been issued in 1957-1958 through to late 1961 when the black over reflective red RISP license plates were launched.
Norm Ratcliffe was able to obtain a 1957 paint test sample license plate for the RISP seen further below made of embossed steel and painted silver over purple-maroon. This lends reason to believe that the RISP was considering a significant departure from their traditional color scheme and layout in 1957.



  • Rhode Island  police license plate1953, 1954 SAMPLE blank. Embossed steel.
    Approx. 6 1/4" x 11", Black over white.

    (Courtesy Tom Denniston)
  • looking image
  • Rhode Island  police license plate
  • Rhode Island  police license plate1957 Paint Test Sample plate. Embossed steel.
    Silver over purple/maroon.
    Precursor to the RISP "shields" plate.
    Not a deployed issue.
  • looking image

In 1961 (and arguably sooner), the Rhode Island State Police introduced an attractive new license plate to be used on all the agency's marked vehicles. The plate was in the new standard 6" x 12" format and made of embossed steel. The plate had a black border and raised characters. The state name RHODE ISLAND was embossed at the top center of the plate, and STATE POLICE was embossed at the bottom center. The trooper's badge number was embossed in the center where it was flanked on each side by a black on gold decal depicting the state's shield emblem with IN SERVICE TO THE STATE inscribed at the base of each shield.
An unusual feature of this issue was that the plate only provided two mounting holes on the top and none on the bottom.
This issue was known as the "Shields plate" and it was used until 1964.
This issue was also used concurrent to a white over black RISP license plate run at the time for which we need more information.



  • Rhode Island  police license plateCirca 1961-1964 issue. Embossed steel.
    Black over white with black and gold state shield decals.
    IN SERVICE TO THE STATE inscribed at base of each shield.
    Only two upper mounting holes.
    Known as the "Shields plate".

    (Courtesy Tom Denniston)
  • looking image

Rhode Island  police license plateCourtesy Bob Whitelaw
  • Rhode Island  police license plateLate 1961-circa 1965 issue. Embossed steel.
    Used on black RISP cars with red door emblems.
    Black over reflective red.
    Squat-style dies as used on 1957 paint test sample.

    (Courtesy Tom Denniston)
  • looking image

Rhode Island  police license plate
Photo Courtesy of Bob Whitelaw

In 1963-1964, a 6" x 12" embossed aluminum license plate in black over white was used on marked RISP vehicles. The state name occupied the upper center of the plate, the title STATE over POLICE occupied the mid and lower left field of the plate and a number up to three digits was embossed with small font dies.


  • Rhode Island  police license plate1963-1964 Colonel's issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Black over white.
    This plate would have been issued to Colonel Walter Stone.

    (Courtesy Tom Denniston).
  • looking image
  • Rhode Island  police license plate1963-1964 sample issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Black over white.
    These plates with badge numbers were run on grey colored RISP patrol cars.
  • looking image

Rhode Island  police license plate
1963-Courtesy Arthur Quirk

In late 1964 to early 1965, a similar plate to the 1963 issue was introduced in a reveresed color scheme. The layout and manufacture was the exact same, however it had white characters over a black background. The same small number dies were used for the badge/registration number.
These license plates were used by the Rhode Island State Police until the introduction of a new style/format in 1973.

  • Rhode Island  police license plate1965-1973 issue. Embossed aluminum.
    White over black. Small number dies.
    Number 1 issued to the RISP's longest-serving Superintendent, Colonel Walter E. Stone who commanded the agency from 1959 to 1961 and from 1963 until 1990!
    A legendary man indeed.
    (Courtesy Tom Denniston).
  • looking image
  • Rhode Island  police license plate
  • Rhode Island  police license plate1965-1973 issue. Embossed aluminum.
  • Rhode Island  police license plate1969 RISP Plymouth # 14
    (Courtesy Bob Whitelaw)

Rhode Island  police car1969 RISP Plymouth Fury # 14- Courtesy Bob Whitelaw

Rhode Island  police carCourtesy Brian Tiberio

In 1973, Rhode Island conducted a statewide license plate change-over. It was the year that the now-ubiquitous slogan OCEAN STATE first appeared on the state's license plates.
The plates used by the state police were made of embossed aluminum and had white raised characters over a black background. OCEAN STATE was embossed at the top center of the plate between the upper mounting holes. STATE over POLICE was embossed in the center left portion of the plate while the badge number was embossed in the center right portion. The state name was embossed and fitted between the lower mounting holes.
These plates for reasons unknown were often validated by annual decals.
This style of license plate was altered in 1982 with the addition of a small embossed anchor in the top left corner of the plate.



Rhode Island  police license plate

  • Rhode Island  police license plate1973-1982 issue with 1976 validation decal.
    Embossed aluminum.
  • looking image
  • Rhode Island  police license plate1973-1982 issue for Lt. Colonel of the RISP
  • looking image
  • Rhode Island  police license plate
  • Rhode Island  police license plate1976 Test Sample license plate. Embossed aluminum.
    Black over reflective white with 1976 validation decal.
  • looking image
  • Rhode Island  police license plate
  • Rhode Island  police license plate1983-1984 issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Embossed anchor at top left corner.
    Embossed 83 at top right corner.
    Often display annual validation decals with December expiry.
  • Rhode Island  police license plate1983 base plate with December validation decal at bottom right corner


In 1985, an identical license plate in every way to the 1983 base plate was issued, however with an 85 in the upper right corner in lieu of the 83. These plates were also validated with annual decals through to the early 1990's.


  • Rhode Island  police license plate1985-circa 1990 issue.Embossed aluminum.
    Embossed anchor at top left corner.
    Embossed 85 at top right corner.
    Often display annual validation decals with December expiry.
    December 1986 expiry.
  • looking image
  • Rhode Island  police license plate1985-Circa 1990 issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Embossed anchor at top left corner.
    Embossed 85 at top right corner.
    Often display annual validation decals with December expiry.
    December 1989 expiry.
  • looking image
  • Rhode Island  police license plateLate 1980's-current issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Small anchor embossed in top left corner.
    Often display annual validation decals with December expiry.
    Practice discontinued by early 1990s
  • Rhode Island  police license plate
  • Rhode Island  police license plate

In 2000, the Rhode Island State Police celebrated their 75th Anniversary. As part of their Diamond Anniversary, the agency was issued with special graphic license plates to commemorate the occasion. The plates had an embossed border and numerals painted in black over a reflective white background. RHODE ISLAND was silkscreened in black between the upper mounting holes and STATE POLICE similarly between the lower mounting holes. The entire center left field of the plate was occupied by the silkscreened image of an all-black silhouette of a Rhode Island State Trooper superimposed over an outline of the state also in black. The badge number up to 3 digits was embossed in the center.
These plates were only used for one year before going back to the all-embossed white over black plates.


  • Rhode Island  police license plate75th Anniversary issue. Embossed aluminum with silkscreen.
    Used from 2000 until early 2001.
    Number 1 issued to Colonel Edmond S. Culhane Jr.

    (Courtesy of Tom Denniston)
  • looking image
  • Rhode Island  police license plate75th Anniversary issue. Embossed aluminum with silkscreen.
    Used from 2000 until early 2001.
  • looking image
  • Rhode Island  police license plate75th Anniversary issue prototype/error.
    Embossed aluminum with silkscreen.
    Done in blue characters instead of black.
  • looking image
  • Rhode Island  police license plate
  • Rhode Island  police license plateSouvenir issue for Grand Opening of RISP's new Headquarters in North Scituate on October 22, 2010.
    STATE POLICE and border embossed in red.
    RHODE ISLAND and October 22, 2010 silkscreened in red over reflective white background.
    Image of new HQ building in full color.
    Not run on vehicles.
  • looking image
  • Rhode Island  police license plate
  • Rhode Island  police license plateLate 1980's-Current issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Badge number is still license plate registration number.
  • Rhode Island  police license plate
  • Rhode Island  police license plate
  • Rhode Island  police license plate
  • looking image
  • Rhode Island  police license plateblablab



MOTORCYCLE LICENSE PLATES OF THE RHODE ISLAND STATE POLICE


As stated in the historical preamble at the top of the page, the RISP much like other state police agencies in the country utilized a large number of motorcycles for patrol in the earliest of days. Despite this fact, there is ZERO information with respect to photos/information as to how those early RISP motorcycles were registered.
The earliest information so far about RISP motorcycle license plate usage goes to the early 1970's when a series of black over white embossed aluminum license plates were made for RISP motorcycles. The plates measured 4 5/8" x 8 5/8". MOTORCYCLE was embossed at the top of the plate and centered between the upper mounting holes. STATE over POLICE over R.I was embossed over the left center and bottom of the plate. A number up to 2 digits was embossed to the right and centered between the right upper and lower mounting holes. The black paint applied to the raised portions of the plate was applied in a sloppy manner and these plates apparently never made it onto the fleet as the color scheme was supposed to be in reverse. So far, all of the surviving specimens of this type appear to have never been mounted onto a cycle or used on duty.

All subsequent motorcycle license plates issued by the RISP have reflected the color and layout of their automobile-sized counterparts and can be seen below.



  • Rhode Island  police license plate1970's motorcycle issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Approximately 4 5/8" x 8 5/8". Black over white.
    Never used for duty as colors were supposed to be reversed.
  • Rhode Island  police license plate1970's motorcycle issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Approximately 4 5/8" x 8 5/8". Black over white.
    Never used for duty as colors were supposed to be reversed.
  • Rhode Island  police license plate1983-Late 1980's motorcycle issue. Embossed aluminum.
    4" x 7". Can see remnants of where validation decals placed over the 83 were removed.
  • Rhode Island  police license plate1983-Late 1980's motorcycle issue. Embossed aluminum.
    4" x 7". December 1985 validation decal affixed.
  • Rhode Island  police license plate
  • Rhode Island  police license plateCurrent style RISP motorcycle issue.
    Embossed aluminum. 4" x 7"

    (Courtesy Kirk Dyer)
  • Rhode Island  police license plateCurrent style RISP motorcycle issue.
    Embossed aluminum. 4" x 7"

    (Courtesy Kirk Dyer)
  • Rhode Island  police license plate
  • Rhode Island  police license plateCurrent style RISP motorcycle issue.
    Embossed aluminum. 4" x 7
    Shows blacked-over bottom right corner where validation decal used to go."
    (Courtesy Kirk Dyer)
  • Rhode Island  police license plateCourtesy Kirk Dyer
  • Rhode Island  police license plate



SPECIALTY ISSUES



The following are non-duty license plates related to the Rhode Island State Police.



  • Rhode Island  police license plateEmbossed thin metal souvenir license plate from National Troopers Coalition conference hosted by RISP.
    Year unknown.
  • Rhode Island  police license plateExperimental State Police license plate on regular civilian issue base.
    (Courtesy Tom Denniston)


Gallery