West Virginia State Police

The West Virginia State Police was established in 1919 by an act of the West Virginia Legislature. The WVSP operated under the Department of Public Safety. Like the state which it serves, the WVSP was born in an era of political unrest and domestic violence.

Labor strikes in the coal industry, political activism, cultural intolerance were at a peak just after World War 1, and a solid and organized force was needed to prevent the Mountain State from descending into anarchy. The initial recruitment of the first WVSP candidates leaned heavily on honorably discharged war veterans.

Each new trooper was initially required to bring his World War I uniform when he reported for enlistment hence the historical similarity between the WVSP uniform and the U.S. Marine Corps uniform and the U.S. Army campaign hat of the Great War.

Troop names were titled "Companies" as well, and the rank structure, including the rank of "private" was used by the WVSP. The mandate of the WVSP was to also address motor vehicle and traffic law.A state roads bureau report of 1914 alleged that West Virginia had "the worst roads in the United States." The WVSP therefore relied heavily on horses with most of its mobility matters in these early days.

Each company headquarters was allocated a touring car, to be used for transporting bulky supplies and for quick dispatch of troopers where suitable roads did exist. But during this same period (1920-1921), 36 prize horses were also added to the department's inventory.

By 1921, the WVSP had a 47% increase in its ranks with 286 officers. The "Mine Wars" of the 1920's kept WVSP troopers busy with so much deadly violence taking place between disenfranchised miners and their employers. Patrol vehicle safety was enhanced in 1966 by retrofit of padded dash and visors, seat belts, high speed tires, and non-glare mirrors.

Specifications for a heavy duty, air conditioned patrol vehicle were drawn up the following year. At the end of June 1969, the WVSP stood at 341 members, By 1972, the WVSP had received a new Bell 206/B helicopter to create the new Aviation Division for traffic and criminal enforcement matters, search and rescue and transportation in medical emergencies.

In 1995, the WVSP became a "stand alone" state police force, away and apart from the West Virginia DPS. More recently, the WVSP has been comprised of 630 sworn officers operating from five companies and 61 detachments.

The WVSP is recognized as the 4th oldest state police agency in the U.S..

West Virginia State Flag

A white field is bordered in dark blue. West Virginia's flag displays
a rock containing the date June 20, 1863, the day West Virginia
became a state. The two men represent farming and mining.
Below them are two rifles with a "Liberty Cap" on top the rifles.
A banner ribbon includes the state motto " Mountainiers Are Always Free".
Around the picture are a wreath of rhododendren and the name
of the state on a red ribbon.


Mid 1930's- Circa 1940 issue. Embossed steel with debossed border (Approx 5 3/8" x 11 3/4"). These license plates were originally used by the Virginia State Police from 1928 to 1932 and subsequently given to the WVSP for use on their patrol cars (See Virginia State Police Page).
Courtesy of the Wayne Tyler Collection

Picture courtesy of the West Virginia State Police


1940's issue. Embossed steel (Approx 5.5" x 12"). Some versions were observed to be black over white, however two period photographs showed white over black as this one.



1950's issue. Embossed steel (Approx 5.5" x 12")

Picture courtesy of the West Virginia State Police
 

1964-1968 issue. Embossed galvanized steel. Reflective sheeting. WEST VIRGINIA in large dies.
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
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1965-1970's issue. Embossed galvanized steel. Duller reflective sheeting. MOUNTAIN STATE slogan.

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this type plate on duty....
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1980-1989 issue. Flat screened sign grade aluminum. No Company Letter= Headquarters. State name small.

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this type plate on duty....
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1980-1989 issue. Flat screened sign grade aluminum.
A= Shinnston Company

Picture courtesy of Jay Weinstein

1989-1990's issue. Flat screened heavy gauge aluminum.
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this type plate on duty....
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1990's unknown issue. Possibly a replacement plate.
Very thin aluminum painted yellow on backside.
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this type plate on duty....
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1990-1996 issue. Embossed aluminum. Embossed painted border. WVSP emblem screened. HQ Plate.

Picture courtesy of Don Farley
 

1990-1996 issue. Embossed aluminum. Embossed painted border. WVSP emblem screened. A= Shinnston Company. Earlier versions of this issue were flat screened-no embossing.

Picture courtesy of Jay Weinstein

1996-2000. Embossed aluminum.
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this type plate on duty....
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2000-2005. Embossed aluminum. Assigned to Colonel
Howard E. Hill Jr., Superintendent of the WVSP at that time.
Only SP and 1 are embossed. Remainder is screened. Band
along bottom of plate with STATE POLICE is a decal.

2000-2005. Embossed aluminum.
A different version of this plate with the WVSP website
address below the top banner and above the number, and another version with STATE POLICE in larger font.

Current Issue
Picture courtesy of Joe Sallmen

Mid 50's issue. Front plate. Embossed steel.
Picture courtesy of the West Virginia State Police
 

1964-1968 issue. Front plate. Embossed steel.
Reflective sheeting.
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this type plate on duty....
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1970's issue. Front plate. Flat screened sign grade aluminum. Reflective sheeting.

Photo Courtesy of Monty McCord

Late 1970's front plate. Heavy gauge aluminum.

Picture courtesy of the West Virginia State Police

1980's-1990's issue . Front plate. Flat screened aluminum.
Embossed painted border.


Picture courtesy of Don Farley

1996-2000 Front plate

Picture courtesy of Don Farley
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this type plate on duty....
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Front plate circa 2001

Courtesy of the Bob Bruce Collection

Courtesy of Robert Clinedinst

Front plate circa 2004 - Larger font for STATE POLICE

Courtesy of the Bob Bruce Collection

Current Front plate. Flat screened aluminum
with trooper patch
.

Optional front plate

Courtesy of the Bob Bruce Collection
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this type plate on duty....
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National Troopers Coalition Conference issue
Picture courtesy of Don Farley
 

Mid 1930's- Circa 1940 motorcycle issue. Embossed steel with embossed border. These license plates were originally used by the Virginia State Police from 1928 to 1932 and subsequently given to the WVSP for use on their patrol cycles
(See Virginia State Police Page).

Courtesy of Wayne Tyler Collection
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
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Circa 1940's/early 1950's aluminum door seal. Once fastened to patrol car door. Reflective material. Found with 1940's-era
plate #137 featured above.


Picture courtesy of Jay Weinstein