|Employees 713 (as of 2004)||Population 5,757,564 (2014 est)|
|Formed September 1, 1939; 77 years ago (1939-09-01)|
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Operations jurisdiction* State of Wisconsin, United States
Size 65,498 square miles (169,640 km)
The Wisconsin State Patrol is the state police force for the state of Wisconsin. It serves a population of 5.7 million mainly through traffic safety and enforcement on the state highways.
The Wisconsin Legislature created Chapter 110 on September 1, 1939 to have the Motor Vehicle Department. That department had three divisions: Registration and Licensing, Highway Safety Promotion and Inspection and Enforcement. The Inspection and Enforcement division had inspectors who enforced the state motor carrier regulations and the state motor vehicle code. That division eventually became known as the Wisconsin State Patrol.
Prior to 1939, there were some sort of statewide enforcement efforts through other departments. For example, in 1917, the Dairy and Food Department and the Oil Inspection Department were legally authorized to conduct investigations of the licensing and vehicle sale laws. Also, in 1931, the State Highway Administration had personnel dedicated to checking truck weights and traffic.
State Patrol-run radio went on the air on February 1, 1943 on station WIZR on a frequency of 31.50 MHz. The radio allowed communication with the Patrol's mobile units and with local law enforcement short-wave stations.
As stated on its website, the State Patrol provides traffic safety and enforcement services for Wisconsin. Like all highway patrol and state patrol agencies, its primary mission is to enforce the provisions of the Wisconsin Motor Vehicle laws and other laws to prevent crime. However, the State Patrol is seen as a state police force and as such, its state troopers have full police authority and statewide jurisdiction although investigating non-traffic crimes is not a priority for the agency, especially if those crimes occur within an incorporated area that has its own police department.
These are the services provided statewide by the agency:
The State Patrol maintains and manages the facilities of the Mobile Data Communications Network (MDCN), a system that supports remote access to information available from the United States Department of Justice. The service is provided free of charge to allied criminal justice agencies in Wisconsin.
A training academy was established in 1955 to offer formal education instructions in partnership with the Northwestern University Traffic Institute. Since 1957, the agency has been training its recruits with its own staff. The Wisconsin State Patrol Academy, in Fort McCoy, sits on 50 acres (200,000 m2) and is used to train State Patrol recruits but also some county and local law enforcement agencies personnel on the latest techniques in traffic law enforcement.
Training for recruits currently lasts 23 weeks in a paramilitary setting. Fort McCoy itself is a military installation run by the United States Army.
Prior to joining the academy, recruits must pass several phases during initial testing. Those phases include a written exam, a physical agility test, an interview, a background investigation and a psychological/medical exams.
The State Patrol today
The State Patrol became part of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in the 1960s, and was designated a DOT division in 1977. In 2003, the Bureau of Transportation Safety was incorporated into the State Patrol.
In 2005 the State Patrol reorganized and went from 7 districts to 5 regions. It maintains offices in DeForest (Madison), Waukesha, Fond du Lac, Wausau, Tomah, Eau Claire and Spooner.
The agency has three main components: support staff, road patrol troopers and inspectors who are troopers assigned to motor carrier enforcement throughout the state. The State Patrol uses marked, unmarked vehicles and motorcycles to perform its mission. It also has an aircraft program with four aerial vehicles to monitor traffic, track criminal suspects, perform drug detection and assist in the search of missing persons.
For a state with a fairly high population, the State Patrol does not have a large contingent of troopers, compared to other states with the same population. In 2005, Wisconsin had 492 troopers and inspectors according to data provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Excluding inspectors, the agency has 315 actual road troopers as of 2009, according to the Associated Press). By comparison, Maryland, which has about the same population as Wisconsin, had 1496 troopers. Colorado, population 4.8 million, had 705. West Virginia, with 1.8 million residents, had 616. That said, caution should prevail when reading these comparisons as some jurisdictions might be busier than others in fighting crimes, a fact that can affect the level of staffing for departments. Other factors such as varied demographic traits and type of jurisdictions (state police vs. highway or state patrol) impact staffing level as well. The California Highway Patrol remains the nation's largest state police force with 6,953 officers, according to the same FBI data.
Since the establishment of the Wisconsin State Patrol, six troopers have died in the line of duty. On March 24, 2015, Trooper Trevor Casper was shot and killed after confronting a bank robbery and murder suspect in Fond du Lac. He is the youngest law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty in Wisconsin history.