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The following is for informational purposes only

US State Police

Who are State Troopers?

US State Police

State troopers are policemen and policewomen who operate at the state level. They have statewide authority to investigate crimes and perform law enforcement duties outside of the local jurisdiction. They sometimes assist local police and enforce state and federal highway laws.

State troopers are often called state police, state patrol or highway patrol. Depending upon the location, responsibilities of each can vary widely. For the most part, state police and state patrol have “general authority”, allowing them to operate all over the state whereas highway patrolman has “specific authority”, that limits their authority to specific areas of the state.

State police departments are often much smaller than local police forces. State police organizations operate on a paramilitary ranking system with the following order:

  • Trooper
  • Corporal
  • Sergeant
  • Lieutenant
  • Captain
  • Major
  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • Colonel

Mostly state police monitor highways and interstates for traffic safety. They respond to traffic accidents, hand out tickets to offenders and assist in medical emergencies. They may also direct traffic around accidents and apprehend suspects.

Applicants wanting to be a state officer must have a high school diploma or equivalent GED. They must live in the state they want to work. They must have a valid driver’s license, and some specialized law enforcement training may also be required. Highway patrol candidates go through rigorous physical and psychological testing before being accepted into the police academy.



US State Police

First organized by Stephen F. Austin in 1823, the Texas Rangers were the first state police department. Each force consisted of ten rangers hired to protect settlers from Native American attackers. This early form of state police wore no uniforms or badges and was basically a group of volunteers.

Later the Rangers served as a paramilitary force on the U.S.-Mexican border during various military conflicts such as the Texas Revolution, the Mexican–American War, and the American Civil War. The rangers operated the same way protecting citizens during the “Wild West” and then in 1900 transitioned into a criminal investigative agency. Rangers have been depicted as strong hero types in many TV shows and movies.

In 1905, Pennsylvania organized a state police department in response to the anthracite mine strike of 1902. This new force was tasked with breaking the strike and managing public safety.

Then in April of 1917, New York formed their own state police department. However, the law passed with only one vote due to public scrutiny and much debate. Opponents of the new police force saw them as militant and un-American. However, as highways popped up all over America, the responsibilities of the organization changed and the idea of a state-level police force became more palatable to the general public.

Troopers vs. Cops

US State Police

Although police and troopers both go through the same training and testing to become law enforcement, their jobs are actually entirely different. State police have slightly more power and authority than local police. State patrol officers also makes more money than local police officers. They wear different colored uniforms as well. Often state troopers wear green or brown clothing, where local police wear blue.

Troopers generally work enforcing state highway laws while local police protect public safety and apprehend criminals. State police also work on special crime task forces. The most significant difference between both groups is where they do their jobs and jurisdiction.


State Police Types

Depending on the state and area, state police are sometimes called “State Police”, “Highway Patrol”, “State Patrol”, “State Troopers”, and “State Highway Patrol”. Regardless of the title, the primary responsibilities are the same.

There are some exceptions. Both Alaska and Arkansas have both a Highway Patrol and a State Police department. California’s State Police (CSP) used to be a division of the California Department of General Services which was basically a security police department. They have since merged into the California Highway Patrol.

State police are generally full-service law enforcement whereas highway patrol, monitors and enforce state road laws. There are also individual divisions that govern specific state resources such as Marine Patrol, State Marshals, Fish and Game Officers, and State Park law enforcement.

Additional Resources

A complete directly of each state police department website and other links -

Each state has its own individual website for the state police, highway patrol or troopers. We have compiled a complete list of each state police department website below:

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