Texas Highway Patrol
|Texas Highway Patrol|
|Texas Highway Patrol Door Seal|
|Old Texas Highway Patrol badge (redesigned since 2012)|
|Preceding agency||Texas Highway Motor Patrol|
|Employees||7,611 (as of 2004)|
|Legal personality||Governmental: Government agency|
|Operations jurisdiction*||State of Texas, USA|
|Size||261,797 square miles (678,050 km2)|
|Population||23,904,380 (2007 est.)|
|Troopers||2,119 (as of 2011)|
|Civilians||4,174 (as of 2004)|
|Parent agency||Texas Department of Public Safety|
|Child agency||Capitol Security Police Division|
|* Divisional agency: Division of the country, over which the agency has usual operational jurisdiction.|
The Texas Highway Patrol is a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety and is the predominant state law enforcement agency of the U.S. state of Texas. The patrol's goal is to help maintain public safety through the efficient and effective administration of the division's various programs. The current Chief is Lieutenant Colonel Luiz Gonzalez.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), and by extension the Highway Patrol, is Texas's de facto state police.
Early law enforcement in Texas began with the establishment of the Texas Rangers in 1823 by Stephen F. Austin. The Rangers were originally formed to protect American settlers from Indian attacks, and over the years transformed into a paramilitary force. Rangers fought in the Texas Revolution, Mexican-American War, and Civil War. They quickly developed an international reputation for their exploits and perceived fearlessness (Mexican soldiers nicknamed them "Texas Devils" for their scouting and fighting abilities). From 1823 to 1845, they were a territorial force made up of volunteers charged with fighting Native Americans, guarding the Mexican border, and capturing thieves, murderers, and other criminals, occasionally by controversial methods. Nonetheless, it was not until the latter stages of the 19th century and the Texas cattle boom that the Rangers took on a law enforcement, rather than frontier militia, role.
From 1845 (when Texas was annexed to the United States) until the early 20th century, the Rangers were the only form of state law enforcement available. The force was temporarily disbanded by the federal government after the Civil War, and replaced with the short-lived Texas State Police. This agency lasted only three years before the Texas Rangers were reorganized. Until the introduction of the automoblie, they remained the only state criminal law enforcement agency in Texas.
The Texas Highway Patrol was established in 1929 as the Texas Highway Motor Patrol, tasked with enforcing traffic laws on Texas roads. The original force was made up of about 60 officers who patrolled on motorcycles, often in pairs. Because of this, it was not uncommon for troopers to drive criminals to jail in the offenders' own cars, then return later for the motorcycle left on the side of the road. When the Texas Department of Public Safety was formed in 1935, the Highway Motor Patrol was transferred into that department and was renamed the Texas Highway Patrol. The use of motorcycles was phased out after World War II, and cars became troopers' main mode of transportation. Two-way radio and teletype were also added in the late 1940s, allowing troopers to communicate with regional dispatch centers. The Aviation Unit was established in 1949 with the purchase of a single-engine aircraft based in Austin.
The 1960s saw some advances in technology, such as radar speed detection. Nevertheless, troopers' work was still mostly based on instinct and visual detection, and was often very hazardous. High-speed pursuits of bootleggers were common, and troopers were required to act as "storm chasers" for the National Weather Service because of the limited weather radar at the time. Motorcycles were introduced again in the 1970s, but the idea was quickly abandoned when the bikes proved unreliable.
Modern troopers use highly sophisticated technology to conduct their duties. GPS lets regional dispatch centers identify a patrol unit's exact location, and in-car computers (Mobile Data Terminals) allow troopers to receive knowledge of a person's background before ever approaching a vehicle. Troopers are increasingly armed with less-lethal weaponry, such as Tasers. The highway patrol was also one of the first agencies in Texas to use digital citation printers en masse. These systems, mounted in the patrol car, allow traffic citations to be largely completed by scanning an offender's identification card into the Mobile Data Terminal. This innovation allows for quicker ticket writing and more legible citations.
As of 2011, the Texas Highway Patrol employs 2,119 sworn troopers, making up roughly 60% of the Texas DPS' commissioned personnel. Despite the size of the highway patrol and its unique name and function, however, many Texans refer to troopers simply as "DPS", referencing the THP's parent agency. Some are unaware that an entity by the name of "Texas Highway Patrol" even exists, or is distinct from its parent.
In 2013, the Texas Highway Patrol was divided into seven regions and nineteen districts. Regions are labeled I–VII and are subdivided into districts, labeled alphabetically.
- Region I: Dallas
- District A: Dallas
- District B: Tyler
- District C: Hurst
- District D: Mount Pleasant
- Region II: Houston
- Region III: McAllen
- Region IV: El Paso
- District A: Midland
- District B: El Paso
- Region V: Lubbock
- Region VI: San Antonio
- Region VII: Austin
Note: Region VII is a special region which serves as security for the Capitol Complex, Governor's Mansion, and Governor of Texas.
Further division is complex. Districts are divided into two or three sub-districts, each overseen by one or more lieutenants. These are then divided even further into patrol areas encompassing one or two counties, depending on size and population; troopers are assigned to specific counties. Sergeants are responsible for these patrol areas. Captains oversee districts, and majors oversee regions.
The Texas DPS's subdivision maps vary between service divisions, making for overlapping jurisdictional maps. The highway patrol, Texas Rangers, and Criminal Investigations divisions' jurisdictions, for example, do not coincide with one another. Further complicating matters, the DPS administrative division has its own subdivisional map. Even nomenclature used to describe jurisdiction varies—the highway patrol uses "regions" identified by numbers, while the Texas Rangers use "companies" identified by letters.
Trainees are housed at DPS headquarters in Austin and receive training both there and at a driving and firing range in Williamson County, north of Austin. Academies are paramilitary in nature and are physically and mentally demanding. Academies are styled as Class A/B-(Year), and last anywhere from 18 to 28 weeks. On average, two academies are held per year; this number can be altered by the Texas DPS director as necessary. Hands-on material covered includes weapons training, accident investigation, self defense, pursuit driving, and intense physical readiness. Classroom study, such as fraudulent document recognition and legal and ethics code study, also plays a large role in cadets' training. Due to the difficult nature of the academy, some classes have graduated fewer than 20% of the starting number. Class A-2013 graduated 108 troopers out of an initial class of 128, an 84% graduation rate; Class B-2013 graduated 102 troopers of an original 126, a rate of 81%.
Trainees are allowed to select a duty assignment from a list of available stations throughout the state, although the Texas DPS makes the ultimate decision on troopers' stations. Priority in assigning posts is typically given to married cadets, but most trainees nonetheless receive their requested assignments. Troopers are typically allowed to request a station transfer after one year of satisfactory service.
Academy graduation and commissioning are held at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library auditorium in Austin.
- Apprehend traffic law violators, investigate most rural traffic accidents, recover stolen vehicles and stolen property, apprehend wanted persons, and assist other officers during emergencies.
- Supervise the State Vehicle Inspection Program which includes inspection stations and mechanic inspectors.
- Provide education and information programs on traffic safety and crime prevention and control.
- Responsible for security at the Texas State Capitol Complex in Austin.
- Enforce laws regulating weight, registration and other regulations governing commercial carriers.
- Driver License Division Troopers license and rehabilitate Texas drivers.
- Oversee Hazardous Materials incidents.
- Provide statewide criminal law enforcement, especially in rural areas where local police are limited.
- Participate in selective specialized units, such as regional SWAT teams, marine patrol, and dive recovery.
Although the highway patrol's primary task is enforcement of state traffic laws, many remote areas of the state require troopers to serve general policing duties because of limited local law enforcement. These duties may include responding to civilian calls for service, serving warrants, patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border, conducting investigations, and other responsibilities.
Troopers serving general police roles is a prevalent scenario in West and Central Texas. Presidio County, for example, located in Texas's Big Bend Region and home to tourist hub Marfa, is twice the size of the state of Delaware but employs only thirteen sheriff's deputies, several of whom serve part-time. Consequently, the Texas Highway Patrol maintains a large presence in the county.
In other areas, troopers provide assistance to other law enforcement agencies, such as United States Customs and Border Protection, Texas State Game Wardens, and various local and county police entities.
Nonwithstanding these duties, the Texas Administrative Code (which codifies operations of state agencies) officially considers traffic patrol and accident investigation in rural, unincorporated areas the priority of the highway patrol.
Texas state troopers wear tan uniforms, known affectionately by troopers as "Texas Tan". Full-length pants with a blue stripe and red piping are worn at all times; epaulets on the shirt are similarly patterned. A black clarino gun belt is worn with a silver buckle, along with clarino holsters and pouches. Badges are reminiscent of the Texas Rangers' famous "star-in-a-wheel" badge, though featuring a solid blue field behind the star. The badge number is prominently displayed in blue in the center of the star. Shoulder patches, worn on either sleeve, are predominantly red in color and feature the Texas Highway Patrol crest.
Troopers' headwear is unique in that instead of the peaked caps or campaign hats popular with other agencies, cowboy hats are worn with the duty uniform. Felt hats are worn in colder weather and straw hats are worn in warmer weather. Dress uniforms are similar to the patrol uniform, with the addition of a blue tie, long-sleeved shirt, and black cowboy boots. Dress for various ceremonial units adds white cotton gloves and a red fourragère, worn over the left shoulder.
Past uniforms (pre-1970s) were blue-grey in color, with peaked caps and diamond-shaped badges. Early patches featured a simpler design than the current one, consisting of blue text on a red background.
The Texas Highway Patrol uses a variety of vehicles for patrol and specialized services. Early patrol units were motorcycles, but these were phased out in the 1950s. Since then, four-wheeled vehicles have been used for all patrol purposes; one trooper is assigned to each unit.
Current patrol vehicles are painted black with a white hood, roof, and trunk. Traditionally, the top of the doors were also white, but this practice is being abandoned with newer vehicles. "Texas Department Public Safety" is printed on the front door over a brown silhouette of the state of Texas. Underneath, "Texas Highway Patrol" is printed in white; "State Trooper" is printed on the front fender and on the trunk.
The Texas Highway Patrol also utilizes helicopters, armored personnel carriers, and marine craft for specialized functions, such as search and rescue, reconnaissance/intelligence, and border patrol. The Tactical Marine Division is the newest addition to the Highway Patrol, with the acquisition of six patrol vessels intended to police the Rio Grande and international lakes between the U.S. and Mexico. Several more boats are on order.
In 2012, the Texas DPS decided to replace its aging fleet of Ford Crown Victorias with Dodge Chargers. A small number of Ford's Explorer-based Police Interceptor Utility vehicles were purchased for use mainly in the Texas Panhandle.
- Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor
- Dodge Charger
- Chevrolet Tahoe
- Ford Explorer Police Utility
- Chevrolet Silverado
- Ford F-Series
- Harley-Davidson Road King (Experimental)
- Shallow Water Interceptor Patrol Boat
Troopers are armed with the SIG Sauer P226 or P229 chambered in .357 SIG. In 2013, Texas DPS officials announced that they would be switching to the Smith & Wesson M&P 9-millimeter handgun as the standard-issue sidearm for troopers, due to higher round capacity over the SIG Sauer. Troopers already issued .357 sidearms would be allowed to continue using them. However, the transition was suspended after recruits at the A-2014 class, the first to train with the new weapons, reported functional concerns about the guns after repeated firing.
Patrol cars are equipped with Panasonic Toughbook computer terminals and mobile citation printers. Mounted lights are either the Whelen Freedom lightbar, in older units, or the Whelen Liberty lightbar, in newer units. Four of the bar's eight forward-facing light modules are white "takedown" lights; these are supplemented by column-mounted LED spotlights in newer vehicles. Warning lights are also mounted on the rear deck. Primary light colors for all vehicles are red and blue.
Salary and Promotions
As of September 2013, troopers who have completed the one year probationary period are paid $49,582 per year; four-year troopers receive $56,997 annually; and sergeants receive $64,085 per year. After an audit determined that troopers were being paid almost 20% less than officers in many municipal police departments, troopers' salaries were set to increase for 2014. In respective order as above, troopers will receive $51,943, $63,336, and $70,938 annually starting in fiscal year 2014.
Troopers are automatically upgraded to different trooper classes in four-year increments. Salary increases with each class, up to Trooper VI, at which point pay becomes and remains steady. Troopers are eligible for promotion to sergeant after four years of service. Promotion is based on availability and completion of a civil service exam, as well as experience and disciplinary history. After two years as a sergeant, troopers are eligible for promotion to lieutenant.
Response to 2010 Audit
Many changes to salaries and promotional requirements were made in response to a 10% drop in the number of troopers between 2004 and 2010, when an audit was conducted. The audit determined that Highway Patrol troopers were being paid far less annually than officers at many metropolitan police departments and sheriff's offices. The problem had been present for many years, but had gone unresolved because the Texas State Legislature sets state employee salary, not individual agencies. Additionally, state agencies had been asked to cut approximately 10% of their budgets between 2010 and 2012, making lawmakers hesitant to approve a larger budget for DPS. However, many legislators also feared that the decrease in size of the DPS, which was predicted to worsen, would result in a gradual lapse in quality of service. As a result, a 20% pay increase in the salary of most Texas DPS officials was approved in 2012. Additional legislative measures are intended to shield DPS from most future budget cuts.
In previous years, troopers who received promotions were typically required to move to fill available posts throughout the state. However, concurrent with the legislative decision to increase trooper pay, an internal decision was made by the Texas DPS to relax this method, allowing troopers to have more say in where they are stationed upon being promoted. The decision was based on a trend of troopers being required to live hours away from their families in order to prevent their spouses from having to leave steady employment.
DPS also made an effort to fill state trooper vacancies. Recruitment efforts were increased across the country, particularly focusing on military members preparing to leave active duty. Recruiters traveled as far as California, North Carolina, and Michigan in search of potential applicants.
- Male: 95%
- Female: 5%
- White: 66%
- Hispanic: 22%
- African-American/Black: 11%
- Asian: 1%
Since the establishment of the Texas Highway Patrol, 84 troopers have died in the line of duty.
The causes of death are as follows:
|Cause of death||Number of deaths|
|Struck by train||
|Struck by vehicle||
All fallen Highway Patrol troopers are publicly honored at the Texas Peace Officers' Memorial in Austin, a memorial at the Texas Department of Public Safety headquarters, and by various memorial markers throughout the state.
The Grapevine Slayings were the murders of two Texas Highway Patrolman on April 1, 1934 by members of the Barrow Gang, popularly known as Bonnie and Clyde.
Patrolmen Holloway Daniel "H.D." Murphy and Edward Bryan Wheeler, both stationed in Fort Worth, were on routine patrol on State Highway 114 in Grapevine when they noticed a car parked on intersecting Dove Road. Believing the vehicle's occupants were in need of assistance, the troopers approached the car. They were unaware that the car's occupants were Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow, and Henry Methvin, outlaws wanted in several states for a string of robberies, kidnappings, and murders - including those of multiple police officers - that began in 1932 and had brought the gang nationwide attention.
As the patrolmen approached the car, they were unexpectedly met with gunfire. Trooper Wheeler was struck first and was killed instantly, his service weapon still holstered. Upon witnessing the death of his colleague, Trooper Murphy, a recent academy graduate on one of his first patrols, attempted to retrieve a shotgun from his motorcycle. However, he was shot before he could load the weapon. A passing motorist witnessed the shooting and flagged down another trooper, who arrived to find Wheeler dead and Murphy in critical condition. Trooper Murphy died on his way to a hospital in Grapevine.
Although the Barrow Gang had enjoyed a romantic image among many Americans before the Grapevine shootings, their popularity waned rapidly in the wake of the killings. Much of the public outcry was fueled by exaggerated media coverage of the incident, featuring erroneous claims by purported witnesses, but the shooting is nonetheless often considered the incident which turned opinions predominantly against the Barrow Gang. Although Parker was said to have fired several shots at the troopers, including the coup de grâce to Murphy, this report was later discredited. Henry Methvin, a recent prison escapee, ultimately admitted to firing the first shots, mistakenly believing Barrow wanted the troopers killed; it is believed Barrow's actual intention was to kidnap the troopers. Nevertheless, Parker's name was later included on an arrest warrant for murder, along with Barrow and Methvin, the latter listed as "John Doe".
Shortly after the Grapevine Slayings, a posse of Texas Rangers, Dallas County sheriff's deputies, and Bienville Parish, Louisiana sheriff's deputies ambushed and killed Parker and Barrow in Bienville Parish, near Shreveport. The posse's leader, Frank Hamer, was a retired Texas Ranger who had been hired by the Texas Department of Corrections to track down Bonnie and Clyde. In a deal with the officers, Henry Methvin and his family had agreed to betray Parker and Barrow and arrange an ambush.
Today, a monument stone marks the location where Troopers Murphy and Wheeler were killed on Dove Road in present-day Southlake.
- Davis class patrol boat
- List of law enforcement agencies in Texas
- State police
- State patrol
- Highway patrol
- USDOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics Census of Law Enforcement Agencies 2004
- "2007 Population Estimates" (xls). US Census. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- "TxDPS - Highway Patrol". Txdps.state.tx.us. Retrieved 2013-01-07.
- Same hat as Texas Highway Patrol, just a natural color http://www.qualityhats.com/resistolcattleman.htm
- Early DPS Uniforms http://texasdpsmuseum.com/
- "TxDPS - Aircraft History". Txdps.state.tx.us. Retrieved 2013-01-07.
- "TxDPS -June 14th, 2012 Newest DPS Patrol Vessel Commissioned in Austin". Txdps.state.tx.us. Retrieved 2013-01-07.
- Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics, 2000: Data for Individual State and Local Agencies with 100 or More Officers http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/lemas00.pdf
- Texas Highway Patrol (Official Website)
- Texas Highway Patrol History (Official Website)
- Texas Highway Patrol Association & Museum (Official Website)