Texas Highway Patrol
|Texas Highway Patrol|
|Abbreviation||THP / TxDPS|
Texas Highway Patrol Crest
Texas Highway Patrol Door Seal
Texas Highway Patrol Badge
|Motto||Courtesy, Service, Protection|
|Preceding agency||Texas Highway Motor Patrol|
|Employees||7,611 (as of 2004)|
|Legal personality||Governmental: Government agency|
|Operations jurisdiction*||State of Texas, U.S.|
|Size||261,797 square miles (678,050 km2)|
|Legal jurisdiction||State of Texas|
|Troopers||2,162 (as of 2015)|
|Civilians||4,174 (as of 2004)|
|Agency executive||Luiz Gonzalez|
|Parent agency||Texas Department of Public Safety|
|* 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 largest state-level law enforcement agency in the U.S. state of Texas. The patrol's primary duties are enforcement of state traffic laws and commercial vehicle regulation, but it is a fully empowered police agency with authority to enforce criminal law anywhere in the state. Highway patrol troopers are also responsible for patrolling the state Capitol Complex in Austin and providing security to the governor. The current Chief is Lieutenant Colonel Luiz Gonzalez.
The highway patrol was founded in 1929 as the Highway Motor Patrol, the first statewide law enforcement agency in Texas since the establishment of the Texas Rangers in 1823, and the first such force to be uniformed and regularly trained. Since 1935, the agency has operated under its current name. Since its inception with just 60 officers, then known as "inspectors", the Texas Highway Patrol has grown to meet the increasing volume of vehicular traffic on Texas roads, modern security threats, and the requirements of twenty-first century policing, currently employing over 2,100 sworn troopers.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), and by extension the Highway Patrol, is Texas's de facto state police.
- 1 History
- 2 Organization
- 3 Training
- 4 Duties
- 5 Statistics
- 6 Uniforms
- 7 Vehicles
- 8 Equipment
- 9 Salary and Promotions
- 10 Demographics
- 11 Fallen officers
- 12 Grapevine Slayings
- 13 Rank structure
- 14 See also
- 15 References
- 16 External links
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 automobile, 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 2015, the Texas Highway Patrol employs 2,162 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.
- Region I: Dallas
- 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 B-2013 graduated 102 troopers out of an initial class of 126, an 81% graduation rate; Class A-2014 graduated 107 troopers of an original 143, a success rate of 75%.
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.
Texas state troopers perform a number of law enforcement duties and tasks:
- Enforce state traffic laws by patrolling the highways and issuing citations to violators.
- Arrest drunk drivers, wanted felons, and other criminals, especially during enforcement blitzes.
- Respond to, investigate, and report on traffic accidents in rural areas.
- Provide security to the state capitol complex and governor.
- Inspect commercial vehicles for load and driver fatigue violations.
- Assist other DPS divisions with felony investigations, such as narcotics smuggling.
- Educate citizens on traffic safety practices such as child safety seats and proper vehicle maintenance.
- 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.
Variation, Specialization, and Changes
General Law Enforcement
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 some rural parts of Texas. For example, more troopers are stationed between the Big Bend counties of Presidio, Jeff Davis, and Brewster, with a combined population of about 19,000 and seven miles of Interstate highway; than in Tarrant County, with a population of nearly 2 million and hundreds of combined miles of Interstate, United States, and Texas highways.
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.
- Tactical Marine: Consists of six armed patrol vessels used to interdict drug traffickers and human smugglers along the Rio Grande and combat violent Mexican drug cartels
- Bicycle Patrol: Consists of about eight troopers assigned to patrol the state Capitol Complex on bicycles
- Motorcycle Patrol: Unit was begun as an experiment in 2012; now a fully functioning unit including several troopers assigned to the state Capitol Complex
- Mounted Horse Patrol: Including three horses and four troopers, the unit was established in 2014 to patrol the state Capitol Complex
- Dive Recovery: Consists of several SCUBA-certified troopers from throughout the state who specialize in recovering evidence, deceased persons, and other items from waterways and lakes
- Tactical Aviation: Unit consists of numerous rotor and fixed-wing aircraft stationed throughout the state; highway patrol troopers make up only a small portion of this unit
- Special Response Teams: Specially trained tactical teams based in each highway patrol region, troopers and criminal investigators serve high-risk warrants and assist in hostage and barricaded subject scenarios
- K-9: Consists of several troopers throughout the state who handle dogs trained to detect illegal substances and apprehend dangerous fugitives
Since 2006, the Texas Highway Patrol has participated in Operations Linebacker and Border Star, programs launched by Governor Rick Perry intended to increase law enforcement along the Texas-Mexico border. The patrol's role in Operation Border Star is to deploy large numbers of troopers to the border in order to add an increased deterrent to drug traffickers and human smugglers. The plan calls for troopers from across the state to serve approximately one week each patrolling border counties, particularly in South Texas; deployments rotate constantly to maintain a steady presence along the border. Similar deployments took place during Operations Rio Grande and Wrangler (2006 and 2007, respectively).
These deployments of large numbers of troopers have been criticized by some. Many troopers complained about participating in the operation, and others were injured during pursuits and struggles with Mexican cartels. Between January 2005 and June 2009, Hidalgo County troopers were involved in 656 vehicle pursuits - 30 times the average for troopers in other counties - with only about 40% of suspects being apprehended. Some experts also question the patrol's aggressive pursuit tactics, which often involve shooting out the tires of fleeing vehicles and performing roadblock techniques. Controversy about the role of firearms in pursuits arose in October 2012 after a THP sharpshooter in a helicopter opened fire on a suspected drug smuggler, accidentally killing two illegal immigrants who were concealed within the vehicle.
Despite some criticism, Operation Border Star and similar efforts have seen several large seizures of illegal drugs being trafficked from Mexico. In many cases, seizures of drug profits and weapons being transported south across the border have also been recovered, along with numerous vehicles, many of them stolen. Law enforcement presence in many border counties has dramatically increased as well. Hidalgo County, for example, tripled its DPS station from 20 to 60 permanently assigned troopers during Operation Border Star. No troopers or other DPS officers have been killed while participating in the operation.
Operation Border Star was replaced in 2014 by Operation Strong Safety.
- As of 2015, the Highway Patrol is made up of 2,162 commissioned troopers, down from over 3,000 in 2004
- Among 49 state police agencies nationwide, Texas has the lowest proportion of troopers to population of any state. With just 8 troopers per 100,000 residents, the Texas Highway Patrol falls well below the national average of 23 per 100,000.
- Texas DPS Academy Class A-2014 graduated 107 probationary troopers on June 21, 2014
- Between 2001 and 2013, the Highway Patrol made 35,803,978 traffic stops, resulting in 12,846,418 citations and 20,983,777 warnings issued
- Only three years (2001, 2002, 2005) saw troopers write more tickets than warnings; on average, only 36% of traffic stops resulted in citations
- In 2013, troopers investigated 65,096 traffic accidents, accounting for roughly 15% of all accidents in the state
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 gloves, a white ascot, and a red fourragère, worn over the left shoulder.
Early uniforms included a blue-grey blouse and brown pants, typically worn with black motorcycle boots. These uniforms also featured a bow tie and Sam Browne belts. Troopers of this era wore peaked caps and diamond-shaped badges, with a single patch worn on the left shoulder; until the current uniform was instituted, the patch was circular. This uniform style was used until approximately 1960, when the current uniform was adopted. Until about 1972, the uniform continued to feature a Sam Browne belt, and it was not until the mid-2000s that a standardized patch design was used for all members of the patrol. Prior to this change (which is today being slowly integrated into other Texas DPS divisions), differently colored patches identified whether a trooper worked in the highway patrol, drivers license, or license and weight (commercial vehicle) units. Red patches with blue lettering indicated highway patrol, Blue patches with red lettering indicated drivers license, and grey patches with blue lettering indicated license and weight. Capitol Police had their own unique blue patch depicting the capitol building in yellow and Capitol security wore tan patches with brown lettering.
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 written in white; "State Trooper" is written on the front quarter panel 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 Police Interceptor Utility
- Harley-Davidson Road King (Austin only)
- Yellowfin Shallow Water Interceptor
Troopers are armed with the SIG Sauer P226 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.
Additional weaponry includes the Colt M4 assault rifle and the Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun. All firearms are state property and may not be modified by the troopers to whom they are issued.
Patrol cars are equipped with Panasonic Toughbook computer terminals and digital 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 fiscal year 2010, troopers were being paid almost 20% less than officers in many municipal police departments, according to a state-conducted audit. Consequently, increased salaries for troopers were approved for 2014 by the 2012 Texas legislative session.
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 (barring promotion). 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
- Highway Patrol, Overview
- THP Regional Boundaries
- "Texas DPS graduates 107 new state troopers". Breitbart.
- "New DPS crew assigned to Presidio County". Big Bend Now.
- DPS Launches Mounted Horse Patrol Unit at Capitol
- Specialized Units
- "Everything you need to know about DPS, police pursuits and why troopers shoot at vehicles". John Tedesco.
- "Guatemalan Immigrants Shot By Texas State Trooper In Helicopter Gets Referred To Grand Jury". The Huffington Post.
- Media and Communications Office Reports
- "Texas Motor Vehicle Crash Statistics - 2014". Texas Department of Transportation.
- "Same hat as Texas Highway Patrol, just a natural color". Quality Hats.
- "Texas State Troopers attend funeral service for Trooper Eric Workman". West Virginia Illustrated.
- Early DPS Uniforms
- "2012 Michigan Vehicle Tests: Patrol Cars". Government Fleet.
- Aircraft History
- "Texas DPS Switching Service Pistols for Troopers". NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth.
- "DPS Suspends Use of New Handgun Over "Concerns"". Myhighplains.com.
- "State Law Enforcement Lags Local Police in Pay". The Texas Tribune.
- Phillips, John Neal (2002). Running with Bonnie and Clyde: The Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults.
- Texas ranger - DPS
- Texas Highway Patrol (Official Website)
- Texas Highway Patrol History (Official Website)
- Texas Highway Patrol Association & Museum (Official Website)
- Texas Primer: The Resistol Hat - Texas Monthly