Creation of the Wisconsin State Patrol

The Wisconsin Legislature on September 1, 1939, created the Motor Vehicle Department and its Inspection and Enforcement Division, which would evolve into the State Patrol. 

This new Inspection and Enforcement Division incorporated 46 inspectors from five smaller agencies. These inspectors were authorized to enforce the state’s motor vehicle codes and regulations of motor carriers, such as large trucks and buses. They wore a variety of uniforms. Some were armed. Some were not. They had no official training program. They relied primarily on their own ingenuity and initiative to accomplish their mission. Yet they honorably served the citizens of Wisconsin and established a lasting legacy of professional law enforcement services.

For 75 years, the Wisconsin State Patrol has been dedicated to improving highway safety and reducing traffic crashes. In addition to the vital mission of enforcing traffic laws to save lives and prevent injuries, today’s State Patrol provides an array of public safety services and initiatives including:

  • Safety inspections of large trucks, buses, motor coaches, and ambulances
  • Enforcement of commercial motor vehicles’ weight limits
  • Crash reconstructions and crime-scene mapping
  • Surveillance, search and rescue, and traffic enforcement using aircraft
  • Interdiction of criminal activity and drug-smuggling
  • Testing and approval of equipment to enforce drunken driving laws
  • Statewide communications network for law enforcement
  • Disbursement of federal funding to other law enforcement agencies for traffic safety enforcement and education

The State Patrol currently has approximately 489 sworn law enforcement officers and 168 non-sworn staff members, who are assigned statewide. The major State Patrol headquarters facilities are located in Madison, DeForest, Tomah, Waukesha, Fond du Lac, Wausau, Eau Claire and Spooner. The State Patrol also operates its training academy at Fort McCoy and has officers stationed at the Traffic Management Center (TMC) in Milwaukee.

All members of the State Patrol are dedicated to the mission of promoting highway safety and enhancing the quality of life for all Wisconsin citizens and visitors by providing professional, competent and compassionate law enforcement services.