The Washington State Patrol (WSP) is the state police agency for the U.S. state of Washington. The first six motorcycle patrolmen of the (then) Highway Patrol were commissioned September 1, 1921. The agency was renamed to Washington State Patrol in June 1933. In 1925 William Cole was appointed as the first Chief. The current chief is John R. Batiste. Ronal W. Serpas served as Chief from August, 2001 to January, 2004.
The Washington State Patrol has law enforcement authority throughout the State of Washington, with caveats for Federal property, and limited authority on Indian reservations. WSP is one of two state law enforcement agencies considered to be a general authority law enforcement agency, the other being the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Individual officers of the Washington State Patrol are known as "Troopers" although they are frequently referred to as "Staters," a portmanteau of state and trooper. Troopers in western Washington are most frequently encountered by citizens on the state highways. However, in the eastern portion of the state and in rural areas, Troopers work both state and county roadways, frequently assisting other agencies, as well as responding to general crimes in progress (such as calls for domestic violence).
|Washington State Patrol|
|Motto||Service With Humility|
|Employees||2,200 (as of 2016)|
|Operations jurisdiction||Washington (state), USA|
|Washington State Patrol Districts|
|Size||71,362 square miles (184,830 km2)|
|Population||7,530,552 (2018 est.)|
|Troopers||1,100 (as of 2016)|
|Civilians||1,100 (as of 2016)|
Washington State Patrol patrol cars are usually white in color, however they can be of any color or make. The typical marked unit features two prominent features: the Washington State Patrol shield logo, and the dark blue thunderbolt that underlies the State Patrol shield. In addition, marked vehicles bearing these markings usually feature the words "STATE PATROL" above the shield and thunderbolt, and these features are usually found on the front right hand and front left hand door of the vehicle. Washington State Patrol also operates unmarked units, including SUVs and sports cars such as the Camaro, and luxury cars such as Volvo. Newer vehicles such as the Chevrolet Impala and the Dodge Charger have been added to the motor pool. Some patrol cars are marked, but do not have light bars. The Washington State Patrol's marked vehicles have been the Ford Crown Victoria, which has been retired and the last of the 'Crown Vics' was deployed at the end of June 2012. The new marked patrol vehicles were supposed to be the Chevrolet Caprice, but issues with reliability caused the patrol to abandon the Caprice. The new standard patrol vehicle is the Ford Interceptor Utility.
Most Washington police vehicles have state exemption from licensing fees and as such most police department plates do not have tabs and are marked with "XMT" at the start of the numeric series. However Washington State Patrol marks its vehicles with plates such as "123 WSP". In that example the "123" would be the badge number of the Washington State Patrol officer to whom the vehicle is issued. This applies to all marked vehicles. Some unmarked units display non-exempt license plates for further concealment.
The units are typically equipped with Setina Bodyguard push bumpers and police style partitions inside the vehicles. Washington State Patrol has a current contract with Setina Manufacturing Company based out of Olympia, the capital of Washington.
The units which have the lightbar equipped on the roof are made by Whelen and are of the 9000 Edge Series, the typical square appearing lightbar. Newer vehicles have been equipped with the Whelen Liberty LFL, the newest LED lightbar available. The color of choice is blue, having at least one red front-facing light per state law. Older lightbars have been upgraded with their red portion being new LED units making the red not noticeable until turned on.
Some other rarer police units which have been seen are units like a Chevrolet Astro, used for weigh in stations off the freeways, and the Dodge Intrepid of which there are only two reported still active.
The overall design of the State Patrol vehicle marking (shield and thunderbolt) remains largely unchanged since the 1930s.
Washington State Troopers patrol the Washington State Capitol Campus, Capitol Lake, and area parks, mainly during public events such as Lakefair, on bicycles. Troopers also make traffic stops along the boardwalk in Olympia and patrol the Washington State Ferries waiting lines on bicycles.
Washington State Patrol has an aviation wing headquartered at the Olympia Airport. The Aviation Section provides aerial traffic enforcement and other law enforcement services. They also engage in drug enforcement missions and transport donor organs and blood supplies in medical emergencies. The call sign for WSP Aircraft is Smokey. Smokey 4 is one of the most common to be seen and is used to patrol the I-5 corridor.
Washington State Patrol has its own statewide analog, non-trunked, repeater-based, VHF radio network that covers the state. Towers for this network can be seen near highways and look like cell sites, but with longer antennas. However, as of January 1, 2013, all radio systems used by WSP will move to a conventional digital format called P25 and all old analog equipment will be taken out of service. In August, 2004, one of these towers near Vancouver, Washington was damaged by an arsonist, taking out Washington State Patrol communications in Clark County.
Washington State Patrol dispatchers handle statewide law enforcement dispatching and radio communications for the Washington State Patrol, Fish & Wildlife Police Officers of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Law Enforcement Officers of the Washington Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Officers of the US Forest Service, Liquor Enforcement Officers of the Liquor Control Board, Park Rangers of the Washington State Parks, and the WSDOT.
Washington State Patrol operates seven crime laboratories: full-service labs in Seattle, Tacoma, Marysville and Cheney, and limited-service laboratories in Vancouver, Kennewick and Tumwater. The Washington State Patrol crime lab system provides service to all city and county law enforcement agencies in the state.
Operating under the Washington State Patrol, the Office of the State Fire Marshal, Fire Protection Bureau, provides services to fire districts, government agencies, members of the media, and the general public. These services include:
In addition, the Fire Protection Bureau regulates the fireworks and sprinkler industry through a licensing program.
Washington State Patrol operates the State Fire Training Academy, which provides high-risk fire training to fire departments and fire protection districts. In addition, they provide a Certification Program through a standards and accreditation process. The Fire Protection Bureau also provides coordination of Washington State fire service resources for mobilization during natural or human-caused disasters. Hazardous materials training, fire and life safety prevention education, and public information services are also responsibilities of the Fire Protection Bureau.
The current Washington State Patrol uniform is a Flying Cross French Blue shirt with royal blue pocket flaps, French blue pants striped with royal blue, and a royal blue campaign hat. The Washington State Patrol is one of only two state police agencies (New Mexico State Police being the other) that wear a black bow tie with their long sleeve winter uniform shirts.
In 2007, Washington State Patrol was awarded "Best Dressed State Law Enforcement Agency" by the National Association of Uniform Manufacturers and Distributors.
Currently the standard sidearm issued for State Troopers is the Smith & Wesson M&P in 40 S&W. WSP troopers also carry Remington 870 shotguns, and AR-15 rifles in their cruisers. Additionally, HK MP5 submachine guns are used (but only by WSP SWAT and other specialty units).
The 190-acre (0.77 km2) large State Patrol academy is in Shelton, Washington. The academy was given to the Washington State Patrol in 1947, and was dedicated on December 29, 1969. It includes a 2.7-mile (4.3 km) emergency driving course which was the first high-speed drive course in the world.
Eight troopers faced termination in a fake diploma scam discovered in 2009. Troopers who had earned a two-year degree were entitled to a 2% pay raise and those who had earned a bachelor's were entitled to a 4% pay raise. Eight troopers, who were identified during the course of a federal investigation into a diploma mill, were discovered to have submitted fake diplomas along with applications for a pay increase. A State Patrol spokesman reported that the agency intended to fire the troopers.
In January 2009, Governor Christine Gregoire proposed the idea of moving Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Officers employed by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) and Law Enforcement Officers currently employed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to the State Patrol as a budget saving measure. This idea was fiercely opposed by outdoorsmen, WDFW, DNR and the state sheriff's association and never gained any ground by state legislators.
In September 2009, Governor Gregoire again proposed the merging of the WDFW and DNR law enforcement officers and either putting them under control of the State Patrol or making a separate Natural Resources Police Department. This was once again proposed as a budget saving measure as part of the governor's Natural Resource Reform program. This proposal was once again fiercely opposed by outdoorsmen, WDFW, DNR and the state sheriff's association and never gained any support.
State legislators have continued in later legislative sessions to pursue moving WDFW and DNR law enforcement personnel to the WSP, however this move continues to get fiercely opposed by outdoorsmen, WDFW, DNR and the state sheriff's association
Since the establishment of the Washington State Patrol, 29 officers have died while on duty.