History

Formation of the Colorado State Highway Courtesy Patrol

The Early Years
Photo of paper in black and white

From 1919 to 1935, state law enforcement agencies often existed from year-to-year. When times were tough, agencies were abolished or disbanded, often due to the lack of appropriation of funds. Sometimes agencies would be revived, if only for a short duration, due to a change in the political scene or by pure necessity. Prohibition and the increasing popularity of the automobile played key roles in the creation of many agencies in Colorado.

Some people were opposed to a permanent state law enforcement agency prior to 1935, especially a department armed with weapons. The argument was an agency may become too powerful and a danger to society. State law enforcement agents were unfairly tainted in character by acts of violence carried out by individuals who were part of early Colorado military organizations.

As the automobile became part of the “American Way” during the 1920’s and 1930’s, the impact it had on society was enormous. The automobile provided the mobility for criminals to extend their territory of operations and to avoid arrest for years. Perhaps the largest negative impact the automobile had on society was the ever increasing number of traffic accidents resulting in injuries and death.

During the Session Laws of 1933, Senate Bill 483 was introduced to form a State Highway Courtesy Patrol as a division of the Colorado State Highway Department. This department was often referred to as the Colorado Motor Patrol. The duties of the Patrolmen were to:

“...promote safety, protect human life and preserve the highways of this state by the intelligent, courteous and strict enforcement, exclusively, of the laws and regulations of this state relating to highways and the traffic upon such highways, notwithstanding any provisions of the law charging any other department or agency of the state with the enforcement of such laws, and in order that there may be no duplication with respect to such enforcement...”

The law provided for the appointment of a supervisor, and a number of Patrolmen that was dependent on the time of the year. The department was authorized to employ ten Patrolmen from October 1 to May 31, and twenty Patrolmen from June 1 to September 30. The Colorado State Highway Courtesy Patrol was established by legislation in 1935. This was the beginning of the current Colorado State Patrol.

On September 23, 1935, under the leadership of the first Chief of the Colorado State Highway Courtesy Patrol Joseph J. Marsh, forty-four men selected from a pool of 7,500 applicants began six weeks of intensive training at Camp George West.  At that time, it was questionable if the members would be allowed to carry firearms.

“There’s no courtesy in a shotgun,” Governor Johnson stated in refusing to buy side arms. “The law, under which the Patrol was created, says, in so many words, that the Patrolmen are not peace officers.”

Upon graduation from the training school on October 20, 1935, the forty-four men of the Colorado State Highway Courtesy Patrol appeared on the highways of the state for the first time. After a number of years with practically no supervision, a number of citizens were pretty lax with regard to securing license plates, paying taxes, observing safety rules, and complying with laws and regulations governing highway use.

When the Patrol first began its work on Colorado’s highways, erring motorists were warned, given a polite smile and waved on their way. After a breaking-in period to give the motorists of Colorado a chance to correct bad practices and unsafe methods, court citations were issued to those who repeatedly violated the state laws or refused to cooperate with the Patrol’s efforts to promote greater safety on the highways.

The Patrol Act also established stationary and movable inspection stations. Now that Patrolmen were on the road, it was time to get the “Port of Entry” opened. Originally these were called “Ports of Welcome.”

As the Ports became established, they were used as a training ground for Courtesy Patrol officers. When a new man came into service with the Courtesy Patrol, it was customary to assign him to one of the Ports to learn the duties of an officer. Tourists and travelers were encouraged to stop at the Ports when they came into Colorado. There they were greeted and welcomed by a Courtesy Patrol officer and given a windshield sticker with a safety tip on it. Public relations were one of the biggest services the Courtesy Patrol provided.

Every member of the Patrol emphasized safety – in the schools, in civic clubs and groups and to organizations and associations of all kinds; it was very gratifying to the people of Colorado to see a sharp decline in the number of accidents due to the Patrol’s diligence in promoting traffic safety.

The Forties
Police man with whistle

The Forties saw a number of changes to both the Patrol, as well as the country, as the military brought home the troops after the war. Factories switched back to making cars and trucks instead of jeeps and tanks. Police communications improved as military technology became more available and affordable to law enforcement agencies.

By an act of law in 1945, the name of the Colorado State Highway Courtesy Patrol was changed to Colorado State Highway Patrol. This new name lasted for only two years when in 1947, the organization’s name was formally changed to the Colorado State Patrol.

The specific duties of the State Patrol were to promote safety, protect human life, and to preserve the highways of the State of Colorado. This was done by intelligent, courteous, and strict enforcement of the laws and regulations of the state relating to highways, and the operation of motor vehicles thereon.

Investigating traffic accidents, providing first aid, enforcing motor vehicle laws, and stopping to assist motorists were the most well known tasks a Patrolman performed.

In 1947, the Colorado Legislature increased personnel. The statutory strength now stood at 140 Patrolmen, and thirty-five commissioned and non-commissioned officers. This increase also included the State Auto Theft Division, that handled all activities in the state pertaining to the reporting of auto thefts and recoveries.

During Chief Gilbert R. Carrel’s long tenure, with his strict discipline, total dedication, and pursuit of cooperation with other agencies, the Colorado State Patrol became rated as one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the country. Good public relations with all people were placed in the highest priority by Chief Carrel. To this day, that philosophy continues to serve the Colorado State Patrol well.

In 1947, the Legislature authorized $150,000 for the installation of a state wide police radio network. That year, technology became available for a three-way communications system. This system provided communication between cars as well as between cars and base stations. It also provided a repeater station system where direct communication existed between all cooperating base stations. Through a common channel, the system also provided for communication between participating agencies.

Prior to 1949, officers were notified of service calls in rather unique ways. Dispatchers would often phone local filling stations along an officer’s usual patrol route and provide them with details of a pending service call.  Attendants from the filling station would then post a red flag alongside the highway, which would alert and officer of the service call. While this worked, it was not the most effective system and delays in service were common. The delay in providing vital information to officers also created a gap in officer safety.

The new system was expensive and involved engineering and administrative problems.

However, its inception provided reliable and badly-needed statewide agency communication.

On January 1, 1949, an enormous blizzard moved into Wyoming, Nebraska, the Dakotas and northeastern Colorado, testing the Colorado State Patrol and the new communication system. The storm continued for three days, stranded motorists in vehicle and at roadside businesses, isolated ranches and farm homes, and caused great loss of livestock. Some lives were lost in the Blizzard of 1949, but the efforts of unsung heroes and the Patrol’s new communication system equipment saved numerous lives.

The Fifties
Two men looking at a map

Growth and technology symbolized the third decade. Legislation was passed which increased the size of the Patrol by 100 officers. This large increase in the Patrol’s complement translated to additional duties and the need for more training. Patrol cars were better equipped, radar units were used in unmarked cars, communications equipment was upgraded, and the Patrol moved forward with this new technology.

On March 17, 1950, Mary Ellen Sposato became the first woman hired by the Colorado State Patrol when she started as a telephone operator.

In 1950, the Patrol began switching to swifter vehicles to meet the challenge of speeding motorists and hot-rod drivers. These new vehicles were equipped with three-way radios, first aid kits, a siren, one red spotlight, one red oscillating spotlight, a shovel, a broom, a fire extinguisher, and a set of tire tools. The use of radar as a speed enforcement device began in July 1954. There were five units, one for each division, and the units were called the “Electromatic Speed Meter.”

In November 1951, Governor Thornton “ordered a drastic move to end Colorado’s wave of auto accidents which have cost twenty-four lives in the past seven days.” The Governor ordered the Patrol to set up road blocks throughout the state, wherever they would do the most good, and to move them frequently and without notice. He termed the recent traffic fatality wave “appalling” and blamed it upon “driver attitude.” Chief Carrel responded that road blocks wouldn’t do any good. “Just about any enforcement measure is ineffective as long as drunk drivers are brought into court and are let off with $5 in fines.”  The Chief stated that more severe penalties were needed for traffic violations but did agree to set up some road blocks. This was the beginning of what was later termed the “safety check.”

In May of 1952, Colorado was selected from forty-seven other states to receive the Grand Award in the National Safety Council 1951 Safety Contest, the top recognition a state could receive for its safety program. Contest rules provided that the National Grand Award would go to the state which came nearest to “doing the most that could be done practically for traffic safety.” Colorado also topped the states in the Western Division and was cited along with three other Rocky Mountain states: Utah, New Mexico, and Texas, for its periodic motor vehicle inspections. The Patrol was directed by the Governor to go all out to crack down on careless drivers. The contest was scored on the basis of actual traffic death records and the statewide traffic safety program. In 1951, after an intensive campaign by state and civic officials along with members of the press, the state’s highway death toll dropped from 388 to 343. Governor Thornton said the state would seek to chop another 50 deaths off that total in 1952.

On June 3, 1952, Governor Thornton called for expansion of the State Patrol to reduce Colorado’s rising highway death rate. He wanted at least fifty to sixty more men. “As it stands now, they work the longest hours of any state employees. They’re on call twenty-four hours a day, and on weekends some of these boys really get it. There’s no thirty-seven hour week for them.” The Governor praised the Patrol for its role in keeping fatalities down.

On August 10, 1955, an article in the Denver Post stated that the idea of automobile safety belts, which seemed fantastic to old timers who learned motoring with the Model T, was catching fire simultaneously in business and government. One insurance company announced it would reduce its premiums on liability and medical coverage about $5, on an average $65 a year policy for those who installed belts. Legislation to make belts compulsory was pending in nine states. During the fall of 1956, the Supply and Maintenance Section of the Patrol equipped all Patrol vehicles with safety belts. These belts made the Patrolmen feel more relaxed by helping to brace them against the sway of the car, especially when driving in the mountains.

Because traffic accidents and a soaring death toll continued to be major concerns, Chief Carrel fought diligently for tougher drunk driving and speeding laws to reduce accidents and fatalities. He  announced plans to operate roadblocks in the summer of 1957 to wake up motorists. The objective of the Wake-Up campaign was to eliminate one-car accidents. Fatigue brought on by motorists attempting to cover too great a distance in one trip and not stopping for frequent breaks, often caused these one-car accidents. Motorists were stopped at roadblocks and questioned regarding their mileage and alertness; cars were also examined for mechanical defects.

The Sixties
Cars in a line

Due to the changes in society that took place in the 1960’s, law enforcement agencies began to realize their officers needed to be better trained. This was when the Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy (CLETA) began. This program, using state funding assistance, was set up to provide facilities and high quality course instruction at a cost that all agencies in Colorado could afford. The Chief of the Colorado State Patrol was designated as the Academy Chairman. In 1969, Colorado military and law enforcement officials participated in a joint dedication ceremony for CLETA at Camp George West.

At the end of 1964, Colorado’s highway death toll soared to 565 which was the greatest record of traffic fatalities in the state’s history. A review of the Patrol’s statistics showed that speed was apparently the greatest killer during that year. Drunk drivers had caused sixty-three fatal accidents, killing seventy-seven people, and twenty-three people died in fifteen accidents involving a train.

Because of the record number of traffic deaths, the State Patrol requested the legislature make four law changes. These changes included the implied consent law, under which a person granted a driver’s license consents to a blood-alcohol test if involved in an accident. If a driver did not consent to an alcohol test, the driver’s license was given up for six months. The Patrol also sought to eliminate conflicting traffic laws and bring Colorado laws into greater uniformity with other states. The request also favored more driver education. At that time, only one student in every five attended a school in which driver’s instruction was taught. Additionally, an abandoned vehicle law was sought which would allow Patrolmen to remove abandoned vehicles from along roadways.

In 1960, the Colorado State Patrol adopted the door emblem which remained on the car for thirty-five years. It was a replica of the hat ornament, a motorcycle tire with the winged design. This “Flying Wheel” door emblem was designed by Captain Yockey.  In 1965, the Patrol replaced the torpedo siren-red light combination on Patrol cars with a double light system. 

In 1965, during the Labor Day weekend, ten Civil Air Patrol planes were used to monitor traffic flow on the highway of the state. They were not used for traffic enforcement but limited to observation only. An observer in the aircraft flying overhead could determine the speed of passing vehicles by use of a stop watch.

A story is told of a gentleman driving a Lincoln on the highway at well over a hundred miles per hour. He looked out his left window and saw the familiar State Patrol symbol on the nose of the aircraft, flying along-side, low to the ground. The man checked his speedometer, obediently pulled to the side of the road, and stopped. The plane, of course, flew on. The man’s actions can be described with the statement, “guilty conscience.” When actually working traffic, the planes did not fly that low, but in this case the violator could not be stopped. The observer just wanted to know how the motorist would react. Governor John Love later passed an Executive Order that allowed the Colorado State Patrol to use aircraft to clock speeders.

In 1966, twenty Colorado State Patrol officers were the first graduates of an instructor’s class for a new driver improvement course prepared by the National Safety Council geared toward improving driver attitudes. The course consisted of segments in perfect driving, defensive driving, and accident prevention. They did not teach driving procedures, but reminded people to develop new attitudes and driving habits.

A new training course on how to become competent highway drivers began in 1966, on a deactivated airstrip at Lowry Air Force Base. The driving course was 2.1 miles long with five right turns and five left turns of varying degrees.

Four lane-change maneuvers and other features were also included with a top speed of eighty mph allowed. “We want to develop competent drivers not racers,” stated Captain Byron Orr, chief training officer for the Patrol. The course had an area for a “skid pan” to familiarize Patrolmen with slippery surfaces such as ice and snow.

On February 10, 1967, Governor John Love signed into law a bill that removed the 275-man limitation on the State Patrol force. Also signed was a bill allowing the Governor to order the State Patrol into any emergency at the request of local agencies. State Patrolmen were also given police powers on all state property. This prevented a delay in securing the Governor’s authority to assist other agencies in civil situations.

In 1969 the Patrol became responsible for the security at the capitol building and the executive mansion. Around the clock security at the mansion was provided by Patrolmen who answered telephones, screened guests entering the mansion, patrolled the grounds, and provided security for the Governor, his family, the Lieutenant Governor, and visiting dignitaries.

The Seventies
Man with speed gun

The fifth decade was a busy and exciting one for the Patrol. 1976 brought the celebration of America’s 200th birthday and the 100th anniversary of the State of Colorado.

Dedication of the Eisenhower Tunnel, serving westbound traffic, was on March 8, 1973. The Eisenhower Tunnel is the highest vehicular tunnel in the world at an elevation of 11,155 feet. By going through the tunnel, each driver saves at least a half an hour of time compared to the route over Loveland Pass (an additional distance of 9.5 miles).

In 1973, the Patrol saw a need for a new approach to life-threatening situations, such as manhunts. The Patrol sent five Troopers to attend “Special Tactical Firearms Training” at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The department made plans to equip and train two teams for use in situations demanding officers with special training for the intense activity related to searches and manhunts. These teams became skilled in search and apprehension tactics and in the use of numerous types of firearms.

In 1973, Chief Keith ordered his men to carry out the SPEAR (Selected Preventive Enforcement Action-Response) program developed by the Patrol to help decrease the number of fatal traffic crashes in the state. A study at that time showed that sixty percent of the fatal accidents were caused by drunken drivers and speeding. The aim of SPEAR was to make a conscious effort to identify unsafe driver actions with preventive enforcement.“Colorado drivers can expect to see state Patrolmen more often in places where the motorist would least like to see them,”  Chief Keith warned.

In 1973, the Patrol became aware of hazardous material transportation problems and lack of properly trained personnel to cope with the incidents. The Patrol provided introductory training to field officers through the expertise of Patrolman Charles Heister, as well as instructors from private industry and other governmental agencies.

In 1970, the rank of Major was established and four years later, the rank of Technician was created.

In April 1975, eight Patrolmen around the state received a new style patrol hat. This campaign hat was tested for possible use by all Patrolmen.

The Patrol began using a new type hand-held radar in 1974. This device was known as the “speed gun.” A K-55 moving radar was also introduced to the Patrol’s fleet to stop speeders. The Patrol was getting serious about speeders.

Women first became involved in the uniformed ranks of the State Patrol in October 1976 with the inception of the Cadet program. The first female trooper in the Patrol was Patricia O’Rourke, who was a member of the first cadet class.

The Big Thompson Flood occurred on July 31, 1976, the eve of Colorado’s Centennial. The tourist season was in full swing, and the canyon was crowded with people. Since it was Saturday night, people were at local cabins, fishing streams, and favorite restaurants in Estes Park and the Big Thompson Canyon. It was the kind of night Colorado State Patrol officers viewed as full of traffic related problems. Sergeant Hugh Purdy was called at home and advised of the  flood in the Big Thompson Canyon. After driving to the area, he took quick and decisive actions that saved untold numbers, in the process giving his own life.

On January 6, 1977, the first Colorado State Patrol Accident Prevention Team (APT) consisting of one Sergeant and four Patrolmen became operational. The primary responsibility of the team was to use patrolling methods that made travelers aware they were driving on a highway that had a record of frequent accidents. The objective of the team was to prevent accidents through high visibility on the highway.

The initial response to the APT was a somewhat skeptical public. Some thought the officers would only write tickets. Motorists soon found out the objective was high visibility rather than high ticket volume, although the public knew officers would issue citations if necessary. Each car had reflective blue lettering indicating “Accident Prevention Team,” and motorists could talk to the officers by CB radio. The motoring public rapidly became aware of the Team and drove accordingly, exhibiting their best driving habits.

Enforcement, accident investigation, and motorist assistance were identified as the areas that the Patrol should utilize to achieve its goals, rather than being goals themselves. During the fiscal year 1978 to 1979, the Patrol expanded its departmental goals to include equal employment opportunities and improvement of economic status by reducing the losses of auto theft.

Governor’s security became so specialized by 1979 that it was designated as a permanent function. Patrol personnel applied for this assignment, and their applications were reviewed by the Governor before acceptance.

In May 1979, an Executive Order issued by Governor Richard Lamm assigned the State’s aircraft fleet to the Patrol. Patrol pilots began flying charter missions for other state agencies, including prisoner transports for the Department of Corrections.

The Eighties
Man on Motorcycle

On January 1981, the Patrol had all uniformed members involved in developing action plans. The purpose was to create an environment in which the Patrol could work more effectively in a coordinated effort to bring about departmental goals. This time period brought many transformations, including departmental changes, increased training opportunities and updates to the uniform, but always with a continued emphasis for traffic safety.

Throughout the years many programs were initiated by the Patrol. One was “Report Every Drunk Driver Immediately” (REDDI), and was implemented in 1980 to get drunk drivers off the roadways. In the first three years, over 23,000 REDDI calls were received and 5,000 stops were made. As a result, over 2,800 drivers were charged with driving while under the influence.

During this decade, there were changes in equipment and uniforms, some of which remain in effect today. In 1981, the now familiar campaign hat was approved for wear.  The full changeover of the Model 66 handguns to the Smith and Wesson Model 686 occurred in 1982 and the cross-draw holster was changed to the strong-hand holster. Six Ford Mustangs were added to the fleet in 1983. Although they are no longer a part of the fleet, they are remembered fondly by those members to which they were assigned. In 1984, the Patrol equipped each officer the Monadnock PR-24 police baton. Officers were certified in the use of the PR-24 before they could carry it.

On June 3, 1983, Governor Lamm signed Senate Bill 275, creating the Department of Public Safety. This newly formed department included the Colorado  State Patrol in addition to the Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Divisions of Disaster Emergency Services, Division of Criminal Justice, and the Division of Fire Safety. With this change, the Department of Public Safety Director became the person to approve policies governing the activities of the Colorado State Patrol.

During an intense six week training period in 1984, thirty field troop specialists received comprehensive training in pre-planning, incident response, specialized clothing use, and hazardous material regulations enforcement.

These specialists made up six five-person teams throughout the state. The specialists were issued personal protection gear, including a breathing apparatus. The Patrol was now capable of effectively handling hazardous material incidents on a statewide level. These officers were the most capable and knowledgeable hazardous material response personnel in the state, and were frequently placed in situations involving a high level of personal risk.

On January 1, 1985, the first “sobriety” checkpoint was held. It was decided that on New Year’s Eve, checkpoints would be held in areas of the State for the express purpose of discouraging drunk drivers. Checkpoints and high saturation patrols are some of the strategies still in use today to reduce the number of drunk drivers on Colorado’s roadways.

Motorcycles were removed from the fleet in 1985 because they were seen as no longer cost effective. However, the motorcycle team was restarted in 1988 with Harley Davidson motorcycles, top-of-the-line safety equipment, and intensive training of over one hundred hours.

In 1987, Colorado was one of only two states outside California selected to pilot the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) program. In less than 10 years, the DRE program had expanded to most states. Programs in many states began with training provided by instructors from the Colorado State Patrol. DRE officers are trained and certified in a nationally standardized and systematic method to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug intoxication.

This decade also ushered in the 50th Anniversary of the Colorado State Patrol. On September 23, 1935, forty-four men reported to Camp George West as the first class of the Patrol. Only twelve of those men were still alive to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the organization they helped build. Those men, who against all odds, gave the Colorado Courtesy Patrol a name and reputation that was (and still is) ranked among the highest in the nation.

The Nineties
Man on a truck

Specialization was the term that best symbolized this time in the Patrol’s history. Some of the specialty areas included commercial vehicle enforcement and accident investigation, hazardous materials enforcement and response, criminal interdiction, auto theft, and felony accident investigation. Members remained proficient because they were provided with ongoing training and state of the art equipment. Due to concerns for the physical fitness of its officers with respect to performing job related duties, the Patrol began extensive research into physical fitness testing in law enforcement. This research resulted in the Patrol’s Wellness Program, which has required all uniformed personnel compliance since July 1, 1990.

October 1, 1991, was the first day of limited-stakes gaming in Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek. The opening of gaming in these areas more than doubled the traffic volumes on nine two-lane roads. The Limited Stakes Gaming Fund was established to mitigate the impact of newly authorized gambling in the state, and provided funding for ten additional Troopers.

In 1992 the Patrol realigned and the command structure adjusted accordingly. The rank of Lieutenant Colonel was established. The Lieutenant rank was abolished. Lieutenants became Captains, Captains became Majors, and Majors became Lieutenant Colonels.

World Youth Day 1993 was held in Denver from August 11 to August 15, 1993. When Pope John Paul II arrived in Denver, he was greeted by President Bill Clinton. On August 15, 1993, Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass for an estimated 375,000 people: the largest crowd for a single event in Colorado history. The Patrol ensured the safe movement of traffic through high visibility patrolling.

Many of the programs created and managed by the Colorado State Patrol have been put in place in support of safety initiatives. One such program was the 75 by 95. Its goal was that by 1995, 75 percent of Colorado’s motoring public would be using occupant/child restraints. In 1996, the Colorado State Patrol began to participate in the Alive At 25 campaign, a highly interactive program which encourages young drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 to take responsibility for their driving behavior.  Due to the Patrol’s continued emphasis on traffic safety through education, a variety of safety programs and material educating the public about traffic safety issues were developed to expand the mission of the Patrol: saving lives.

In 1993 and 1994, the entire Title 42 Traffic Code was rewritten for the first time in twenty-one years. Many traffic offenses and misdemeanors were decriminalized and changed to an “infraction” designation to help alleviate the court backlogs. During this time there were also many highway safety legislative changes. Improvements were made in several sections of the Driving Under the Influence Statute with the most significant change being the adoption of “express consent.” Other legislative changes included the first parts of Colorado’s graduated driver’s licensing (GDL) for young drivers, and doubling fines for speeding through construction zones, came into effect.

A law requiring mandatory use of seat belts for children sixteen and under, regardless of seating position, was passed, as well as legislation directing the CSP to route and regulate hazardous material shipments and to inspect nuclear shipments.  Through these legislative improvements and safety programs that supported the reduction in injuries and fatalities from occurring, Colorado became a safer state.

In 1992, consolidation of the eleven Communication Centers down to five began.  These five centers continue to serve statewide today. The academy held its first Communication Training Officer program in August 1995.

With an emphasis on continuous training and officer retention, the Field Training Officer Program (FTO) was implemented. The program ensured that once the recruit left the Academy and was placed in a troop, training would continue by a Trooper in the field. The FTO would facilitate the recruit to develop and exhibit the qualifications of a Trooper. The FTO provided additional learning experiences not available in a classroom environment.

The Two Thousands
Woman changing a tire

National security was brought to the forefront through a previously unimaginable line of attack upon the United States. This national tragedy brought forth unprecedented changes not only to Colorado, but the nation as a whole.

On September 11, 2001 the United States fell victim to the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil in American history. In response to the series of coordinated suicide attacks upon the United States, Congress signed into law the Patriot Act.  The act dramatically reduced restrictions on law enforcement agencies’ ability to search telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and other records. The act also expanded the definition of terrorism to include domestic terrorism, thus enlarging the number of activities to which the USA PATRIOT Act’s expanded law enforcement powers could be applied.

The Office of Preparedness and Security (OSP) for Homeland Security was mandated by law into the structure of the Patrol in 2001.  This unit’s vision is focused on prevention and deterrence and is reliant on information sharing, sound defensive strategies, and quality training. Also, under the Homeland Security Branch of the State Patrol, the Immigration Unit was created to address the issues of human smuggling and trafficking on Colorado’s highways, both of which were made felony offenses at the State level through legislation.

To reinforce the Patrol’s commitment to “First In Traffic Safety”, Chief Trostel introduced a leadership style designed around an accountability based system called the Strategic Operations Administrative Review System (SOARS). This system required Troop Commanders to develop strategic action plans and execute these plans in an effort to achieve the Patrol’s overall traffic safety goals. These goals were established by the Chief and were represented by specific yearly percentage reductions of crashes. These reductions were aimed at reducing fatal and injury accidents on Colorado’s roadways. This implementation examined the daily operations of the Patrol and the results of carrying out those plans.  Active patrolling and team operations in problematic areas identified by statistical analysis have been the basis for the re-allocation of the Patrol’s resources. This shift in resources had shown a relationship between high visibility and strict enforcement and the reduction of injury and fatal collisions and had been the basis of the Patrol’s enforcement activity.

SOARS allowed the Patrol to focus its efforts on reducing injury and fatal crashes, resulting in the fastest reduction of each in the United States during Colonel Trostel’s seven years as Chief. 

Legislation continued to support and augment the DUI laws already set into motion in the prior decade.  In 2004, the DUI limit in Colorado was lowered, making laws against drinking and driving even stricter. The following year, laws such as the open container law, preventing open alcohol in motor vehicles, and higher penalties and fines for repeat DUI offenders helped aid the detection and deterrence of drunk driving in Colorado. 

The Colorado State Patrol launched the “Colorado Target Zero” campaign in 2004.  The purpose of this initiative was to raise awareness and educate the public through special media updates regarding the importance of traffic safety. This campaign was used in conjunction with the national “Click it or Ticket” program. 

Coloradoans tend to view other drivers’ behaviors as the main threat to their safety when on the road. The goal of “Colorado Target Zero” is to have no traffic deaths on Colorado highways during the enforcement period; but, the mission of “Colorado Target Zero” is to reduce traffic injuries and deaths by creating awareness about using safety belts and child restraints; preventing intoxicated driving; obeying posted and safe speeds; avoiding aggressive driving; and any and all other factors that we know cause or contribute to traffic deaths.

Out of the thirty-five cities invited to place bids for the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Denver was chosen to host this historic event. The main purpose for the Patrol during this event was executive security, while protecting assets and persons around the State Capitol, in addition to supplemental dignitary protection and venue security.  In preparation, the Patrol conducted training for uniformed members in dignitary protection skills which focused on dignitary transportation. Specialty areas, such as the Motor Carrier Safety Unit, contributed to the transportation and routing plans for commercial vehicles, while the Hazardous Material Team was on standby for emergent response.

The 2008 Democratic National Convention was a historic occasion, and the Patrol successfully carried out its mission.

In April of 2008 the Colorado State Patrol began a one year TASER pilot program to determine if implementation of the Electro-Muscular TASER device would be successful.  It has provided the Troopers with another viable alternative to physical use of force and has been documented to show an immediate compliance rate of suspects that would have been resistive and required a forcible arrest to gain compliance, thereby reducing injuries to troopers and suspects.

In and effort to encourage Colorado teen drivers to make educated driving choices, Chief Trostel partnered with Bandimere Speedway and created a new program in 2003: “Take It To The Track”. Participants are allowed to race their cars or motorcycles in the events (all vehicles are required to meet minimum safety standards). As part of the “Take It to the Track” program, Colorado drivers race safely at Bandimere Speedway, instead of on Colorado streets.  Multiple Colorado law enforcement agencies, the Colorado Department of Transportation, The National Highway Traffic Safety program and several national and local corporate sponsors have joined the Colorado State Patrol to support the “Take It To The Track” program.

The Two Thousand Tens
Man handing a child a teddy bear

September 23rd is regarded as the Colorado State Patrol’s “birthday,” since it was on that date in 1935 that the first class of recruits reported to the Academy at Camp George West.  In celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Patrol, an open house was held at the academy on September 25th, 2010. The event gave the public an opportunity to come out and interact with members of the Patrol. The event included educational demonstrations by the K-9 unit, a police motorcycle unit, and a car show. Troopers were authorized to wear a commemorative anniversary badge during 2010 and a new car design was introduced. A predominantly silver vehicle arced was contrasted with black on the roof, hood, trunk and top portion of the side fenders and doors. This new design replaced the black and blue stripes which had been in use since 1997.

Pro Cycling returned to the Rocky Mountains with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. This event carries on the state’s cycling legacy, which was most notably highlighted by the Coors Classic that ran from 1980 to 1988. The inaugural edition of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge race was held August 22nd through 28th, 2011. The seven stage race of over 504 miles began with a short prologue time trial in Colorado Springs, winded its way through the Rocky Mountains at heights of up to 12,000 feet, and finished on the streets of downtown Denver.

The Patrol dedicated over 20 troopers to travel with and secure the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Many others to helped with road closures and traffic mitigation throughout the event in partnership with local law enforcement agencies and the Department of Transportation.  Included in the participating team rosters were the top three 2011 Tour de France riders Cadel Evans, Andy Schleck and Fränk Schleck. The inaugural race was won by USA rider Levi Leipheimer who completed the event with a final time of 20 hours, 0 minutes, 24 seconds.

In 2011, “Occupy” protests began to receive widespread media attention. By October 9th, 2011 “Occupy” protests had taken place or were ongoing in over 951 cities across 82 countries, and over 600 communities in the United States.  This included a large gathering in Lincoln Park, just outside the Colorado Capitol in Denver. This gathering in Lincoln Park had about 70 tents at its height. Protesters were in violation of state law which prohibits camping in the park. On October 14th, 2011 the Patrol was ordered to enforce the law and remove the protesters from Lincoln Park.  The Patrol secured the park, and removed the tenants, tents and trash. Troopers arrested 21 people for unlawful conduct on public land. The Patrol’s response to these protests was generally perceived as one the least conflictive police actions related to the “Occupy” protests across the United States.

The first Port of Entry stations were opened under the authority of the Patrol on May 22nd, 1936. The Port of Entry was transferred to the Department of Revenue in 1955, but was returned to the Patrol in 2012 with the passage of House Bill 12-1019 sponsored by 17 representatives and nine senators. Since the Port of Entry has returned to the Patrol, a new academy training program for Port of Entry cadets has been introduced and uniforms have been changed.  The Port officers now proudly display the patch of the Colorado State Patrol with a Port of Entry rocker atop the patch. The Port of Entry officers are an integral unit of the Patrol.

Originally, troopers began their careers with the Port of Entry as these became the proving ground for those individuals who aspired to be troopers to learn the business. This legacy was exemplified by Colonel Scott Hernandez who began his career with the Port of Entry before joining the Patrol. He served as Interim Chief of the Colorado State Patrol beginning on February 22nd, 2013 before being named Chief on July 12th, 2013.

In the summer of 2013, there were several major wildfires in Colorado. During June and July, record high temperatures and dry conditions fueled the fires across the state. By July 24th, 2013, 570 structures had been destroyed and two lives were lost. Troopers were among the first responders to these disasters performing evacuation orders and traffic mitigation.  National disasters continued in Colorado less than two months later, as a slow-moving cold front stalled over Colorado, clashing with warm humid monsoonal air from the south. This resulted in heavy rain and catastrophic flooding along Colorado’s Front Range from Colorado Springs north to Fort Collins. Troopers again were the some of the first on scene of these horrendous floods and assisted with initial evacuations.

The flood waters spread across almost 200 miles of Colorado, affecting 17 counties. On September 12th, 2013, Governor John Hickenlooper declared a disaster emergency in 14 counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Boulder, Denver, El Paso, Fremont, Jefferson, Larimer, Logan, Morgan, Pueblo, Washington and Weld. Several roads were permanently destroyed or damaged. The Patrol provided security and traffic control throughout the rebuilding process.

The Patrol began an educational marketing program in 2014 that coincides with continued enforcement efforts to reduce DUI/DUID crashes and increase safety on Colorado’s highways.  This campaign, “Our Family Protecting Yours Since 1935” was used in educational materials throughout the state such as billboards, print materials, promotional items and radio advertising in the form of sponsorship of traffic and weather reports which are aired during targeted enforcement weeks across the State.  The first two annual enforcement weekends were also conducted in 2014, and they utilized some of the saturation enforcement concepts from “Target Zero.”  The new campaign titled “Zero Tolerance, Zero Fatalities” or “Zero, Zero” focused on the prevention and enforcement of impaired and distracted driving.

The members of the Patrol work hard to serve and protect the citizens of Colorado every day. In 2014, an annual awards ceremony was initiated.  This ceremony acknowledged individual members and their efforts. Contributing through a peer nomination process, members were recognized for demonstrating outstanding work performance, initiative, leadership, character, integrity, and actions or performance that significantly exceeds expectations exemplified by the Patrol’s Core Values of Honor, Duty, and Respect. The 2014 ceremony was the first time members were awarded the titles of: “Trooper of the Year,” “Port of Entry Officer of the Year,” “Communication Officer of the Year” and “Civilian of the Year.”

The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) Accreditation Program improves the delivery of public safety services by: maintaining a body of standards, developed by public safety practitioners, covering a wide range of up-to-date public safety initiatives, establishing and administering an accreditation process, and is a mark of professional excellence. The Patrol successfully received its Initial Accreditation from CALEA on March 21st, 2015.

September 23rd, 2015, marked the 80th Anniversary of the Patrol. Retired and current members of all ranks, along with family, friends and supporters gathered on the West steps of the State Capitol. The Governor, John Hickenlooper, attended at the celebration and thanked the Patrol for their service and dedication.

“For 80 years the Colorado State Patrol has served the residents and visitors of Colorado. We are proud of our history and excited for what the future holds, not only for us but for the State of Colorado as a whole.”

To view the history of women in the Patrol, click here.