“A Committee of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology defines State Police in this manner:
‘A state police is a specially organized and highly trained body, acting under state rather than local authority, and constantly employed in the prevention of crime, the apprehension of criminals, and the protection of life and property generally throughout the state and especially in the rural and sparsely settled districts. In most states the state police force is organized on a military basis*** … In the selection of such a force the greatest care is taken to eliminate political considerations and to secure persons with the highest physical and moral qualifications and with more than average intelligence ‘ … It is a movement toward centralization of government for the purpose of economy and efficiency.” From “State Police in the United States“, from a 1910 publication. Downloadable pdf link.
*** NC DPS says that the North Carolina Highway Patrol is “a semi-military organization“.
By Tim Dees, Retired cop and criminal justice professor, Reno Police Department, Reno Municipal Court, and Pyramid Lake: What’s it like being a highway patrolman?
“… The basic job is chasing taillights … The driver training is among the best in the world, certainly the best in American policing … Most state agencies … issue cars to troopers, and they drive them home … Cops tend to spend most of their working time in the car, and being able to set yours up the way you like and have it stay that way is a real blessing … Do not discount the thrill of being able to drive like Dale Earnhardt on public roadways … You should get used to handling things by yourself … Troopers assigned to more desolate areas might not have any assistance within an hour’s driving time … On the downside, state patrol troopers who do primarily vehicle enforcement tend to be clueless about other areas of law enforcement.”
Author David Smith relates this wise maneuver for traffic stop safety, and it’s particularly appropriate on high-speed interstates:
“… [Trooper Shawn] Gordon exited and walked around the back of [his patrol] vehicle …to have an obstacle between himself and the pulled over vehicle in case of an active shooting situation [and] to not get caught between his vehicle and the vehicle in front if a third driver were to collide with the patrol car …
NC State Highway Patrol:
“The State Highway Patrol has more than 1,600 troopers who cover 78,000 miles of
North Carolina roadways*, more than any other state except Texas. In addition to enforcing the state’s traffic laws, state troopers also guide traffic during hurricane evacuations, re-route traffic around hazardous chemical spills, and they stand ready, should any act of terrorism occur …”
*Each trooper is responsible for about 146 miles of highway. On I-85, traffic flows at moderate to high volume most days almost non-stop. All one trooper can do is catch a very few speeders and drunks, and respond to reports of accidents. This leads to a certain intensity in some troopers. I once reported an 18-wheeler on I-85 weaving out of his lane and nearly hitting cars. The nearest trooper was on an adjoining highway in the next county. I saw him reach the junction with I-85. His cruiser was blasting down the road and his face was grim as he tried to catch that 18-wheeler before it destroyed lives.
An idea of the complexity of Highway Patrol work can be gained just by reading these tab labels: Missing Persons, Collision Information, Comment On A Trooper, Laws, Safety Tips, Statistics, Surplus Vehicle Sales, Traffic Tickets, Commercial Motor Vehicle Enforcement, Documents / Forms, Donations, Towed Vehicle Search, Wrecker Inspections, NC GangNET, CJN/MDN (mobile data network for all NC law enforcement agencies)
What does it take to be a trooper in NC? Remember the two sources at the beginning of this article, decades apart, comparing highway patrols to the military …
There’s another page titled Job Requirements for State Highway Patrol, but if you try to click on that link, you get an instant pop-up that says, “YOU ARE NOT AUTHORIZED TO ACCESS THIS PAGE“. Sheesh. I’m sorry. I’ll leave. Please don’t hurt me.
Just a few of the minimum qualifications: Physical Condition: Excellent physical condition required with no obvious condition which will impair performance of Patrol duties.
Education: Graduate of an accredited high school or hold a Certificate of High School Equivalency (i.e. G.E.D.)
Criminal History: Must not have pled guilty to, entered a plea of no contest, or have been convicted of any crime other than a minor misdemeanor; must not, during the three years preceding the date of his/her application, have been convicted of a traffic offense which required suspension or revocation of driving privileges; or held a drivers license which was in a state of suspension or revocation; must not have accumulated more than eight points against his/her driving record during the preceding three years or anytime after the date of the application. As of date of application or thereafter, applicant must meet the minimum standards for law enforcement officers established by the N.C. Criminal Justice Training and Standards Division.
Vision Requirements: Must have 20/20 vision in each eye; uncorrected vision of no more than 20/200 in each eye corrected to 20/20 in each eye with corrective lenses. Must not be color blind or affected by night blindness; must pass depth perception test.
Just a couple of the many Automatic Disqualifiers at that link:
Refusal to submit to a pre-employment polygraph, psychological evaluation, medical examination and urinalysis drug test.
Mis-stated, or falsely stated any information, in writing or orally, during the course of the application process.
Texas speaks: “Between order and anarchy, there’s a thin blue line”
The “Age / Basic Requirements” for a Texas State Trooper contains the interesting statement that there is no maximum age to apply to become a Texas State Trooper. They require sixty (60) college earned hours from a regional accredited college/university. Their physical fitness standards include a 1.5 mile run and a 500-meter row. Texas also requires instruction in hot weather safety and proper hydration.
Texas is also serious about the inner person:
“Applicant must be of good moral character and habits. An investigation will be made regarding character, habits, previous employment, or other matters necessary to satisfactorily establish good moral character, habits, honesty, truth, and veracity. Credit history and financial condition of the applicant will be reviewed. Credit history will not be sole basis for disqualification.”
It’s too darned bad we do not subject every public service candidate to such requirements.
Such is the life of a trooper.