The Wyoming Highway Patrol was created in 1933 after the Wyoming Department of Law Enforcement, whose sole duty was to enforce prohibition laws, disbanded. After this occurred, the State of Wyoming found a void for Law Enforcement that could span the boundaries of the 9th largest State in the Nation. In 1933 the Wyoming Highway Patrol was formed under the Wyoming Highway Department Commission.
On May 23, 1933, the Highway Commission named Captain George Smith as the leader of the Wyoming Highway Patrol. Captain Smith, along with six other newly trained Patrolmen, left the state capital charged with the duty to “enforce the laws of the state relating to the registration and licensing of motor vehicles, the laws relating to use and operation of motor vehicles on highways, and all laws for the protection of the highways.”
The seven new members of the WHP were provided automobiles by the state, and uniforms were specified as a forest green military coat, oak brown breeches and caps, Sam Browne belts, and brown riding boots. Each officer wore the insignia of a buffalo and a winged wheel on his arm. WHP transitioned to the green uniform worn today in the mid-2000s. The current shoulder patch, worn by each Trooper, was officially adopted in 1976.
The first divisions were Lovell, Laramie, Basin, Gillette, Green River, and Casper. One Patrolman was assigned to each division. Captain Smith remained at headquarters in Cheyenne. In 1935 each Patrolman, on average, worked 67 hours and drove 570 miles.
Today there are 208 Troopers on patrol, driving over 5.5 million miles, investigating nearly 8,000 motor vehicle crashes across the state, and removing over 1300 intoxicated drivers from Wyoming roadways in the year 2019 alone.
Although the Patrolman of 1933 and the Trooper of today may look different, the goals remain the same-- to make Wyoming’s highways safer to travel by reducing the number of traffic crashes, deaths, and injuries; to apprehend and arrest criminals using Wyoming’s highways; to provide aid to the injured and assist motorists in trouble and to treat all citizens with courtesy and respect. The philosophy of the WHP has not changed since the beginning; we are and will always be committed to safeguarding the highways of our Great State, thereby saving the lives of our citizens.
During the 1920s and early 1930s, Wyoming had a state ‘Department of Law Enforcement’ in place, mainly to enforce Prohibition. Over time, agents became increasingly busy enforcing motor vehicle laws, so when Prohibition ended, the need was apparent for some sort of regulation and enforcement authority on the highway with its steadily increasing traffic, including commercial vehicle regulation.
In response, the Wyoming Legislature authorized the creation of the Wyoming Highway Patrol, effective June 1, 1933. Capt. George Smith, the first Patrol director, was also a visionary, pushing for a state speed limit and a driver licensing law years before they became a reality. Primarily for logistical reasons, the Highway Patrol affiliated the Highway Department, and that association has continued to the modern day.
The Wyoming Highway Patrol is also tasked with providing security and transportation to the Governor of Wyoming. As of 2013, it has 208 troopers.
Since the establishment of the Wyoming Highway Patrol, two officers have died while on duty.