Our nation’s state highway patrol officers and state police are often called troopers. The first state police department was created in Pennsylvania in 1905 partially as a result of coal and steel union strikes that were abundant at the time. The governor needed a force to suppress the riots that frequently occurred then.
Also with the advent of the automobile, criminals could flee the scene easier.
In 1917, George Chandler the superintendent of the New York State Police started to call his men troopers. He felt that since the agency was built on a military model and sub departments or branch locations were called “troops”, the word trooper would gain public respect for his officers and reflect the military structure.
The main difference between a police officer and trooper is the area they have jurisdiction in. Police, within their cities or towns, and troopers across the entire state. But, in many states troopers are only traffic enforcement police officers and their jurisdiction is confined to state owned or state paid for property via taxes.
In the U.S. 22 states have a state police system, 18 states have a highway patrol system, and 7 have a state patrol system (some are state police and others are traffic officers). Interesting, the sheriff’s office in Hawaii is under the state department of public safety (the sheriff is a statewide state police subagency), and in Rhode Island, the sheriff is also under the department of public safety with one chief sheriff.
Troopers in every state have access to their large and specialized criminal forensics labs, along with major traffic accident reconstruction units. They also have aviation units, drug units, and SWAT teams. All troopers can assist local agencies in time of need. Troopers tend to have a little more training than regular police, with more of a focus on traffic accident investigation and patrol except in State Police states.
Dr. Kuch has a PhD, MA, and MS in Criminal Justice. He is a former Deputy Sheriff and has taught for over twenty-five years.