North Carolina State Highway Patrol

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol (NCSHP) is the highway patrol agency for North Carolina which has no per-se "state police" agency. The Patrol has jurisdiction anywhere in the state except for federal or military installations and on the Cherokee Indian Reservation or on Cherokee outlying lands in the western mountains. The Highway Patrol was created in 1929 and is a paramilitary organization with a rank structure similar to the armed forces. NCSHP personnel at times conduct formations, inspections, honor guard activities and drill similar to the armed forces drill and ceremonies. Troopers have a reputation in North Carolina for immaculate uniform and grooming standards. The primary mission of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol is to ensure safe and efficient transportation on the streets or highways, reduce crime, protect against terrorism, and respond to natural and man-made disasters.

North Carolina State Highway Patrol
Shoulder patch of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol
Shoulder patch of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol
North Carolina State Highway Patrol logo
North Carolina State Highway Patrol logo
Trooper badge of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol
Trooper badge of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol
MottoEsse Quam Videri
Latin: To be rather than to seem
Agency overview
Formed1 July 1929; 93 years ago (1929-07-01)
Employees2,178 (as of 2019)[1]
Volunteers12 (as of 2008)[2]
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionNorth Carolina, USA
NC - Troop Map.png
North Carolina State Highway Patrol Troops
Size53,865 square miles (139,510 km2)
Population9,061,032 (2007 est.)[3]
Legal jurisdictionState of North Carolina
Constituting instrument
General nature
Operational structure
Headquarters512 North Salisbury Street
Raleigh, North Carolina
Troopers1,670 (as of 2017)[4]
Civilian members (uniformed and non uniformed personnel w/various titles)s508 (as of 2014)[4]
Agency executive
  • Freddy L. Johnson Jr., Commander (Colonel)
Parent agencyNorth Carolina Department of Public Safety
  • Administrative Services
  • Technical Support Unit
  • Office of Professional Standards
  • Training
  • Field Operations
Troop Headquarters
  • Greenville
  • Fayetteville
  • Raleigh
  • Greensboro
  • Salisbury
  • Newton
  • Asheville
  • Monroe
LockupsNone (local county jails or state juvenile facilities used)
HelicoptersBell 206 JetRanger, Bell OH-58A+ and Bell 407
Dogs and horsesPolice tracking/drug sniffing dogs and ceremonial horses
  • July 1st
  • CALEA Accredited
NCSHP website NCSHP Org Chart

The Highway Patrol is one of the largest divisions of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety other than the Department of Correction (DOC). The patrol's headquarters is located in the DPS headquarters in Raleigh in the Archdale Building downtown. This department also includes the NC State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), NC Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE), NC Department of Corrections (DOC), which includes probation and parole (Community Corrections), NC Civil Air Patrol, Emergency Management, NC State Capitol Police, and the NC National Guard.


Established in 1929, the NC State Highway Patrol's mission is to ensure safe and efficient transportation on the streets or highways, reduce crime, protect against terrorism, and respond to natural and man-made disasters.[5]

North Carolina, like many Southern states, was distrusted by the federal government from starting a "state police" agency, due to concerns that the department would be used for political motives to intimidate blacks from voting in the late 1920s, at a time when lynchings and Ku Klux Klan activities were on the rise following the end of World War I. The vast majority of the 100 NC Sheriffs also did not want to lose political power to a state police agency. These issues were alleviated by establishment of a traffic enforcement agency to police the ever-expanding highways with the enforcement of motor vehicles laws primarily. The original members of the Highway Patrol were the command staff and they were sent to the Pennsylvania State Police Academy for training. Upon their graduation and return to North Carolina, these men established the first basic school at Camp Glenn, an abandoned World War I Army Camp in Morehead City where Carteret General Hospital is now located. Several extra recruits were brought to the original basic school and were sent home as alternates, in the event that original members quit or were fired. Most of these men were never recalled to duty after 8 weeks of training. Over the years, the agency obtained semi-state police powers with the authority of the Governor to implement it, but this has never been fully done by any NC Governor. Changes in the regulations by the general assembly were made in response to political appointees being named as commander. The changes ensured that the commander of the SHP must meet all trooper requirements, including completion of the grueling basic trooper training school, thus preventing unqualified political appointees from being named commander.


In 1921, 150,558 motor vehicles were registered in North Carolina. By 1929, the number of registered vehicles increased to 503,590. As the number of vehicles increased, so did the number of people killed in traffic accidents: 690 deaths in 1929.

Traffic control was of such concern that in 1929 the General Assembly passed an act authorizing the establishment of a State Highway Patrol. The new organization was given statutory responsibility to patrol the highways of the state, enforce the motor vehicle laws, and assist the motoring public.

The organization was designed as a division of the State Highway Commission. The Highway Commission initially sent ten men (later designated as a captain and nine lieutenants) to Pennsylvania to attend the training school of the Pennsylvania State Police. Their mission was to study law, first aid, light adjustments, vehicle operation, and related subjects for use in North Carolina's first Patrol School.[6]

The SHP was housed in the Department of Revenue's Motor Vehicle Bureau until 1941[7] becoming part of the newly formed NC Department of Transportation, but was again transferred to the newly formed Department of Crime Control and Public Safety in the mid-1970s. This agency more recently became the Department of Public Safety, which expanded to absorb other agencies including the Department of Motor Vehicles, State Bureau of Investigation and other state departments dealing with statewide law enforcement.

An office was established in Raleigh to serve as state headquarters, and a district office was established in each of the nine state DOT highway districts. A lieutenant and three patrolmen were assigned to each district. All patrolmen were issued Harley Davidson motorcycles and the lieutenants drove Model A Ford Coupes. The Patrol commander was issued a Buick automobile. The new patrolmen and command staff made a cross-state introductory riding tour on July 1, 1929 to show off the new agency's personnel to the state. On the following day, the first officer death occurred when Patrolman George I. Thompson, who was driving his motorcycle in the procession, was killed in a traffic collision in Anson County (see below for line-of-duty deaths).[8]


In 1931, the General Assembly increased the Patrol to 67 members and reduced the number of lieutenants to six. The Patrol was increased in size in 1933 to 121 members. Patrolmen were relieved of gasoline inspection duties and given responsibilities for issuing driver licenses and enforcing the new driver license laws.

Without vehicular radios, patrolmen were issued 2 rolls of dimes each week so they could phone in for calls on a regular basis. Though the legislature authorized the patrol to establish a one-way statewide radio system in 1937, it had many areas of no reception (dead spots), especially in the far eastern coastal areas and more so in the rugged western mountains. The system was flawed in that patrolmen could not answer back. Poor reception made it hard for patrolmen to tell which patrolman was being called, even when they could hear the radio. If dispatchers could not locate a patrolman, they would call certain selected stores, gas stations and post offices in the particular patrolman's district and ask the employees or personnel to watch for and to flag the patrolman down the next time he was seen passing by and to tell him to call in. If patrolmen arrested a violator, they would have minor offenders follow them to the justice of the peace office or courthouse. If they physically arrested a violator, the patrolmen would hide their motorcycle in brush and drive an offender to the local jail in his own vehicle.

All patrolmen were assigned individual vehicles in 1937, and over the passing decades, numerous executive, legislative, and administrative changes have occurred since the Patrol's creation. The duties and responsibilities have varied, different ranks have been designated, and the organizational structure has been modified to improve efficiency, to address the needs of the state and in response to changing technology. Examples included an expanded air wing after World War II, implementation of two-way radios, use of helicopters, abolition of fixed-wing aircraft, use of breath testing devices, K-9 dog units, body armor, pursuit vehicles such as Mustangs and Camaros, speed measurement instruments such as the "whammy" in the 1950s, later RADAR, VASCAR and LIDAR and more recently computerized dispatch through in-vehicle terminals.

In World War II, a number of Patrolmen who had served in World War I were recall to active duty and others enlisted, taking leave of absence from the SHP. Many others had served in the Guard or Reserves. Patrolmen assisted the military by being alert for saboteurs and spies by reporting suspicious activity to the FBI. Deserters and AWOLS were also arrested. By 1946, all personnel on military status had returned to duty with the Patrol.

As of 2008, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol had an authorized strength of over 1,800 sworn law enforcement officers.

In 2018, the NC State Highway Patrol arrested 19,910 people for Driving While Impaired and investigated 1,037 fatalities on North Carolina highways. The Motor Carrier unit fined thousands of truck drivers for various violations.[9]

Rank structureEdit

Rank Insignia Description[10]
Colonel[11][12] Patrol Commander[13] Appointed by the Governor
Lieutenant Colonel[11][12] Patrol Deputy Commander / Director of Support Operations[10]
Major[11][12] Support/Operations/Training/Professional Standards
Captain[11][12] Troop Commander / (1 per troop; others assigned to specific posts)
Lieutenant[11][12] (3 per troop; others assigned to specific posts)
First Sergeant[11][12] [14][15] District Commander (1 per patrol district; others assigned to specific posts)
Sergeant[11][12] [16][15] Shift Supervisor (3 per patrol district; others assigned to specific post)
Master Trooper[11][12] Rank stated on badge (6+ years experience)
Senior Trooper[11][12] Rank stated on badge (3–6 years experience)
Trooper[11][12] 6 months – 3 years experience
Probationary Trooper[17][12] 0–6 months experience (field training)
Trooper Cadet[18][12] Trooper School

In the history of the Patrol there have been several ranks that have been abolished:

The rank of “Patrolman first class”, which was denoted by a one stripe chevron and represented 3 years of service, was abolished in 1960.

The rank of Corporal was established in 1931 as second in command in each district. It was abolished in 1968.

The Rank of Technical Sergeant was established in 1951 as third in command in each troop. There were only around eight at a given time in the state and the rank was made almost redundant and obsolete by the addition of the rank of First Sergeant in 1968, and so it too was abolished in 1973.

In 1962 the rank of “Air-wing Sergeant” was created and only held by two men, Patrolman Pilot Al Cope and Patrolman Pilot Dan Williams. The Rank was abolished in 1972 when the helicopter replaced the Patrol’s airplanes and Cope left the program. At that time Patrol Pilots were given the rank of “Warrant Officer”.

The Rank of Warrant Officer was used by several Helicopter Pilots for the Patrol until the early 1980s when the rank was abolished.

Lastly the ranks of First and Second Lieutenant were merged into one Lieutenant in the late 1970s to avoid confusion of seniority among members.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ NCDPS Website
  2. ^ Volunteers in Police Service Website
  3. ^ "Annual Population Estimates 2000 to 2007". Archived from the original on 2008-09-18. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 2007 Population Estimates
  4. ^ a b USDOJ Statistics Archived 2008-11-20 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ North Carolina State Highway Patrol Website,000014 Archived 2007-02-02 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "State Highway Patrol » History". North Carolina Department of Public Safety. Archived from the original on 2016-01-27. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  7. ^ "NCDOR: About the NCDOR".
  8. ^ "State Highway Patrol » History". NC Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. Archived from the original on 2007-12-16. Retrieved 2007-12-10.
  9. ^ North Carolina Department of Public Safety, North Carolina State Highway Patrol main website
  10. ^ a b[bare URL PDF]
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ohio State Highway Patrol (December 2011). Rank State Population Troopers per Capita (PDF) (Report).
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Bartlett, Marie (October 30, 1988). Trooper Down!. Algonquin Books. ISBN 978-0912697819.
  13. ^ Journal, John Hinton/Winston-Salem. "Winston-Salem native named as new commander of N.C. Highway Patrol".
  14. ^ "Sgt. David Kinlaw leads Sampson County's Highway Patrol - Sampson Independent". 26 January 2016.
  15. ^ a b "PATCHES - NC Highway Patrol Retiree's Association". Archived from the original on 2019-03-02. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  16. ^ "News: State trooper assigned to Wayne County under internal investigation". Goldsboro News-Argus.
  17. ^ "Schedule" (PDF).
  18. ^ DPS. "North Carolina Department of Public Safety".

External linksEdit