Wisconsin Department of Transportation

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75th anniversary of Wisconsin State Patrol logo

State Patrol's historical timeline: 1950-1959*

1950-1959

  • The state began buying and equipping squad cars and assigning them to individual officers in 1951.
  • The agency devised an experiment in 1952 using a borrowed radar unit to determine if the new technology was useful for speed limit enforcement.  The first official use of radar by the agency was at an intersection in Hales Corner in 1953, and this new technology created great excitement.
  • The death toll from traffic crashes in 1955 climbed to more than 900. To reduce traffic fatalities, state officials including Governor Walter Kohler backed legislation to increase the number of officers to 250. The duties of the officers also became even more focused on traffic safety enforcement.
  • Lawrence Beier, director of the Motor Vehicle Department’s Enforcement Division, negotiated a two-year contract with the Northwestern University Traffic Institute in 1955 to operate a training academy at Camp McCoy. The first class of 48 officers graduated from the academy on December 29, 1955. Camp McCoy was chosen for the academy because it offered barracks, classrooms and a mess hall along with roads for driver training and crash investigation classes.
  • The agency began issuing firearms and provided firearm training to officers in 1955.
  • The Legislature in 1955 authorized an increase in the number of officers from 70 to 250.
  • The agency added Harley-Davidson motorcycles to its fleet in 1956. The motorcycles provided greater mobility through heavy traffic.
  • The first Breathalyzers were purchased in 1956 to detect drivers’ alcohol consumption. (Eventually, the agency’s Chemical Testing Section assumed statewide responsibility for testing and certifying this type of equipment to measure drivers’ alcohol levels.)
  • At the end of the contract with the Northwestern University Traffic Institute, agency staff assumed responsibility for the training program at the academy in 1957.
  • The Legislature in 1957 authorized an additional group of 70 motor carrier inspectors to relieve officers from duties at the stationary scales and to assist in administrative investigations. Inspectors enforced truck weight, equipment and licensing regulations. They were authorized to wear a distinctive brown and green uniform in 1959.

*The sources of information include a variety of documents, newsletters, previous anniversary publications and submissions by current and former members of the Wisconsin State Patrol. 

Questions about the content of this page:
Steve Olson, steve.olson@dot.wi.gov
Last modified: April 11, 2014

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