STATE HIGHWAY PATROL
[Authorized: NDCC Chapter 39-03]
The State Highway Patrol was created in 1935 by the Legislative Assembly and was known as the “Highway Police”. During the first years of the organization, the State Highway Commissioner with the consent of the Governor appointed the Superintendent of the State Highway Patrol to administer the provisions of the laws of North Dakota. Highway police were charged with protecting public highways and enforcing the laws as they related to the operation of motor vehicles as well as other means of transportation using state highways. Members of the police patrol had to be between twenty-five and forty-five years old. They had to be of good moral character, citizens of the US, and residents of the state for at least two years. Other qualifications included passing a physical examination or other tests as determined by the superintendent. Appointment preference was given to honorably discharged soldiers of the World War. Initially five patrolmen were appointed but the quota of ten set by the Legislature had to be filled before the next session of the Legislative Assembly (S. L. 1935, Ch. 148). The State Patrol was funded by fees from the new North Dakota vehicle license plates.
In 1937 the Division of Highway Safety and Police Patrol was created and the number of patrol increased to fifteen including the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent. Legislation expanded the duties. An educational campaign was undertaken by the patrolmen to inform the public about traffic safety and the campaign was augmented by radio stations and newspapers. Close cooperation with the Department of Public Instruction promoted highway safety courses in high schools across the state. Other duties of the Patrol included vehicle testing programs and assisting motorists in distress. After a driving test was taken a driving card was issued to the operator. County judges could issue a special license to a driver under the age of sixteen if the proper requirements were met by the applicant (S. L. 1937, Ch.139).
In 1941 legislation amended several sections of the law regarding the issuing of licenses. A time frame was set in which the license was valid and a fee charged for the license. Legislation stipulated when the State Highway Commissioner could revoke or suspend a license. The law also allowed the Superintendent of the State Highway Patrol to appoint as many as twenty patrolmen. A candidate for the position of patrol had to be twenty-five to thirty-five years old. The Division of Highway Safety and Police Patrol required that the State Patrol work with all sheriffs, peace officers, and local authorities to enforce the laws as established by the Legislative Assembly (S. L. 1941, Ch. 175).
In 1949 legislation changed regarding the appointment, removal, and duties of patrolmen. There could be up to forty patrolmen on the force. Procedures were spelled out concerning removal of a patrolman or a temporary patrolman. This action was carried out by the State Highway Commissioner, Secretary of State, and Attorney General with the State Highway Commissioner as chairman (S. L. 1949, Ch. 240).
Legislation separated the State Highway Patrol from the State Highway Department and defined the job titles of the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent who were chosen by the Governor. Up to forty patrolmen represented the agency. Procedures for removal of a patrolman were amended (S. L. 1951, Ch. 237). State law required that each patrolman be bonded by the State Bonding Fund and assigned a badge of authority which was distinctive in design. At the center of the badge was the great seal of the state and the words “North Dakota Highway Patrol” bordered the outer edge of the badge. The position of the officer and a serial number was also on the badge. The agency also adopted an official symbol. The emblem was circular with the words “North Dakota State Patrol” around the outer border and the profile of Sioux Chief Red Tomahawk on the interior. Marcellus Red Tomahawk’s profile had appeared on State Highway markers since 1923 and he was recognized by state leaders as a peace negotiator. The emblem was placed on all Patrol vehicles and official documents.
In 1955 legislation authorized the Superintendent of the State Highway Patrol to set up divisions, bureaus, and districts throughout the state in order to meet the increase in demands of highway use. He designated a ranking system for officers. A sergeant was appointed to supervise the employees within a particular district. Newly appointed patrolmen were deemed to be temporary for the first nine months of duty (S. L. 1955, Ch. 240). Legislation defined and set in place the uniform traffic summons and complaint form created by the courts and allowed for use of radar in speeding violations. The Disciplinary Board of Review was set up (S. L. 1955, Ch. 239). Other legislation listed the exceptions regarding the application and examination process for drivers who wished to obtain an operator’s license and established provisions for the exam to take place in either the county of the applicant or a place convenient for applicant (S. L. 1955, Ch. 251).
In 1959 the State Legislature expanded and clarified descriptions relating to motor vehicles and drivers (S. L. 1959, Ch. 289). Legislation created a Motor Vehicle Reciprocity Commission consisting of the State Highway Commissioner, the Motor Vehicle Registrar, and the State Highway Patrol Superintendent (S. L. 1959, Ch. 283). Definitions on funding for roadways in the state were clarified including the terms “interstate system” and “feeder roads” (S. L. 1959, Ch. 236). In 1961 the Legislative Assembly requested the State Highway Commissioner, Motor Vehicle Registrar, Highway Patrol Superintendent, Public Safety Division Director, and the Safety Responsibility Division Director to coordinate all phases of highway and traffic safety. At least four meetings were to be held each year and the chairman of the group was the State Highway commissioner, (S. L. 1961, Ch. 207).
In 1963 the State Highway Patrol set up a department for the Public Safety Division and the director was appointed by the State Highway Patrol Superintendent. Qualifications for a director included having education or experience in the field of highway safety as determined by the Superintendent. Duties included directing and carrying out programs of public education and information and assisting and cooperating with government and private agencies for the purpose of encouraging better and safer driving practices, better law enforcement, and uniformity in the type of penalty given (S. L. 1963, Ch. 267). Other legislation in 1963 required all state owned vehicles to have NORTH DAKOTA painted in four-inch lettering on doors. Excluded from this requirement were certain agencies including the State Highway Patrol and all peace officers and several state institutions (S. L. 1963, Ch. 266). Legislation standardized elements of North Dakota license plates that were issued for all registered vehicles (S. L. 1963, Ch. 269).
In 1965 the Legislative Assembly amended the Century Code by stating that a newly hired patrolman had to be considered a temporary appointee for a twelve month period and be placed under probationary training and service. Afterwards the patrolman either became a permanent member of the force or was dismissed (S. L. 1965, Ch. 267). Powers of the Superintendent and patrolmen were expanded (S. L. 1965, Ch. 268).
A change in the 1967 law empowered the Governor to appoint the Superintendent of the State Highway Patrol, but the Assistant Superintendent was appointed by the Superintendent. An amendment to the Century Code changed the age qualifications of a patrolman. The candidate had to be between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-three. Preference was given to veterans and citizens of the state. Another amendment concerned promotions of officers and duties of the Superintendent. Compulsory termination of employment was amended and reenacted (S. L. 1967, Ch. 295). A driver was required to supply a license and vehicle registration card and the operator of the vehicle had to allow the vehicle to be inspected and any equipment to be tested (S. L. 1967, Ch. 296). In 1969 the Legislature authorized the construction of a Law Enforcement Training Center in Bismarck. It would be administered by the Patrol and provide professional training to recruits, police and sheriff’s department personnel, and other law enforcement agencies. The building was dedicated on July 8, 1971.
Also in 1971 legislation amended and reenacted two sections of the Century Code relating to the appointment of patrolmen and the powers of the superintendent. Legislation repealed the State Highway Patrol Hearing Board, also called the Disciplinary Board of Review (S. L. 1971, Ch. 352). Legislation allowed an officer who had been dismissed to appeal to the Merit Council Hearing Board (S. L. 1971, Ch. 352).
Legislation on the age of an applicant was amended in 1973 and lowered the age to eighteen. The applicant could be no more than thirty-three at the time of appointment. Other qualifications for officers remained the same (S. L. 1973, Ch. 120).
In 1981 a new section was added to the Century Code relating to a criminal justice training and statistical division located within the office of the Attorney General for the purpose of establishing a standardized peace officer training program. Additionally the State Highway Patrol Superintendent was responsible for the operations of the Law Enforcement Training Center and selected a director for the Center. Legislation defined those required to receive training and the type of training needed (S. L. 1981, Ch. 154).
In 1985 the North Dakota State Highway Patrol celebrated 50 years of service to the citizens of North Dakota and during the 2011 Legislative Assembly the State Highway Patrol was commended for completing seventy-five years of professional service to the citizens of the state (S. L. 2011, Ch. 535). The State Highway Patrol has remained a professional and dedicated organization by emphasizing proper training of staff and encouraging greater educational advantages for officers in order for them to continue the legislative mandate of protecting and serving the citizens of North Dakota.
1935 The State Highway Patrol was created and was known as the “Highway Police”. The Highway Police enforced the provisions under the laws of North Dakota in order to protect public highways and to enforce the laws as they related to the operation of motor vehicles and other means of transportation using state highways. Five highway police were appointed and the quota of ten was filled before the next legislative session (S. L. 1935, Ch. 148). The first uniforms were blue and included dark blue slacks, a lighter blue coat, and a blue officer’s cap.
1937 The Division of Highway Safety and Police Patrol was created within the State Highway Department and the number of patrolmen increased to fifteen, including the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent (S. L. 1937, Ch.139). Legislation required the State Highway Commissioner to be administrator for the State Highway System, not for feeder or other roads funded by the Federal Government (S. L. 1937, Ch. 138). Laws on the qualifications and duties of the patrol were spelled out. County judges could issue a special license to a driver under the age of sixteen.
1941 Age of applicants becoming a member of the police patrol changed to include applicants who were twenty-five to thirty-five years of age. Driver’s license laws were amended concerning revoking and suspending a license. Qualifications and authority of the police patrol were listed and the number of patrolmen increased to twenty (S. L. 1941, Ch. 175). Radio communication equipment was installed in patrol vehicles late in 1941.
1947 The age changed to include patrol candidates between the ages of twenty-five and forty. Legislation listed qualifications for appointment, removal, and duties of patrolmen. The new test which was required for drivers seeking a state license included a written exam proving an understanding of traffic laws and road signs showing the ability to see and read. A behind the wheel demonstration was also required (S. L. 1947, Ch. 262).
1949 Amended legislation concerned the appointment, removal, and duties of the officers. Procedures were spelled out concerning removal of a patrolman or a temporary patrolman. Action was carried out by the State Highway Commissioner, Secretary of State, and Attorney General. The State Highway Commissioner served as chairman (S. L. 1949, Ch. 240).
1951 Legislation separated the State Highway Patrol from the State Highway Department and defined the job titles of the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent. Members of the State Highway Patrol were called patrolmen including the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent. The Governor had the power to appoint the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent. Each patrolman was required to carry a badge and be bonded by the State Bonding Fund (S. L. 1951, Ch. 237). Legislation addressed a requirement age for the officers and created a Highway Patrolmen’s Retirement System (S. L. 1951, Ch. 238).
1953 The State Highway Patrol enforced all laws and regulations pertaining to closing hours of businesses or establishments selling alcohol outside the limits of unincorporated cities or villages (S. L. 1953, Ch. 232).
1955 Legislation gave the Superintendent of the State Highway Patrol authority to divide the state into eight districts including Bismarck, Devils Lake, Dickinson, Fargo, Grand Forks, Jamestown, Minot, and Williston. Each office was based in a public building and linked to headquarters by communications equipment. A sergeant was appointed to supervise the work in the district. Patrolmen were given ranks lower than assistant superintendent (S. L. 1955, Ch. 240). Radar equipment was used to enforce highway and driving regulations (S. L. 1955, Ch. 239). The style of uniforms changed.
1957 The State Highway Patrol was given the responsibility for enforcing the motor carrier laws (S. L. 1957, Ch. 318).
1959 Revisions to motor vehicle laws related to licensed operators and the operation of vehicles on highways. The State Highway Patrol enforced all laws concerning the use or presence of alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle using statewide highways and streets (S. L.1959, Ch. 289). A patrol could arrest without warrant for any violation committed in his presence. Funding for state roads and the definitions of “feeder roads” and the “interstate system” were addressed (S. L. 1959, Ch. 236). A Motor Vehicle Registration Reciprocity Commission was formed (S. L.1959, Ch. 283).
1961 The State Highway Commissioner, Superintendent of the State Highway Patrol, Public Safety Director and others formed a committee to coordinate the promotion of highway safety (S. L. 1961, Ch. 207).
1963 The Public Safety Division with its responsibilities was transferred to the State Highway Patrol office for the purpose of reducing the dangers of travel on highways and streets. A Director of the Division was appointed by the Superintendent of the State Highway Patrol. A district commander was elevated to the rank of captain and assistant commander to sergeant (S. L.1963, Ch.267). An amendment to the Century Code related to the standardization of vehicle license plates. Legislation required state vehicles to display four-inch lettering spelling out NORTH DAKOTA on the front doors of state vehicles (S. L.1963, Ch. 266). License plate information standardized and included the slogan “Peace Garden State” (S. L. 1963, Ch. 269). Total number of patrolmen was set at eighty (S. L. 1963, Ch. 266).
1965 Newly appointed patrolmen were considered temporary and served a probationary twelve month period during which time they attended the training facility in Bismarck. Female employees were authorized to serve the eight district office as clerks (S. L. 1965, Ch. 267). The authority of State Highway Patrol was expanded to include the enforcement of criminal laws at all state institutions (S. L. 1965, Ch. 268). Enforcement of liquor establishments located outside of municipal limits and patrolling grounds of all charitable and penal institutions and the State Capitol became the responsibility of the Patrol.
1967 The Governor appointed Superintendent of the Highway Patrol who in turn appointed the Assistant Superintendent and the patrolmen. Patrolmen could exercise general police power over all violations of the law. The Patrol was authorized to include enforcement of all criminal laws on the highway right of ways (S. L. 1967, Ch. 295). The State Highway Patrol was authorized to inspect all motor vehicles on the highway (S. L. 1967, Ch. 296).
1973 Age of a patrol candidate was between the ages of eighteen and thirty-three years (S. L. 1973, Ch. 120).
1975 Legislation addressed the penalty for impersonating a police officer (S. L. 1975, Ch. 106).
1979 Heidi R. Sand was employed as the first female uniformed officer of the State Highway Patrol and she served until 1984.
1981 A criminal justice training and statistical division was created within the office of the Attorney General for the purpose of creating a standardized peace officers’ training program. The Superintendent of the State Highway Patrol was responsible for the operations of the Law Enforcement Training Center and appointed a director for the Center (S. L. 1981, Ch. 154).
1983 The State Highway Department truck regulatory division shifted to the State Highway Patrol. Over 100 staff were transferred from the truck regulatory division and reclassified as State Highway Patrol personnel centralizing traffic regulatory operations. New personnel were given peace officer classifications after mandated training. The Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program was adopted (S. L. 1983, Ch. 418).
1987 Legislation was enacted to remove the driver’s examination responsibility from the Patrol and place it under the power and jurisdiction of the State Highway Commissioner. Since 1982 civilian driver license examiners have had responsibility for administering driver’s exams.
2004 Lori Malafa was the first uniformed female to be promoted to sergeant and also the first female promoted to captain. She became the training director at the Law Enforcement Training Academy.
2007 The North Dakota Highway Patrol organization was restructured. Minimum speed and safety laws were enacted (S. L. 2007, Ch. 329).
2011 The Legislative Assembly honored the State Highway Patrol for seventy-five years of service to citizens (S. L. 2011, Ch. 535). The motor carriers electronic permit transaction fund was created (S. L. 2011, Ch. 282). A Legislative Management Study was requested regarding consistency of regulations for drivers and motor vehicles (S. L. 2011, Ch. 421).
31276 Administration. Administrative Files.
31400 Administration. Highway Patrol Retirement System Minutes.
31401 Administration. North Dakota Highway Patrolman’s Association Minutes.
31435 Administration. Audit Reports.
31399 Administration. Administrative Traffic Safety Summaries.
31277 Administration. Law Enforcement Training Center Files.
31392 Operations Division. District Enforcement Reports.
31700 Commercial Motor Carrier Truck. Regulatory Files.
32134 Personnel Division. Litigation Files.
Legislative History of North Dakota State Agencies: Richard J. Wolfert State Librarian. State Library Commission, 1978.
North Dakota Century Code.
North Dakota Secretary of State Blue Book.
North Dakota State Highway Patrol Website.
North Dakota State Legislature Session Laws.
Remle, Larry and Ginger L. Sprunk. “Building Professionalism: A history of the North Dakota State Highway Patrol, 1935-1985,” North Dakota History: Journal of the Northern Plains, 54, no. 4 (1987): 25-36.
612 East Boulevard Ave.
Bismarck, North Dakota 58505
Museum Store: 8am - 5pm M-F; Sat. & Sun. 10am - 5pm.
State Archives: 8am - 4:30pm., M-F, except legal holidays, and 2nd Sat. of each month, 10am - 4:30 pm.
State Historical Society offices: 8am - 5pm M-F, except legal holidays.
phone: (701) 328-2666
fax: (701) 328-3710