North Carolina State Highway Patrol

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North Carolina State Highway Patrol
Abbreviation NCSHP
Shoulder patch of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol
North Carolina State Highway Patrol logo
NC - Highway Patrol Badge.png
Trooper badge of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol
Motto Esse Quam Videri
Latin: To be rather than to seem
Agency overview
Formed 1 July 1929; 94 years ago (1929-07-01)
Employees 2,340 (as of 2008)[1]
Volunteers 12 (as of 2008) [2]
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdiction* Department of Public Safety of in the state of North Carolina, USA
NC - Troop Map.png
North Carolina State Highway Patrol Troops
Size 53,865 square miles (139,510 km2)
Population 9,061,032 (2007 est.)[3]
Legal jurisdiction State of North Carolina
Constituting instrument North Carolina Constitution
General nature
Operational structure
Headquarters Raleigh, North Carolina
Troopers 1,517 (as of 2004)[4]
Civilian (uniformed and non w/various titles)s 212 (as of 2004)[4]
Agency executive William J. Grey, Commander (Colonel)
Parent agency North Carolina Department of Public Safety
  • Administrative Services
  • Technical Support Unit
  • Office of Professional Standards
  • Training
  • Field Operations
Troop Headquarterss
  • Greenville
  • Fayetteville
  • Raleigh
  • Greensboro
  • Salisbury
  • Newton
  • Asheville
  • Monroe
Districts 54
Airbases 4
Lockups None (local county jails or state juvenile facilities used)
Helicopters Bell 206 JetRanger, Bell OH-58A+ and Bell 407
Dogs and horses Police tracking/drug sniffing dogs and ceremonial horses
NCSHP website
* Divisional agency: Division of the country, over which the agency has usual operational jurisdiction.

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North Carolina State Trooper on I-85

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol 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. 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 reduce traffic collisions and make the highways of North Carolina as safe as possible.

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 Investigations (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.

Proposals to merge all state law enforcement: current legislative moves in NC advocate a consolidation of agencies within the state, possibly all under the highway patrol, as was done with the DMV Enforcement Section in 2002 (see below), though this is unlikely. Two of the state's three natural conservation law enforcement agencies as one agency and then possibly to put them under the DPS in the same manner that the DMV Enforcement Section was consolidated with the SHP: The NC Marine Fisheries Law Enforcement (Marine Patrol-Fisheries Inspectors) enforces salt water conservation laws mainly in coastal regions, though they occasionally check seafood businesses, shippers and restaurants statewide and pilot boat laws, in addition to powers for other law enforcement. The larger NC Wildlife Enforcement (game warden protectors) enforce inland fish and game laws statewide and all laws on game lands. If the two agencies are consolidated, they would potentially then be put under the DPS. A third conservation agency, the NC State Parks law enforcement rangers may eventually be eyed for consolidation too. Another large state law enforcement agency, the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), which was part of the NC Department of Justice and answered to the State's elected Attorney general, historically a Democrat, was merged under Public Safety in 2014. SBI agents investigate arson, state civil rights, child daycare crimes and assist local law enforcement agencies as requested. This previous separation of agencies caused political tension when there was a Republican Governor who has no control over the SBI. Most Republican Governors shed SBI protection details and instead use plainclothes troopers who fell under the Governor's direct control. The SBI now answers directly to the governor. The last large state agency is the DMV License and Theft Bureau which has plainclothes special agents (Inspectors) of the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of the State department of Transportation who investigate license, registration, title, auto theft and inspection cases, with police powers similar to the SHP. DMV License and Theft Bureau is also being eyed for consolidation with the DPS, possibly as agents or investigators within the SHP. Officials in other agencies fear while they would mostly be sister agencies (not a division of SHP), they could become politically subservient to the SHP, if a total consolidation occurs. Proponents of the move point out that this would save money and resources by consolidating equipment, facilities, badges, weapons, training, uniforms, vehicles and markings and policies.

The Highway Patrol has many responsibilities. The primary job of the rank and file trooper is road safety through state revenue generation employing the enforcement of laws and the issuance of citations for traffic violations, including traffic collision investigation, issuing warning tickets, and finding, arresting, and processing impaired drivers. Troopers also routinely assist local police and sheriff's departments on serious calls and back up other agencies. With a request made to and approved by higher headquarters, troopers also assist local officers and agencies with search warrant executions, mass arrest warrant service and "round-ups" and other requests for help from various agencies. Troopers also set up road checks for drunken drivers. These "checkpoints' result in arrests and citations for drug and weapon charges, DWI, suspended licenses and other crimes. The patrol's air wing and its helicopters routinely assist with manhunts, pursuits and lifesaving emergencies.

Because a state trooper is a sworn peace officer, and although their primary duty is traffic enforcement, they assist in the aforementioned duties as they also can perform other law enforcement functions. Troopers are referred to as "members" if they are commissioned, sworn troopers and it is a breach of internal traditional protocol for a NC trooper to claim to "work for" the patrol. Rather, they are taught to proudly state: "I am a member of the Patrol" and refer to themselves only as "Trooper" NC Troopers bristle at being referred to as an "officer".

Since its inception in 1929, the NC State Highway Patrol has suffered the most deaths of any law enforcement agency in North Carolina, with 61 Troopers, Patrolmen and DMV Officers having been killed in the line of duty; a large proportion of those have been killed by gunfire. Traffic accidents and aircraft accidents also have claimed numerous lives. With the Patrol being a rather new police agency, this makes the per capita death rate even higher. The Title of Trooper was instituted in 1977, when women were admitted into the ranks and it is considered to be earned by completing and graduating from basic school. DMV Officers were absorbed into the NCSHP by a 2002 legislative change, with DMV enforcement section was previously a separate law enforcement agency. Troopers work alone in an assigned, take-home patrol car and often patrol desolate and isolated multi-county regions with no readily available back up. Training is harsh for recruit cadets to ensure they will be able to meet the rigors of working "the road" alone throughout North Carolina. Troopers serve at locations designated by the patrol commander or his designee. They can be transferred at state expense to any location in the state at any time. Additionally, troopers may pay their transfer expenses and transfer to a vacancy anywhere in the state, if approved by the appropriate commands. Troopers who resign and later are accepted to return to the Patrol must complete the entire basic school again. Several troopers have done so two or even three times in recent history.


The State Highway Patrol shall be subject to such orders, rules and regulations as may be adopted by the Secretary of Public Safety, with the approval of the Governor, and shall regularly patrol the highways of the State and enforce all laws and regulations respecting travel and the use of vehicles upon the highways of the State and all laws for the protection of the highways of the State. To this end, the members of the Patrol are given the power and authority of peace officers for the service of any warrant or other process issuing from any of the courts of the State having criminal jurisdiction, and are likewise authorized to arrest without warrant any person who, in the presence of said officers, is engaged in the violation of any of the laws of the State regulating travel and the use of vehicles upon the highways, or of laws with respect to the protection of the highways, and they shall have jurisdiction anywhere within the State, irrespective of county lines. The State Highway Patrol shall enforce the provisions of G.S. 14-399.

The State Highway Patrol shall have full power and authority to perform such additional duties as peace officers as may from time to time be directed by the Governor, and such officers may at any time and without special authority, either upon their own motion or at the request of any sheriff or local police authority, arrest persons accused of highway robbery, bank robbery, murder, or other crimes of violence. The only criminal offenses troopers may not make a warrantless arrest for by statute are non-traffic misdemeanors and non-highway crimes that occur out of the trooper's presence. The clause of the trooper's powers to arrest for bank robbery was specifically inserted during the early 1930s, at the request of the federal government, so that state officers could assist the FBI in combating the rash of bank robberies during the gangster era of the Great Depression. The NC Highway Patrol was issued close to 100 Thompson .45 caliber sub-machine guns by the FBI during this period, but they were never issued or fired and remained locked in the patrol's armory at the Training Center in Raleigh, until they were returned to the federal government in the 1980s.

The clause allowing for troopers to "have full power and authority to perform such additional duties as peace officers as may from time to time be directed by the Governor" gives the patrol the ability at the governor's orders to function as a de facto state police agency, though this clause has never been fully implemented. The NC Alcohol Law Enforcement Agency (ALE), a sister agency of the NC Highway Patrol, however, functions as a true state police agency.

Other famous ceremonies, crimes and incidents have resulted in massive trooper deployments to various locations statewide and even outside North Carolina. Troopers provide a large contingent at the ceremony inaugurating the NC Governor in Raleigh every 4 years and have worked civil protests at various times. One famous incident was in Warren County, when toxic waste was dumped at a waste site there in 1982. A mass force of troopers was deployed to suppress a bloody prison riot at Central Prison in Raleigh on April 17, 1968 in which 6 inmates died and 75 were injured. In the 1980s, troopers were deployed in contingents in excess of 500 to manhunts for suspects who murdered or shot troopers and law enforcement officers in separate high-profile incidents. Halifax County saw two manhunts on different occasions; one a prison escape from adjacent Virginia concluded in North Carolina, the other the murder of a trooper on a traffic stop on Interstate 95. Other high-profile modern manhunts were conducted involving over 500 troopers in McDowell, Haywood, Madison and Henderson Counties following murders or shootings of troopers in each case, with the suspects fleeing in rugged areas on foot for days. The 1979 murder by rifle fire of 2 Rutherford County sheriff's deputies who answered a domestic disturbance call in Rutherford County near Rutherfordton also claimed the life of NC Trooper R. L. "Pete" Peterson, who was also shot and killed by the suspect after a brief chase. Peterson was unaware of the murder of the deputies and tried to stop the suspect James W. Hutchins, thinking he was a speeder and not knowing he had just murdered 2 deputies. That incident also resulted in hundreds of troopers deploying to Rutherford County for a manhunt and was the largest one-day murder of peace officers in NC history. The tragedy inspired a motion picture "Rutherford County Line" and also changed the way domestic disputes were handled by NC law enforcement officers. The suspect in that case, James W. Hutchins, an unemployed textile worker and former Air Force rifle marksman, was the first NC inmate executed when the death penalty was reinstated by the US Supreme Court in 1977. The Halifax County escape incident was shown on the Discovery Channel in 2009.

In 1985, then-NC Governor, Jim Martin mobilized a contingent of over 150 troopers to the western NC mountains in Graham County to assist 50 deployed state wildlife officers, in support of federal forest service officers at an 8-week long, illegal mass-gathering in the Nantahala National Forest involving the "Rainbow Family." The incident resulted in over 18,000 persons illegally gathered on federal lands. Hundreds of criminal incidents including rapes, kidnappings, blatant drug and alcohol violations, breaches of the peace, the presence of numerous fugitives, nudity and widespread dangerous moving traffic offenses prompted police intervention and massive media coverage locally, regionally and nationally to the otherwise quiet region. The incident culminated in a violent confrontation with federal and local officers by family members who illegally blocked a USFS road with a fallen log, denying officers access to patrol areas. The Graham County sheriff who had deputies assigned from 3 neighboring counties was still overwhelmed and called the Governor for emergency help. This resulted in a deployment of state troopers and state wildlife officers to assist federal and county officers in retaking control of the Slickrock Road USFS Recreation Area and making mass arrests. A Prison Department bus was deployed to handle the volume of arrested prisoners, who filled local county jails in the western part of the state. Local Graham County residents had never seen so many troopers ever as hundreds of highway patrol cars and wildlife trucks raced through Robbinsville with lights and sirens en route to Slick Rock. The Rainbow people eventually largely left and officers arrested the final group that refused to leave. The 87 Rainbow gathering was the largest non-manhunt deployment of troopers in Western NC history.

In the early 1990s, a Highway Patrol helicopter assisted Gastonia police officers in a neighborhood shooting incident, in which the suspect exchanged gunfire with the helicopter. Over 100 troopers and a SHP helicopter from the Asheville airbase deployed to Avery County in 2003 for a standoff with a man charged with murdering an Avery County sheriff's lieutenant and wounding his partner. Troopers work security and traffic control annually at the NC State Fair in Raleigh and at the Western State Fair in Asheville. They also direct traffic at major college football games and at the Charlotte Motor Speedway NASCAR races. A large contingent of troopers were also used as a presence to deter unrest at a special hearing at the Avery County Courthouse in Newland in 2000, when the Sheriff, who was convicted of corruption-related charges was dismissed from office by a superior court judge, resulting in anger by the sheriff's supporters.

9-11 response: The entire sworn staff of the NC Highway Patrol was mobilized and alerted on September 11, 2001, following terror attacks in VA, NYC and PA. The patrol was later tasked with being alert to safeguard nuclear plants, military installations and critical infrastructure in North Carolina. NC Troopers were also been given the distinction to be selected by the US government to deploy to Washington DC and be deputized as special deputy US Marshals, to assist with security at Presidential inaugurations.

The Secretary of Public Safety shall direct the officers and members of the State Highway Patrol in the performance of such other duties as may be required for the enforcement of the motor vehicle laws of the State.

Members of the State Highway Patrol, in addition to the duties, power and authority herein before given, shall have the authority throughout the State of North Carolina of any police officer in respect to making arrests for any crimes committed in their presence and shall have authority to make arrests for any crime committed on any highway.

Regardless of territorial jurisdiction, any member of the State Highway Patrol who initiates an investigation of an accident or collision may not relinquish responsibility for completing the investigation, or for filing criminal charges as appropriate, without clear assurance that another law-enforcement officer or agency has fully undertaken responsibility, and in such cases he shall render reasonable assistance to the succeeding officer or agency if requested.[5]

The NCSHP is the state's ready-response force and can mobilize at least 800 troopers anywhere in the state within 6 hours. Troopers are trained to respond to strikes, disasters, mass protests, riots and other emergencies. Troopers carry an assortment of issued equipment in their vehicles at all times. Troopers all carry a Sig Sauer P226 .357 Sig semi-automatic sidearm, a .12 gauge shotgun and in certain cases, semi or fully automatic weapons. Troopers are currently in the process of transitioning to Smith & Wesson AR-15 rifles. Troopers also carry Oleoresin capsicum OC defensive spray, expandable baton and TASER Electronic Control Device as defensive weapons, which they are trained to use. Troopers are "tased" at the basic school to carry the Taser and are sprayed with OC spray.

Troopers are issued individually assigned patrol vehicles which can be a motor cycle with trailer in addition to a patrol car, a patrol car only which may be marked and in some cases unmarked (no more than 17% of the SHP fleet can be unmarked) or SUV-type 4X4 vehicles, especially in mountain regions prone to bitter cold, ice and snow. Troopers' vehicles are routinely inspected along with equipment and troopers take pride in keeping their vehicles and equipment clean and functional. Each troop of the 8 headquarters complexes have a communications center (with certain outlying radio sub-centers in some areas) and patrol garages that solely care for and maintain trooper's vehicles and radios. The used patrol vehicles are well known in the state to be cared for and well-maintained and are sought after by smaller law enforcement agencies for bid purchase in a second life as a local police or county patrol car.

The NC Highway Patrol, like other state and county law enforcement agencies, does not have territorial jurisdiction on Cherokee Indian tribal lands in western North Carolina. Because this land is exclusively under federal law enforcement and tribal police jurisdiction, troopers who are assigned to that area are commissioned as "special officers" of the US Bureau of Indian Affairs, allowing them to assist tribal police and federal authorities as needed and to make arrests and issue citations in tribal or federal court. The Patrol also does not have jurisdiction on federal military installations in North Carolina except for concurrent jurisdiction on certain state highways that pass through Fort Bragg and on several inactive Marine Corps Airfields in the Eastern part of the State. The NCSHP has full police powers on the NC portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway, in all US Park Service and Wildlife Preserve lands and on all US Forest Service lands in North Carolina. Troopers often assist US Park and Forest Service law enforcement rangers in the performance of their duties.

The patrol's statewide radio system was the first such system in the state and was first one way and then two-way. Today, troopers use little verbal communication by radio and instead use mobile data terminals (MDT's) which include portable laptop computers which allows troopers to check NCIC national criminal records, to complete collision reports, issue citations and perform other work electronically which is transmitted to area headquarters, alleviating hand-written reports. The NCSHP radio system is also used by other state agencies except the NC Wildlife Enforcement Division, which has its own statewide radio system for wildlife officers and state park rangers. It is headquartered in Raleigh. Federal agencies such as the FBI, US Marshals and US Secret Service also use the NCSHP radio system.


Established in 1929, the NC State Highway Patrol's mission is to reduce collisions and make the highways of North Carolina as safe as possible.[6]

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 names 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.″[7]

The SHP was transferred to the department of Revenue until in 1941[8] 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) [9]


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 recalled 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 2008, the NC State Highway Patrol arrested 23,199 people for Driving While Impaired, seized $10 million worth of drugs, and investigated 1,081 fatalities on North Carolina highways. The Motor Carrier unit fined thousands of truck drivers for various violations.[10]

Rank structure

The NC Highway Patrol is a paramilitary organization, with a rank structure similar to that of the armed forces. Rank denotes grade while title denotes special duties. Not all special duties include a title. Title is reserved for more permanent, semi-permanent or time period assigned assignments or skills, while some duties and assignments are adjunct to primary duty and may be part of the trooper's duties for much of or all of his-her career.

The ranks of Captain and above are appointed by the Governor and exempt from the jurisdiction of the State Personnel Commission. Commissioned officers of the patrol with ranks of lieutenant or higher have gold badges, while first sergeants and below have silver badges. All titles of rank are now reflected on the trooper's badge.

  • Colonel (Col.): The commanding officer of the NCSHP holds the rank of Colonel and is appointed by the governor. The title of commander corresponds with silver eagles collar or shoulder insignia. This title is also reflected on the trooper's badge. The Colonel must be by statute, a graduate of SHP basic school and meet all hiring requirements for rank-and-file troopers. This law was passed to ensure rank-and-file patrol personnel rose to command positions and to prevent non-qualified civililans from being appointed as a commander by politicians for political motives. It was considered for change after a series of commanders were replaced in a short period of time in recent years, but no such changes were actually made by the state legislature.
  • Lieutenant Colonel (Lt. Col.): The deputy commanders (up to three) hold the rank of lieutenant colonel, with silver oak leaf clusters collar or shoulder insignia. This title is also reflected on the trooper's badge.
  • Major (Maj.): Each zone (half of the state) and various other senior command positions have a major in charge or command, with gold oak leaf clusters as collar or shoulder insignia. This title is also reflected on the trooper's badge.
  • Captain (Capt.): Each of the troops and certain other special units are commanded by a captain, with double silver bars as collar or shoulder insignia. This title is also reflected on the trooper's badge.
  • Lieutenant (Lt.): Each troop has two deputy commanders, a lieutenant with a single silver bar as collar or shoulder insignia. This title is also reflected on the trooper's badge.
  • Warrant Officer (WO): This is a no-longer used rank that was given to pilots on the NCSHP, with a silver bar with a black vertical strip in the middle as collar or shoulder insignia. This rank was abolished in the late 1980s.
  • First Sergeant (F/Sgt.): Each district within a troop is supervised by a first sergeant. A first sergeant's insignia is three chevrons up, three rockers down, with a French lozenge (diamond) in the middle . The collar insignia is silver, while the embroidered sleeve insignia is black on a yellow background. The stripes are worn below the agency patch on the sleeve of the coat, shirt and coveralls. This title is also reflected on the trooper's badge.
  • Sergeant: Each district has 3-8 sergeants. Their insignia is three chevrons on the sleeve, pointing up. A sergeant supervises a team of troopers in the field, although non-supervisory positions such as recruiter, traffic safety information sgt. (TSI) and internal affairs positions call for sergeants, as do positions at state headquarters and at the training center. This title is also reflected on the trooper's badge.
  • Master Trooper (M/Tpr): This title is reflected on the trooper's badge.
  • Senior Trooper (S/Tpr): This title is reflected on the trooper's badge.
  • Trooper (Tpr): This title is reflected on the trooper's badge and after two years of service following completion of basic school, the trooper is authorized to wear an attachment bar under the nameplate denoting "serving since" with the year joined the NCSHP.
  • Probationary Trooper: This title is reflected as "Trooper" on the badge, but the probationary trooper is the lowest sworn rank of the NCSHP. The new trooper completes probation after one year of service, following graduation from the basic school.

Vehicles and uniforms

Vehicles and agency colors: By NC Statute, all NCSHP patrol vehicles must be black and silver to be considered marked, though up to 17% of patrol vehicles can be unmarked. Many patrol vehicles have full markings but no light bar on the roof. The lack of a roof light bar increases fuel conservation by improving aerodynamics and makes the vehicle less visible on patrol, allowing troopers to surveil violators while being less detected. This also prevents ice and snow from clumping on the roof in the cold and often-snowy mountain districts in winter, keeping patrol vehicles from becoming top-heavy (roll-over threat) and also improves fuel efficiency. These vehicles are referred to as a "slick top" for better use in traffic enforcement. The "slick top" patrol vehicle will have lights inside the vehicle and front grill similar to the unmarked vehicles. The vehicle color scheme is historically similar to the uniform of gray and black, a historic reference to the gray of the Confederacy and the black of the damage done to the state by the fires of the Civil War.

NCSHP Officers were originally titled as "Patrolmen" and were not called "Troopers" until 1977, when females were accepted to patrol School.

Of the uniform items, only the trooper's hat badge, a diamond-shaped badge and dress coat collar insignia (NC state seals) have remained unchanged since 1929, though the overall design of the badge is similar to its original design from 1929. Troopers originally wore "kepi" style caps and later pith helmets in the 1950s. They went to campaign-style "smoky bear" hats in the late 1950s and this heargear is a symbolic source of pride to all troopers. Troopers are noted for wearing long-sleeve shirts and clip-on ties (for safety) year-round. On several occasions since the 1970s, troopers have been given the option of voting to be able to wear short sleeve shirts in warm weather months and to have mustaches. These ideas were rejected by rank-and-file troopers overwhelmingly.

Merger with DMV Enforcement

Until 2002, there were two state-run law enforcement entities patrolling the highways of North Carolina; the Highway Patrol and the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles Enforcement Section. This branch of the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles, which itself is a division of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, was primarily responsible for ticketing and weighing commercial traffic, and enforcing federal motor carrier laws on truckers. DMV Enforcement was structured similar to the Highway Patrol, with districts and even similar model patrol cars (DMV Enforcement cars were light blue and white with "State Owned" license plates, as opposed to the gray and black Highway Patrol colors and distinct Highway Patrol license plate). This division, also, ran the state's interstate weigh stations and oversaw the plainclothes "inspectors", special agents who conducted inspection, license, theft and title fraud investigations concerning vehicles. After several attacks on citizens at NC rest areas, DMV enforcement was assigned to patrol state rest areas. Over the years some tension and animosity developed between the two agencies because of their overlapping authority, since both agencies, ultimately, had the power to pull over all vehicular traffic in the state and write citations. Several high speed chases occurred and in two instances, DMV officers were killed In another incident, a DMV officer was shot at in a chase in Davidson County. In time, DMV began running RADAR to control truck speed and to assist in commercial vehicle accident investigation, which further frustrated troopers. After several scandals and a multitude of state and federal corruption violations rocked the DMV and its Enforcement Division, the state finally decided to restructure the Division of Motor Vehicles and concluded that the Highway Patrol and DMV Enforcement were in fact too similar and more money could be saved by having one agency performing all highway law enforcement duties. DMV Enforcement was merged into the Highway Patrol, and is run as the Motor Carrier Enforcement Section of the Highway Patrol.

Former DMV supervisory and command personnel such as sergeants, lieutenants, captains and majors kept their rank when they merged with the NCSHP, though they were originally prohibited from commanding troopers. Also, a number of DMV officers in various positions had been fired previously as troopers and were resented upon returning to the SHP, with some troopers commonly referring to them disparagingly as "trooper-rejects". They were issued badges and vehicle markings different from troopers. After all of these officers completed a special trooper conversion training course, they were fully integrated into the NCSHP chain-of-command and rank structure and given the title of trooper. That move, which included a special DMV officer-only basic course was referred to by irate troopers as the "instant trooper" or "shake and bake" basic school, which was not nearly as long or strenuous as normal basic schools had been. All of these factors combined to cause additional resentment with basic school graduate troopers. That merger caused some troopers to lose placement to DMV officers for seniority as troopers and for promotional purposes and hence, some tension still lingers somewhat to date. Overall, the integration process has largely transitioned completely.

Though the NC Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) under the NC Department of Transportation (DOT) transferred the weight and commercial vehicle law enforcement uniformed officer personnel to the Highway Patrol in 2003, the DMV Inspectors were retained under DMV in the License and Theft Bureau. These officers "Inspectors" are tasked with investigation of motor vehicle title fraud and investigation, motor Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) alteration, motor vehicle safety inspection sticker fraud, license and theft investigations, drivers license fraud and related identity theft, along with other similar crimes. These officers have general police powers related to their duties and are empowered to enforce traffic laws throughout the state. They have the same territorial jurisdiction as troopers. All NC weight scale stations are now staffed by uniformed NC troopers.

North Carolina Center for Missing Persons

As of November 2009, the NC Center for Missing Persons merged into the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. The N.C. Center for Missing Persons serves as the clearinghouse for information regarding missing children and adults and is charged with issuing AMBER Alerts and Silver Alerts. Each year, more than 10,000 people are reported missing to the N.C. Center for Missing Persons. The problems of non-custodial abductions, runaways, stranger abductions, and missing adults transcend socio-economic, racial and ethnic boundaries. Reasons for these disappearances may include problems at home, health or mental issues, snags with the law, or a taste for adventure. Most eventually return or are found by law enforcement officers and do not involve foul play. Many adults who disappear do not want to be found, or they may have other problems such as memory loss, mental illness, or a history of drug use or alcoholism. Since its creation in 1985, the Center has worked with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to locate missing persons and reunite them with their families. North Carolina is one of the few states with a clearinghouse for missing adults as well as children.[11]


Highway Patrol Commander: Colonel William J. Grey

  • Director, Field Operations: Lieutenant Colonel Gary L. Bell
    • Assistant, Field Operations: Major (Vacant)
    • Director, Motor Carrier Enforcement & Troops A-D: Major S.M. Briggs
    • Director, Special Operations Section & Troops E-H: Major Patricia A. Pool
  • Director, Support Services: Lieutenant Colonel Billy Clayton
    • Assistant, Support Services: Major R.V. West
    • Director, Professional Standards: Major Jennifer A. Harris
      • Inspections Unit
      • Grants Unit
      • Accreditation and Quality Management Unit
      • Research and Planning Unit
      • Internal Affairs Unit
    • Director, Training: Major Troy E. Butler

The Patrol's aviation unit was expanded in the 1990s with the acquisition of several surplus Army OH-58 (civilian Bell Ranger) helicopters. The patrol has aviation bases throughout the state and is helicopters with pilots and copilot crews are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to assist in pursuits, rescues, manhunts, missing persons and other special details such as Presidential visits, counter-terrorism, surveillance and emergency response.

The NC Highway Patrol is broken down in geographical areas known as troops. These troops are lettered A through H, The troops are broken down further by district. These districts are responsible for anywhere from 1-5 counties depending on geographic size.

Troop/District Location County(ies)
A1 Kill Devil Hills Dare and Currituck
A2 Ahoskie Bertie, Gates and Hertford
A3 Elizabeth City Pasquotank, Chowan, Perquimans and Camden
A4 Washington Beaufort, Washington, Tyrrell and Hyde
A5 Greenville Pitt and Martin
A6 New Bern Craven and Pamlico
A7 Kinston Lenoir and Jones
A8 Morehead City Carteret
B1 Fayetteville Cumberland
B2 Clinton Sampson
B3 Jacksonville Onslow
B4 Kenansville Duplin and Pender
B5 Whiteville Bladen and Columbus
B6 Wilmington Brunswick and New Hanover
B7 Lumberton Robeson
B8 Lillington Harnett
C1 Rocky Mount Edgecombe and Nash
C2 Goldsboro Wayne
C3 Raleigh Wake
C4 Henderson Franklin, Warren and Vance
C5 Wilson Greene and Wilson
C6 Smithfield Johnston
C7 Durham Durham and Granville
C8 Roanoke Rapids Halifax and Northampton
D1 Siler City Chatham and Lee
D2 Greensboro Guilford
D3 Reidsville Rockingham
D4 Roxboro Caswell and Person
D5 Graham Alamance
D6 Asheboro Randolph
D7 Hillsborough Orange
E1 Lexington Davidson
E2 Albemarle Montgomery and Stanly
E3 Salisbury Rowan
E4 Winston-Salem Forsyth
E5 Mt Airy Surry and Stokes
E6 Concord Cabarrus
E7 Elkin Yadkin and Davie
F1 Morganton Burke
F2 Wilkesboro Alleghany, Ashe and Wilkes
F3 Lenoir Caldwell and Watauga
F4 Statesville Alexander and Iredell
F5 Hickory Catawba and Lincoln
G1 Burnsville Avery, Madison, Mitchell and Yancey
G2 Marion McDowell and Rutherford
G3 Hendersonville Henderson, Polk and Transylvania
G4 Asheville Buncombe
G5 Waynesville Haywood and Jackson
G6 Bryson City Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon and Swain
H1 Gastonia Gaston
H2 Hamlet Richmond, Scotland
H3 Monroe Union, Anson
H4 Shelby Cleveland
H5 Charlotte Mecklenburg
H6 Aberdeen Moore, Hoke


The NC Highway Patrol Basic School for cadets with no prior law enforcement training is twenty-nine weeks long and is fully accredited by the NC criminal justice standards commission. Military veterans can receive VA benefits while attending the basic school. All trooper recruits must pass the NC state basic law enforcement exam to graduate. The basic school is located at 3318 Garner Road in Raleigh and cadets live in the paramilitary, residential setting for the duration of the course, which includes rigorous physical training (PT) each morning, drill and ceremonies, classroom courses, range training and practical courses. Cadets are subject to detailed uniform, dorm and room inspections at any time or by scheduled inspections. Cadets wear a uniform different from troopers and a military-style "overseas" cap while they are cadets. They only wear trooper uniforms for their graduation week, in the last week of training, which includes a graduation banquet the night before the graduation and a swearing-in ceremony at graduation. Cadets who are already trained as peace officers may be eligible to attend an abbreviated portion of the course, which caused some resentment with veteran troopers when the program began. During this intensive training the cadet class will typically lose 40% of its members. It is in this live-in environment where the cadets learn about state and federal laws, firearms marksmanship, and high speed driving. Early every morning the cadets rise, rain or shine, for physical fitness training before starting a full day of classroom instruction. The cadets will form a tight-knit bond and learn to never leave one another "in the ditch witch".

Following these months of effort, the cadets are sworn in as Probationary Troopers and are assigned to their respective troops and districts. Once in their assigned district, they will participate in on-the-job training for an additional twelve weeks with an experienced trooper who is trained as a Field Training Officer, or FTO.

Special facilities: The Basic School is located at 3318 Garner Road in East Raleigh, near the Garner city limits, on the site of the old Governor Morehead School for the blind. The site also houses the NC SBI headquarters. This facility is where recruits attend the 6-month basic school, as do troopers for annual in-service training for one week each year to receive updates on agency procedures and legal changes, as well as tactical training updates. Firearms training and qualification is provided at local district ranges biannually. The Patrol also operates a pursuit driving training track facility nearby in Raleigh, to simulate interstate and highway driving and pursuit driving, at high and low speed. This facility replaced a former World War II Army Airfield near Maxton, used by the patrol from the 1950s, until the early 1990s. Other law enforcement agencies also train at this facility on a limited basis. All NC peace officers must complete a precision driver training course as part of basic training but only troopers must attend and satisfactorily finish pursuit driver training in addition to the precision driver training in order to graduate. Troopers are given extensive high-speed pursuit driving training on a dry and wet skid pad and are taught evasive operation, precision driving, high-speed operation and other specialized driver training that far exceeds the mandates of state law enforcement training standards. Executive protection troopers on the governor's security detail also conduct protective driver training, to simulate protecting VIP's from vehicle attack or assault while mobile or in traffic at the pursuit driver training facility.

In addition to the Training Center located at the former Governor Morehead School for blind children which is shared with the State Bureau of Investigation on Garner Road in Raleigh, the NCSHP has also used the Main NC Justice Academy (NCJA) Campus at Salemburg in Sampson County and the NCJA Western Campus at Edneyville in Henderson County as training schools for basic cadet classes when the main campus is full. In-service training is also conducted at these locations for troopers in the field annually, to update personnel on agency and legal changes, as well as to meet state-mandated training requirements.

Prior to the establishment of the current trooper basic school in Raleigh in 1977, the NCSHP used the Institute of Government (IOG) campus at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill for a basic school, which also trained NC Wildlife Enforcement Officers for many years. Veteran troopers reminisce of wanting to talk to UNC female students, but living in fear of dismissal for being caught doing so during training. Other locations for early basic training schools were Hendersonville, Henderson County and originally in Morehead City at the site of a former World War I Army facility, Camp Glenn, in the Mandy Farms area of the city in Carteret County. The current training center was taken over by the Highway Patrol in the 1970s with half of the campus operated by the NC State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) for administrative officer.

Special duty assignments

Polygrapher: Specially trained and certified troopers conduct polygraph exams for pre-employment screening of applicants, employees and in certain internal investigations.

Accident reconstructionist: Specially trained investigators handle major or complex traffic collision investigations such as major damage, serious or multiple injury or any fatality. Reconstruction is a phase beyond reporting and investigation, which general troopers handle.

Law enforcement dog handler: Specially trained troopers handle SHP drug detection dogs.

Internal affairs investigator: Specially trained sergeants and lieutenants conduct investigations into misconduct (serious violations of SHP policies and minor criminal offenses) involving SHP sworn personnel. Minor allegations are investigated by immediate supervisors, while more serious and firing offenses are handled by internal affairs. Trooper-involved shootings and serious internal criminal matters are generally investigated by agents of the NC State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). By policy, all SHP troopers and employees are required to take and report any complaint made to them and to provide their name and registry number to anyone when asked.

Instructors: All NCSHP instructors must complete the NC Criminal Justice Training and Standards Commission "Instructor" course of 80-hours to be a general instructor or any specialized instructor. These can include the following: Instructor rating: This person trains troopers and other personnel on basic courses at in-service annual training or for cadets in basic school.

PT Instructor-specially-trained, state-certified trooper instructors train cadets at the basic school for fitness and general daily training life.

Firearms Instructor-Specially-trained, state-certified trooper instructors, proficient with firearms, train cadets and sworn personnel in initial and semi-annual firearms qualification training and retrains personnel on new firearms as they are adopted.

Time-distance instructor: Trains and recertifies troopers in use of speed measurement instrument (SMI) instruments (RADAR, LIDAR and VASCAR to state standards.

Driving instructor-Specially-trained, state-certified trooper instructors, proficient in vehicle operation, train cadets and other agency personnel in pursuit driving on the NCSHP's pursuit driving track in Raleigh.

Pilot-After the NC General Assembly abolished the statutory prohibition on aerial enforcement of speed laws in the 1990s, the patrol greatly expanded its aviation arm. Pilots of the NCSHP are FAA-certified Commercial/Instrument rated helicopter pilots and fly the Patrol's Bell 206 JetRanger, Bell OH-58A+ and Bell 407 helicopters from the various aviation centers throughout the state. The aircraft are used in pursuits, manhunts, rescues, training and other critical missions. Pilots respond to requests for aviation based mutual aid from Federal, State and Local public safety officials throughout North Carolina. Pilots are highly screened medically and for aviation aptitude. They train constantly to maintain their instrument ratings. Therefore, pilots are generally not expected to perform vehicular traffic enforcement and drive unmarked vehicles, except in serious cases. Pilots have a wing insignia on their uniform and wear flight suits for flying duty. The patrol made headlines in 1994, when a patrol helicopter assisted Gaston county and Gastonia city police officers in a fierce gunbattle in a suburban housing area. The helicopter was hit several times and a trooper copilot returned fire with a rifle from the helicopter. The suspect, a murder suspect committed suicide in that incident. The aviation unit is a separate command within the NC SHP, led by a lieutenant pilot.

Motorcycle: In the 1990s, the SHP reinstituted the motorcycle program, which was disbanded for safety reasons in the 1930s. Harley-Davidson and BMW police cycles have been the models used. Specially-trained troopers patrol on motorcycles and are also issued a patrol car and trailer. They must complete US Park Police motorcycle officer training. This program has a long waiting list and is extremely competitive to enter. Motorcycles are generally assigned to urban areas, though they can deploy anywhere as needed for funerals, ceremonies or special events statewide. "Bike" troopers are issued a marked car with a trailer hitch, a trailer and motorcycle. Motorcycle officers wear a wheel and wing insignia on their uniform, high boots and helmet while on motorcycle duty. These select troopers attend the US Park Police motorcycle training unit's basic school to be on the "bike" units.

Administrative or training center assignments: These troopers and other ranking personnel such as the command staff are assigned to the SHP state headquarters at the DCCPS building, the Archdale Building, located in downtown Raleigh, at the training center or at other non-enforcement duty assignments. They often are issued unmarked patrol cars and are not expected to take enforcement action except in serious situations.

Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT's): Certain troopers are additionally trained as NC-certified EMT-Basic level (EMT-B). They wear a star of life insignia of their sleeve and have a star of life insignia on the back windshield of their patrol cars. EMT troopers are equipped with a trauma bag and automated external defibrilator (AED). Shortly after being issued these devices, a trooper was credited with saving the life of a heart attack victim at the Charlotte races in the early 2000s, a wealthy businessman, who gave the SHP grant money to expand the program.

Executive Security: A select and specially-trained detail of Troopers are assigned to protect the Governor's Mansion in Raleigh and to drive and protect the Governor and his/her immediate family, the Lieutenant Governor and his/her immediate family and other designated VIP's. These Troopers work with other state Executive Security Details and the SBI, to assist when out of state Governors or Dignitaries visit North Carolina. These troopers also augment the US Secret Service during Presidential or VIP visits to North Carolina. They receive special training from the US Secret Service.

The NCSHP previously maintained a sniper program through the early to mid-1980s.

The SHP also has an honor guard team as a volunteer additional duty with a horse caisson team to carry caskets for fallen members, to receive a formal burial. These selected honor guard troopers wear special dress uniforms and white gloves. This team was trained by the US Army's "Old Guard" honor guard at Ft. Myer Va.

Drivers licensing: NC Troopers originally gave driver license tests in the early years of the patrol. After World War II, this task is now done by DMV license examiners, though they often share facilities with the NCSHP.

Fallen officers

The NC State Highway Patrol has a fallen trooper memorial monument at the training center, with the names of all troopers, patrolmen and enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty since the agency was chartered on July 1, 1929. The first Trooper to die in the line of duty was killed on the first day the agency was chartered in a collision during a statewide ride to introduce the new officers to the state. The first trooper murdered in the line of duty was shot in 1937. As of March, 2013, since July 1, 1929, 61 NC Highway Patrol members; patrolmen, troopers and enforcement officers have died in the line of duty: 4 by aircraft accident, 13 by automobile accident, 1 by drowning, 19 by gunfire, 1 by heart attack, 5 by motorcycle accident, 2 struck by vehicle, 12 in pursuits and 4 by vehicular assault.[12]

In popular culture

  • NC Troopers appear on regular state-funded public service commercials, posters and billboards in North Carolina, warning motorists to refrain from drinking and driving, to avoid underage drinking, to use seat belts and child safety seats, to obey speed limits, to not speed in construction areas and not to speed near stopped emergency vehicles with the emergency lights flashing. Stickers from the NC Petroleum Dealer's Association are put on most NC gas pumps with photos of troopers warning drivers they can lose their license for a conviction of a drive-off from gas stations without paying.

See also


  1. [1] NCDPS Website
  2. [2] Volunteers in Police Service Website
  3. 2007 Population Estimates
  4. 4.0 4.1 USDOJ Statistics
  6. North Carolina State Highway Patrol Website,000014
  9. North Carolina State Highway Patrol Website,000014,000721
  10. [3] NC Department of Crime Control & Public Safety Website
  11. [4] NC Department of Crime Control & Public Safety Website
  12. North Carolina State Highway Patrol Retirees Website (Officer Down Memorial Page [ODMP] website/

External links