New York Troopers - History
Preserving the Past for Those Who Follow




The invention and increased production of the automobile soon replaced the horse, as the prime means of transportation. Prior to advent of the trooper, the motorist who left the safety of the city limits was required to rely on his own strengths to protect himself. There was a certain element that was a nuisance to decent motorists endangering their lives and rendering the highway unsafe. With the coming of the state police and their efforts, this nuisance rapidly disappeared.

Prior to state police existence, passage of automobile laws were greeted with broad smiles, as it was a statewide joke that no one enforced these laws. Laws to save lives were urgently needed, but as soon as they were passed, they were forgotten. Each year indicated a steady increase in highway deaths.

One of the first laws enforced by troopers was that of dangerous and glaring lights, the primary cause of serious nighttime accidents. These violations eventually disappeared due to strict enforcement. An increase in the enforcement of all laws by troopers made the highway user a better driver by making them more cautious and aware.

On November 10, 1919, Troopers Milton Ferry, George Tetley and Valentine arrested nineteen motorists at Pembroke, N.Y. charging them with having glaring headlights. A plain lens and bulb of improper electric power were in use. All paid a $5.00 fine before Pembroke Justice Charles L. Mallory.

In 1920, there were 571,000 registered automobiles in the state.

It was noted in 1921 that the great increase in automobiles and related traffic problems brought new responsibility to the troopers on patrol. A large number of people could now be brought together at a specific location in a short period of time.

Effective January 1, 1922, auto license plates issued in the state were provided with a distinctive number that corresponded to the county where it was issued. This system made it easier to identify and locate stolen automobiles. An example for plates issued in Wayne County would be numbered from 544-901 to 553-400.

The enforcement of Highway Laws became the trooper’s greatest problem in 1922. 11,000 miles of improved highways carried the states automobile traffic with many areas highly congested. Considering the amount of people transported daily in the high-powered machines, fairly good highway protection resulted with only 2000 motor vehicle related deaths. Two thirds of the fatal accidents took place within a city limit. A great deal of highway safety improvement was brought about by troopers on traffic duty through instruction and explanation of traffic laws to motorists. The automobile was now recognized as a necessity of modern life.

In 1922, there were 1,035,000 registered automobiles in the state and in 1923, this number increased to 1,242,851.

In 1926, 102 troopers were assigned to enforcement of the Motor Vehicle Laws. Each trooper was provided an automobile or motorcycle and patrolled all the primary highways of the state.

In 1928, Long Island Parks & Parkways were opened to the public for the first time. Fourteen additional men were authorized and assigned exclusively to this detail. They were tasked with patrolling the parks and parkways, regulating traffic and the orderly parking of cars. That first year had 1,453,000 visitors in 438,000 automobiles. Troopers patrolled 88,987 miles, made 73 highway arrests and issued 150 warnings. With the opening of Jones Beach in 1929, it was estimated that an additional one million visitors would come to Long Island with a total state police presence of 48 troopers assigned. As parkways were extended and new roads built, the amount of visitors and automobile increased. It was estimated that 12 million people visited Long Island in 1937 traveling in 500,000 automobiles.




In 1937, the state police took part in a nation wide program to reduce highway accidents. In the belief that enforcement of traffic laws and traffic regulation was a specialized police service, the state police created a traffic bureau. It was composed of carefully trained troopers detailed to engage in systematic patrol of the heavily traveled highways with the idea of reducing accidents.

On May 14, 1937, Traffic Bureau’s were formed in each troop. The first Troop “A” traffic supervisor was Sergeant Joseph Brandstetter.

Troopers under the traffic supervisors command and assigned to highway traffic patrol duty only. No other duties were assigned except in an emergency.

A study of accident locations and times they occurred was conducted resulting in a high concentration of patrol duty in these areas. Each troop kept an accident spot map filed by location. With this data, it was possible to determine effects of selective patrol enforcement and make monthly comparisons.

Strict attention was to be paid to highway violations and laws strictly enforced. It was determined that traffic bureau vehicles painted a distinctive color would not only have a

Psychological effect on drivers, but would be a constant reminder that patrols were present. Many of the automobiles were painted white and lettered in black “STATE POLICE - TRAFFIC BUREAU – SAFETY PATROL”. It was determined that these distinctively marked cars resulted in a reduction in speed and accidents within the areas they were used. Within each troop, certain troopers were assigned to investigate causes of accidents; particularly fatal ones occurring on heavily traveled highways. The Bureau of Criminal Investigation investigated fatal accidents in conjunction with the trooper. If any criminal negligence was found, arrests under the Penal Law were made.

The traffic bureau also made surveys to eliminate hazards and advise on the retention or installation of traffic control signs and signals. As time passed, it became apparent that traffic enforcement was a specialized police service that was critically essential in traffic safety. During the period of June 1 to December 28, 1937, Troop “A” recorded 113 fatal accidents in its eleven county area that resulted in 129 persons killed. The cause of theses accidents was determined to be carelessness and disregard for the rights of other users of the highway.