Home / Montana Highway Patrol – MHP / History of the Montana Highway Patrol

The Patrol has a long and proud tradition of excellence. Although the Montana Highway Patrol’s responsibilities have grown, its mission still centers on the basic premise that prompted its creation in 1935 – protecting the lives of those who travel on Montana’s highways.


Montana led the nation with a 74 percent increase in highway fatalities.


Montana citizens and legislative representatives recognized the need to create an enforcement agency in an effort to curb needless deaths on Montana’s highways, and so the Montana Highway Patrol was created.

From a pool of 1,500, 24 candidates were selected for the first Highway Patrol Recruit Academy. In May, the first Highway Patrol officers began safeguarding Montana’s highways. The officers were authorized to enforce 11 traffic laws. Their main focus, however, was to educate and assist the public.

In the first year officers patrolled Montana’s highways, the number of fatalities decreased 25 percent. The Highway Patrol’s efforts led to an increased demand for continued enforcement and education to reduce fatalities.


A Safety and Education Division was created within the Montana Highway Patrol. Uniformed Highway Patrol officers assumed the responsibility of educating citizens about highway traffic safety.


Officer Bob Steele was the first Montana Highway Patrol officer killed in the line of duty.


The Driver License Bureau was created within the Montana Highway Patrol to administer the written and driving tests necessary to get a driver’s license.


Officer James Anderson was the second Montana Highway Patrol officer killed in the line of duty.


The historic 3-7-77 was added to the shoulder patch by then-Chief Alex B. Stephenson. The emblem is a tribute to the Vigilantes, the first law enforcement group in the Montana Territory.


Montana Highway Patrol officers assumed the enforcement of gross vehicle weight laws on the motor carrier industry.

Late 60s-early 70s

Montana experienced a dramatic increase in fatalities.


Traffic fatalities reached an all-time high of 395. As a result, the Montana Legislature approved additional positions, bringing the number of uniformed Highway Patrol officers to 220. The Montana Highway Patrol was reorganized as a bureau within the Montana Department of Justice, resulting in the elimination of the Highway Patrol Board.


An Accident Prevention Unit was created to provide traffic safety enforcement to documented problem areas statewide.

Officer Richard Hedstrom became the third Montana Highway Patrol officer to die in the line of duty.


Four female officers joined the Patrol.

Officer Michael Ren became the fourth officer killed in the line of duty.


Under a reorganization, the Driver License Bureau was moved from the Highway Patrol to the Motor Vehicle Division. Civilian employees assumed the testing duties previously performed by Highway Patrol officers.


The Highway Patrol was elevated to division status within the Department of Justice.


The Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) was created within the Highway Patrol as the Motor Vehicle Inspection Bureau, with Highway Patrol officers performing or assisting Motor Vehicle Inspectors with in-depth motor carrier inspections.


The Montana Legislature enacted a seat belt law that has since been credited with saving numerous lives.


The Highway Patrol became the first state highway patrol in the nation to become nationally accredited. The accreditation process took three years to complete and was considered a critical element in enhancing the professionalism of the Montana Highway Patrol.


The Patrol implemented the “Little Convincer” seat belt awareness program – a smaller version of the adult “seatbelt convincer” that demonstrates the consequences of not wearing a seatbelt. The Little Convincer uses stuffed animals in its demonstrations.


On May 1, the Patrol celebrated its 60th anniversary.

In December, Congress repealed the federal fuel conservation speed limit of 55 mph on two-lane roads and 65 mph on interstate highways, leaving Montana without a specific numerical speed limit.


For over 81 days beginning in February, Patrol officers assisted local and federal officers in a standoff with a group of anti-government “Freemen” on a farm near Jordan.

The Patrol computerized much of its record keeping, including the first computerized version of the Montana Accident Investigator’s Report. Also for the first time, a computer system linked all of the Patrol’s district offices.


The Patrol unveiled its own blue and gold flag, featuring the shoulder patch design in the center and four stars along the top, representing the four officers killed in the line of duty.

On August 28, the Montana Highway Patrol Memorial was dedicated to honor Highway Patrol and other law enforcement officers who lost their lives while serving the people of Montana. The black granite memorial is located on the west lawn of the Capitol grounds in Helena.


In response to population growth in northwest Montana, in April the Patrol created a sixth district headquartered in Kalispell.


The Legislature passed a numerical speed limit, which took effect on May 28. The limit on the interstate was set at 75 mph and, on two-lane highways, at 70 mph during the day and 65 mph at night, unless posted otherwise.


At the Governor’s request, the Patrol began providing dignitary protection.


The Patrol initiated a Special Events Support Unit to assist other law enforcement agencies throughout Montana and the nation in situations in which the safety or health of the public is at risk, including disasters, civil disturbances, riots and demonstrations.

The Patrol began placing wireless mobile data terminals in Patrol cars, allowing troopers to send and receive information while on patrol – a change designed to maintain a more visible trooper presence on Montana’s highways.

The Legislature authorized an interim legislative study of the recruitment and retention problems within the Patrol.


For the first time, the Patrol combined its Recruit Academy with the Montana Law Enforcement Academy’s basic course. New recruits attended the Academy’s 12-week basic course with officers from local agencies – a change designed to encourage the professional relationships important to interagency cooperation.

This also allowed the Patrol to switch from one Recruit Academy a year to year-round recruitment for the three basic courses offered at the Academy.

Troopers began serving as honorary escorts at home and away football games for the University of Montana head coach.


Based on the recommendations of the interim legislative study, the Legislature passed House Bill 35, the department’s initiative to place – and keep – qualified troopers on Montana highways. After years of lagging behind, HB 35 allowed the department to make Patrol pay competitive with the salaries offered by local law enforcement agencies. It also exempted the Patrol from vacancy savings provisions, allowing additional officers to be placed on the road.

HB 35’s salary provisions created an alternative pay plan that established competitive salary rates by using market-based salary information from county sheriffs’ offices. The increases were funded by a $5 fee increase in vehicle registration fees.


The Patrol added the first seven troopers under the new alternative pay plan (Montana Code Annotated 2-18-303).

In October, Trooper David Graham, 36, died in a traffic crash in Kalispell. He became the fifth Highway Patrol trooper to die in the line of duty in the Patrol’s 72-year history.


In May, the Justice Information Technology Division and the Patrol completed the in-car computer project that began in 2003 to install wireless mobile data terminals in every Patrol car.

On August 26, Trooper Evan Schneider was killed in a traffic accident on Highway 2 near Columbia Falls. While in pursuit of a vehicle, Schneider was hit head-on by another vehicle that was forced into oncoming traffic. He became the sixth Montana trooper to die in the line of duty.

On September 22, the Patrol turned on the SmartCOP system – a state-of-the-art system that provides substantial gains in officer and public safety. Through the Itronix “Go Books” laptops in their vehicles, troopers have access to real-time criminal record information, including NCIC. When a record comes up, it highlights alerts such as outstanding warrants and restraining orders. It also allows troopers to print a copy of a warrant or a photo of a missing child without leaving their car.


On January 8, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock swore in Col.Mike Tooley as the Patrol’s 17th Chief. Tooley, whose father was also a Patrol trooper, was born in Havre and joined the Patrol in 1984.

In February, Lt. Col. Butch Huseby, a native of north-central Montana and Conrad High School graduate, was sworn in as the Patrol’s second in command.

After nearly 30 years without any fatalities, Trooper Mike Haynes became the third Highway Patrol trooper to die in the line of duty in the previous 18 months. All three of the most recent deaths occurred in the Kalispell area. Trooper Haynes’ car was hit head on by a drunk driver traveling on the wrong side of the US 93. Haynes died on March 27 from the injuries received in the crash. He was the seventh Highway Patrol trooper to die in the line of duty in the Patrol’s 74-year history.

In April, the 2009 Legislature passed Senate Joint Resolution 39, which authorized an interim legislative study of Montana’s DUI laws, as well as the culture behind them.

Tim’s Tweets

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Attorney General's Office & Legal Services Division

The Attorney General’s Office, headed by Attorney General Tim Fox, and the Legal Services Division function as the lawyers for the State of Montana. The attorneys in the Office have expertise in a wide range of legal topics and handle a broad range of legal cases involving the State of Montana and its people.


Children’s Justice Bureau

The Children’s Justice Bureau is an agency-wide initiative at the Montana Department of Justice dedicated to IMPROVING how we respond to child victims, DEVELOPING state-of-the-art approaches by keeping up with the newest research and, most importantly, HELPING child victims recover and move on with their lives.


Forensic Science Division & State Crime Lab

The mission of the Montana Forensic Science Division is to use operationally efficient and financially responsible practices as the laboratory provides accurate, objective, and timely forensic analyses to the criminal justice community in order to maximize value to the citizens of Montana.


Missing Persons Clearinghouse

The Missing Children Act of 1985 established a Montana Missing Persons Clearinghouse within the Department of Justice. In March 2008, the department implemented a searchable online database that, for the first time, is updated in real time and includes any photos provided by law enforcement.


Office of Victim Services

The goal of the Office of Victim Services is to provide tools and information to help crime victims recover from their experience and provide them with a range of services available. The criminal justice system can be confusing and intimidating for victims. To assist them as they go through the justice system, the Office of Victim Service is available to answer any questions they may have.


Central Services Division

The Montana Department of Justice’s Central Services Division provides financial and human resources support for the department. We make sure that everything works for the people Working for Justice. If you’re interested in a rewarding career helping protect the rights and safety of all Montanans, we invite you to join our team of over 800 dedicated employees working across the state.


Justice Information Technology Services Division

Our Justice Information Technology Services Division (JITSD) provides vital Information Technology (IT) infrastructure upon which Montanans and lojitsdcal and state law enforcement agencies rely for timely, accurate information. JITSD manages the IT systems, services, and interfaces to support nearly 800 DOJ employees, 325 statewide county motor vehicle system users, and over 3,000 Criminal Justice Information Network (CJIN) users across the state.


Division of Criminal Investigation

The Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) at the Montana Department of Justice is involved in many aspects of Montana law enforcement and is integral to the Department dciof Justice’s mission of promoting public safety.


Montana Highway Patrol

Montana is rich in natural beauty and history. From Glacier Park in the west to Makoshika Park in the east, the men and women of the Montana Highway Patrol are working hard to make your travels safe and enjoyable. The Highway Patrol’s core values are “Service, Integrity and Respect.” These values are reflected in our commitment to public safety through diligent and fair enforcement of our traffic codes.


Montana Law Enforcement Academy

The Montana Law Enforcement Academy is the premier law enforcement and public safety educational and training institution for state, county, city and tribal officers throughout the state. The Academy offers entry-level programs referred to as Basic Programs and advanced training through an array of Professional Development Programs.


Public Safety Officer Standards & Training

The Council was formed in 2007 under 2-15-2029, MCA as an independent Quasi-judicial board. And as allowed by statute the Council adopted Administrative Rules in order to implement the provisions of Title 44, chapter 4, part 4, MCA. Per 44-4-403, MCA the Council is required to set employment and training standards for all Public Safety Officers as defined in 44-4-401, MCA and in addition the Council shall provide for the certification or recertification of public safety officers and for the suspension or revocation of certification of public safety officers.


Motor Vehicle Division

The mission of the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) is to identify and promote efficient, cost-effective programs that benefit the interests, safety, and well-being of Montana citizens through licensing, registering, and regulating the motoring activities of the public. The MVD continuously strives for excellence in customer service. Streamlining the way we do business has allowed us to improve our efficiency and make our services more convenient for our customers.


Natural Resource Damage Program

The Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP) was created in 1990 to prepare the state’s lawsuit against the Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO) for injuries to the natural resources in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin (UCFRB). Decades of mining and mineral processing operations in and around Butte and Anaconda released substantial quantities of hazardous substances into the Upper Clark Fork River Basin between Butte and Milltown. These hazardous substances extensively degraded the area’s natural resources.


Office of Consumer Protection

Enforce consumer laws designed to protect the consumer from unfair or deceptive business practices. Enforce statutes relating to telephone solicitation and telemarketing. Provide information to consumers about the Consumer Protection Act. Assist consumers by distributing consumer education materials including scam and consumer alerts. Investigate false, misleading, or deceptive trade practices.


Gambling Control Division

Through the Gambling Control Division, the Department of Justice regulates all forms of gambling in Montana, except for the Montana Lottery and horse racing. The legislature has charged the division with maintaining a uniform regulatory climate that is fair and free of corrupt influences. The division is also responsible for collecting gambling revenue for state and local governments.


Human Trafficking

The Montana Department of Justice has a continued commitment to victims of human trafficking. In partnership with federal authorities, our agency plays a key role in the investigation, enforcement, and prosecution of crimes related to human trafficking in Montana. This form of modern day slavery does happen here in Big Sky Country.


Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Program

Montana’s deadliest drugs aren’t made in secret labs and they don’t always come from dealers on the corner. They’re in our own medicine cabinets. Each year, prescription drug abuse contributes to the deaths of more than 300 Montanans — making prescription drug abuse 15 times more deadly than meth, heroin and cocaine combined. Our kids report the third-highest rate of prescription drug abuse in the country and more than half of them say prescription drugs are easier to get than street drugs.


Safe in Your Space

When it comes to embracing new technology, kids have rapidly outpaced their parents and teachers. By their early school years, many children are already more comfortable on the Internet than their parents. But just because children are smart enough to know how to navigate the Internet, doesn’t mean they have the experience to make good decisions about some of the possibilities they may face online.


Montana Sexual or Violent Offender Registry

Created by the Montana Department of Justice in 1989, the Sexual or Violent Offender Registry is a valuable resource for Montanans to protect their families against sexual or violent offenders.


Montana 24/7 Sobriety Program

Drinking and driving has been a chronic – and deadly — problem on Montana’s roadways for decades. In 2008, Montana was ranked as the deadliest state in the nation when it came to per capita DUI-related traffic fatalities.


Work for Justice

Everyday at The Montana Department of Justice, our employees are dedicated to ensuring the well-being and rights of the people of our great state. We’re passionate about what we do because it’s more than a job or a career. It’s about who we are as people. If this sounds like you, your unique experiences, knowledge, and values may be just what the Montana Department of Justice is looking for and needs. In return we can offer a culture that promotes fairness and growth opportunities.