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May 20, 2010

State Leaders Commemorate 75th Anniversary of the Montana Highway Patrol

Events across the state recognize current and retired troopers

HELENA – Montanans across the state gathered on Thursday to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Montana Highway Patrol. Governor Brian Schweitzer, Attorney General Steve Bullock, Senator Mike Cooney and Patrol Colonel Mike Tooley celebrated the occasion at a ceremony at the Patrol’s Headquarters in Helena.

Through the organization’s 75-year history, Highway Patrol Troopers — whose core values are service, integrity and respect — have taken the lead in enforcing Montana’s highway safety laws. Today their mission focuses on DUI, speeding and seat belts, the three leading factors in fatal crashes.

The first 24 Patrol officers went to work for the first time on May 22, 1935. The MHP, now Montana’s largest law enforcement agency, has 233 troopers and 70 civilian employees.

Troopers often work with local law enforcement agencies, especially during times of emergency. The Montana Highway Patrol was involved in the response to the 1935 Helena Earthquake, the 1959 Deer Lodge Prison Riot, the 1959 Hebgen Lake Earthquake, the 2004 Helena prisoner escape and numerous other wildfire and law enforcement events.

In its 75-year history, seven troopers have given their lives in the line of duty, including three since 2007.

“We owe a great deal to those who protect our families and make Montana a safer place to live,” said Governor Brian Schweitzer. “I would like to thank our Montana Highway Patrol for their dedication and service.”

As Attorney General, Bullock oversees the Montana Highway Patrol, which is the largest division of the Montana Department of Justice.

“The first 24 officers were paid $125 a month and faced some challenges that are hard to even imagine as we gather today. It took four years before Patrol cars even had lights signaling drivers to stop,” Bullock said. “In the 75 years since then, the generations of men and women who have served as Patrol troopers have dedicated their lives to the public safety mission for which this organization was created.”

Former Montana Governor Frank Cooney signed the bill passed by the state legislature that created the Patrol. His grandson, State Senator Mike Cooney, was on hand in Helena today to recognize the 75th anniversary.

“Not only did my grandfather sign the legislation creating the Patrol, my father, Rod, had the privilege of serving on the Highway Patrol Commission for several years under Governors Anderson and Judge,” Cooney said today. “Our family has been proud to have played a small role in this great organization the past 75 years.”

Tooley became the 17th Chief of the Montana Highway Patrol when Bullock named him Colonel in January 2009.

“Today, we live in a world of economic difficulty and threats of conflict. In many ways it mirrors 1935,” Tooley said. “The Montana Highway Patrol stands more ready than ever to protect our citizens on the highways, to make our communities safe, and to assist and educate the motoring public.”

More information about the Montana Highway Patrol, including historical data and annual reports, is online.