Oklahoma Department of Public Safety


History Page

Creation of the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety

Oklahoma was admittted into the Union as the 46th State November 7th, 1907. The discovery of pool after pool of "black gold" convinced and sustained a national illusion that Providence - devine or otherwise - had marked Oklahoma as a place where hard work and a stroke of luck could make a man a millionaire overnight.

In 1912, there were only sixty-five hundred automobiles in the entire state. But in the years of agricultural prosperity, rural Oklahomas were as quick to snap up the affordable Model T's as their city neighbors. By 1929, over 600,000 vehicles were chugging up and down state roads. Oklahoma had become a state on wheels, although the roads those wheels were rolling over were designed for horse and buggy travel. One clear indication of the arrival of the automobile age in Oklahoma was the shocking number of people killed in vehicular accidents - about five hundred a year by the mid-1920's.

The automobile also brought many of the nation's most infamous criminals into Oklahoma's borders for two likely reasons, one based on fantasy, the other on fact. "Pretty Boy" Floyd, Bonnie & Clyde, and many other less-known criminals, thugs, and moonshires thatpiled their trade in Oklahoma during the decade of the thirties may have thought, like others aroung the nation, that all Oklahomans were awash in oil money. Whether they experienced great disappointment in the raging poverty they found among the majority is not knwon. But they soon dicovered something else - that the same system of law enforcement that was powerless to halt the rising tide of traffic fatalities was equally inept at stopping them. Thus, in the 1930's, Oklahoma became a criminal haven in much the same fashion as it was in its days as the Indian Territories. The odds were stacked in the favor of the machine gun toting, fast driving outlaws of the thirties. Once across the county line, they were beyond the reach of local authorities.

Govenor E.W. Marland, the 10th Oklahoma Govenor, made a bid for a state police to the legislation and called it the Department of Public Safety. Marland prevailed over the hesitant legislation on April 20, 1937. In early May of 1937 he had the basic framework on paper and issued a state-wide call for recruits to become Oklahoma's first highway patrolmen. About five hundred men answered the call. In the hard times of the Depression, the one hundred and fifty dollars a month salary was very attractive. By July 15,1937 the Department of Public Safety was a functioning agency.


The First Academy

The 1st OHP Academy was help on the campus of the Univerity of Oklahoma. The first academy was only 3 weeks long. 85 graduates received their commissions as state troopers. Within thirty days, a second academy was started, and the maximum legal strength of one hundred and twenty-five troopers was realized.

Armed with warning tickets, two gallon gas cans and good training, the Patrol built a reputation for service and a friendly manner. In the first nine months of patrol duty, troopers issued 288,277 warnings compared with only 5,518 arrests and citations. During the same period, they assisted over 250,000 disabled motorists. So, from mid-1937 to 1941, the Department searched for and generally found their place in the law enforcement arena. By 1941, there were over 145 troopers in uniform, the public had accepted their authority, and the fatality rate on streets and highways was reduced from 639 in 1937 to 487 at the end of 1940.



The Essentials of a Patrolman

(From the 1937 Training Manual)

  1. He must be a reference library and information bureau.

  2. He must be a doctor and nurse, capable of handling everything from attempted suicide to fractured skulls; from severed arteries to epileptic fits.

  3. He must be skilled marksman.

  4. He must be a boxer, wrestler and jiu-jitsu expert.

  5. He must be a sprinter who only runs toward danger.

  6. He must act as a male governess, tutor and model to children.

  7. He must be a diplomat and a two-fisted go-getter at the same time.

  8. He must be a memory expert, a psychologist and criminologist and an authority on a multitude of subjects.

  9. Upon occasion he must act as judge and jury as well as attorney for both defense and prosecution, playing four roles at the same time and finally, decide to make an arrest or suffer the consequences.

  10. He must be loyal, vertsatile and adaptable. He must have the wisdom of Solomon, the courage of Daniel, the strength of Samson, the patience of Job, the leadership of Moses, the kindness of the Samaritan, the strategy of Alexander, the faith of David, the diplomacy of Lincoln, and the tolerance of Confucius.


The Flying Squadron

Among the original one hundred and twenty-five members of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol were a group that did not bring law and order to Oklahoma in the OHP-trademark 1937 Ford. These men comprised the patrol's motorcycle corps, known as "The Flying Squadron". Some in this group eagerly sought the assignment to ride the big sixty-one inch Indian motorcycles and were viewed as rather glamorous as they thundered down the road in formation.

They were assigned to patrol different parts of the state for two to three weeks at a time. During their stay, they would room with other troopers' families, or with friends or relatives in the area. Each morning, they would fire up their motorcycles and roam the roads for twelve to fourteen hours - winter and summer, rain or shine. At the end of their assignment, they would gather at the OHP Field Headquarters in the district, and move on to another part of the state. They operated in this fashion until the end of 1938, when they were given permanent assignments to specific districts. The men of the Flying Squadron helped establish the Oklahoma Highway Patrol as THE traffic law enforcement authority on Oklahoma highways.

In February 1999, with 2 members "The Flying Squadron" was brought back to life after 54 years.


In 1949 the Department became the first law enforcement agency in the nation to utilize aircraft for traffic enforcement. The Aircraft Division quickly proved itself in the law enforcement arena and marked the Department a leader in technological solutions in the field. Today, our pilots provide essential support to ground units during manhunts, drug eradication efforts, and search and rescue efforts. The trooper responsible for the creation of the aircraft division was Trooper Art Hamilton.


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