Headline: Celebrating Tradition, Embracing Change

Subhead: MSHP Marks 75 Years of Service, Protection

By Cheryl D. Cobb, Staff Writer
Missouri State Highway Patrol

(Permission is granted for media outlets to re-print this article -- in part or in its entirety -- as they wish.)

(Picture of Trooper talking with motorist.)

Creating the Patrol

Governor Arthur Mastick Hyde was the first elected state official to speak publicly about law enforcement reform. In his first biennial message, in January 1923, he outlined needs of the state. His concerns included the soaring number of arson cases, and the infrequent arrests and convictions. This led to significantly increased insurance premiums for Missourians. He spoke of the importance of enforcing every law, namely the Volstead Act regarding prohibition, regardless of public opinion. He noted the mounting game law violations, also. He considered the National Guard, the only force available when confronting riots or disturbances, "cumbersome and unbearably expensive". Last, he pointed to the improvements made to Missouri roadways as a reason for better law enforcement.

Yet, more than eight years would pass before Governor Henry S. Caulfield signed Senate Bill 36 on April 24, 1931, establishing the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Several bills had been introduced between 1923 and 1931, but all had failed. Senate Bill 36 was amended several times during the process and not everyone was in favor. Organized labor was opposed, fearful that the new agency would be used to break strikes as had been done in other states. Labor, however, did not oppose a Patrol which had jurisdiction over motor vehicle enforcement. County sheriffs feared it would infringe on their authority. Some were afraid the agency would focus on enforcing prohibition.

Strong supporters of the bill included Governor Caulfield, Attorney General Stratten Shartel, the Automobile Club of Missouri, the Missouri State Highway Commission, the Missouri Banker's Association, and a majority of metropolitan newspapers.

The act creating the Missouri State Highway Patrol became effective on September 14, 1931. The bill provided for a superintendent who would serve at the pleasure of the governor, 10 captains, and 115 patrolmen. Lewis Ellis of Bethany became the first superintendent on July 21, 1931. Because sufficient funds were not appropriated, only 55 men were chosen.

(Picture -- Governor Caulfield signing the bill that created the Patrol.)

"One day in July (1931) ... the personnel manager for the Highway Department, two other secretaries, and I were sent to the governor's office to help process letters from prospective applicants for the Patrol. We found a filing cabinet filled with over 5,000 letters requesting applications. They were in no particular order, just pitched in as they arrived," said Matilda "Tillie" Sonnen, the Patrol's first secretary, who would eventually retire from the agency after 40 years of dedicated service.

"While we handled the applications, Superintendent Ellis, his assistant, Major Lewis Means (actually a captain, but called "major" from his military rank), and the legal counsel of the Highway Department Marvin Krause, toured several states, investigating their state police organizations for ideas on how to organize the Missouri Patrol and to look at their uniforms, cars, and other equipment," explained Sonnen. "Our organization was patterned mostly after the New Jersey State Police, but they also visited Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan." (Interview, 1980.)

From those humble beginnings, the Patrol would grow from six troop headquarters to nine; from 55 uniformed members to 1,012 officers plus 110 officers authorized for the Gaming Division. The General Headquarters of the Patrol would eventually have its own building, in 1962, after being in various state office buildings. Today, the superintendent is a man who has been a member of the Patrol for over 31 years. Colonel Roger D. Stottlemyre worked as a road trooper, zone sergeant, troop lieutenant, troop commander, and major of the Field Operations Bureau before being appointed superintendent in 2001.

"This year the Missouri State Highway Patrol is celebrating 75 years of serving and protecting the citizens of Missouri and those who travel through our great state," said Colonel Roger D. Stottlemyre, superintendent of the Patrol, "When the Patrol was formed in 1931, a statement was made by then-Missouri Attorney General Stratton Shartel that the state had no more important duty than to protect life and property. Missouri's Highway Patrol has proudly performed that duty from day one, and is prepared to provide excellence in law enforcement into the future."

Criminal Laboratory

The Patrol's Criminal Laboratory opened in May 1936. The laboratory was first housed in two rooms within the Broadway State Office Building. It is one of the first state crime laboratories in the country, and the FBI Laboratory was only a few years old then. In 1963, the laboratory moved into 4,000 square feet of space in the basement of General Headquarters on Elm Street. It moved again in October 1979, to 11,000 square feet of the Annex building. Today, it fills nearly 20,000 square feet in that same building. Satellite laboratories are an important part of the Crime Laboratory system, and have been set up in Troops B, C, D, G, and H.

Since its creation, the Patrol's Crime Laboratory has accepted submissions from any Missouri law enforcement agency at no charge. According to a biennial report of the Patrol, the laboratory worked 230 cases in 1937-1938. Criminal case submissions to the laboratory have grown to 19,153 cases in 2005. All of the laboratory employees were uniformed members until the 1960s, when two chemists were hired. They performed chemical, ballistic, microscopic, casting, fingerprint, and questioned documents tests. Currently, there is only one uniformed member in the Crime Laboratory Division--the division's director. The remaining 70 employees are civilian, including criminalists, who specialize in their area of the laboratory, and support staff.

(Picture of Criminalist Jennifer Greene working in the Toxicology Section.)
(Picture of Criminalist Karen Schell working in the Drug Chemistry Section.)

Today's criminalists examine DNA, toxicology, and drug chemistry, as well as firearms, tool marks, fingerprints, and trace evidence. Since its inception, Crime Laboratory employees have testified in court as to their findings. Last year, laboratory personnel spent a total of 441 days testifying to the results of their casework.


In 1931, troopers communicated to the troop by telephone. Each trooper established a system of service stations, restaurants, and other businesses as key contact points. Troop headquarters would leave messages regarding where the trooper's assistance was needed. Over the next few years, communications would improve with the installation of standard public broadcast receivers in cars and a teletype system to transmit messages from General Headquarters to the troops. The state-owned radio station, WOS, located in the Capitol was placed at the Patrol's disposal. Radios in the cars were tuned to that station to receive information or instructions. The call letters WOS stood for Watch Our State. A radio-teletype transmitter at GHQ enabled the Patrol to communicate with other police agencies in the state beginning in 1936.

The Patrol hired Mr. Harry W. Duncan in 1937, the first radio operator of the newly organized communications division. "They started training in the dome of the Capitol. Originally, the radio station WOS was up there. We tried to be very professional. If someone pronounced a word wrong, we told him. The training was setting up fake radio equipment, making broadcasts, and critiquing them later. We had to know the county names, county seats, and the highway names," said Duncan, in an April 2005 interview. "When we started, we had three radiomen at each troop. We had six stations at that time. If anyone took a day off, the other two had to work 12-hour shifts! I'd say that went on for three years. As money was appropriated, they hired more operators."

(Picture of Radio Room -- Operator Harry Duncan --, circa 1940s, at Troop F, Jefferson City.)
(Picutre of modern Communications Center, 2006, Troop F, Jefferson City.)

Today, each of the nine troops' communications centers is a 24-hour operation and technologically advanced. Every car has a radio; every trooper has an extender for use when he is outside his vehicle. Communication flows steadily between troop headquarters and each officer. LOKI, a software program, tells communications employees the location of each patrol car. Computer-aided dispatch tracks all calls received at troop headquarters. An emergency alert system for communities is located in each troop. Registrations that used to be included in large books and checked by hand, are now available through the MULES system, which allows for a computer check of licenses, criminal records, warrants, etc.

Ultimate Sacrifice

In 1933, Sgt. Benjamin O. Booth became the first trooper killed in the line of duty. Sgt. Booth and Sheriff Roger Wilson of Boone County stopped a car occupied by two men at a roadblock after a bank robbery in Mexico, MO. One of the men, George McKeever, shot and killed Sgt. Booth. The other man, Francis McNeily, shot and mortally wounded Sheriff Wilson. After an extensive investigation and manhunt, the two men were captured. McKeever was sent to the gallows for his crime; McNeily was sentenced to the penitentiary.

(Picture of Sergeant Ben Booth.)

Unfortunately, Sgt. Booth was not the only trooper killed in the line of duty. Twenty-seven members have given their lives while serving and protecting the citizens of Missouri. They have been shot, struck by vehicles, and died in plane, helicopter, and traffic crashes. The Patrol mourned four of its officers in 2005, the deadliest year to date. All of the 27 troopers killed in the line of duty are remembered and their families cherished.

Noteworthy Service

Throughout its 75 years, the Patrol has been available to serve and protect the public. In the early 1940s, the Safety Squadron toured the state working traffic by selective enforcement and promoting traffic safety. Educating the public continues today through displays, speaking engagements, Community Alliance Programs, and the Safety Education Center. Each troop assigns at least one officer to the role of public information and education officer. Got a question? Need a program? Are you a member of the media? The troop's PIEO is an experienced officer available in this position for just those purposes.

(Picture of Weigh Station, circa 1940s.)

The Patrol ability regarding drug interdiction is well documented. Each year, the Patrol joins in a cooperative effort with sheriff's departments and the Missouri National Guard for the Marijuana Eradication Program. Preliminary 2005 statistics indicate this program destroyed over 10,000 cultivated marijuana plants, over 4.5 million wild marijuana plants, and 110 pounds of processed marijuana. In addition, there were 395 state arrests and 29 federal arrests, 128 firearms and over $250, 000 in cash seized.

Troopers looking beyond the initial reason for a traffic stop often locate illegal drugs. During 2005, preliminary statistics indicate over 15,000 pounds of marijuana was removed from Missouri's roadways, along with 342 pounds of cocaine, 55 pounds of ecstasy (over 80,000 pills), and small amounts of methamphetamine, heroin, psychedelic mushrooms, and PCP. Troopers seized over $2.4 million in cash, too.

(Picture of K9 Officer and Commercial Vehicle Officer searching trucks.)

For the last several years, Missouri has ranked number one in the nation regarding the seizing of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories. A new law in Missouri requires the sales of over-the-counter drugs used in the production of methamphetamine to be monitored. This law has resulted in approximately a 45 percent drop in clandestine meth laboratory incidents. This decrease is a direct result of the cooperation between the Department of Public Safety, the Missouri Legislature, and the Missouri Governor's Office.

The Patrol provides support, in the way of important statistics and background information, to Missouri's lawmakers. Every day, troopers are enforcing the laws of this state. As the laws change, the Patrol adapts, carrying out its mission of enforcement, as the Legislature requires.

In January 1948, Governor Phil M. Donnelly placed Colonel Hugh Waggoner in charge of the Missouri Training School for Boys in Boonville. Escalating violence and dissension at the school, and a large number of escapes, led to the Patrol being tasked with restoring order and investigating conditions at the training school. Troopers found only three percent of the 309 inmates were 16 years old and younger. One of the first actions of a new school board was to approve the transfer of incorrigible, adult inmates to the penitentiary in Jefferson City. Troopers relayed 75 inmates in two trips. The Missouri Training School for Boys detail would last two and one-half months. While some were quick to criticize the governor's involving the Patrol, many more were impressed with the way the Patrol conducted itself in such a difficult assignment. While the Patrol was in charge, no murders or escapes occurred.

On September 22, 1954, at 7 p.m., Colonel Hugh Waggoner directed all available troopers to report to the state penitentiary in Jefferson City. A full-scale riot was in progress! Several buildings and vehicles were burning, and hundreds of inmates were running loose. By 11:30 p.m., 265 troopers had arrived at the scene. Approximately 2,000 police officers and Missouri National Guardsmen were on duty by midmorning September 23. The situation was now under control. Three inmates were killed and 21 wounded by gunfire; inmates with a grudge murdered a fourth inmate, and another 29 were injured during the riot. Five buildings were destroyed and two others severely damaged. Members of the Highway Patrol did an outstanding job in helping to quell the riot. Many feel this was a defining moment in the Patrol's history.

(Picture of 1954 Prison Riot.)

Throughout the last 75 years, Missouri has called upon the Patrol for assistance, both in periods of civil unrest or natural disaster. Over 200 officers reported to Kansas City in April 1968 to work in conjunction with the Kansas City Police Department to quell rioting, bombing, and looting in the eastern part of the city. This special detail was in response to racial tension following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. early that month. The detail lasted 10 days. In 1969, a task force of over 200 officers was called to Lincoln University in Jefferson City twice during the month of May, as a result of student disturbances.

In 1985, Troop H provided 25 officers to a farm sale in Plattsburg, MO, on March 15. Protestors to the sale pushed, shoved, and shouted in an effort to disrupt the proceedings. However, the sale was complete without injury to anyone.

The Great Flood of 1993 paralyzed most of the Midwest, as well as Missouri, flooding farmland, destroying highways and bridges, and bringing most travel to a standstill. The Patrol instituted a road condition report hotline, which answered nearly 90,000 calls in its first six weeks of existence. Members also assisted with traffic in areas where vital interchanges were damaged by the flood.

Throughout history, troopers have served as spotters for tornados and responded to the scene in the aftermath. Officers provided security and first aid in affected areas. More recently, in September 2005, a detail of 56 Patrol personnel responded to a call for assistance to Biloxi, MS, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. In late December 2005, a six-member detail traveled to Cameron Parish, LA, to assist Hurricane Rita victims.

The Patrol has provided protection for Missouri's governors as requested in its early years. In 1973, the Executive Protection Unit officially was formed. Now known as the Governor's Security Division, these members provide security to Missouri's governor and his family, and visiting dignitaries, such as U.S. presidents and Pope John Paul II.

Missouri's Legislature tasked the Patrol with implementing the driver's license examination program in 1952. Members originally filled the examiner position, with civilians taking over the responsibility in 1955. For the past 56 years, the Patrol has provided this valuable service.

(Picture of Driver Examiner Lorna White Terrell giving a driver's exam.)

"The CDL program started with a written test in January 1990. The driving skills portion of the test began in July 1990. We didn't have any sites available to administer the skills test initially, due to the amount of space needed for the commercial vehicle ...," said retired Senior Chief Driver Examiner Dale P. Shikles in a 2005 interview. "The CDL program is one of the best changes in the history of the driver testing program. It is a much more effective way to ensure drivers have the minimum driving skills to operate large trucks and buses."

The year 1968 found the Patrol accepting the responsibilities of a motor vehicle inspection program. The Patrol has been responsible for investigating stations and dealers to determine if they are qualified, giving written and practical examinations to prospective inspector-mechanics, and periodically checking stations to ensure they are following inspection guidelines. A vital school bus inspection program checks the transportation used by thousands of Missouri's children. The work of Patrol motor vehicle inspectors has helped make our roads safer through the years.

Looking to the Future

The Patrol has 75 years of tradition, yet it must look to the future. Advances in technology continue to make law enforcement more effective. Laboratory tests, fingerprinting methods and databases, and investigative skills are only a few areas where improvement is made continually.

Over the past 75 years, the Patrol has looked for technology to increase efficiency and service. Troopers used only telephones in 1931. Today, there are telephones, cell phones with Internet, voicemail, and e-mail capabilities; in-car radios and hand-held extenders for when the officer is outside his vehicle; and in-car computers, allowing records checks within moments instead of minutes, hours, or days. The Model-A Fords were driven with their tops down, to help troopers be more visible. Vehicles have come a long way since then -- air conditioning is standard as are seat belts, which were added to Patrol cars in 1955.

(Picture of Modern Patrol vehicle and Trooper writing a traffic summons.)

Situations often demand law enforcement take a new approach. During World War II, the Missouri State Highway Auxiliary Patrol was formed to ensure the Patrol was prepared for certain emergencies while many members served in the armed forces.

More recently, September 11, 2001, affected every law enforcement agency in America. The Patrol added personnel to its organized crime unit to man a new terrorism group. Computer crimes are more prevalent, and the Patrol's Drug and Crime Control Division is on the case, whether its identity theft, fraud, or a sexual predator. In a 2004 case noticed by the world, computer forensics led the Patrol, FBI, Nodaway County Sheriff's Department, Maryville Public Safety, and the Northwest Investigation Squad Initial Response Team to the recovery of baby Victoria Jo Stinnett, who was cut from her mother, Bobbie Jo, after a Kansas woman murdered her.

The .40-caliber, semi-automatic pistol made by Glock Inc. replaced the Smith and Wesson .38-caliber revolvers in 1991. Officers carry the compact ASP baton now, rather than the PR-24. Whether in training, computers, or equipment, the Patrol prepares for any call it might receive.

The agency continues its efforts to recruit the best possible candidates for every position--uniformed or civilian--with a focus on minority recruiting, in an effort to represent all of the citizens it serves. The Patrol takes seriously its core values of Integrity, Responsibility, Respect, Professionalism, Compassion, Resourcefulness, Character, and Commitment when screening candidates.

Every day, employees of the Patrol consistently embody these core values. Troopers delivering death notifications are both professional and compassionate. The criminalist who testifies in court shows both commitment and character. The driver examiner embodies responsibility and integrity. Commercial vehicle officers exhibit resourcefulness when finding the illegal drugs hidden in the trucks traveling Missouri's highways.

"It is an honor to serve and protect the people of Missouri," said Colonel Roger D. Stottlemyre. "We respect those who came before us and the foundation they've laid. Every day, employees of the Missouri State Highway Patrol will continue to build upon these great traditions."


Missouri Historical Review, Volume LX, Number 4, July 1982

Ms. Matilda "Tillie" Sonnen was interviewed in 1980 by Sergeant Charles E. Walker. She is now deceased; Sgt Walker is retired

Mr. Harry W. Duncan served the Patrol for 36 years, retiring as the director of the communications division, a position he held for over 25 years. He was interviewed in April 2005, by Cheryl D. Cobb

Mr. Dale P. Shikles served the Patrol for over 36 years, retiring as senior chief driver examiner in January 2006.

A Journey Through Patrol History 1931 - 2005, a publication of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, 2006.

Missouri State Highway Patrol biennial report for 1937-1938.