Ohio State Highway Patrol

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Civilian Conservation Corps Highway.jpg
Civilian Conservation Corps built this highway, south of Jelloway in Knox County. It was funded by the Works Progress Administration in Ohio ca. 1930-1939.

Since 1917, various members of the Ohio legislature had introduced bills to create a statewide police force. Many people, especially members of labor unions, opposed these bills, fearing that the Ohio government would use this police force to end strikes. Finally, in 1933, the Ohio government created this statewide police force, which is known as the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHO). The legislation creating the OSHP limited the patrolmen to enforcing motor vehicle laws on Ohio’s roads. A provision of the bill explicitly banned the OSHP from policing strikes and other forms of labor unrest.

Initially, the Patrol consisted of sixty officers. The officers had to be between twenty-four and forty years of age. More than five thousand men applied to be one of the first sixty officers. The OSHP established six district offices across Ohio, with three substations in each district. The district offices were in Toledo, Ravenna, Sidney, Delaware, Cambridge, and Chillicothe, while the substations were located in private homes across the district. The first patrol officers rode motorcycles, including in the dead of winter, to enforce the law.

During its first year of existence, the OSHP accomplished much. First, the Patrol succeeded in creating a statewide radio network, allowing law enforcement officials to communicate with each other across Ohio. For the time, it was the most comprehensive radio system in the United States. The OSHP also cited more than 120,000 drivers and made 4,233 arrests.

In response to the Patrol's early success, the Ohio legislature increased the number of patrolmen to 120 in 1935. In 1941, the Ohio legislature authorized three hundred patrolmen. That same year, the OSHP began to patrol additional routes besides state highways. The OSHP now had responsibility over all Ohio roadways except for those in municipalities. At this time, the Patrol also became responsible for all driving tests, which a new driver had to take to prove that he or she was competent to drive a motor vehicle. To assist patrolmen in enforcing traffic laws as well as to assist officers in searches for missing persons, the Patrol began to use airplanes in 1948. In 1950, the OSHP also began to patrol Lake Erie and other waterways.

Since the mid-twentieth century, the OSHP has continued to expand in size and in responsibilities. In 1968, the Ohio General Assembly removed any limitations on the maximum number of OSHP patrolmen. Rather, the General Assembly established a new requirement that the the Patrol should have at least 880 officers. During the last decades of the twentieth century, the OSHP also became an important agency in stopping the illegal drug trade. The main goals of the OSHP throughout the last half of the twentieth century and the first years of the twenty-first century, however, continued to be the enforcement of traffic laws on Ohio’s roadways and to ensure that Ohio’s drivers were safe and qualified to drive motor vehicles.

See Also