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History of the Kentucky State Police

In February of 1948, Kentucky became the 38th state to enact a State Police Act. This act was conceived by then Governor Earl C. Clements who saw the need for supplementing the sheriffs and local police departments with a statewide law enforcement agency, complete with full powers of arrest that went beyond the limits of any particular city or county.

Consequently, on July 1st of that year, the governor got his wish and signed the bill that created the Kentucky State Police.

The new department inherited the men and equipment of its predecessor agency, the Kentucky Highway Patrol. Just 12 years earlier, that agency was formed with just 40 officers. By the time it evolved into a full service police agency it had grown to 200 officers. Today the number of troopers has reached 1,000.


  • The first commissioner was Guthrie Crowe, an attorney from the city of LaGrange.
  • The first pay raise for troopers came six months after the department was created. Pay for troopers went from $130 to $150 per month.
  • Qualifications for trooper were established and the first training school was set up lasting three weeks.
  • The first piece of laboratory equipment -- a comparison microscope was purchased for $1,200.
  • The gray uniform was designed and still resembles the one worn by the modern trooper.


An image of a 1950 Cruiser with Ret. Lt. Wilcox, click here to enlarge this image

  • The state police merit system was established giving troopers protection from political influences on hiring and retention.
  • "Incognito squads" patrolled the highways in unmarked cars, checking for speeders and cracking down on overweight trucks.
  • The first aircraft was purchased.
  • The state police retirement system began and the retirement age was lowered from 65 to 55.
  • The work week for KSP Troopers was reduced from six 10 hour days to five 8 hour days.


An image of a 1960 Cruiser

  • Marked patrol vehicle's color was changed from black to gray.
  • Having been clothed in gray, and now driving gray, then Director Ted Basset coined the nickname for the agency, "The Thin Gray Line."
  • Trooper Island, a cost free summer camp for underprivileged boys, was created on Dale Hollow Lake.
  • The first radar was purchased, and later supplemented by VASCAR for use in traffic enforcement.
  • The first black trooper was hired.


An image of a 1976 Cruiser, click here to enlarge

  • A drug enforcement unit was created within the agency.
  • The Law Information Network of Kentucky (LINK) was set up establishing a computerized network providing state and local law enforcement access to crime information.
  • Blue and white patrol cars were introduced.
  • Five new regional forensic labs were opened in addition to the central lab.
  • The first female trooper was hired.
  • Full police authority was granted to the State Police anywhere in the Commonwealth, including all cities, no matter the class.


An image of the 1980 Cruiser

  • Patrol cars changed color twice: first to white then back to Kentucky State Police Gray.
  • High speed Mustangs were purchased for traffic enforcement.
  • Full scale marijuana eradication began in the state in Operation Green/Gray Sweep, a joint effort with the Kentucky National Guard.
  • A Drug Enforcement/Special Investigations branch was formed combining like investigations under one command.
  • A toll-free hotline was created for citizens to report suspected drunk drivers.


An image of the 1990 Cruiser

  • Agency drug testing policy was implemented.
  • The marijuana eradication program evolved into the Governor's Marijuana Strike Task Force.
  • An Enhanced 911 phone system was implemented in local communities to connect them with the KSP dispatch centers.
  • Video camera/recorders were installed in marked patrol cars.
  • Service weapons converted from .357 Magnum revolvers to .10 mm semi-automatic pistols.
  • A new state-of-the-art Centralized Laboratory was constructed.