CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – This year marks a big milestone for the West Virginia State Police. After a century of troopers giving their all to protect and serve, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the agency.
Although many things have changed throughout the years – state troopers show us why it’s a proud history to commemorate.
“The pride, for me anyway, it just bursts out,” explained Sgt. Lonnie C. Carpenter, with the West Virginia State Police.
The West Virginia State Police was founded in 1919 by an act of the West Virginia Legislature that was created following the coal wars.
“At the time, he [Governor Jacob Cornwell] couldn’t really rely on the city pd’s or the sheriff’s departments, some of them were in the pocket of the coal companies,” said Sgt. Carpenter.
It’s the fourth-oldest state police agency in the United States.
“Actually, our first name was Department of Public Safety, because even back then people worried about a police state. They were worried about the government overreaching,” Sgt. Carpenter explained. “And they just felt a state police would be a bunch of roughnecks running around doing the governor’s bid.”
In 1995, the agency officially changed to the West Virginia State Police.
“Initially, the troopers were sworn in and commissioned for a two-year stint. Most of our men at the time were military men, coming out of World War 1.” Sgt. Carpenter said. “They actually ended up wearing their green uniforms, and which is why we still wear our forest green today.”
The main priority of the department, at the time of its origin, was to enforce the state laws in the more rural areas of the state.
“I know it was different times, but I just can’t wrap my head around having to jump on a train to go take a call somewhere and saying ‘hey, I’ll be there in a couple of hours.’ I can’t imagine them not being able to talk to each other,” Sgt. Carpenter explained. “If they wanted to tell their supervisor what they did, they had to write a letter and put it in the mail.”
Over the course of 100 years, there has only been 3,700 West Virginia State Police troopers.
Sgt. Carpenter said, “The men and women in the green uniform aren’t the only ones who are proud of the West Virginia State Police. The state as a whole is proud of the state police.”
From now until October, West Virginians will have an opportunity to view materials from the past and present of the West Virginia State Police at the State Capitol Complex in Charleston.