Formation of the California Highway Patrol
The founding of the California Highway Patrol really was an evolution more than a birth one that started in 1911 with the hiring of the first rural traffic officer by San Mateo County. It was formalized in 1929 with the passage of a bill to create a formal Highway Patrol to be part of the Division of Motor Vehicles, and continued through 1947, when it earned the status of separate department.
Despite that, the obvious key date is August 14, 1929. That is when Senate Bill 869, which had been signed into law by then Governor C.C. Young, became a law that created a statewide rural traffic force. Only 280 men comprised the initial patrol.
The impetus for organizing came in 1915, when the first statewide traffic laws were printed in pamphlet form.
Most counties hired officers to enforce these laws. By 1917, four inspectors were visiting counties to train local officers an effort that was not often received cordially.
The system was disrupted in 1923 when the state Supreme Court ruled it was illegal for counties to appoint traffic officers and pay them from county treasuries. So the state legislature created a program of dual control, in which the state appointed and paid officers from lists submitted by county supervisors.
However, since those officers were still controlled by counties, there was little uniformity of approach to problems. Meanwhile, by 1925 the vehicle registration had grown to almost half a million. In 1927, the state Senate appointed an interim committee to study the issues. The result was the formation of the patrol in 1929.
That didnt entirely solve the dilemma, unfortunately. A few county boards most notably Los Angeles county elected to maintain separate traffic squads. It finally became a truly statewide entity when the Los Angeles Motor Patrol was absorbed on July 1, 1932.
The final piece of the puzzle came on October 1, 1947, when the Department of California Highway Patrol was created to be headed by a commissioner appointed by the governor.