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What does a Highway Patrol Officer do?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated Feb 05, 2024
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The main responsibility of a highway patrol officer is to guard the streets, highways and freeways in his jurisdiction. He is commonly required to ensure that motorists adhere to traffic laws and regulations and bound to issue citations to those who do not. While his main focus of enforcement is normally limited to roads and thoroughfares, he may be asked in some circumstances to help local police or other law enforcement professionals in criminal investigations or apprehension efforts.

In the course of his work, a highway patrol officer is frequently required to seize suspected and confirmed criminals traveling by motorized vehicle on the streets and roads under his patrol. For safety reasons, highway patrol officers normally travel in pairs and are strongly cautioned not to attempt the arrest of individuals deemed dangerous by law enforcement personnel. Officers who pursue and pull over suspected criminals are typically instructed to delay arrests until backup units can assist in the detention.

Besides enforcing traffic and safely laws on public highways and interstates, a highway patrol officer regularly gives driving directions and assists distressed motorists. If a driver experiences mechanical problems with his vehicle, a highway patrol officer may call for assistance or help the motorist to a safe location to wait for a tow truck or auto mechanic to arrive. Highway patrol officers often provide first aid at accident scenes and are regularly credited with saving the lives of motorists or delivering babies for mothers who fail to make it to a medical facility to give birth.

Off road duties of a highway patrol officer commonly include inspecting commercial vehicle weigh stations for compliance, giving lectures on highway safety at schools and community events and conducting recruitment efforts at local schools and colleges. Officers are also regularly required to document their activities through daily reports and incident logs. If a motorist fights a moving violation ticket or an investigation proceeds to trial, a highway patrol officer may be compelled to testify in court.

To succeed as a highway patrol officer requires the ability to make sound judgments under pressure on a regular basis. Maintaining composure in the face of crime and crisis is also an important attribute. Integrity and compassion are desirable traits for a person who chooses this career.

A high school diploma or equivalent is necessary to be considered as a candidate for highway patrol training school. The training is provided by local or regional agencies and normally lasts several months. An associate's or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or law enforcement is considered excellent auxiliary training for a highway patrol officer.

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Discussion Comments
By Wisedly33 — On Aug 31, 2014

We always say the "staties" will pull you over much quicker than the local cops will. I don't know why. Maybe the state needs the revenue money.

I've been pulled over once by a state trooper in my state and he just gave me a warning, thank goodness. I've only had two tickets since I've been driving. One was from a highway patrol officer in Indiana. I could have done without it, but I'm not in the habit of mouthing off at officers, so I took the ticket, got home and paid it. I could have used that $100 for something else, but that's the way it goes, I guess.

By Scrbblchick — On Aug 30, 2014

In the United States, a highway patrol officer usually works the Interstates and state highways in unincorporated areas that aren't under a municipal police jurisdiction.

Because of this, they also work accident scenes in these areas and also assist other local law enforcement. A highway patrol officer, unlike a county sheriff or city police officer, has jurisdiction throughout the state. They can pull someone over anywhere within their state borders, even if it is in a city. If they need to make an arrest, they will usually call the local authorities to assist, but they do have some arrest powers.

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