Brief History of the West Virginia State Police

The West Virginia State Police was created amid controversy during an extraordinary special session of the West Virginia Legislature held in March 1919. On March 24, 1919, the Senate passed the bill to create the organization by a vote of 15-13. Then-Governor John Jacob Cornwell signed the bill on March 31, 1919, and by law, the effective date of the agency was June 29, 1919. The West Virginia State Police is recognized as the fourth oldest state police agency in the United States. Governor Cornwell was insistent upon having a state police force which he said, “was mandatory in order for him to uphold the laws of our state.” One compromise was that the organization be named the “West Virginia Department of Public Safety;” however, after a period of time, most citizens referred to the department as the “State Police” though not its official name. During the 1989 Regular Legislative Session, state government was reorganized and the West Virginia Department of Public Safety would encompass more than just the “State Police.” At that time, the “State Police” became the Division of Public Safety; however, during the 1995 Regular Legislative Session, the name was officially changed to the West Virginia State Police. 

Members of the West Virginia State Police receive training at the West Virginia State Police Academy, located in Institute, West Virginia. Upon appointment, cadets undergo an intense 25-week training program, and upon graduation serve a 12-month probationary period. Today, the members of the West Virginia State Police are continuing to provide efficient police service to the citizens of West Virginia. The forest green uniform, campaign hat, and shoulder patch are symbols of our proud heritage.

Click here for a more comprehensive history 
of the West Virginia State Police