A Brief History of the NMSP

The New Mexico State Police has a proud tradition of service to the citizens of New Mexico.

In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war between the United States and Mexico; and by the terms of the treaty, the area that became New Mexico was now part of the United States. New Mexico then became a U.S. Territory in 1850. The New Mexico Territorial Legislature recognized the need for a territorial police force, and in 1905 the 36th Territorial Legislature established the New Mexico Mounted Police.

Fred LambertNew Mexico became the 47th State in 1912 and the Mounted Police continued to provide law enforcement to the state.

In 1916, the Mexican Revolutionary General Francisco “Pancho” Villa sacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico. The New Mexico Mounted Police patrolled the border with Mexico to prevent additional raids, in addition to providing general law enforcement. For the next several years, the Mounted Police gained a reputation as an effective and professional police force, until it was abolished in 1921.

In 1926, Route 66 connected Chicago to Los Angeles and ran though New Mexico. The increasing popularity of the automobile again highlighted the need for a statewide law enforcement agency with jurisdictional authority to enforce laws throughout the state. In 1933 the State Legislature established the New Mexico Motor Patrol, primarily to enforce traffic laws.

The New Mexico Motor Patrol had a civilian oversight board, consisting of three members: Governor Arthur Seligman, Attorney General E.K. Neumann, and Highway Engineer Glenn D. Macy. The oversight board enlisted the help of Texas Motor Patrol Captain Homer Garrison to conduct the first New Mexico Motor Patrol recruit school at St. Michael’s College in Santa Fe. One hundred thirty-five men applied for the school; eighteen were selected to attend; and ten were commissioned as the first New Mexico Motor Patrol Officers. The Motor Patrol proved to be a great success and within a few months of its existence, it generated more than enough revenue to fund itself.

Each Motor Patrol officer was issued a Harley Davidson motorcycle with siren, red light, and other accessories. One of the ten graduates, Earl Irish, was appointed as the Chief and was given a monthly salary of $150; patrolmen made $125 monthly; and they were allowed $10 per month to maintain their uniforms.

Officers used a radio broadcasting system that depended on the KOB commercial radio station in Albuquerque. Every week, officers wired law enforcement matters to the station to be disseminated to the Chief in Santa Fe, who would see that KOB broadcast twice each day, except Sunday. In this way, Motor Patrol officers also communicated information to each other, such as descriptions of wanted suspects and stolen goods.

NMSP Motorcycle Officers 1937

By 1935, the need to expand the authority and responsibility of the New Mexico Motor Patrol was widely recognized. The 12th State Legislature changed the name of the organization to the New Mexico State Police. State Police officers were given statewide jurisdiction and full police powers to enforce all laws of the state. The authorized strength was raised to 30 officers, with the added ranks of sergeant, lieutenant, and captain; and salaries were increased. The State Police uniform was adopted in 1936, and it is still in use today, with the exception of the riding breeches and boots favored by the motorcycle officers. Seven Chevrolet sedans were added to the department’s fleet; and a new headquarters building was designed and constructed at a cost of $19,000.