ISP History

The Illinois State Police (ISP) has a long tradition of providing professional law enforcement, safety, and justice services to the people of Illinois with a unique reputation for integrity. On June 24, 1921, the 52nd General Assembly of the State of Illinois authorized the Department of Public Works and Buildings to hire a "sufficient number of State Highway Patrol Officers to enforce the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Laws." The Illinois State Police was officially formed in 1922 consisting of eight officers patrolling on surplus World War I Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The Department has since grown and evolved into what it is today – a nationally recognized, premier law enforcement, public safety, and criminal justice agency. Beginning in 1922, each era has built upon the efforts and accomplishments of the previous era, embarking upon a journey of continuous improvement and excellence.

Over the years, the ISP has continually changed in size and organizational structure to provide an increased number of services in the most efficient manner to the people of Illinois. On June 29, 1923, the 53rd General Assembly authorized the creation of the Illinois Highway Maintenance Police with 100 officers, and the number of officers was increased to 300 in 1929. In 1931, the Illinois General Assembly authorized the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, which would ultimately become the Illinois State Police forensic lab system and the Bureau of Identification.

On July 1, 1941, the Illinois Highway Maintenance Police force began operating under the newly formed Department of Public Safety. On July 17, 1941, the first state police cadet class began their three-week training program at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. In an effort to remove political affiliation from the State Police hiring and promotional process, the State Police Merit Board was formed on July 1, 1949. On January 1, 1951, the Illinois Highway Maintenance Police was renamed Illinois State Highway Patrol, still within the Department of Public Safety. In 1957, the Illinois General Assembly increased the authorized headcount of the state police to 1,100 and authorized hiring 100 additional officers under contract to the Illinois Toll Highway Authority. The Division of Narcotic Control was created within the Department of Public Safety in 1958 to confront the rising tide of controlled substance abuse and crime. In 1959, the Bureau of Special Investigations was established to fight organized crime and public corruption and renamed the Detective Section in 1961. In 1968, training moved from the fairgrounds to the official State Police Academy.

On January 1, 1970, the Illinois State Highway Patrol began operating under the newly created Department of Law Enforcement. The Illinois Bureau of Investigation was also created within this Department. On July 1, 1977, the Department of Law Enforcement underwent major reorganization. The Criminal Investigations Bureau merged with the Illinois Bureau of Investigation to form the Division of Criminal Investigation. Other divisions within the Department included: Illinois State Police, Support Services, Internal Investigation, and the Division of Administration. There were 1,750 uniformed officers employed within the Division of Illinois State Police and an additional 300 special agents employed within the Divisions of Investigation and Internal Investigation.

On July 1, 1985, the name of the Department of Law Enforcement was changed to the Department of State Police, and the Division of Illinois State Police was changed to the Division of State Troopers. The Director of the Department of Law Enforcement was renamed the Director of the new Illinois State Police. During this period, the Illinois State Police also began administration of the state’s Metro Enforcement Groups. There was also a consolidation of rank structures and titles for officers in the Divisions of State Troopers and Criminal Investigation. Support Services was renamed the Division of Forensic Services and Identification. The Human Services Section was created in 1989 to offer support to employees. In 1992, the Illinois State Police was cut from six divisions to four.

In 2003, after 9/11, the Illinois State Police received authority and funding to create the Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center providing criminal intelligence to local, state, and federal law enforcement and homeland security agencies. In 2016, the General Assembly tasked the Illinois State Police with overseeing Statewide 9-1-1 consolidation and the implementation of Next Generation 9-1-1 throughout the state.

Illinois law and executive order had established the Divisions of Operations, Internal Investigations, Forensic Services, and Administration. Illinois law also lays out the Illinois State Police Academy and the Office of the Statewide 9-1-1 Administrator separate from the four other Divisions. Therefore, the Department was reorganized in March 2019 to follow the framework established in statute. In May 2019, legislation was passed to rename the Division of Administration to the Division of Justice Services, effective January 1, 2020, to better reflect the technological services role the Division provides not just to the Illinois State Police, but to federal, state, and local law enforcement; prosecutors; and other criminal justice components.

In August 2019, Executive Order 2019-12 was issued to build upon the legislative restructuring of the ISP, allowing the organization’s leadership to streamline and better focus their roles in the justice system over the next century. The order establishes and reestablishes distinctive divisions within ISP and delineates their powers, duties, rights and responsibilities so the ISP can better serve the people of Illinois. This reorganizational order was signed at the request of the ISP to ensure that the practical administration of the Department is clarified and improved and to ensure the best traditions of the ISP are revived and strengthened. This order officially renames the Department of State Police as the Illinois State Police. The Illinois State Police Academy was also renamed as the Division of the Academy and Training. Most significantly, this executive order also evolved the Division of Operations into the Division of Patrol and the Division of Criminal Investigation.