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DPS vehicles getting new colors to go with officers’ new moniker

A prototype of a Highway Patrol vehicle with a potential new color scheme is pictured in front of the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

A prototype of a Highway Patrol vehicle with a potential new color scheme is pictured in front of the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Arizona’s “smokies” will be sporting a new title and new colors as part of an image change for the Highway Patrol.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves said the people who patrol the highways will be called troopers instead of officers from now on, and department leaders are picking a new color scheme for the vehicles they drive.

The department is going to be getting 90 new vehicles soon, and they will not be white with blue striping like the aging vehicles they will replace, Graves said.

A recently rolled out prototype has a dark blue and copper color combination with State Trooper emblazoned dramatically on the side, although the final decision on a new color and graphic scheme won’t come until after input from employees. After hearing from many employees soon after his appointment, new DPS Director Frank Milstead decided to make the change.

Graves said one of Milstead’s priorities is to make the department the leading police agency in the state in the eyes of the public.

“To do that we need to change up our public image and since the Highway Patrol is the most visible aspect of DPS, why not change the look of our vehicles? As you know we are now state troopers instead of officers,” Graves said.

Jimmy Chavez, president of the Arizona Highway Patrol Association, said the changes have been a boost to morale.

“Trooper better identifies what we do as officers out there on the highways,” Chavez said. “It’s more than stopping speeders on the interstate, it’s actually providing law enforcement services on the highway system, and in some of the rural cases, it’s providing law enforcement in that community.”

Chavez said California and Arizona have been the only states that don’t identify their patrol officers as troopers.

Bill Richardson, a retired police officer who writes columns on law enforcement, said morale has been down at DPS for years because of low pay, antiquated equipment, poor leadership and political meddling from governors and lawmakers.

Richardson said Milstead transformed the Mesa Police Department during his time as the chief there into a respected and effective agency. He said the rebranding of DPS will help morale and is part of an overall vision to rebuild the agency’s reputation and effectiveness.

But Richardson said it will take commitment from lawmakers to complete the transformation.

A rear view of a prototype of a Highway Patrol vehicle with a potential new color scheme is pictured in front of the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

A rear view of a prototype of a Highway Patrol vehicle with a potential new color scheme is pictured in front of the Arizona Department of Public Safety.


  1. Morale will likely tank when their polyester uniforms melt getting into their black cars after baking in the desert sun a couple hours.

  2. Whatever. Looks like yet another waste of money so that ticket writers can feel better about themselves. They should be called Ticket Writers instead of officers or troopers. You can tell the State is not in a hole given the new cars and Pimp My Ride look of the vehicles. Howabout spending some of that money on teachers?

  3. Good for DPS. They haven’t had a facelift in 20 years. Cop cars are necessary, and they cost money no matter how you decorate them. They are also initial representation of our state’s government. Aren’t proud of your state? No one is forcing you to stay if you’re not. Ticket writers? Sounds like someone needs to slow down. Read the news. DPS leads the way on rescues, drug seizures, arrests of human traffickers, DUI’s, etc etc. We in AZ can be proud of our state officers. And if you speed, may DPS be there to protect our citizens from you. Good job, State Troopers!

  4. This is a joke. This interview with Chavez and his information is incorrect about CA and AZ as the only two states that do not refer to the Highway Patrol Officers as Troopers – Oregon and New Mexico can also be added to that list, among some other states. Thus, Officer Chavez is incorrect in his statement.
    Why is the change necessary? MORALE? You have to be kidding me.
    Highway Patrolman was the title for years! Yet, some [email protected]$$ has to one-up his father and change the agency positions to Trooper! This is a joke.
    A waste of money and time to be changing uniforms, vehicles, badges, decals so you can have a morale change?
    SOS – Same old stuff! You polish a **** it is still a ****!

  5. Why in Arizona would you want a black colored vehicle?

  6. They wouldn’t have to write tickets if people followed the rules. If you don’t follow the rules and put my family in danger …. Don’t drive.

  7. Don’t get me wrong. I think it is a good idea to rebrand. I don’t like the current color scheme, however, I don’t really care for the new color scheme either. Look at Florida Highway Patrol, Texas DPS or even California highway patrol. They look like law enforcement vehicles, not billboards. Just my humble opinion.

  8. Those cars look hot. As in “what a dumb idea to paint our patrol cars a dark color where it stays 100+ for months on end.”

    Thinking a lighter color with the copper stripe instead would be far more appropriate. If they are dead set on dk blue/copper, reverse the color scheme. And use reflective graphics.

  9. citizenjoe shmo

    MIlstead didn’t do so much for Mesa P.D. and looking at this jump start with DPS, it’s just smoke and mirrors. The car color scheme is terrible. The blue and white looks much more respectful and professionl. I hope the officers like them. Troopers sounds harsh. Like storm troopers. Not a good image.

  10. Save your money on the paint and image thing. Pay them more, that will boost their morale.

  11. .Maybe the teacher would feel differently if his family were the victim of a kidnapping and his child was an amber alert subject that was saved by the ticket writer. Or he was broken down 100 miles from anywhere and the ticket writer came by in the heat of the day or the dark of night and provided safe assistance to he and his family. Or he was unfortunately involved in an accident and the ticket writer arrived to provide a professional accident investigation, and provide first aid and comfort to the victims. Oh and by the way, the ticket writer works a full 12 months a year unlike the teacher and doesn’t have a basic 8-5 job like the teacher. Maybe the teacher should try driving 50 miles in the blinding snow at 2 AM to go to an accident, or respond to an emergency on the Phoenix freeway at 3 PM in August and direct traffic for several hours.

  12. I love the dark sapphire blue paint color like Nevada Highway Patrol and Oregon State Police. I’d like to see the Department maybe go back to the colors of their past cars from the 1970’s. They used to have Cornets that were a light blue and a white roof only and then they had an all copper metallic color. They can use that copper stripe in the same fashion to go with the 5 state “C’s” of Arizona to look like their current blue and white stripe they have now that’s reflective but instead make it copper to go down the sides with the top and bottom with the white reflective stripes. Also… Please don’t go the way of like California with that damn black and white paint scheme and don’t try to make their badges look like L.A.P.D. as well.

    I remember back in the early 2000s where they did this with the “State Trooper” but Arizonans spoke up and complained enough and wanted our “Highway Patrol” brand brought back as our own brand for the state and so they ditched the the east coast “State Trooper” and went back to the original “Highway Patrol”

    Im all for supporting our first responders (Highway Patrol too) and I always will even though there’s a few bad apples that spoil their image in every agency. Changing things up a bit is ok to keep the vibe ok but Im pleading with you that you don’t go the way where police department’s have been ordering black and white patrol cars and looking like California police agencies like L.A.P.D. units. To do a vehicle in two tone colors if you look it up, it does cost more money to do that rather than just sticking with one solid color.

    I also hope that Ford has improved their sloppy poor process of prepping before the paint is applied with a good healthy layer or two of clear coat to stand up to the hot baking Arizona climate and sun light. Ford really screwed up with all their fleet white colored and regular color paint tones they used on other than their Crown Victoria patrol units by just using a base coat with no clear coat where the paint just came off in sheets every time they went through a car wash before they were two years old.

    Now with the police officer badges? What’s been with the person who orders those where they they look like they use the same background back plates left over from the L.A.P.D. badge orders?

    Im glad Phoenix Police hasn’t gone to black and white as well with Glendale PD. Now they went as far as to ordering those horrific and ugly police badges as California uses as well. If Phoenix Police were to redo their police vehicles as well please let’s stay away from black and white… PLEASE!!! Im slowly restoring one of their old Phoenix Police Department’s police cars from the late 1970’s with the original tan and white paint schemes. I remember they had tan bodies with a white roof only. Just watch the movie with Clint Eastwood in “The Gauntlet” and you’ll see just what I’m talking about. By the way DPS… Didn’t you learn with the Ford Taurus’s from before and crappy Ford was? Go back to the Chevrolet Tahoes!

  13. Some of the critcism is really petty and from people who really don’t waste a chance to slam law enforcement. As for car color, I drove various colors of patrol cars. They all get hot. If I park two cars, one black and one white, side by side on a 110 degree day and blindfold you and ask you to to put a hand on each one and tell me which one is white, I seriously doubt you could do that. The title trooper when introducing yourself to someone is much more direct and less confusing than saying “I am highway patrolman ——-” or I am Dept of Public Safety Officer——“. Cars marked “State Trooper” and Highway Patrol” are much more readily identified as a police/law enforcement vehicle than “Dept of Public Safety”. Many of the contacts between officers and travelers on the road are from people out-of-state or out-of-country and immediate recognition of your authority prevents misunderstandings. Most change is resisted to some extent by those most effected., however it is a good sign this change is being readily accepted. I have stood on asphalt highways so hot my boots stuck to the tar and sweat backed up and ran over the sweatband of my smokie hat, but my uniform never melted. As for Jimmy Chavez, he is our president and a speaker for highway patrolmen and DPS civilian employees until voted out and the is the way the cookie crumbles. I have been a member of the Az Highway Patrol Assoc since 1977 and Jimmy is one of the top two presidents during my years of membership.

  14. A dark blue or black car in Phx? I just don’t think that’s gonna do anything for morale. How about a pay increase for regular employees instead of just giving more money to executive staff?

  15. Where do I start? The name change to State Trooper is a surprise, but considering how many other state agencies refer to thier officers as “Troopers”, it’s par for the course. Trooper does sound more authoritative, but then again, they have ultimate authority on the highway. I do need to correct the post by Erik. The controversy was not “State Trooper” on the marked cars of the ’90’s, but it was “State Patrol”, which sounds like a security agency as opposed the the Highway Patrol.

    The new branding is long overdue since the last major graphic modification was the blue stripe down the side starting with the 1994 Caprice. The most significant change before then was the discontinuation of different car colors used from the early 70’s to 1978. In 1979, white cars became the standard. The door star has had only minor changes since the late ’50’s until the late ’80’s when “Arizona Highway Patrol” within the star was changed to “Department of Public Safety”.

    As for the new prototype design, I don’t like it. If you see it from a distance, you might mistake it for a rolling banner for an energy drink or something. This is my opinion, [and everyone has one], but in addition to being the ‘Grand Canyon State’, we are also the ‘Copper State’. If I had my way, the entire car would be copper with blue striping/lettering. Another option would be copper cars with white front doors and roof with the dark blue striping/lettering. There are some pictures of mid-1980’s copper/white CHP Ford Crown Victorias which CHP used for commercial enforcement. They looked sharp.

  16. DPS bosses have been trying to get themselves labeled state police since the Joe Albo days. I was visiting their compound one day and noticed a batch of brand new cars with “state patrol” instead of DPS painted on them. Never saw them on the streets so I’m guessing someone higher up put the kibosh on Albo’s idea.

    It takes more than a name. DPS will never be a state police unless the laws giving them their authority is changed, and that comes from the state constitution and the Legislature. But if it will boost their ego I’m all for it, so long as they remember the ultimate law enforcement authority in each county is the Sheriff, not DPS.

  17. I thought I would never see the day when Arizona DPS officers would be called “Trooper.” I spent 25 years with DPS and was one of those lone voices advocating for the title “State Trooper.” I am originally from Pennsylvania and worked in Ohio before coming to Arizona. People who never lived back east do not get it. The term state trooper means something in most states. The term itself commands respect and immediately tells the citizen who you are. Fact is, with exception to NM and CA, every state, whether it is a Highway Patrol, State Patrol, or State Police, call their line officers “troopers. The only people who disparage the term are natives to Arizona who just don’t know any better. The “Trooper” title is especially necessary with DPS due to the way the agency was set up. You tell someone you are a DPS officer and they have no idea who you are or what you do.

  18. Good for you Arizona. Let’s do this. Can’t wate to see the trooper name on the vehicle’s and the vehicle them self’s. Awesome job everyone.

  19. The next time your in an accident or need HELP call a teacher…..

  20. Dumb idea. New City went from two tone blue and white to just white with a blue stripe decal and saved $800 per unit. Where is the state getting the money for these paint jobs all of a sudden. The money can be more effectively spent on pay raises and equipment, not trendy paint jobs that that may provide a temporary WOW to officers and motorists but no long term gain.

  21. I support our law enforcement regardless of the agency but I just don’t get it. I don’t think changing the paint design of a patrol vehicle is a morale booster but rather a way for the new Director to put his mark on the department. If you want to boost the morale of your officers, thank them on a regular basis for a job well done, have leaders provide positive morale, make sure they have appropriate equipment to do their job and yes pay them competitively with other local police agencies. Now for my personal opinion, I think the current look of the patrol cars is awesome, white with blue markings, it’s sleek, white is good in Arizona, simple, yet stylish and portrays authority. Leave the vehicles alone, work on other more important things.

  22. I like it! i just wish they would use a wrap on the vehicles so they can be removed and get more money out of them when they auction them at the end of there duty cycle.

  23. Black. Now there’s a safe color for a law enforcement vehicle!
    Especially at night. Ever wonder why safety cones are not black? Sounds like a silly question. but would you want your son or daughter parked on an Arizona highway at night in a vehicle on a highway that is hard to see?

  24. B. Allen MCSO Ret

    New name, same old tail-light chasers. They will not be taking any calls off the state highways unless they are requested. And even if they are, without a mile post marker they will never find the location.

  25. I think it’s great that they are now known as AZ State Troopers. They are catching up with the other states. I like the idea of using copper on the cars, but the dark blue is overwheming.

  26. So THIS is how DPS wants to spend the extra tax dollars that we are now being assessed from vehicle license surcharges. I’m a little tired of hearing about how much money they don’t have. No wonder when THIS is their priority.

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