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.