Many share a strong belief there is nothing more vital to a successful future than an understanding of history.
At the Arizona Highway Patrol & Department of Public Safety Heritage Museum, that feeling is embraced by many as evidenced by the sizeable number of Department of Public Safety (DPS) employees and retirees who are passionate about the history of the Arizona Highway Patrol and the Department of Public Safety.
Reflecting on our past provides knowledge and background of why and how we do the things we do today. Remembering lessons from the past also prevents us from traveling down those troubling roads again. The traditions of the Arizona Highway Patrol carried forward to the DPS and are still present in today’s agency.
Our history of the DPS doesn’t simply begin in 1969 with the formation of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The idea of an Arizona Highway Patrol likely began in the 1920’s, long before it became a formality on July 1, 1931, when 14 men accepted political appointments, becoming our first Highway Patrol patrolmen.
When those first patrolmen began patrolling paved highway and dirt roads, Arizona was sparsely populated. As for their equipment, it was rather austere and remained so until the late 1940’s. On display in the museum is a 1931 Model A, which, although it was not an actual patrol vehicle, has been refurbished and marked to reflect the patrol vehicles used in the early days of the highway patrol.
In the 1960’s, when the legislature agreed to create the Arizona Department of Public Safety, there was a tremendous concern whether such a concept could work. When the Department began operations, those first baby steps eventually provided the foundation for today’s modernized law enforcement that has become one of the best state law enforcement agencies in the country.
The goal of the museum is to inform and educate museum visitors, including school children of all ages, adults and prospective new employees of the Department of Public Safety. We also endeavor to provide career opportunity information to visitors who may want to seek education and employment in any number of criminal justice fields, scientific analysis, electronic and voice communication technologies, data processing, fingerprinting, human resources, and other professional and clerical fields in law enforcement or other criminal justice fields. We provide lectures from experts in their fields in such areas as Scientific Analysis, Forensic Sciences, DNA, Criminal Justice careers, ever changing technologies and communications to our tour groups.
We provide both static and interactive exhibits through photographic, audio and written documents/records. A majority of exhibits remain the backbone of the museum while other displays may be temporary or special exhibits possibly representative of units, sections and bureaus from within the agency. These exhibits will represent the story of the Who, What, Where, How and Why of an interesting and factual aspect of the providing entity, such as the work completed by the DPS Crime Laboratory in the early processing of DNA technology where DPS was in the forefront for developing the scientific methods followed in solving criminal cases through DNA analysis.
The museum has access to a number of vehicles and other equipment depicting the ever changing technology and advancement in the field of law enforcement and criminal justice. The exhibits tell the story of the early days of the Arizona Highway Patrol, the creation of the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the vast diversification of work performed by sworn and professional staff in their daily efforts to provide public safety to the citizens and visitors of Arizona.
We welcome all visitors to a free tour of our museum. We hope you will come see us so we can share the long history and abounding heritage of the Arizona Highway Patrol and Department of Public Safety.