colorado banner image
gallery of police cars

The Colorado State Patrol was established in 1935 as a division of the Colorado Department of Highways. The agency was originally known as the Colorado State Highway Courtesy Patrol. It was one of only four law enforcement agencies then existing in the state of Colorado.

On September 23, 1935, 44 men were the first to wear the uniform of the Courtesy Patrol as the original pioneer members to the future Colorado State Patrol. By 1945, the ranks of the Courtesy Patrol had grown to 100 Patrolmen, 10 Sergeants, 6 Captains, 1 Assistant Chief and the Chief.

In 1947, the organization's name was formally changed to the Colorado State Patrol. The original Patrol Act specified that "it shall be their duty to promote safety, protect human life and preserve the highways of Colorado by the intelligent, courteous, and strict enforcement of the laws and regulation of this state relating to highways." Courtesy thus became the underlying theme of the Patrol Act.

In 1955, when the Colorado State Patrol began issuing its own distinct license plates for CSP vehicles, the agency was up to 200 patrolmen, 12 Corporals, 13 Sergeants, 10 Captains, a Deputy Chief and a Chief. By 1956, the Colorado State Patrol had 156 cars (mostly Ford Interceptors) and 20 motorcycles being used for highway patrol.

1965 saw one hundred and twenty three new Plymouth Furys arrive for patrol on Colorado's highways and by-ways.
In 1984, the CSP moved from the Department of Highways to the Department of Public Safety.



License Plates of the Colorado State Patrol

Prior to the State Patrol getting its own titled license plates in 1950, all CSP patrol vehicles used to sport regular passenger license plates issued from the local county issuing offices. The majority of CSP-issued license plates based on period photographs show a number 10 county prefix (Arapahoe County) followed by a dash and a number up to four digits. Some CSP patrol vehicle assignment numbers were based on the last 3 numbers of the license plate as seen below.

  • Colorado police car and officer image1938 Colorado Courtesy Patrol
  • Colorado police car and officer image1945 CSP Ford
  • Colorado police car and officer image
  • Colorado police car and officer image1948- shows a marked CSP Buick number 404.
    Photo at left shows rear of this car with Arapahoe County (10) plate number ending with 404

In 1950, a black over white embossed steel license plate measuring 6" x 13 3/4" was produced, however the only specimens ever seen were samples bearing the number 000. The format was STATE PATROL over 000 over COLORADO and consisted of four short-slotted mounting holes.


Colorado license plate image

From 1955 to 1970, a similarly-formatted plate was issued however it measured 6" X 12" and was made of very heavy gauge steel. Some people mistake these plates for porcelain enamel due to their durable construction. Black over flat white. STATE PATROL over a number up to 3 digits over COLORADO and consisted of four medium-sized rectangular mounting slots. This issue was known as the "Bulletproof Issue" due to its solid and heavy gauge steel. Each single plate weighs over 1 pound. One CSP retiree quipped to me that when he totaled his patrol car back in the late 1960's, although the car was a total write-off, the plates withstood the impact well enough that they were able to be used again! (See plate #33)

  • Colorado license plate image1955-1970 issue- Embossed heavy steel. 6" x 12".
    Black over white.
  • Colorado license plate on police car image
  • Colorado police car and officers image
  • Colorado police car and officer image1960 CSP Ford # 76
  • Colorado police car image1967 CSP Plymouth Fury # 192


Colorado police car imageNumber 144 Circa 1970. Courtesy Rick Perrin.

From 1970 to 1983, a much lighter embossed steel version of the same plate was used. Black over reflective white. STATE PATROL over a number up to three digits over COLORADO. (See plate #44)

  • Colorado license plate image1970-1983 issue- Embossed steel.
    Black over reflective white
  • Colorado license plate on car image1976 CSP Plymouth Gran Fury
  • Colorado license plate sample image1970-1983 SAMPLE issue. Embossed steel.
    Black over reflective white.
  • Colorado State Patrol logo
  • Colorado police car and officers image

In 1982, an embossed galvanized steel version of the same plate was issued but with STATE PATROL in smaller font over a number up to three digits over COLORADO. This was used for only one year and used concurrent with the 1970 base plate. (See plate #59)


  • Colorado license plate image1982 issue- Embossed galvanized steel.
    Smaller STATE PATROL font used.
    Black over reflective white.
  • looking image
  • Colorado license plate sample image1982 SAMPLE issue. Embossed galvanized steel.
    Smaller STATE PATROL font used.
    Black over reflective white.
  • Colorado State Patrol logo

1983 to 1989 saw the use of "Auditor Code" plates. There were three distinct varieties during these six years. The first version is embossed galvanized steel. Green over reflective white. STATE PATROL embossed in small font over a number beginning with 10 followed by a dash and 4 numbers over COLORADO. The number 10 prefix was the numerical designation for the Colorado Department of Highways, of which the state patrol was under at the time. Issued in Spring of 1983. These plates were never popular with CSP troopers. (See plate #10-0140)


  • Colorado license plate image1983-1989 first issue- Embossed galvanized steel.
    Medium green over reflective white.
    State Audit Code 10 followed by dash and four numbers.
    The most durable of the three types issued during this phase.
  • Colorado police car imageCSP SSP Mustang Number 29
  • Colorado license plate image1983-1989 first issue- Embossed aluminum.
    Medium green over flat cream.
    State Audit Code 10 followed by dash and four numbers.
    Colonel's issue.
  • looking image

1983-1989 second issue. This version was made of embossed aluminum. Light green over non-reflective white. The light green raised characters were coated in a product called Flex-O-Lite. This coating was made-up of fine-crushed glass beads to take-on a reflective quality in low-light conditions. The surface paint and reflective material took a beating especially on the front of the vehicle when exposed to the elements over the course of time. The contrast between the light green and the white background was also not deep enough for contrast, so darker green was ordered for the third version.
(See plate #10-0212)

  • Colorado license plate image1983-1989 second issue-Embossed aluminum.
    Light green Flex-O-Lite over flat white.
    State Audit Code 10 followed by dash and four numbers.
  • Colorado police car imageCSP SSP Mustang Number 294


Colorado police car image

1983-1989 third issue. This version was also embossed aluminum. Dark green over non-reflective white. This darker green character version offered better contrast compared to the second issue, however the durability of the Flex-O-Lite coating was still not effective enough for a plate exposed to the extremes of Colorado weather and the "battle stresses" of patrol duty including car washes! (See plate #10-4073)

  • Colorado license plate image1983-1989 third issue- Embossed aluminum.
    Dark green Flex-O-Lite over flat white.
    State Audit Code 10 followed by dash and four numbers.
  • looking image
  • Colorado license plate image1983-1989 PROPERTY OF issue- Embossed aluminum.
    Light green Flex-O-Lite over flat white.
    State Audit Code 10 followed by dash and four numbers in 8000 bloc.
    Used on Mobile Speed Monitors as seen in photo to the right. (Courtesy Cpl. J. Allen "Al" Trujillo)
  • Colorado speed limit machine image

1989 to 1991 saw the introduction of bright and colorful aluminum plates introduced to the CSP known as the "Designer base". A screened mountain scene in blue over non-reflective white along the top legend of the plate with a stylized red and yellow "C" to the left of the state name over CSP-### over STATE PATROL embossed in small font dies along the bottom of the plate. The registration number and STATE PATROL were painted with blue Flex-o-Lite coating.(See plate #CSP-011)

  • Colorado license plate image1989-1991 issue- Embossed aluminum.
    Blue Flex-O-Lite numerals, border and STATE PATROL legend over flat white. Graphics are screen painted
  • Colorado license plate on car image1989 CSP Plymouth Gran Fury # 298
  • Colorado police car image
  • Colorado license plate image1989-1991 issue- Embossed aluminum. Dark blue over white. Thinner die type that did not go to full production. Assignment number for Colonel of CSP
  • Colorado license plate image1989-1991 issue- Embossed aluminum. Dark blue over white. Error using the legend HIGHWAY instead of STATE PATROL

Colorado police car

1991-1997: During this time frame, the 3M Company in Minnesota began to aggressively pursue the greater share of the Colorado license plate manufacturing market. The company provided these three different attractive versions of the same design free of charge to the State Patrol. This apparently was done unbeknownst to the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles. Each version was dark blue over reflective white. They featured a step border and had the same top legend which was two dark blue horizontal stripes set against a light blue mountain range silhouette. The state name was placed between the top and bottom blue line with the red and yellow "C" to the left of it. COLORADO over CSP-### over STATE PATROL. The only embossing on the plate was the registration number. The first version has thicker dies on the characters and a long dash separating the CSP from the assignment number. (See plate #CSP-002)

  • Colorado license plate image1991-1997 First issue- Embossed aluminum.
    Dark blue over reflective white."Long dash" issue.
    Assignment number for Lieutenant Colonel of the CSP.
  • Colorado license plate on car image1991 CSP Chevrolet Caprice
  • Colorado license plate being attached on car image
  • Colorado police car and officer image
  • Colorado license plate image1991-1997 Second issue-
    Alumium with embossed step border.
    Blue over reflective white. All-flat screened.
    This issue may not have been fully deployed as there is no confirmation of usage by CSP photographically or otherwise.
  • looking image
  • Colorado license plate image1991-1997 Third issue- Embossed aluminum.
    Dark blue over reflective white. "No dash" issue.
    This version utilized character dies used in the manufacture of Kansas license plates.
  • Colorado police car image1996 CSP Chevrolet Caprice displaying Third Issue plate
    # 060

1997-2008: 1997 saw the introduction of a radically redesigned license plate for the CSP motor vehicle fleet. Black over reflective white flat screened aluminum plates were issued with an embossed step border. The design featured a black silhouette mountain range along the top with the state name inside in white. COLORADO over CSP prefix followed by "Winged Wheel" CSP logo in full color ### STATE PATROL and a black band that runs the length of the plate along the bottom of the plate. Earlier versions include an inventory bar code in the lower right hand corner. Some of these plates also run validation decals. (See plate #CSP-536)

  • Colorado license plate image1997-2008 issue- Silkscreened aluminum.
    Black over reflective white.
    Full CSP "Winged Wheel" emblem separates the CSP prefix from the assignment number.
    Early version with inventory bar code in bottom right corner.
  • Colorado license plate on car imageCSP 418 with validation decal in bottom right corner
  • Colorado license plate image
  • Colorado license plate on car image1998 CSP Chevrolet Camaro
  • Colorado license plate image1997-2008 SAMPLE issue.
  • Colorado license plate image
  • Colorado police car image
  • Colorado police car  image
  • Colorado license plate image2008-Current issue- Embossed aluminum.
    Black over reflective white.
    Font for numbers larger and more squared than earlier version.
    No inventory bar code.

    (Courtesy Dennis Deal)
  • Colorado police car image

Colorado police car image

Colorado police car image
  • Colorado license plate prototype imageCirca 2015 prototype error plate.
    Emblem of CSP was accidentally inverted as close-up seen at right shows.
  • Colorado State Patrol logo




Motorcycle License Plates used by Colorado State Patrol

The earliest known motorcycle license plate for the CSP was from 1954, and was embossed steel. It measured 8" x 4" and was black over white. It had an embossed painted border with STATE PATROL embossed along the top over a number up to 2 digits. One mounting hole in each corner of the plate. No state name. Unknown how long it was used for.

  • Colorado motorcycle license plate image1954 motorcycle issue- Embossed steel.
    Approx. 4" x 8". Black over white. First issue CSP motorcycle plate. Unknown when usage of this type ceased.

    (Courtesy Carl Woehrle)
  • looking image
  • Colorado motorcycle license plate image1960's motorcycle issue-Embossed steel.
    Approx. 4 1/2" x 8 1/2". Black over flat white.
    The empty space after the number 19 at the top of the plate was intended for an annual validation decal which was never implemented.
  • looking image
  • Colorado motorcycle license plate image1970-1983 motorcycle issue- Embossed galvanized steel. Approx. 4 1/2" x 8 1/2". Black over reflective white.
    19 in upper left corner. Top right of the plate was intended for an annual validation decal which was never implemented.
  • looking image

Colorado police motorcycle image

1983-1985 and 1988-Circa 1996: An embossed aluminum plate measuring 7" x 4" was issued during this time. It was green over non-reflective white. The plate consisted of a number beginning with 09-### over COLO. The prefix number 09 was the Colorado State Auditor's accounting code number for CSP motorcycles.
The CSP had ceased using motorcycles in January of 1985 and sold-off the fleet. The 1983-issue motorcycle plates were placed in storage after removal from the decommissioned cycles. In 1988, eight new Harley Davidson motorcycles were purchased by the CSP. The 1983 "09$" license plates which had been removed and placed in storage in 1985 were re-assigned to the new fleet. It is believed that these plates were used on CSP motorcycles until the mid 1990's. (See plate #09-005)

  • Colorado motorcycle license plate image1983-Circa 1996 motorcycle issue- Embossed aluminum.
    4" x 7". Green over flat white.
    State Audit Code number 09 followed by dash and motorcycle number.
  • looking image
  • Colorado motorcycle license plate image1997-Current motorcycle issue- All-flat screened aluminum. 4" x 7". Black over reflective white.
    "Winged Wheel" emblem on the left followed by three digit number over CSP. Inventory bar code.
  • Colorado motorcycle license plate image
  • Colorado motorcycle license plate image1997-current motorcycle issue. Early sample number.
    All-flat screened aluminum. 4" x 7".
    Black over reflective white.
    CSP prefix followed by "Winged Wheel" emblem followed by 000 over STATE PATROL.
    (Courtesy John Yeaw)
  • looking image

Colorado motorcycle police officersPhoto courtesy of Tony Aleria


OTHER LICENSE PLATES OF THE COLORADO STATE PATROL

In addition to regular patrol vehicle and motorcycle license plates used by the CSP, there is also what is known as an "In Transit" plate. This type would be used on a CSP vehicle that had not yet been officially registered but needed to be moved from one locale (usually the CSP garage) to another whether under its own power or while being towed. Confirmed # 4 seen in photograph, but unsure if "IN TRANSIT" plates are still used by CSP today.
The CSP is the only state policing agency in the USA known to use titled "In Transit" license plates.

  • Colorado motorcycle license plate image1970-1983 IN TRANSIT issue- Embossed aluminum.
    Black over reflective white. Same format as regular CSP plate with legend "IN TRANSIT" along bottom in lieu of state name.
  • looking image




REGULAR SIZED STATE PATROL TRAILER PLATES:

  • Colorado motorcycle license plate image1955-1970 trailer issue- Embossed heavy gauge steel.
    Black over white.
    TRLR stacked vertically to the left of assignment number.
  • looking image
  • Colorado motorcycle license plate image1970-1983 trailer issue- Embossed galvanized steel.
    Black over reflective white.
    TRLR stacked vertically to the left of assignment number.
  • looking image

1989 to 1991: "Designer Base" trailer plates: A screened mountain scene in blue over flat white along the top legend of the plate with red and yellow "C" to the left of the state name. Colorado over CSP-T## over STATE PATROL embossed in small font dies along the bottom of the plate. The registration number and STATE PATROL were painted with blue Flex-o-Lite. Since so few trailers are used by the CSP, it can be surmised that this type may still be in use today.




SMALL SIZED STATE PATROL TRAILER PLATES:

  • Colorado motorcycle license plate imageCirca 1960's Small Trailer issue- Embossed steel.
    Approx. 4 1/2" x 8 1/2".
    Black over white.
    SP prefix followed by TLS (Trailer-Small) stacked vertically to the left of the assignment number.
  • looking image


Gallery