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In July of 1921, The Indiana General Assembly created the Motor Vehicle Police as a means to combat the increasing problem of car theft in the state.

In 1925, the force was finally granted police powers, however an officer could not arrest even a known criminal unless he was also a traffic violator! In 1933, the Indiana State Police was formed under the umbrella of the new Division of Public Safety with 66 new recruits.

By 1937, that number increased to 170 officers. In 1939, the ISP had the distinction of being the first law enforcement agency in North America to have authorized the use of a chemical test to determine levels of intoxication with the famed "Drunkometer".

This was followed in 1955 with an improved version of the device called the Breathalyser invented by ISP Captain R.F. Borkenstein. This successful device has been used by police agencies around the world to assess impairment by alcohol in driving offenses. In 1947, an aviation division was created and in 1951, 25 new full time officers were hired for the new Motor Carrier Division to address commercial vehicle traffic regulations.

The Bureau of Criminal Investigation was formed in 1998. Today, the ISP continues its mandate of working with communities to improve public safety, enforcing traffic and drug laws, investigating crimes and enforcing the laws and regulations pertaining to commercial motor vehicles.

“STATE OWNED” titled license plates for ISP vehicles were introduced in 1942. The plate measured approximately 5 1/2”x12” and had dark blue characters embossed over a yellow base. The title STATE OWNED CAR occupied the top portion of the plate. Below the title was a number up to three digits. Below that was INDIANA-42 along the bottom of the plate. It is possible that these plates were multi-year plates in an effort to preserve metal during the War effort, as no examples or records of this type exist for 1943 until 1946.
STATE OWNED license plates used by the ISP from 1947 until the 1960's took-on the same layout and colors of regular passenger license plates being used at the time.
It was not until 1979 that the Indiana State Police began issuing graphic agency-titled license plates of their own which continue until this day.




License Plates of the Indiana State Police

Indiana police license plate

The earliest license plates used by the patrol cars and motorcycles of the ISP were standards issue passenger and motorcycle plates. Although there was no special number bloc reserved for ISP license plates, it does seem like an odd coincidence that most license numbers used on ISP cars seen in photos from the 1930's began with either 125-### or 126-### .



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(A big thanks to ISP Lt. Richard Hammer for sharing these vintage ISP patrol vehicle photos)

It is believed, but not confirmed that some ISP vehicles in the early 1940's used the five-point star prefix license plates that were reserved for official state vehicles. There is no evidence yet to either confirm or refute that hypothesis.

  • Indiana police license plate 1941 issue. Embossed steel. Approximately 5 1/2”x 8 1/2". White over blue. These five-point star prefix license plates were usually reserved for use by senior state officials.
  • Indiana police license plate 1942 issue. Embossed steel. Approximately 5 1/2”x 8 1/2”. Blue over yellow. These five-point star prefix license plates were usually reserved for use by senior state officials.
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  • Indiana police license plate blablabla

1947 issue: Embossed steel. Approximately 5 1/2”x 12” Blue over yellow. INDIANA at center top of the plate over SO prefix and up to three numbers over 47 at center bottom of the plate.
1948 issue. Embossed steel. Approximately 5 1/2”x 12” White over blue. 48 at center top of the plate over SO prefix and up to three numbers over INDIANA at center bottom of the plate.
1949 issue. Embossed steel. Approximately 5 1/2”x 12” White over red. INDIANA at center top of the plate over SO prefix and up to three numbers over 49 at center bottom of the plate.

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1950 issue. Embossed steel. Approximately 5 1/2”x 12” Yellow over black. 50 at center top of the plate over SO prefix and up to three numbers over INDIANA at center bottom of the plate.
1951 issue. Embossed steel. Approximately 5 1/2”x 12” Black over white. 51 at center top of the plate over SO prefix and up to three numbers over INDIANA at center bottom of the plate. This plate may have been used for 1952 and 1953 as well, as passenger and commercial license plates in Indiana were validated by use of tabs for those latter years. It is believed that State Owned vehicles did not. There is a photographic example of a 1952 State Owned plate # 124 pictured below, however there is no record of these plates being issued.

  • Indiana police license plate This is an undocumented issue. It is unknown what the color scheme was as 1952 was a "tab year" for all other license plates in Indiana.
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1954 issue. Embossed steel. Approximately 5 1/2”x 12” White over maroon. 54 at center top of the plate followed by legend STATE over OWNED to the left of three embossed numbers over INDIANA at the center bottom of the plate. 1955 plates in Indiana were validated by a tab on the 1954 base plate. Therefore this issue would have been used for both 1954 and 1955.



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  • Indiana police license plate 1954 issue. Embossed steel. Approximately 5 1/2”x 12” White over maroon. 54 at center top of the plate over SO prefix and up to three numbers over INDIANA at center bottom of the plate. This plate was also used for 1955.
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Indiana police car1954 ISP Safety Education Studebaker with AR (Marion County) passenger car plate on rear.

The years 1956 through 1964 pose more questions than answers for ISP license plate usage. It is believed that SO prefixed license plates continued to be used through to 1963, however there have been photographs unearthed which show a fully-embossed STATE over OWNED embossed prefix for 1958, and for the issue that came after it around late 1959/early 1960. Yet there is also a photo from 1961 showing an ISP patrol car using a dated 1961 license plate with the older SO prefix again. It is unknown if these were exceptions or the rule until we can achieve more confirmed information or period photographs.
Until then, I will document the chronological versions based on what we know and what we can assume based on established pattern. All license plates from 1956 onward are standard 6”x12”.

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  • Indiana police license plate 1956 (Courtesy Willie Brown)

1957 issue. Embossed steel. Dark blue over deep yellow. IND-57 at center top of the plate over SO prefix and up to three numbers over slogan DRIVE SAFELY embossed in yellow within a dark blue rectangular field at center bottom of the plate.

1958 issue. Embossed steel. Deep yellow over dark blue. Slogan DRIVE SAFELY embossed in blue within a yellow rectangular field at center top of the plate over STATE over OWNED prefix and up to three numbers over IND-58 at center bottom of the plate./

1959/1960 issue. Embossed steel. White over deep red. INDIANA at center top of the plate over STATE over OWNED prefix and up to four numbers over slogan DRIVE SAFELY embossed in deep red within a white rectangular field at center bottom of the plate.



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  • Indiana license plate image1958 issue. Embossed steel.
    Yellow-orange over dark blue.
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  • Indiana police car1958- Motor Carrier Inspection- Courtesy Larry G. Andress

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  • Indiana license plate image1959/1960 undated issue. Embossed steel.
    White over maroon.
  • Indiana police carCourtesy of Richard Hammer

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As per the photo shown above, it appears that at least for 1961, the ISP returned to SO prefixed license plates. Therefore I will make my estimations for 1962 and 1963 based on the 1961 plate.
1962 issue. Embossed steel. Deep yellow over black. Slogan SAFETY PAYS embossed in black within a yellow rectangular field at center top of the plate over SO prefix and up to four numbers over IND-62 at center bottom of the plate.
1963 issue. Embossed steel. Deep yellow over blue. 1963 at top center of plate over SO prefix followed by up to four numbers over INDIANA at center bottom of plate.

  • Indiana license plate image 1964 issue. Embossed steel.
    White over deep red.
    INDIANA at center top of the plate over STATE over OWNED prefix and up to four numbers over 1964 at center bottom of the plate.
    Number 1779 confirmed used by ISP.

    (Courtesy John Yeaw)
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Indiana police car1964- Courtesy Glen Rabanus

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  • Indiana license plate image Embossed steel.
    Reflective white (grey) over deep green.
    1965 at center top of the plate over STATE over OWNED prefix and up to four numbers over INDIANA embossed at center bottom of the plate.
    Numbers 1500 thru 1999 were reserved for use by ISP.
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  • Indiana license plate image1966 issue. Embossed steel. Black over reflective white. ST.OWNED over four numbers over IND-66 at center bottom of the plate.
    Numbers 1500 thru 1999 were reserved for use by ISP.
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  • Indiana license plate image1967 issue. Embossed steel. Red over reflective white.
    Red painted raised corner in upper left and in lower right corner of the plate.
    IND-67 over four numbers over ST. OWNED.
    Reserved number blocs for ISP for this year are not known.
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  • Indiana license plate image1968 issue. Embossed steel. Blue over reflective white.
    Blue painted raised corner in upper left and lower right corner of the plate. ST.OWNED over four numbers over IND-68 at center bottom of the plate.
    Reserved number blocs for ISP for this year are not known.
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  • Indiana license plate image1969 issue. Embossed steel. Black over reflective white.
    Black painted raised corner in upper left and in lower right corner of the plate.
    IND-69 over four numbers over ST. OWNED.
    Reserved number blocs for ISP for this year are not known.
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  • Indiana license plate image1970 issue. Embossed steel. Red over reflective white.
    Red painted raised corner in upper left and lower right corner of the plate. ST.OWNED over four numbers over IND-70 at center bottom of the plate.
    Reserved number blocs for ISP for this year are not known. Plate was used for 1971 as well using an OFFICIAL USE ONLY decal which expired on 1/1/1972.
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  • Indiana police license plate 1972-1979 issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Blue over reflective deep yellow. Blue painted raised corner in upper left and lower right corner of the plate. ST.OWNED over four numbers over INDIANA at center bottom of the plate.
    Most number blocs for ISP were in the 2000 to 4000 series.
  • Indiana police careCourtesy of Richard Hammer
  • Indiana license plate image1972-1979 issue. Embossed aluminum.
    This particular plate was discovered with its corresponding Certificate of Registration from the state BMV. Registered to a 1970 Dodge that was previously registered with a 1971 State Owned plate number 8691 seen below:
    (Courtesy Jason Stone)
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The exact date is still unknown, but it is believed to have been in the Spring of 1979 when the Indiana State Police unveiled a completely worded graphic license plate for its fleet.
The plates were manufactured by the Division of Industries & Farms of the Indiana Department of Corrections for $2.01 each using Indiana BMV blanks.
The plate consisted of the state name silkscreened in dark blue in the top center of the plate using upper case letters. Directly below was a four digit number between 2000 and 4999 embossed in medium blue. In the bottom center of the plate also silkscreened in dark blue is the title State Police in upper and lower case letters. To the far left of the plate is an attractive graphic of the state silhouette in dark blue trimmed in bright yellow. The center of the graphic features the state flag center of the torch and stars. Just prior to 1981, these plates were run front and rear on ISP patrol vehicles. Once a directive came down from Headquarters to run the plates rear only, upwards of 75 front plates had gone missing. As a result, these ISP graphic license plates are under strict controlled inventory protocols, and if a trooper's plate goes missing, there are unpleasant times ahead for him or her.
It has been stated by a retired ISP insider, that all the turned-in ISP license plates to fleet (at least during HIS time) were buried in a deep pit on HQ property.
Twenty five samples of this license plate bearing the number 45678 were made and distributed to ISP and other state dignitaries including the Governor.
The simple yet attractive design was so popular, that it continues to be issued to this day.

  • Indiana police license plate 1979-Current issue. First graphic and titled license plate type for the agency.
  • Indiana police care1980 ISP Dodge showing when graphic plate was mounted on front end. This practice ended in 1981.
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  • Indiana police license plateOne of 25 ISP graphic samples that were made with number 45678 as a souvenir provided for various ISP and state officials including Governor Otis R. Bowen as a launch of the new license plate style.
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  • Indiana police license plateState Police Board Member plate. The ISP Board is made-up of six civilian members who are appointed by the governor. Each member serves for a term of four years. They oversee budgetary and administrative matters for the ISP.
    Keepsake-not registrable plate.
    (Courtesy Bill Ceravola)
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  • Indiana police license plate2006-Current issue. Uses flatter base- No odd “Wide H ” indentation of previous issue.
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  • Indiana police license plate2010-Current All-Flat issue. No indentations whatsoever.
    Bar code and inventory code along bottom of plate.

    (Courtesy Bill Ceravola)
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  • Indiana police license plateUnknown type. Appears to be on older 1979-issue blank however an all-yellow state outline and no apparent title lines. INFORMATION ON THIS TYPE NEEDED PLEASE

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Indiana police plate displayIndiana State Police license plate display of Norm Ratcliffe. First Place Award at 62nd ALPCA Convention in Fort Wayne Indiana
(July 2016).



Indiana State Police Front License Plates

The Indiana State Police had been issuing license in pairs from 1933 until at least the late 1950's. Once the front license plate was no longer needed, most ISP patrol vehicles ran nothing on the front end of the car.
In 1966, the state of Indiana celebrated 150 years of statehood. The state had made and issued special commemorative “booster” license plates that were run on the front of ISP patrol cars for that year.
Otherwise and since that time, a variety of other booster plates have been run on the front of ISP vehicles at the discretion of Command Staff.
Here are a few such examples.

  • Indiana police license plate 1966 booster plate commemorating Indiana's 150 years of statehood. Flat dark blue steel with yellow painted characters. This example has an embossed border.
  • Indiana police car1966 booster plate commemorating Indiana's 150 years of statehood. Flat dark blue steel with yellow painted characters. This example is all flat and has no border.
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  • Indiana police license plate Screened white plastic. Commemorating ISP's 50th Anniversary
  • Indiana police license plate Screened gold thin aluminum.
  • Indiana police license plate Screened white and blue plastic.
  • Indiana police license plate Embossed screened black aluminum.
  • Indiana police license plate Screened olive drab.
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  • Indiana police license plate 75th Anniversary front plate. Embossed thin aluminum.
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  • Indiana police license plate Showing standard black front plate.
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Indiana police car Since the 74th Indiana State Police Recruit Class in 2015, a commemorative award in the form of a license plate is awarded to the top recruit of the class.
The all-flat plate is colored black with white screened inscription. "In Memory" occupies the top center of the plate while "State Police" occupies the bottom center. The Indiana State Police shield emblem occupies the far left side of the plate followed by PE 3845 applied over a horizontal blue stripe that spans the center of the plate. PE 3845 stands for Public Employee 3845 which was the number assigned to the late Lt. Gary Dudley of the ISP Training Division.
Lt. Dudley was killed in the line of duty in 2006, and had a hand in training over half of the ISP troopers in the state at the time of his death.
This new license plate award will be issued to the top recruit of each subsequent class to honor the memory of Lt. Dudley. The recruit will display this license plate on the front of his/her cruiser in lieu of the standard shield plate.
Seen here is Supt. Doug Carter presenting Trooper Zach Parker (Greene County) of the 74th Recruit Class with his award for being top recruit of the class.





Indiana State Excise Police

The Indiana State Excise Police is the law enforcement division of the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. State Excise police officers are empowered by statute to enforce the laws and rules of the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission as well as the laws of the State of Indiana. Their mission is to provide quality service and to protect the morals and welfare of the people of the State of Indiana. The history of license plate issuance for this agency is non-existent. There are only a couple of known examples thusfar and are featured below. Based on materilas and layout, they are believed to be from the 1950's into the 1960's. Any other information about this agency's license plate issuance history would be appreciated.

  • Indiana police license platePost 1956 issue. Embossed steel. White over medium blue. Four corner holes and four long oval mounting slots. Officer/car number embossed to the upper right of the plate.
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  • Indiana police license platePost 1956 issue. Embossed steel. White over dark blue.
    Four corner holes and four long oval mounting slots. Officer/car number embossed to the upper right of the plate.
    This version has more defined dies for the words EXCISE STATE POLICE
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  • Indiana police license plateDate Unknown. Dash plate. Embossed steel.
    White over medium blue. Approximately 2 1/2”x 5”
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Indiana State Police Motorcycle License Plates

Indiana State Police have had motorcycles in their fleet since the earliest days. For the most part, they ran regular Indiana motorcycle plates on the rear and curved front fender sign which read INDIANA over STATE POLICE on both sides.
It has been stated that in 1937, a dated blue over yellow license plate that read IND over STATE over POLICE was issued, however no confirmation or photo has been seen of this type.
An SO-prefixed motorcycle plate for 1965 has been confirmed, however it is unknown if there had been any previous issues of this type or any subsequent.
In later years, a photo taken from a distance shows an ISP motorcycle on a staged traffic stop photo where it appears to bear a miniature version of the graphic ISP car plate. The numerals 4426 appear stylized and screened as opposed to embossed.
More recently, ISP motorcycles appear to bear all-screened standard Indiana motorcycle plates in the M2##A series.

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  • Indiana police license plate1965 State Owned issue. Embossed steel. Approximately 4”x 7” Reflective white over dark green.
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Indiana State Police Alliance License Plate

The Indiana State Police Alliance (ISPA) was established in 1974 as an association of Indiana State Troopers with a focus toward promoting better law enforcement to the citizens of Indiana and gaining state-wide support for Indiana Troopers. They have issued a series of promotional or "booster" plates for their members and supporters.

  • Indiana police license plateUnknown year. All-screened plastic. Dark blue over white
  • Indiana police license plate1993 "60 Years of Service" with ISP emblem.
    Embossed thin aluminum. Dark blue, gold over white
  • Indiana police license plate1991 issue. Embossed thin aluminum.
    Blue and red over silver.
  • Indiana police license plateCurrent Indiana State Police Alliance booster plate.
    Embossed thin aluminum.

Indiana police license plate



Indiana State Police Memorial License Plate

ISP Memorial License plates are available to anyone who wishes to support the Indiana State Police. Proceeds from the sale of these plates go to the Indiana State Police Memorial Fund, which supports the Youth Education and Historical Center and maintains the ISP Memorial and Eternal Flame.

  • Indiana police license plateFirst issue. 2001-2007. Black over reflective white.
    Expiry date in top left corner. Memorial image is a decal not silkscreened. Numerals embossed.
  • Indiana police license plateSecond issue. 2008-2009. Black over white.
    SP stacked prefix followed by up to four numerals.
    Memorial image larger and silkscreened.
    County decal (53= Monroe County) UPC bar code along bottom.
  • Indiana police license plateThird issue. 2009-Current. Black over sky-colored background.
    SP stacked prefix followed by up to four numerals.
    Memorial has been replaced by badge motif with thin blue line over American flag. REMEMBERING OUR HEROES along bottom center.
    County decal in bottom right corner (32= Hendricks County)
  • Indiana police license plateMotorcycle version of third issue. LZ stacked prefix followed by up to three numerals.


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