Washington State Patrol banner image
gallery of police cars

June 8, 1921, was the date legislation authorized the appointment of highway police with the power of peace officers. The first six patrolmen were commissioned September 1, 1921.

In 1933, the Legislature acknowledged the need for a police organization that was mobile and could be concentrated immediately at any place in the state where the public safety was endangered.

The Highway Patrol Division officially became known as the Washington State Patrol, which had been given full police powers. However, the police powers were not to be used unless ordered by the Governor or requested by other law enforcement agencies. The State Patrol was placed directly under the Governor, who was authorized to appoint the Chief.

Motorcycles for patrol were on their way out that year, and light, fast automobiles of the panel delivery type, which could be used as a combination patrol car, mobile jail, and ambulance, were proving much more versatile for all-weather work than the motorcycle.

The Motor Vehicle Inspection Division and Weight Division, created in 1943, were responsible for checking trucks for size, weight, and license violations. Both divisions previously were under the Department of Highways. In 1949, the WSP began to trade away the "paddy wagons" in favor of four-door sedans, with improved police equipment and special engines, transmissions, and high-speed rear ends.

By the late 1950s, the Patrol began to phase in its current patrol car door design, a diagonal royal blue spear and black and white badge replica. By 1968, the WSP had converted all patrol vehicles to white.

In 1991,The WSP gained international recognition for its development of the Mobile Computer Network (MCN), an innovative system linking laptop computers in patrol cars with satellite and land-based radio communication technology.

The Washington State Patrol's primary focus has been to aggressively enforce its core mission to enforce driving under the influence (DUI) laws, speeding, aggressive driving, and seat belt laws throughout Washington.




License Plates of the Washington State Patrol

1924 provides the earliest glimpse of what cars of the Washington State Patrol were using for license plates at the time. The plates were randonly-numbered passenger car license plates, and in the 1924 photo, license number 83274 was assigned to the WSP.
Passenger license plates were used by the WSP in the years prior to 1937, with number 200010 confirmed used by WSP in 1932.
Early passenger license plates in Washington are often mistaken for EXEMPT license plates as the letter X and a colon prefaced the two digit year, such as X: 32. Passenger plates used the X designation and exempt vehicles utilized the letter E, such as E: 32. Although some local law enforcement agencies in Washington State used the exempt designated license plates for their patrol vehicles, there's no evidence that the Washington State Patrol used these exempt plates during the time period between 1924 and 1936.



Washington  police license plate image

In 1937, a special State Official license plate was introduced for use on the vehicles of the Washington State Patrol. The plates were made of embossed steel and measured approximately 5 1/2" x 13 1/2". The plates were colored white over blue. WASHINGTON 1937 was embossed at the top of the plate. The left field of the plate had STATE over OFFICIAL over USE ONLY and then followed by an embossed assignment number up to three digits.

1938: 1938 WASHINGTON over STATE over OFFICIAL over USE ONLY followed by ###. 5 1/2" x 13 1/2". Green over white.

1939: 1889-GOLDEN JUBILEE-1939 over STATE over OFFICIAL over USE followed by #### over STATE OF WASHINGTON 5 1/2" x 13 1/2". Yellow over green.

As seen in the photo below, these 1939 STATE OFFICIAL USE license plates used by the WSP incorporated up to four numerals.



Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image1940 issue. Embossed steel.
    Approx. 5 1/2" x 13 1/2". Green over white.

    (Courtesy Pete Madsen)
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image1941 issue. Embossed steel.
    Approx. 5 1/2" x 13 1/2". White over green.
  • looking image

Washington  police license plate image


1942: STATE over OFFICIAL over USE followed by ### over WASHINGTON 1942 5 5/8" x 13 1/2". Green over white.
No license plates were issued in Washington State for 1943 and 1944 as an effort to conserve metal during World War II, therefore it was likely that WSP vehicles retained their 1942 license plates and validated annually by means of a windshield decal.



Washington  police license plate image


Although there is currently no documented proof, the STATE OFFICIAL USE license plates continued for 1945 on all marked vehicles of the Washington State Patrol. The WSP license plates for 1945 were made of embossed aluminum and measured 5 5/8" x 13 1/2". They were colored green over white and had WASHINGTON 1945 embossed along the top. The STATE OFFICIAL USE format would have likely followed the same format as the previous issues.



Washington  police license plate image


In 1946, State Exempt (SX) prefix license plates began to be used on marked Washington State Patrol vehicles.
The embossed aluminum license plates measured 5 5/8" x 13 1/2" and colored green over white. SX prefix followed by a number up to 3 digits. No dash or separator besides open space between the prefix and numbers. WASHINGTON 1946 embossed along the bottom.



  • Washington  police license plate image1946 State Exempt issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Approx. 5 5/8" x 13 1/2". Green over white.
    First year for SX prefix on state tax exempt vehicles.

    (Courtesy Robert Ward)
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image

1947: SX- followed by ### over WASHINGTON 1947. 5 5/8" x 13 1/2". Green over shiny aluminum.
1948: Windshield decal used to re-validate 1947 license plate.

  • Washington  police license plate image1949 State Exempt issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Approx. 5 5/8" x 13 1/2". Green over acid-etched aluminum.
  • looking image
  • Washington  police license plate image

1950-1953: Embossed aluminum. SX- ### over WASHINGTON 50 (thin tab slots on either side of 50) 5 5/8" x 13 1/2". Green over white. Unknown if 1951 validation tab or 1952 windshield decal was used on state exempt vehicles.
1954: Embossed aluminum. ###- SX over 54 WASHINGTON (thin tab slots on either side of 54) 5 5/8" x 13 1/2". Green over white.

  • Washington  police license plate image1954-1957 State Exempt issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Approx. 5 5/8" x 13 1/2". White over green.
    Validated with tabs for 1956 and 1957.
    These plates were made by the Irwin-Hodson Company of Portland Oregon, as the state prison in Washington sustained a fire in 1954 which closed down production in the license plate shop.

    (Courtesy Pete Madsen)
  • looking image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image1954-1957 State Exempt issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Approx. 5 5/8" x 13 1/2". White over green.
    Validated with tabs for 1956 and 1957.
    These plates were made by the Irwin-Hodson Company of Portland Oregon, as the state prison in Washington sustained a fire in 1954 which closed down production in the license plate shop.
    This number is too high for WSP assignment, but shows use of the 1956 validation tab.
  • looking image

In 1956, the size-standardization to 6" x 12" for car license plates took place across all of North America. As a result, the 1954 Washington State Exempt layout and colors continued on the new 6" x 12" embossed aluminum license plates. Even the embossed 54 was still placed in the bottom left corner with tabs used for 1956 and 1957.

  • Washington  police license plate image1956-1957 State Exempt issue. Embossed aluminum. 6" x 12" standard. White over green.
    Embossed 54 in bottom left corner under validation tab.
  • looking image
  • Washington  police license plate image

In 1958, a new state exempt license plate was introduced in Washington state. The plate was made of embossed aluminum and colored white over deep green. The letter S was used as a prefix to a three digit number which included lead zeroes for numbers under 100.
STATE X followed by a space and WASH was embossed along the bottom of the plate just above the mounting holes. The bottom right corner of the plate after WASH left enough room for a validation decal which began to be issued in 1959. The earlier versions had a period after WASH which was later dropped as it interefered with the positioning of validation decals. These license plates were used on marked Washington State Patrol vehicles until the end of 1962.

  • Washington  police license plate image1958-1962 State Exempt issue. Embossed aluminum.
    White over green.
    Validated annually with decals in bottom right corner.
    This is a later version with no period after the WASH.
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • North  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image1958-1962 State Exempt issue. Embossed aluminum.
    White over green. Validated for 1962.
    This is an earlier version with the period after WASH.

    (Courtesy Danny Beard)
  • looking image
  • Washington  police license plate image

1963 saw the introduction of agency-specific license plates for exclusive use by the Washington State Patrol. The new embossed aluminum license plates followed the same format and coloring of green over white as the state's passenger car license plates, but had a prefix of WSP ahead of the 3 digit number. WASH. 63 was embossed at the bottom center of the plate just above the mounting holes.
These plates were validated annually by decals and used by the WSP until the end of 1967.

  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image1963-1967 issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Dark green over white.
    Validated by annual decals.
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image

In 1965, a new base plate was issued for the Washington State Patrol, however it was only used as a replacement rather than for a fleetwide transition. The embossed aluminum plate was similar in color as the former 1963 issue and still used the WSP ### format. The only difference was the full spelling of WASHINGTON along the bottom center of the plate in lieu of WASH. 63. These plates were also issued through the end of 1967 and validated annually with decals placed in the bottom right corner of the plate.

  • Washington  police license plate image1965-1967 issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Validated with decals annually and used as a replacement issue and not for a fleetwide changeover.
  • looking image
  • Washington  police license plate image

The Summer of 1968 saw the issuance of a brand new license plate for the Washington State Patrol. This was part of a general statewide "re-plate" for all motor vehicles in the state as a law that came into effect on June 1st of that year required all state license plates to be reflectorized. The license plates were still made of embossed aluminum and colored green over reflective white. The reflective material had a pigment that actually gave the background a shade closer to cream rather than pure white. WASHINGTON was embossed along the top left of the plate just below the upper left mounting hole. The state name was offset to the left to allow enough room for month and year validation decals for the upper right corner.

WSP prefix continued followed by a three digit number with lead zeroes under the number 100. This style of license plate was used by the WSP until 1979.

The earlier base plates can be identified by a "flat-topped A" in the state name and the flip-side painted in white. Later versions have a pointed-top A in the state name and the flip-side is bare aluminum.
From 1968 until 1975, these WSP license plates were often validated with annual decals. In 1976, these license plates were validated with white over green EXEMPT VEHICLE decals, However some WSP plates were seen with no decals at all.

WSP Command and Service Vehicles used similar license plates but with only an S prefix followed by a three digit number. These were used on Command Staff vehicles and on the 1965-1967 base, were also used on the WSP Scale Truck.

S 824 and S 827 were confirmed as used on WSP Command vehicles, however other numbers are possible as well. Some of these plates bore the green and white EXEMPT VEHICLE decal while others bore no decal at all.

  • Washington  police license plate image1968-1979 issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Green over reflective white. Use of EXEMPT VEHICLE decal.
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image1968-1979 Command and Service issue. Embossed alumium.
    Green over reflective white. With EXEMPT VEHICLE decal.
    These plates were used by WSP Command vehicles as well as service vehicles such as scale trucks, flatbeds and tow trucks. Some did not bear any decals.
  • looking image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image

1979 introduced a new license plate for the Washington State Patrol. The embossed aluminum plates were still painted green over reflective white, however this reflective white background was much brighter than its predecessor. WASHINGTON EXEMPT was embossed along the top of the plate just below the upper mounting holes. The prefix used was SP for State Patrol and it was followed by a four digit number with lead zeroes for numbers under 1000.
Numbers were stated to be issued in seniority sequence, with lower numbers being assigned to the most senior members. The SP 7000 number bloc was reserved for WSP vehicles assigned to Weight Control Section (Commercial Vehicle Enforcement). License plates in the SP 9000 number bloc were reserved for pool vehicles not otherwise assigned.
These license plates were used by the WSP until 1987.

  • Washington  police license plate image1979-1987 issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Green over reflective white. Number indicates seniority.
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image

In 1986, the state of Washington was gearing-up for its 100th Anniversary of statehood celebrations which would take place in 1989. As part of the launch for this important milestone, license plates in Washington state would showcase attractive new graphic license plates to promote the state Centennial. The license plates of the State Patrol would follow suit.

The new embossed aluminum license plates were colored dark blue over a reflective white background accentuated by a silk-screened light blue rendition of Mount Rainier as the background. The state name was silkscreened in red in a stylized font between the upper mounting holes of the plate. Centennial Celebration was silkscreened in smaller stylized red font at the bottom center of the plate between the lower mounting holes. There was a light blue silkscreened square in the upper left corner of the plate inscribed with MONTH over TAB, which on WSP license plates, was left alone. The opposite top corner featured the white and green EXEMPT VEHICLE decal for some, but many others did not use the decal, so the light blue silkscreened square in the upper right corner was inscribed with YEAR over TAB would show.

The earlier versions of these license plates utilized the ###- WSP format for numbering. Some versions dropped the dash separating the numbers from the letters. Later versions for reasons still unknown felt the need to add the embossed stacked prefix of XMT down the left side margin of the plate in front of the first numeral of the assignment number. This caused a crowded look for when the assignment number went into four digits where the WSP suffix had to change to an SP suffix./

License plates on this base numbered 7- WSP through 10- WSP were assigned to Deputy Chiefs and HQ Majors. Plates numbered in the teens were assigned to District Majors. Plates in the 20's were assigned to Captains. Plates in the 30's through 100 were issued to Lieutenants. Plates from 101-WSP to approximately 250-WSP were assigned to Sergeants. Plates numbered 251-WSP and up were for commissioned personnel with Line Cars.

In 1991, the Centennial Celebration slogan was dropped, but the style, color and layout continued until the plates were replaced in 1998.

  • Washington  police license plate image1987-1991 issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Dark blue over reflective white.
    Use of EXEMPT VEHICLE decal.
    Centennial Celebration slogan at bottom.
    Number 258: Commissioned Personnel with a Line Car.
  • looking image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image1987-1991 issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Dark blue over reflective white.
    XMT (Exempt) stacked prefix- No decal.
    Centennial Celebration slogan at bottom.
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image1987-1991 issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Dark blue over reflective white.
    XMT (Exempt) stacked prefix- No decal.
    9000SP series: Pool vehicle.
    Centennial Celebration slogan at bottom.
  • Washington  police license plate image9000SP series- Pool vehicle.
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image1991-1998 issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Dark blue over reflective white. No decal. Large dash.
    No slogan at bottom.
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image

During 1997, an experimental "all-flat" (entirely silkscreened) license plate made by 3M was assigned to segments of the marked WSP fleet. They were made of flat aluminum and silkscreened in the same design and layout as the 1991-1998 issue, but with the assignment number and WSP suffix silkscreened as well.
It is believed that a bar code was silkscreened at the bottom center of the plate, but this is not confirmed. There is little other information or photos of this type except for the 712WSP plate seen attached to the WSP Ford Expedition posted below that was provided by Lt. Michael Turcott of the WSP several years ago, so if you have any further information or photos you can share about this rare type, it would be of a great help.

  • looking image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image

In 1998, the state of Washington launched a new license plate very similar to the popular Centennial Celebration design, It kept the same coloring and light blue background graphic of Mount Rainier as well as the numbering system with three numerals before a WSP suffix and four numerals before an SP suffix. The state name this time had a more conservatively-styled red font and was situated to the upper left side of the plate similar to the 1968-1979 series. This was to allow month and year decals to be placed side by side to the right of the state name on non-WSP license plates. The light blue silkscreened decal boxes with MONTH over TAB and YEAR over TAB occupied the space below the upper right mounting hole. The slogan EVERGREEN STATE was silkscreened in equally conservative red font at the bottom center of the plate. Also, for the first time, the embossed painted border was dropped in favor of a step border.
This style of license plate is currently still in use, however with silkscreened numerals. More recently a bar code has been added to the bottom right corner of the plate.

  • Washington  police license plate image1998-Current issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Dark blue over reflective white. Step border.
    EVERGREEN STATE slogan.
  • looking image
  • looking image
  • Washington  police license plate image7000 series- Commercial Vehicle Enforcement
  • Washington  police license plate image2010-Current issue. All silkscreened.
    Black over reflective white. Bar code.

    (Courtesy Mike Sells)
  • looking image

Washington  police license plate image

Washington  police license plate image

On the 7th of April, 2016, the Chief of the Washington State Patrol announced that a new license plate would soon be gracing the front and rear of all marked WSP vehicles in the fleet with the exception of motorcycles. The plate would appear very similar to the existing style that had been around since 1998, however this new plate would have two very distinctive new features: The first being that the WSP characters and badge numbers of the new plate would be silkscreened instead of embossed. The second and most important feature being a new slogan at the bottom center of the plate: SERVICE WITH HUMILITY silkscreened in red just like the current state slogan.
There would also no longer be the unsightly Month Tab and Year Tab boxes in the top right corner anymore.
On May 1 2016, the new WSP "SERVICE WITH HUMILITY" had begun being issued to active WSP personnel for attachment to their marked vehicles. WSP troopers were permitted to keep their old EVERGREEN STATE plates should they so choose once the changeover took place, however returned plates were directed for destruction.
This re-plating affected over 1800 motor vehicles including motor pool, Fire Marshall, and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement. Badge numbers at the time of this event reached approximately 1240.
Seen below is the "pre-switch-over" from the old EVERGREEN STATE base plate to make way for the new SERVICE WITH HUMILITY plate for badge #87, May of 2016.
Photo and information courtesy of Paul Petrinovich.



Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate imageMay 2016-Current issue. Silkscreened aluminum.
    Badge number followed by WSP suffix.
    SERVICE WITH HUMILITY slogan.

    (Courtesy Paul Petrinovich)
  • looking image

Washington  police license plate imageCourtesy Paul Petrinovich


Motorcycle License Plates of the Washington State Patrol

The earliest record of motorcycle use by the Washington State Patrol is from 1922 with the photo of the three WSP riders seen below. The license plate used is a standard Washington state motorcycle plate number 6607. The plate would have been made of embossed steel and measured 4" x 7". The colors were white over brown. The abbreviation W N (with an underscore below the N) was embossed over X-22 followed by the number.
By 1923, license plates used on Washington State Patrol motorcycles were using Exempt prefixes in the 8000 number series. The same WN prefix continued but this time embossed over the letter E followed by a colon and the last two digits of the year.
The 8000 series Exempt motorcycle license plates for WSP continued well into the late 1930's, however the information stops there until the 1987 graphic plates came out.
It is not known if motorcycle use for patrol was discontinued for a long period as it had with other state agencies around the nation or if it's just an information gap.
The 1987-1998 Mount Rainier graphic motorcycle license plates were made of embossed aluminum and colored dark blue over reflective white. The light blue silkscreened image of Mount Rainier occupied the background and the same stylized red font as used on the larger plates for the state name was used on the motorcycle plates and positioned off to the upper left portion of the plate. XMT (Exempt) was embossed in dark blue to the right of the state name. A four digit number with a lead zero was embossed with an SP suffix. Most numbers are in the 0100SP series.
The 1998-Current WSP motorcycle license plates followed the same format and coloring, however the painted embossed border was dropped in favor of a step border, and the embossed XMT was also eliminated. The state name was silkscreened in red on the upper left side in a more conservative-style font.



  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image1925 Motorcycle issue. Embossed steel.
    Approx 4" x 7". Dark blue over white.
    E designation for EXEMPT. 8000 series reserved for WSP.
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image
  • Washington  police license plate image1987-1998 motorcycle issue.
    Embossed aluminum. Dark blue over reflective white.
    Darker Mount Rainier graphic.
  • Washington  police license plate image1987-1998 motorcycle issue.
    Embossed aluminum. Dark blue over reflective white.
    Lighter Mount Rainier graphic.
  • Washington  police license plate image1998-Current motorcycle issue.
    Embossed aluminum. Dark blue over reflective white.
    (Courtesy Lt. Michael Turcott and Tpr. Gabe Olson)
  • looking image


Gallery