The History of the Virginia State Patrol Motor Unit
"The Mechanical Mule"
A narrative history of the Virginia Department of State Police was originally written by Lieutenant E. E. Schneider, now retired, and included in both the Department's 50th Anniversary (1982) and 60th Anniversary (1992) Commemorative Books. Recently, Department employees have updated the Department's history and provided a brief outline, by year, below.
A motorcycle patrol force was formed within the Division under the direction of J. H. Hayes. The "mechanical mule," as it was irreverently named by its courageous operators, became a part of the State Police mobile patrol for the next 30 years.
White motorcycles and white roadsters were issued to inspectors and the citizens became acquainted with what was referred to as "The Great White Fleet." Chevrolet agreed to sell the Division new models for $250 each. Sirens were mounted on the right running boards and both doors bore the Seal of Virginia. On the rear of the car was identification of "Division of Motor Vehicles" and the admonition "Drive Carefully - Save Lives."
November 3, 1938, an executive order from Majors Bishop and Nicholas officially adopted the title of "State Trooper." The purpose of this was to identify specific members of the Division of Motor Vehicles performing in the roles of inspector and motorcycle deputy. The title of examiner remained in effect and identified those members responsible for issuing operator's and chauffeur's licenses. Troopers were issued a badge with a number that corresponded with the license numbers of their vehicles. Virginia State Police replaced "Commonwealth of Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles" on these plates.
Twelve motorcycles were purchased for special occasions and not for daily highway patrol. At large functions which attracted scores of tourists, traffic handling and control by automobiles was difficult but readily expedited by troopers on motorcycles.
Motorcycles were phased out.
The Department reinstituted the use of motorcycles to help control traffic and assist motorists in the highly congested areas of Northern Virginia and Tidewater. The motorcycles were Harley-Davidson model FXRPs and were painted the Department's traditional blue and gray.
Motorcycles were added to the Richmond area.
Virginia State Police at Rodeo 2007, Photo provided by the Mid-Atlantic Motorcycle Riding Committee, Inc.