The State Police celebrated its 75th anniversary Wednesday by remembering troopers killed in the line of duty and honoring those who have worn the agency’s badge.
State Police Col. Mike Edmonson told people attending an anniversary celebration at the agency’s headquarters on Independence Boulevard that fallen troopers will not be forgotten.
“To remember who we are today, we have to remember those who paid the ultimate price,” Edmonson said. “We have to pay tribute to those who lost their lives serving Louisiana.”
Twenty-five troopers have been killed while on duty since 1922, the year the Louisiana Highway Commission, which later became the State Police, was created, agency records show.
The most recent death came last year when Senior Trooper Duane Dalton died from injuries he suffered in a vehicle crash.
Dalton joined the State Police after working as a police officer with the Lake Charles Police Department and serving in the Army. He was the first state trooper to be killed in the line of duty since 1998.
In addition to remembering Dalton and his fallen comrades, Edmonson said it’s also important to honor the thousands of retired troopers who have laid the foundation for State Police.
“What I am today is a reflection of those who came here before me,” the colonel said. “It’s important not to forget where we came from.”
Edmonson then pointed to 93-year-old retired Trooper Leon Carrington in the audience.
“Where’s your uniform,” Edmonson asked.
“You took it from me,” Carrington said, joking. “Give it back.”
Carrington joined the State Police in 1941 and retired 27 years later in 1968 after being a motorman and working in felony narcotics.
The New Orleans native is still serving the law enforcement agency as a volunteer, answering phones at Troop B in Kenner every Friday.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “I’m about the only original one (trooper) left.”
Edmonson also acknowledged Trooper Bobby Smith, who lost his sight in 1986 when he was shot in the face while working a drug detail.
Smith retired from State Police after the shooting and went back to school, earning his Ph.D. in psychology.
“It was painful to take retirement,” Smith said.
That’s why he rejoined the law enforcement agency in 2008. Smith counsels troopers who have witnessed or experienced traumatic events.
Edmonson said Smith and Carrington are good examples of the kind of people working for the State Police.
“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is action,” he said. “Both of these men are men of action.”
The State Police was created in 1936 under Act 94 of the Louisiana Legislature, said Lt. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman. The agency emerged from a highway commission of 16 men patrolling the highways on motorcycles, he said.
By 1928, the force had grown to 70 uniformed officers with expanded duties such as managing traffic at large gatherings, Cain said.
The officers were also called on in times of emergency, and an additional branch of law enforcement was established to deal with criminal activity unrelated to traffic laws, he said.
On July 28, 1936, the commissions’ two divisions of law enforcement - traffic and criminal - were combined to form the State Police, Cain said.
The agency has a force of 1,050 men and women responsible for all elements of criminal and highway safety in the state, he said.