Pursuant to legislation passed by the Arizona legislature in 1968, the Arizona Department of Public Safety became operational by the executive order of Governor Jack Williams on July 1, 1969. Governor Williams' mandate consolidated the functions and responsibilities of the Arizona Highway Patrol, the Enforcement Division of the State Department of Liquor Licenses and Control and the Narcotics Division of the State Department of Law.
During its history, the Arizona Department of Public Safety has accepted many additional responsibilities and has evolved into a respected, nationally-recognized and multi-faceted organization dedicated to providing law enforcement services to the public while developing and maintaining close partnerships with other agencies that share similar missions and objectives.
Today, the Department with its state headquarters in Phoenix, maintains offices in more than 80 Arizona communities and cities within the state's 15 counties. The close to 2,100 full-time departmental employees, along with more than 150 volunteers, help the agency fulfill its support and operational objectives in the critical areas of highway and public safety, criminal interdiction, scientific analysis, as well as technical and operational support of other criminal justice agencies.
AZDPS Chain of Command
The agency fulfills its objectives through an organizational structure consisting of the following elements:
The Department of Public Safety is under the command of a director, with the rank of colonel, who is appointed by the Governor of Arizona. The director is assisted by a deputy director, with the rank of lieutenant colonel, appointed by the director. The department is composed of five primary divisions - Highway Patrol, Criminal Investigations, Technical Services, Agency Support and the Office of the Director. The five divisions are headed by assistant directors, each with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Divisions are subdivided into bureaus, each overseen by a bureau major or manager. Bureaus are divided into districts/sections, units/areas/squads and subordinate elements.
Under the oversight of the Director, the Director's Office establishes the objectives and structure of the agency and, through the Deputy Director, directs its day-to-day operations. The Director's Office oversees governmental relations, legal affairs, public affairs, internal affairs, inspections, financial services and executive security. In addition, the Director's Office provides support to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board and the Law Enforcement Merit System Council.
The Agency Support Division (ASD) works to provide vital support to the state of Arizona and its citizens by providing services for other governmental agencies and supporting the other divisions of the department. ASD houses several key functions that allow the agency to operate with efficiency and success on a day-to-day basis. A key function of ASD is aviation services which support federal, state, county and local agencies with search and rescue missions as well as time-sensitive transportation. Other key functions include: human resources, basic training, operational training, strategic resources, support services, field video and records, fleet services, facilities services, procurement and logistics.
The Criminal Investigations Division (CID) protects human life and property by enforcing state laws relating to narcotic trafficking, organized crime, intelligence, vehicle theft, gangs, computer and financial crimes, and fugitive apprehension. CID deters criminal activity by: developing intelligence, using innovative investigative and specialized enforcement strategies to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations and investigate crimes. CID provides vital support to Arizona and its citizens by: conducting criminal and administrative investigations for other agencies, hosting and participating in regional task forces, operating the Arizona Counter-Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC) and providing tactical high-risk responses to acts of extraordinary violence and domestic preparedness incidents.
The Criminal Investigations Division (CID) at DPS is committed to providing the highest quality investigative and specialized response services to the public and the criminal justice community. The Division is guided by three immutable values: honor, courage, and commitment while fostering a supportive and empowered environment for its employees.
The mission of the Criminal Investigations Division is to protect the public by deterring crime using innovative investigative and specialized enforcement strategies and resources.
The Highway Patrol Division (HPD) is staffed by uniformed state troopers; they are highly recognizable by an all-tan uniform and Montana Peak (Smokey) hat. Learn more about the history of the Arizona Highway Patrol and how the Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) began.
HPD is comprised of troopers assigned throughout the state who help fulfill the AZDPS mission of protecting human life and property by enforcing criminal and traffic law. Troopers patrol over 6,800 linear miles – which actually total 27,000 highway lane miles across 16 districts statewide and serve as the front line in deterring criminal activity along Arizona’s highways.
The division combines enforcement, training and public outreach to improve highway safety, while striving to reduce collisions and increase the efficiency of the highway transportation system. One of the responsibilities of HPD is to support the state of Arizona and its citizens by patrolling the Capitol districts both in Phoenix and Tucson.
HPD also staffs the Arizona Department of Transportation's (ADOT) Traffic Operations Center (TOC) and provides assistance to other local, county, state and federal agencies.
HPD analyzes data on a regular basis in order to deploy its troopers strategically throughout the state(link is external). It also participates in numerous traffic safety enforcement campaigns and special enforcement operations throughout the year in partnership with local and national law enforcement.
HPD is composed of the following units:
- Analytical Unit
- Commercial Vehicle Enforcement (CVE)
- DUI Enforcement
- Highway Patrol District Information
- Roadside Motorist Assistance (RMA)
- Traffic Operations Center (TOC)
The Technical Services Division (TSD) protects human life and property by enforcing laws related to the regulation of security guards, private investigators, scrap metal dealers, sex offenders and job applicants for specific occupations that require statutorily mandated background checks and fingerprint clearance cards.
TSD also assists in the enforcement of laws by hosting and supporting the Arizona Criminal Justice Information System (ACJIS) which provides criminal history information to every law enforcement agency in the State and serves as a conduit to the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC). TSD’s oversight of these regulated areas also serve to deter criminal activity related to vulnerable populations such as children.
TSD provides vital support to the state of Arizona and its citizens by developing and coordinating scientific, technical, regulatory and support services essential for the functioning of Arizona’s criminal justice system. TSD houses four regional crime laboratories that provide scientific analysis of evidence, technical crime scene assistance, secure storage of evidentiary items, training, and expert testimony to criminal justice agencies in the state.
It also houses the department’s three regionally based operational communications (dispatch) centers throughout the state which provide statewide radio dispatch services to AZDPS, emergency medical services and other law enforcement dispatch centers.
TSD also oversees information technology, telecommunications and wireless systems which is responsible for state-wide radio services that not only serve AZDPS but also serves other state agencies such as the Department of Transportation and Game and Fish.
- Criminal Justice Services Bureau
- Information Technology Bureau
- Licensing and Regulatory Bureau
- Operational Communication Bureau
- Scientific Analysis Bureau
- Wireless Systems Bureau
Voted into law by the legislature in 2022, the Major Incident Division is constructed of three investigative districts (Northern, Central, and Southern), housed in Phoenix, Arizona. Also, under the umbrella of the MID is the Scientific Analysis Bureau which is constructed of four Regional Crime Labs throughout the state (Northern, Southern, Central, and Western).
As directed by A.R.S. 41-1762D1 and D2, the MID shall:
1. Use investigators who are certified by the Arizona peace officer standards and training board or who were sworn employees of a federal, state, county or local law enforcement agency, who have demonstrated the skills, knowledge, abilities and training as approved by the director and who have successfully completed investigative courses identified by the director and approved by the Arizona peace officer standards and training board to conduct independent investigations of critical force incidents. If an investigator described in this paragraph was employed by a federal, state, county or local law enforcement agency, the investigator must:
(a) Have retired or left the law enforcement agency in good standing.
(b) Not have been under investigation at the time of retirement or resignation from the law enforcement agency.
(c) Not have retired or resigned in lieu of termination or discipline.
(d) If a veteran of the United States military, have been honorably discharged.
2. At the written request of a chief of police or a county sheriff, investigate a criminal allegation against a peace officer who is employed by the law enforcement agency.
This statute directs each law enforcement agency in this state to require the major incident division, a regional law enforcement task force or another law enforcement agency to perform the criminal investigation of any critical force incidents in this state by July 1, 2025.