SHERIDAN — Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers have a long tradition of collecting patches from other state law enforcement agencies.
WHP Capt. Jason Green said patch collecting has been going on since there have been patches on uniforms. State troopers will trade patches with each other while on vacation or interacting with each other in professional settings.
To get a patch from each state is very difficult and something few people are able to accomplish, Green said.
Gene Christensen served as a WHP patrolman for 29 years and was able to collect a patch from all 50 states with the help of his son, Jim Christensen, and daughter, Brenda Faler.
Faler sent out a letter to each state trooper organization in 1975 saying she was collecting the patches for a school project. She received many responses. Those that did not respond, Faler and Gene Christensen attached the request to his letterhead, helping them to get the rest. They were able to complete the collection that year, Faler said.
Gene Christensen passed away in February, leaving the fate of his collection in the hands of his son and daughter. While cleaning out their father’s house and taking items to the dump, Faler said she was worried the collection was in one of the loads but her brother had already secured the patches.
Jim Christensen and Faler wanted the patches to be enjoyed, not sit in a basement as they had, Christensen said. So they chose Sheridan as the home for the collection since Faler lives here along with Jim Christensen’s son.
During his career, Gene Christensen spent 10 years in Sheridan before being promoted to lieutenant, moving to Rock Springs and Laramie before ending in Casper. He retired from the Wyoming Highway Patrol in 1986 after serving 29 years and five months. He retired as the northern zone commander operating out of Casper. A rank that is equal to major in today’s WHP rankings.
When Green first joined WHP, Wyoming patches were harder to acquire. When uniforms were ripped and sent to the WHP headquarters to be fixed, both patches had to be sent in with the uniform also. Now they are easier to acquire. Green still receives requests for WHP patches through letters and from state troopers stopping in to trade.
There are patches that are hard to collect, such as Texas, and others that are easy. WHP Port of Entry inspector Robert Haugen said that at North American Inspectors Championship there is a patch exchange where officers will exchange patches, meeting new people from across the country.
Patch trading has gone international too. Haughen was able to collect a patch from each of the territories in Australia while on vacation. Green received a patch from transit police in London when his wife visited England with patches to trade.
Christensen’s collection hanging at the Sheridan POE features the Honolulu Police Department patch to represent Hawaii. Hawaii does not have a state law enforcement agency. Most collectors use the Honolulu Police Department since Honolulu is the state capital.
Patch collecting is done by other agencies, too. Military members and fire departments also trade with other entities around the country and world.