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Ask a Trooper: Unmarked squad cars

Q: Is it legal for local police or highway patrol to make regular traffic stops with an unmarked vehicle (no markings at all), or does the vehicle have to have some kind of markings?

A: The Minnesota State Patrol has 15 unmarked squad cars operated by troopers whose primary job function is road patrol. Per state statute, these unmarked patrol cars are required to have a door shield (MSP decal). Key words in the statute are “primary function.”

Our other unmarked patrol units may not have a decal on them as our district investigators, vehicle crime unit, State Capitol area troopers and administration supervisors use them. Their primary job function is office work or specialty position, not road patrol. These cars are equipped with emergency lights and siren, and these troopers make traffic stops and respond to emergencies as needed.

All of the unmarked squads are legal as authorized by statute and the Commissioner of Public Safety. Our statewide total fleet is 864 units, so we are well below the 10 percent limit of unmarked squads required by state statute.

We are putting more unmarked patrol cars on the road each year to help us identify violations such as texting and driving, no seat belt use and other unsafe operation. With distracted driving as one of the leading contributing factors in crashes on our roads, we are determined and committed to educating the public on the dangers of distraction.

I operated an unmarked squad car a few years ago, and I know that they are an effective tool for keeping Minnesota roads safe for everyone by reducing life-changing crashes.

Sgt. Neil Dickenson is a regional public information officer with the Minnesota State Patrol.

A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Neil Dickenson – Minnesota State Patrol at 1131 Mesaba Ave, Duluth, MN 55811. (You can follow me on Twitter @MSPPIO_NE or reach me at