In 1959, legislation was enacted to create the Missouri Boat Commission. The purpose of the commission was to make the waters of the state safe for boating and other water-related activities through law enforcement, registration, inspection and educational programs. In 1974, the Omnibus State Reorganization Act transferred the Missouri Boat Commission to the Department of Public Safety, and the agency was named the Division of Water Safety. In 1989, the agency name was changed to the Missouri State Water Patrol. Effective January 1, 2011 the Water Patrol was placed within the Missouri State Highway Patrol and assigned to the Field Operations Bureau as the Water Patrol Division. Since 1959, the authorized number of patrol officers has grown from eight to 97 highly trained professionals.
The Water Patrol Division is a division of the Highway Patrol, assigned to the regulation of waterways and boating safety. They operate in a quasi-military fashion with authority being delegated by rank. The colonel of the Highway Patrol determines policy for the Water Patrol Division. The division is currently commanded by a major located at GHQ in Jefferson City. The state is divided into nine troops with a captain in charge of each troop. Troop captains and lieutenants are responsible for the supervision of all field activities in their respective troops. Troopers assigned to those troops are responsible for carrying out the policies of the superintendent and enforcing all motor vehicle and boating laws.