The California Highway Patrol, which was formed in 1929, is a law enforcement agency of the U. S. State of California. The CHP has patrol jurisdiction over all California highways and also acts as the state police.
The CHP is the largest state police agency in the United States with about 9,900 employees, of whom 6,800 are sworn officers, according to FBI data.
The CHP officers enforce the California Vehicle Code (including laws against speeding), pursue fugitives spotted on the freeways and highways and attend to all obstructions and accidents within their jurisdiction.
This is where the ride along comes in. The Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor is a machine that almost feels like you are in G-force when they step on the accelerator. Having the opportunity to ride with an officer from the local Rohnert Park office gives a person a different prospective then just seeing red lights in the rear view mirror.
This particular Friday was Black Friday and plenty of speeders were on the 101 southbound freeway. It seems the distance from Hearn Avenue to the Todd over-crossing is a speed playground for drivers that have a lead foot on the accelerator.
It was hard for three CHP officers and their Crown Victorias to keep up with the speeders and bullhorn those speeders to have them turn off the 101 freeway and into the old Shell station on Redwood Drive. There, the officers checked identifications and to see if there were any outstanding warrants. Some were let go with just a warning and others received tickets. Did you know it is against state law to even flick cigarette ashes out of the car window? One driver said she didn’t throw the cigarette but it was seen by the officer that the ash had been flicked. She was stopped but only received a warning.
This particular day, an assisting motorcycle officer was on the Todd over-crossing and checking all speeders with a Lidar gun. Lidar is an enhanced imaging radar, which can pinpoint the speeder right down to the license plate. It can tell the speed, distance and even the color of the car. This will tell an officer in the Crown Victoria whom to go after. Radar is very seldom used now as it could not separate the “real” speeder from the bunch of cars it was traveling with. Lidar will get you every time. While the officer was standing on the over-crossing, a call came into the CHP office that a man was standing there with a gun. It sounded funny hearing the call and knowing who it was, but can you imagine if you were speeding down the freeway and seeing what was going on?
Many cars were stopped because of following too closely to the car in front, speeding, switching lanes excessively and just being “jerks” in heavy traffic.
CHP uniforms are usually khaki-colored with hat and blue and gold trouser stripe. Cold weather now allows utility uniforms, which are dark blue. The CHP’s standard issue of firearm is the Smith & Wesson Model 4006 TSW. Each patrol car holds a Remington 870 Police 12-gauge shotgun and a Colt AR-15A2 and also a laptop computer. Some officers are authorized to carry a Taser. Have you ever checked out the CHP badge? Each point stands for character, integrity, knowledge, judgment, honor, loyalty and courtesy.
Standard traffic patrol vehicles are required by state law to have a white door (CHP) with a star. Crown Victoria Fords are the most used in the CHP fleet however a few Dodge Chargers have been purchased.
In July of 1995, the California State police merged into the CHP. The agency is now responsible for the safety of all elected state officials and all people who work in or are using a state building in California.
CHP also partner with various programs and community involvement such as Start Smart-a class for new teen drivers, every 15 minutes, impact teen drivers, be an Explorer and Red Ribbon Week. Respect your CHP officers; they are only here to help and not to hinder.
Irene Hilsendager’s column each week touches on moments in the history of Cotati, Rohnert Park and Penngrove.