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July 6, 2020
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SOMO Village overrun by CHP party

  • Rohnert Park's Mayor Gina Belforte takes a moment to talk to members of the CHP's mounted patrol. The mounted patrol horses were present at the California Highway Patrol's 90th birthday celebration held at Sally Tomatoes Wed., Aug. 28. Photo by Jane Peleti

By: Irene Hilsendager
September 6, 2019

Last Wednesday the Sonoma Village Courtyard was assiduous with horses, dogs, California Highway Patrol men and women and a sea of blue and tan uniforms. A shiny new helicopter was fluttering overhead and landing in the grassy berm next to Sally Tomatoes and the pilot was busy answering questions. 

The event was the 90th birthday party for the California Highway Patrol. Captain Ari Wolfe from the Santa Rosa area division was the spokesperson and handled the program and introductions with a precision attitude. Looking through the crowd our own Gary Santero, Cotati and Tim Miller, Rohnert Park both formerly CHPs, were spotted enjoying the beautiful sunny afternoon and sampling the delicious luncheon served by Sally Tomatoes. 

The mounted patrol, motorcycles and canine patrol were all lined up in a perfect row for attendees to inspect and admire. The mounted patrol is basically used in Sacramento to patrol the capitol. Many aahs came from the crowd when the 1979 Camaro rolled unto the tarmac all decked out in the old signa’s.

The California State Police and the California Highway Patrol carries 90 years of history. At the time of the merger the California agency (1887-1995) a record still held today. The California Highway Patrol was founded in 1929 and its officers were classified as State Traffic Officers until the merger. After the merge and the charter responsibilities were taken over by the CHP their official title was simply “Officers” dropping traffic from their current seven-point star badge. The seven points of the CHPs badge represent: Character, Integrity, Judgment, Loyalty, Courtesy, Honor and Knowledge.

A small history on the California State police’s assignments, units and locations were unmatched. The CSP maintained SCUBA units, Air patrols with their own fixed wing aircraft, equestrian mounted units, special investigations personnel, explosive ordnance disposal bomb disposal bomb techs, SWAT which is special weapons and tactics teams, bicycle patrols and dignitary protection command. 

In the final years of the CSP, the fleet was made up of white Dodge Diplomats, Chevy Caprice and then Ford Crown Victoria’s with a large green and gold stripe running the length of the car. The trunk lids were in gold with green trim stating “State Police” and on each front passenger door was a large seven-point gold star badge with the state capitol on the center seal.

In 1930 the CHP established its first academy training classes at the old state fairground. In 1931 the Division of Motor Vehicle was elevated to department status and the CHP became the Division of Enforcement (CHP), Department of. Motor Vehicles. 

In 1936 CHP officers were present at the opening ceremonies of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to assume traffic enforcement responsibilities and in 1937 the CHP provided the traffic enforcement for the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge.

In 1943 because of material shortages, the CHP were forced to change from the long uniform coats to short Eisenhower jackets. During the year 1947 the CHP separated from the Department of Motor Vehicles and was elevated to a department of state government.

How distant these facts seem? In 1953 seatbelts were installed in all new CHP enforcement vehicles. Testing for radar for speed enforcement was in tried in 1954. In 1957 uniform styles were changed. The style adopted were blue and gold pant leg stripes, blue neckties, years-of-service stripes and a new hat design was approved, and CHP motorcycle officers were issued helmets.

In 1965 political unrest during the 60s involved the CHP in riot control shot guns were installed in enforcement class patrol vehicles. 1968 saw the Electra Glide Harley Davidsons added to the fleet. The 1970s brought many changes. Small canisters of Mace are carried on gun belts of officers, 1974 the first female was in the cadet class and in 1975 twenty-seven female cadets graduated from their academy training.

In 1980 Ramona Murray became the first female motorcycle officer. Airplanes are now used in conjunction with ground units for speed enforcement and aerial observation. 1981 saw Ford Mustangs joining the CHP fleet and the El Protestor Program was established to get the CHP involved in the Hispanic community with emphases on education rather than enforcement. The BMW 1100 RT motorcycles were purchased in 19998 and in 2003 CHP Camaros were used to assist in traffic enforcement for commercial vehicles.

The present CHP Academy is one of the most modern and complete law enforcement training academies in the United States. Academically, cadets receive over 1,100 hours of training in addition to aging specific policies and procedures.

The CHP Academy is recognized as one of the very finest law enforcement institutions in the world. The primary function is to provide basic training for newly appointed CHP cadets. Its secondary position is to provide specialized and in-service refresher training for CHP employees as well as law enforcement agencies from both in and outside of California.

Some courses that are presented at the academy includes traffic accident reconstruction, commercial enforcement, emergency medical technician, emergency vehicle operations, tactical riot and general law operators and clerical staff.

With ninety years under the belts of California Highway Patrol officers, now is the time to give more respect, honor and trust to these fine gentlemen that lay their lives on the line each time they go out.