Have you ever been to the State Capitol and stood in front of the governor’s office? If so, you have seen a California Highway Patrol officer standing guard at the door. Frequently I am asked, “What is the role of the CHP assignments with respect to protecting the governor of the state of California?” To explain our responsibilities of protecting the governor and other dignitaries, we must first understand how the CHP acquired this responsibility.
The California State Police was a security police agency founded in 1887 to protect the Capitol, the governor, other state agencies and thousands of state employees 24 hours a day. It provided police services to all state agencies that did not have their own police force. CSP provided dignitary protection for the governor and other state officials as directed, including the California Supreme Court in San Francisco. Additionally, CSP also provided investigative services to elected representatives and investigated crimes committed against the state.
The state police merged with the CHP in 1995. The CHP’s Protective Services Division is one of the most unique operational divisions within the CHP. The division is comprised of five commands – Capitol Protection, Dignitary Protection, Counterterrorism and Threat Awareness Section; Emergency Operations and Safety Services Section; and Judicial Protection Section. These sections are responsible for the protection of the governor, constitutional officers, dignitaries, and judges. Other responsibilities include identifying and interdicting terrorist activity and providing vital law enforcement services.
Capitol Protection is the largest of the six commands. Its primary mission is to provide law enforcement and safety services to the occupants and visitors of the State Capitol building and grounds, as well as the hundreds of state facilities in the downtown Sacramento region. As part of its daily operations, CPS personnel deploy to the State Capitol 24 hours per day every day of the year, providing safety, service and security to all visitors and staff within the building, as well as the 40-acre park on which the State Capitol is located.
Dignitary Protection operates from both Los Angeles and Sacramento and is responsible for the protection of state constitutional officers including the governor, first lady, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, state controller, state superintendent of public instruction and the state insurance commissioner.
Judicial Protection Section is a specialized unit that provides security and protection for members of the State Judiciary. JPS performs bailiff duties and security of courtrooms.
In addition to protection of public officials, the CHP is responsible for the investigations of crimes, threats, and inappropriate contacts directed towards the governor, state constitutional officers, members of the state Legislature and members of the state judiciary. A significant aspect of the Threat Assessment Unit mission is the responsibility to engage in ongoing threat assessments through the collection and analysis of information and conducting investigations related to potential threats.
With the many dignitaries visiting California, the CHP has a great responsibility to keep them safe. I am fortunate and proud to be part of a group of officers who have been selected to participate in ensuring the safety of dignitaries visiting our great state.