I have been asked numerous times, “What exactly does the CHP do?”
I wondered the same thing when I was in high school. I knew part of what the CHP did by the two speeding tickets I received on Lovers Lane in Visalia. I recall the tickets had something to do with rushing back to school from Taco Bell and being pulled over.
The pain of a ticket cost me a pound in flesh, but for my mom, a hefty fine. I learned quickly the CHP was a traffic enforcement agency. In college, I learned the department does so much more than write tickets; the CHP is an agency involved in all aspects of law enforcement.
In 1929, the CHP was established to provide service to the motoring public as well as fair and unified enforcement of traffic safety laws.
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Before then, there were traffic officers working in many different areas, but for each county in which they served. This led to some problems. Laws were interpreted and enforced in different ways, depending on where you were. Placing all of the officers under one organization with clear rules and policies improved the quality of service the public receives today.
When the creators considered what to call this new agency, they hit upon the name California Highway Patrol. This simple name said it all; we are in California and we patrol the highways. This seemed like the perfect name for a new organization. There was just one problem, the name “Highway Patrol” was already being used.
The American Automobile Association has been around since 1901. Its purpose is to help members throughout the state. AAA now uses the services of contracted tow companies throughout the United States, but back when the CHP was forming, they had trucks of their own patrolling the roads for members whose cars broke down. These AAA trucks were named “Highway Patrol.”
Officials from the CHP contacted AAA and explained their desire to name this new law enforcement entity the California Highway Patrol. It was decided the CHP would get to use the name.
While other groups or organizations in California may use similar phrases or words, you can be sure there is only one real highway patrol, and that is the California Highway Patrol.
One item that sets us apart from any other agency is our unique shoulder patch. The official CHP uniform patch was first adopted in 1948. The patch’s blue-and-gold colors are the official state colors.
Centered in the blue field is the department’s seven point badge. Each point represents a trait of a professional law enforcement officer: integrity, judgment, loyalty, courtesy, honor, knowledge and character.
Superimposed on the badge is the official Great Seal of California. Keeping watch over the tableau is the armored figure of Minerva, Roman goddess of arts and sciences, who is wise in peace and war. The California grizzly bear stands at Minerva’s feet as a symbol of strength and independence. Grape leaves represent agricultural production; the miner, industry; the San Francisco Bay, commerce. The Sierra Nevada together with the desert cactus depict geographical diversity. The official state motto, “Eureka” (I have found it), overarches the entire scene.
The CHP is a statewide law enforcement agency that employs more than 10,000 personnel (7,611 uniformed and 3,292 non-uniformed).
The department’s primary jurisdiction is all the state buildings, unincorporated roadways and freeway systems. The uniformed personnel patrol more than 106,000 miles of roadway. Each year, the CHP’s more than 2,000 patrol vehicles (enforcement sedans) and more than 400 motorcycles log millions of miles.
The CHP has a proud tradition, a bold commitment and a stalwart promise to provide safety, service and security to the public. We have eight decades of examples to follow, and we will continue to be the finest law enforcement agency in the world.
An unknown writer once penned: “If we know where we came from, we may better know where to go. If we know who we came from we may better understand who we are.”
For more information about the CHP, send an email or contact your local CHP office.