One of the nicest compliments given to me by a non-uniformed California Highway Patrol employee who works with me was, “Traci, you are not a typical cop.”
This comment was a compliment to my personality. I asked him to explain why he thought this. He explained he thought all cops were the same – gruff, stubborn and arrogant. He told me, “You are different. You are nice and you just do not act like a cop.”
So, what do cops act like?
I know a lot of you are thinking exactly what my friend thought: Cops are less than friendly. I have to say, I had the same preconceived ideas about law enforcement officers. One thing I can assure you – we are all human and have good days and bad days, just like you.
What my friend did not realize is those same cops who he thought of as unfriendly are spouses, parents, brothers, sisters and friends. They take care of each other and they treat each other like family.
I asked him, “Now that you have been here for two years, what do you think now?” He responded, “I believe there is a person behind every badge; a real person, not just a person who is going to write me a ticket. I think of all of you as my family and I enjoy coming to work.” CHP workers have a loyalty to each other, whether you are in uniform or not.
Recently, I was part of a training class reflecting on the core values of the CHP. I was honored to sit and listen to retired Capt. Gordon Graham and remember why I chose to join the CHP.
We have an acronym, CHP PRIDE, which stands for Courage, Honesty, Professionalism, Principles, Respect, Integrity, Dedication and Esprit de Corps. As residents of California, you look to the CHP to provide the highest level of safety, service and security. To sum it up, you expect and deserve the CHP to treat you the way we would want our own family to be treated.
When I decided to become a CHP officer, I never looked at the pay or the benefits. I was 23 years old, and I knew the CHP was going to allow me to drive around in their cars and enforce traffic laws. How cool is that?
I was excited to be part of the CHP family. I wanted to wear the uniform and help people in any way I could. I wanted to be proud of myself and wanted my family to be proud of me. My No. 1 motivating factor was to serve the people of California.
What I am really trying to get across is, we are not the job. A great sergeant and mentor, Lynne Blum, told me in the beginning of my career: “Traci, do not live the job. Do your job, respect the career, but do not let the job be your persona.”
I have made it a point in my career to be “real” with people, whether I am helping you on the side of the road or writing you a ticket. I never treat people with anything other than respect, and I always respect myself.
I have learned your job gives you authority, but your behavior earns you respect.