I have been asked many times in my career what it’s like to be a California Highway Patrol officer. I think it’s important to get you into the patrol car (virtually) with me so I can give you a look at a typical day in the life of a CHP officer.
I arrive at the office 20 minutes before briefing and polish the brass on my duty belt, shine my boots and put on my uniform. (Officers usually do not arrive from their homes dressed in uniform. If I’m a motorcycle officer, I put on my uniform at home and ride my assigned motorcycle to work.)
I attend the shift briefing and get a motivational talk from my shift sergeant. The sergeant will hand out paperwork and court subpoenas, and discuss training and criminal activity trends. This may include any problems we’re encountering on freeways and county roads. Senior officers will crack a few jokes at the expense of junior officers. The banter back and forth is always entertaining, especially if I’m the one they’re picking on that day.
I wait my turn to pick my beat (my area of work for the day). This is done in order of seniority, starting from the most senior officer to the most junior. There are certain areas I really like to work and can’t because I am too junior. After the beats are assigned, I get my keys to my patrol vehicle, all my equipment (including my snack bag, of course), and I hit the road.
I check my beat and make sure nobody is in need of assistance. I know what you are thinking: Is she going to get coffee? Yes, I am! I meet my beat partner for a quick cup of coffee, then head off to my daily duties.
I see a vehicle driving above the posted speed limit. My adrenaline spikes, similar to hitting a game-ending home run, and I get behind the violator’s vehicle and turn on the red light. After the speeding vehicle pulls over, I check to see that the children inside are safely secured before I issue a citation for speeding.
Back out on the road, I see a man pushing his vehicle from the driver’s side. He is on the shoulder, but this is certainly very dangerous for him. I pull in behind and offer to use my vehicle to push his vehicle off the freeway and to a safe location. I take a deep breath and am so glad I came upon this person in need of help.
As the day goes on, I begin to hear the rumble in my stomach. It is already 11 o’clock and I am hungry. I contact a different beat partner and choose the lunch location. But on the way, I get a call from dispatch about a disabled motorist on the freeway. So much for lunch; looks like the snack bag was a brilliant idea! I re-route and assist the disabled motorist. It is a simple task of calling for a tow truck, but I wait with her on the side of the road until the tow truck arrives.
These calls continue throughout the rest of my day. I issue citations, help disabled motorists, respond to traffic collisions and write my reports accordingly.
I check my watch; it’s 3 p.m. Time to head back to the office to get the required paperwork turned in before I go off-duty. I pull into the office and see my brothers and sisters fueling their vehicles and getting ready to go inside to finish up their day. Today was a great day! We made it back safe, and we served the public with the highest level of safety, service and security.