On Duty with the CHP: Recalling a mentor

Lynne Blum
Lynne Blum Courtesy photo

Before 1974, if women wanted to work for the California Highway Patrol, regulations said they could only work in nonofficer jobs. Women challenged those regulations, and thanks to a federal ruling, the Women Traffic Officer Project was created.

The project was a two-year experiment to determine whether women were able to effectively perform state traffic officer duties. In 1974, for the first time, female cadets entered the CHP Academy alongside their male counterparts.

The class proved that women could complete the grueling academy training, and opened the door of opportunity for others. I was born in 1975, and I am grateful for those who led the way for women just like me, to pursue their dreams of becoming a CHP officer.

I have not met any women who graduated from the project, but I have been led and mentored by some fantastic CHP women. One of my mentors and friends is Lynne Blum, ID #11222.

As a new officer, I looked up to her so much and wanted to be exactly like her. She led by example and was respected by everyone. The name Lynne Blum was well known in the West Los Angeles area. She continues to inspire me and be one of my role models.

Lynne entered the CHP academy in 1984 and upon graduation was assigned to the West Los Angeles area. She spent 16 years working road patrol.

Lynne was an expert in training new officers. Over the years, she taught more than 350 newly graduated officers and influenced them to be who they are today. Lynne was a drug recognition expert, physical method of arrest instructor, weapons and range officer, member of Southern Division’s Impaired Driver Task Force and a member of the West Los Angeles fatal/felony investigation unit.

In 2000, Lynne was promoted to sergeant and continued to lead her troops from the front. She worked primarily graveyard shift and always made it a point to be an exemplary field sergeant. Lynne was awarded the Medal of Valor in 2003 for saving an unconscious man from a burning vehicle.

I met Lynne in 2000 when I reported to West Los Angeles as a graduate from the CHP Academy. She was an officer working patrol and was on the promotion list for sergeant. She wore her uniform proudly and commanded respect.

She offered her wisdom, expertise and advice to form me into the officer I am today. She taught me strength, compassion, loyalty and how to treat the citizens of California.

As Lynne was promoted to sergeant, her personality did not waver. More times than not, I would find Lynne on a stop with an impaired driver. Through all her years in the field, she just knew how to detect them.

She always took care of her officers. When I made a mistake, which I did a lot, she counseled me and pointed me in the right direction.

One night while working the graveyard shift with my partner, Officer Rick Borges, we encountered a traffic collision. The driver of the vehicle had a head injury and was bleeding.

As Rick attended to the driver, Lynne arrived on-scene and began taking control of the situation. She told me, “Go get the oxygen tank (otherwise known as O2) and bring it to me quickly.” I ran back to my patrol car and without thinking grabbed a bottle of saline (otherwise known as H2O). I ran back to Lynne and handed her what I thought she asked for. She looked at me and said, “You knucklehead! I said O2, not H2O. Now go get it!”

The next night in briefing, I was sarcastically counseled on the difference between O2 and H2O. It was funny, and it bonded our graveyard unit together even more than we already were. In this lesson, I learned to listen and react, rather than just jumping in with both feet.

We are fortunate to have officers who have come before us to demonstrate professionalism and how to treat the public with dignity and respect. These are the officers we refer to as our mentors and teachers. It is because of them that we have the ability to pay it forward and impart wisdom to new officers who come our way.

Whether it is 1974 or 2016, whether the officer is a woman or a man, the CHP mission remains the same. We are prepared to provide the highest level of safety, service, and security.

The graduation ceremony speaker for the 1974 WTOP graduates was Judge Joan Dempsey Klein,who told the women: “You carry a heavy burden of responsibility because all eyes are upon you while you are advancing the cause of opportunity for all women.” This statement personifies my mentor, Lynne Blum.

Officer Traci Gallian can be reached at tagallian@chp.ca.gov. For more from the CHP Central Division, go to the division’s Facebook page.