Okay, now we got it!
City cops patrol within the city limits, sheriffs handle the unincorporated areas of the county. Well, then: what’s left? The highways….
Oh, the highway. Say, when I had that accident last month on Highway 101, the California Highway Patrol responded. They took the report, gave me information on the other driver, arranged for tow trucks and directed traffic. Those two officers were virtual supermen!
They were doing their job.
How about another scenario? I’m driving along Highway 101 north of Willits, California-the country for which “boondocks” was named. In the twilight, I see a woman flagging me down from the shoulder of the road. Next to her is decade old Japanese import with the hood open. I can’t see much but she looks pretty desperate–jumping up and down, waving her arms like that.
So I pull over, get out of my car and ask, What’s the problem?”
“Car trouble. There’s something making a terrible noise from the engine compartment on the passenger side.”
Nodding, I say, “I’ll look around.” I marched around to the side near the trees. I hear a sound like a shoe scraping on the gravel. Then a fist makes my jaw feel like it imploded and I drop to my knees.
“Where’s the keys?” I hear a man’s voice say. Where did he come from?
I hear the woman answer. “I got ‘em. Let’s get outta here.”
The doors slam on my brand new Lexus SUV and the tires spit gravel into a rooster tail as they leave.
So, do I call the highway patrol? Short answer–yes. The correct answer–wait for them to transfer you to the local sheriff. Sheriff?
California Highway Patrol (CHP) handles all traffic collisions and incidents (including oversized load transports, livestock crossings and hazardous materials) on state highways. But, if you are the victim of a crime that occurs on a state highway, the local sheriff or city jurisdiction will handle the criminal case.
Because the CHP covers the state from border to border, there are a lot of rural lands to patrol. When I worked for Bishop Police Department (BPD) from 1994-2004, our department and the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department (ICSO) often called upon the CHP for back up. CHP officers were limited, though. While the BPD and ICSO were handling bar fights, domestic disputes, or whatever, CHP provided assistance for the safety of people at the scene. Because they had minimal criminal law in their academy and didn’t have consistent chances to exercise their knowledge, they were at a loss to help in the investigation. These days, the CHP has added much more criminal law to their curriculum possibly because of this issue, but certainly to better educate their officers.
I could spend a lot more time talking about the invaluable jobs the CHP performs: rescues, air operations, fraud and stolen vehicle investigations. There are many more. I’d sound like a recruiter if I kept it up, so I’ll move on.
The California State Police (CSP) was commissioned in 1887 and dissolved or merged into the CHP in 1995. Its responsibilities were dignitary protection for the governor and state officials, investigative services to elected officials through Threat Assessment Detail and criminal investigations through the Bureau of Investigative Services. They patrolled the State Water Project (also known as the California Aqueduct), state properties such as courts, fairgrounds, Veteran’s Buildings and were the state’s unofficial capitol police.
I mention the CSP only because many states in the US have State Police Departments that function as our CHP does.
California is fortunate to have the Highway Patrol.