Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Highway Patrol Turns 85

California Highway Patrol officers on the newly opened
Golden Gate Bridge, circa 1937
My dad often passes along his copy of the AAA magazine for the southern California area, Westways, for me to page through. I found a little historical tidbit in the latest issue that I thought was really interesting. It seems that this August the California Highway Patrol will turn 85 years old. This bit of trivia reminded me of watching the old reruns of the television series "Highway Patrol" with Broderick Crawford when I was a kid. (Here's an episode with a young Clint Eastwood appearing as a member of a motorcycle gang.)

The California Highway Patrol was created by an act of the California State Legislature on August 14, 1929. They were made responsible for enforcing traffic laws on county and state roads. The initial manpower was 280 officers. The CHP started out as a branch of the Division of Motor Vehicles in the Department of Public Works. By 1947 there were 730 uniformed personnel and the Highway Patrol was reorganized as their own department. In 1995 the CHP was merged with the California State Police and are now also responsible for protection of state property and state officials, including the Governor. Today the California Highway Patrol is the largest state agency in the United States. They have over 11,000 employees, 7500 of whom are uniformed officers.

The "Highway Patrol" used to be the name of AAA's
roadside assistance service.
One final bit of history trivia. The Automobile Association, or "Triple A," has the California Highway Patrol beat as far as age goes, having been formed in 1901. At the time the CHP was organized, the Auto Club had a roadside-assistance program they called the "Highway Patrol" that had been around since 1924. Since the AAA program had no law enforcement function, they gave up the name so there would be no confusion with the new Highway Patrol.

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