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Patrolling the Freeways

February 23, 1986

Your letter from Robert Copperstone of Covina regarding his observations of not seeing Highway Patrol officers during rush-hour traffic (Letters in View, Feb. 16) is fairly accurate. I would like to enlighten him and your other readers on why you don't see too many officers on the freeway, especially during commute traffic. I assume that Mr. Copperstone travels the freeways of San Gabriel Valley since he lives in Covina. My office serves the majority of San Gabriel Valley. We are responsible for 44 miles of freeways, I-605, I-10 and I-210. We are also responsible for 652 miles of county highways in the valley. Over 500,000 vehicles traverse these freeways daily. I have 64 officers to patrol these roadways seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

If I may, I'll use the San Bernardino Freeway as an example. We patrol 16 miles of I-10 Freeway. There are an average of 159,000 vehicles that travel this section of freeway daily. Generally, during the morning commute, I have four patrol units assigned to this 16 miles of freeway. One must realize that when he/she is slowly moving in the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way to work that our patrol cars are in that same traffic. Consequently, our units are driving under the same set of circumstances as those commuters are. That is, slow and slower. When traffic is flowing at higher speeds, other than commute, a motorist is more likely to see an officer since he/she can cover more area at the higher speeds.

If we have a traffic accident or other type of call for service off the freeway, then one of our freeway units is sent to handle that call. It is not uncommon, depending on the seriousness of an accident, that most, if not all, the units on a given section of freeway will respond to an accident. We do this to clear the roadway as rapidly as we can to have the least impact as possible on the commute traffic.

I'd be the first to agree that we don't have enough officers to provide the level of service we would like. However, who's going to pay for the additional officers, the equipment they need and other costs associated with hiring more people? The current cost of government is high already. People want service but are they willing to pay for those costs or can they afford to pay for that level of service they expect?

If you want to see more officers, let your elected officials know how you feel but be prepared to pay for it. To hire, train, and pay for a Highway Patrol officer, much less any law enforcement officer, is an expensive proposition.

I can assure you that Californians are getting more than their money's worth from the officers of the California Highway Patrol.

D. R. HELSEL, captain


Baldwin Park Area

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