On Friday, Nov. 22, the first class of Placerville CHP senior volunteers graduated from a four-day program.
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The program, CHP Officer Quinn Cuthbertson said, focuses on teaching policies and procedures of the CHP to the seniors. “What their duties are,” he said, in relation to administration, community service, helping the public information officer — Cuthbertson — and even deploying the radar trailer. “The biggest thing,” he said, “is they help in the office.”
Ben Padgett, 63, of Pollock Pines, was one of the 17 graduates. “I think it’s great,” he said of the program. “I get to see and do things I would not be able to do unless I did this (program). Until now, my experience with the CHP was,” miming driving fast, “‘Slow down.’”
The majority of the seniors had been part of law enforcement earlier in their life; only five or six had not, said Brad Martin, 68, of Placerville. Himself an educator for 33 years, teaching everything from kindergarten to university grad school, he noted the group had a diverse background and each brought a different skill set. The others can lean on his abilities as a teacher, he said.
Not only does he get to support his fellow volunteers and the CHP officers, he gets to learn new skills. “It’s opening a new door. I get to learn a whole bunch of information I know nothing about.” He said his “strongest desire” is to “support the officers” and to “make them shine the best they can.”
A common misconception Martin wanted to dispel was only specific seniors could take part in the program. “You don’t have to be a cop to do this,” he said.
But Jerry Leal, 76, of Placerville, was. A retired Highway Patrol officer himself, he said he was doing “too much sitting in a rocking chair. I saw the ad in the paper” for the program, and decided to “come back home, to see if I could be useful … I’m ready.”
Though Leean DeMass, 67, of Camino, was not part of law enforcement, her son is part of the CHP in Quincy — and the reason she joined the program. “I’m excited,” she said. “I think it’s going to be neat.”
She said she has always admired the CHP and simply wanted to help it out. Even office work, she said, is something important and needs to be done.
The 17 volunteers were sworn into service by volunteer Captain James Newberry and then given diplomas by Cuthbertson and CHP Lt. Commander Craig Root. Afterwards, they celebrated with a barbecue.