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Brodie Mitchell welcomes a challenge. He says it’s important to leave his comfort zone and try new things.
So when the local California Highway Patrol office needed a new public information officer, he went for it.
In two years of patrolling Plumas County’s roads on the graveyard shift, Officer Mitchell didn’t have much contact with the public. “A lot of animals, but not too much exposure to human beings,” he laughed.
That has all changed.
As of last month, Mitchell is the Quincy Area CHP’s new public information officer. It’s a very people-oriented job that makes him the face of the department. It’s a job he wasn’t sure he was ready for.
“This was a new challenge. It’s something I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable doing,” Mitchell said. “Because, I wouldn’t say I’m shy, but it’s just like public speaking. ... I try to do the things that I’m not comfortable with to try and improve. I thought this would make me grow a little bit personally.”
In a rural post like Plumas County, the public information officer wears a lot of hats. In addition to answering the public’s questions, Mitchell will coordinate programs for area schools. His new duties also include court officer, evidence officer, terrorism liaison officer, school bus officer and many more.
The Grass Valley native’s first test was doing the morning CHP report on the radio. “That’s something I was a little nervous about,” he said. “But it’s going real well.”
When it comes to challenges, the 40-year-old has been meeting them and excelling most of his life. He served in the Navy from 1991 to 1999 and was part of Operation Desert Storm.
He was named “Sailor of the Year” his last year on the USS Kansas City. The ship was a combat oiler, which carried fuel, weapons and artillery shells.
Mitchell raised his eyebrows and grinned when he talked about being at sea on a ship packed with high explosives.
“I never wanted to be attacked by sharks,” he said, and then added jokingly, “so I figured I would just be on a ship that would just blow up and disappear if it ever got hit ... so I wouldn’t have to worry about the sharks.”
After his military service, Mitchell dabbled in construction and tried a career in the grocery business while attending California State University Chico.
At Chico State he earned a degree in social and behavioral sciences and met his wife of 11 years, Paula. They have two children: Isabella, 9, and Nolan, 7.
Mitchell decided to try out for the California Highway Patrol in 2007 after talking to a friend who was a flight paramedic. “He said it would be a good fit for me.”
After 27 weeks in the police academy — Mitchell said it was “much tougher” than military boot camp — he became a CHP officer in 2008.
He worked in the San Jose office for three years before transferring to Quincy in July 2011. He was named “Officer of the Year” during his last year in San Jose.
In San Jose, when he wasn’t patrolling the highways, Mitchell worked in a unit that targeted gang activity.
He was always busy.
When he wasn’t assisting with some of the average seven traffic accidents a day, he was doing violent crime extractions — serving felony warrants on criminals who were sometimes murder suspects.
At the urging of his wife, Mitchell transferred to Quincy. It was a move that returned him to his rural roots, but he said it took awhile to adjust.
“San Jose is so busy. A day down there is like a month up here,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell arrived in Quincy with a lot of experience dealing with gangs. He was ready to put the skills, which earned him accolades in San Jose, to use in Plumas County.
“When I came up here, with all that knowledge, I asked, ‘So where is the gang stronghold?’” Mitchell said. “And everybody said, ‘What are you talking about? There isn’t one.’”
Instead, Mitchell learned to perfect his radar skills. He spent much of his time on the overnight shift removing rocks and dead or injured animals from the roadway.
The task might seem boring to some, but Mitchell said his heart would race when he had to move a dead baby bear off the road — not knowing if the cub’s mother was lurking in the bushes a few feet away.
The former high-school wrestler compared the baby bear task to that of a NASCAR pit crew.
“I would get out of the car, get the job done, and be back in the car before 10 seconds had elapsed,” Mitchell said. “By the time I was back in the car I was breathing heavy.”
It’s not a job he was trained or prepared for, but he adapted.
He also wasn’t prepared for the dirty looks he got from Plumas County drivers. Mitchell arrived just as citizen complaints about local CHP tactics started appearing in the paper.
“It kind of caught me off guard,” Mitchell said. “Because I went from a place that was screaming for more (CHP officers), and then I came up here. ... I was trying to get my head wrapped around everything.”
Mitchell said he wants people — especially kids — to realize that police officers are just like everyone else. They are simply trying to do their job.
“I was a kid. I was scared of the police,” Mitchell said. “But I want people to know that we are approachable. We all live here. We are just normal guys. I want kids to feel like they can come and talk to me anytime.”
Mitchell said that goes for adults, too.
“If someone wants to come in and shoot the breeze with me, please do,” Mitchell said, and flashed his easy smile. “Just bring me a muffin.”
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