Retirements bring six CHP officers to Plumas County

Retiring CHP Officers
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Dan McDonald
Managing Editor


There is a major transition underway at the local California Highway Patrol office. Four officers recently retired, one transferred out and six new people are moving in.

But, unlike in 2009 when five rookie officers were sent to Plumas County, this situation is different.

Quincy Area Commander Lt. Joe Edwards said veteran officers are lining up to transfer to the local post.

“We normally don’t know who is on the transfer list, because that is top secret,” Edwards said. “But we know we have seven people trying to transfer here because they called, asked about the area and told us that they are on the transfer list trying to get in.

“People are coming in here who want to be here. This is where they want to live and raise their families. We have more officers who want to come here than we have space for … That’s exciting for us.”

Edwards, who became the local commander in May, said he and his squad have been actively recruiting. They are spreading the word that Plumas County is a great place to live and work.

The sales pitch appears to be working.

Five of the six people coming to the local office are CHP veterans. Only one of the new officers is a rookie. “And he will probably be our last officer coming from the academy,” Edwards said.

CHP officers with more seniority have priority when transferring to a new post.

When the county was mandated by the state to expand to 24-hour coverage in 2009, five officers from the academy were sent here. Their relative youth, inexperience and exuberance contributed to a rift in the rural community.

Plumas drivers complained that they were being stopped and checked unnecessarily by aggressive officers. Community frustration boiled over in 2011 when citizens and local officials blasted the CHP during a series of public meetings.

Edwards and his squad have been working hard to improve that relationship.

The new commander wants to apply his experience as a bicycle patrol officer to Plumas County: big-city service with a small-town attitude.

“This isn’t Los Angeles or San Jose,” Edwards said. “We want to be a part of the community. We need to stop and get out of the car, go into the shops, have a cup of coffee and talk to people.”

Edwards said his squad shares that philosophy. He said several of the new officers made it clear they want to live here. They are proving it by buying homes — some even before they arrive.

“The tide is turning,” CHP Public Information Officer Brodie Mitchell said. “For a while we couldn’t beg people to come here. And now …”

“I tell them, ‘You are not going to believe what we’ve got here,’” Edwards said. “It’s an amazing place.”


Four retired

One sergeant and three patrol officers, with a combined 102 years of experience, retired in December.

Sgt. Jim Wheaton, based in Quincy, retired Dec. 6 after 32 years.

Officer Joel Bishop, Portola, retired Dec. 16 after 25 years.

Officer Greg Marsh, Portola, retired Dec. 16 after 26 years.

Officer Dana Eliason, Quincy, retired Dec. 27 after 19 years.


One transferred out

Sgt. Dave Casey, Quincy, transferred to the CHP’s Sacramento Communications Center on Dec. 13.


Six arriving

Three sergeants and three patrol officers will all be on board in the next few days. The first arrived Aug. 1, the second Nov. 1 and four will begin Jan. 2, 2014.

Sgt. Austin Matulonis, who begins Jan. 2, will be the senior sergeant in the Quincy office.

Matulonis is a member of the CHP SWAT team and a former physical training officer at the academy.

“In our circles, (physical training officer) is something that stands out,” Mitchell said.

Edwards said Matulonis and his wife already own a home in the area.

“He’s the first of the group that has been trying to come here,” Edwards said.

Sgt. Tony Prisco, who transferred from Bridgeport, began working in the Portola resident post Aug. 1.

Edwards said he sold Prisco on Plumas County.

“I’ve known Tony for 10 years,” Edwards said. “He and I are veterans from the cycle team in Truckee. We have identical approaches about how to treat people and how to treat the guys. It looks like he is going to stay here until he retires.”

Sgt. Julie Nolta will begin in the Quincy office Jan. 2. She is promoting from Temecula as a replacement for Sgt. Casey.

“She’s in escrow for a home. She is serious about sticking around,” Edwards said.

Officer Eric Logan, who begins working in the Quincy office Jan. 2, has strong ties to the community. The four-year veteran is a 2003 Quincy High School graduate.

His grandfather, Bob Jordan, was a CHP officer who retired from the Quincy office. His stepfather, Al Samuels, retired from the Chico office. His brother, Brad Logan, works out of the Oroville CHP post.

Eric Logan, who is transferring from the Redwood City office, sold a fellow Redwood City officer, Ryan Lambert, on the merits of Plumas County.

Lambert will join Logan in the Quincy office Jan. 2.


Rookie officer

Officer Cory Wilmer, who bought a home in Graeagle and began working at the Portola resident post Nov. 1, is a rookie in name only. Edwards said Wilmer is in his mid-30s and was a corrections officer prior to graduating from the academy.

“He’s not young and inexperienced; he’s got life experience,” Edwards said. “He has a background in law enforcement, so he’s not new to the gig. We’ve seen him show an abundance of maturity.”

Edwards decided to have Wilmer do the second phase of his training in the Truckee office.

“We did that so he can get that Interstate 80 experience. And he’ll work Lake Tahoe so that he can have more opportunities to learn how to investigate DUIs,” Edwards said. “It’s common to train outside the area. But it hasn’t been common here.”

Edwards said the experience of having the five new officers train in Plumas County in 2009 influenced his decision to send Wilmer to Truckee.

“That (2009) was quite a growing time for both this office and the community,” Edwards said.

He said Wilmer’s first phase of training was in Plumas County. The second and third will be a mixture of here and Truckee.

“I think it’s kind of cool that we’ve had a trainee out there and no one (from the community has mentioned anything),” Edwards said. “That shows me that things are going OK. That we got him started off on the right foot.

“Here’s what I tell the guys: We want balance. If there’s a violation that needs to be stopped, stop it. And decide if there needs to be a ticket written.

“We are not encouraging officers to go out and hunt, because there are no quotas … Stop and help people. Stop into the shops and say hello.”


Open door policy

Edwards and Mitchell have encouraged residents to stop by the Quincy CHP office whenever they have concerns — or even if they just want to chat.

And the public has been taking them up on it.

“People from all walks of life are coming to the door,” Edwards said. “But we work for them. This is their office too.

“So they come in and sit down and we talk about whatever it is that they’re interested in. It’s not always highway patrol.

“I think sometimes people just want to kind of check us out … see if we really mean what we say. … And we do.”

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