2 - California Highway Patrol - California


Geographically, California is the third largest state in the nation, with 158,693 square miles. The highest elevation is Mt. Whitney at 14,494 feet above sea level; the lowest geographic point is Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level. Twelve percent (12%) of the total population in the United States resides in California, making it the most populous state in the nation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1998, California had an estimated population of 32,682,794. The estimated 1999 population was 33,145,121, a 1.4% increase. California's population is projected to reach over 39,900,000 by the year 2010. The numbers of licensed drivers in the State have increased steadily, although the numbers have leveled off during the past decade. Population figures and the numbers of licensed drivers are depicted below for the years 1964 through 1998 (Figure 1).

Figure 1: California Population Versus Licensed Drivers, 1964-1998

Graph of Figure 1: California Population
Versus Licensed Drivers, 1964-1998d

The largest city in the State is Los Angeles, which also ranks as the second largest city in the country. Tourism is an important industry and officials in California claim it is the "most visited state" in the nation, meaning a large number of tourists travel to and within the State each year (increasing the numbers of persons and vehicles driving on California's roads).


The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is the largest statewide law enforcement agency in the United States with more than 6,750 uniformed and 3,400 non-uniformed full and part-time employees. CHP officers patrol over 100,000 miles of state highways and county roads. Labor and budgetary information were provided by the Office of Special Projects at the Department of the California Highway Patrol. According to a staffing study, in 1998 alone, CHP officers statewide provided two million services to motorists, arrested 2.2 million people for various violations, investigated 206,000 collisions and gave 842,000 verbal warnings, among other activities. These activities involved more than 4.3 million hours of time by patrol, enforcement, and service-related personnel. While traffic law enforcement always has been a primary focus for the Department, as indicated by the large percentage of the CHP budget dedicated to traffic (Figure 2), other significant program areas include drug interdiction, protective and safety services, vehicle theft reduction and recovery, and community outreach.

Figure 2: California Highway Patrol Budget - Percent Traffic, 1989-1999

Figure 2: California Highway Patrol Budget - Percent Traffic, 1989-1999d

The fact that traffic law enforcement is the primary focus for this LEA also is reflected in the budget information provided by CHP which is illustrated in Figure 3. As the total programs budget has been growing, from 1989 to 1999, the large percentage allocated to traffic law enforcement has remained proportionate.

Figure 3: California Highway Patrol Budget Dollars, 1989-1999

Figure 3: California Highway Patrol Budget Dollars, 1989-1999d

The Office of Special Projects at CHP provided extensive historical labor information for the Department. Total work hours versus hours spent patrolling for the years 1992 through 1999 are displayed below in Figure 4. Hours spent patrolling are defined as driving an enforcement vehicle within view of the motoring public, but does not include time spent issuing citations, assisting motorists, etc. Total work hours are defined as total activity time including regular and overtime hours. Both categories of hours have remained fairly constant from 1992 through 1999.

Figure 4: California Highway Patrol Work Hours vs. Patrol Hours, 1992-1999

Figure 4: California Highway Patrol Work Hours vs. Patrol Hours, 1992-1999d

According to the CHP Staffing Study, traditional road patrols have diminished greatly over the years due to legislatively-mandated programs which require uniformed staff to handle commercial vehicle compliance enforcement, vehicle anti-theft enforcement, as well as special assignments. In addition, officers are required by legislation to receive approximately twelve hours of training per month per officer in areas such as cultural diversity and domestic violence. This is in addition to monthly firearms shoots, learning physical methods of arrest, and emergency medical technician training. In addition to these legislatively-mandated training programs, reportedly many grant-funded programs have changed the Department's focus from patrolling and arresting violators to educating motorists and providing services (e.g., pedestrian and bicycle safety programs).

Hours spent by officers in traffic-related enforcement duties are presented below. The numbers of hours worked were available monthly for the years 1994 through 1999 for crash investigations, time spent placing and handling persons in custody, and traffic control duties. The category, "in custody" includes DUI arrests and felony arrests. Figure 5 displays this information.

Figure 5: California Highway Patrol Traffic-Related Labor Hours, 1994-1999

Figure 5: California Highway Patrol Traffic-Related Labor Hours, 1994-1999d

Hours which CHP officers spent handling persons in custody remained fairly constant over the past six years, while there was a substantial increase in time spent controlling traffic, and crash investigations increased significantly. Hours expended during DUI arrests have been decreasing as indicated in the next figure which isolates labor hours attributed to DUI arrests.

Figure 6: CHP Hours Expended - DUI Arrests, 1996-1999

Figure 6: CHP Hours Expended - DUI Arrests, 1996-1999d

Reportedly, current uniformed staffing is only roughly seven percent greater than in 1969/1970, despite the fact that there has been approximately an 80% increase in the number of licensed drivers (and a 68% increase in the California population) during the same period. Also the number of vehicle miles of travel has more than doubled. Nevertheless, the mileage death rate has fallen from 4.53 in 1969 to 1.19 in 1998.

Figure 7 depicts the number of licensed drivers in California per CHP officer from 1969 to 1997. The indication is that the number of licensed drivers in California per CHP officer has been increasing over the past decade. (In addition, California has a large tourism industry resulting in large numbers of out-of-state drivers who are not accounted for in these ratios.) Meanwhile, for years, there has been a shortage of qualified personnel to fill positions vacated at CHP due to medical leave and retirement. If corrective measures are not taken, the rate of attrition is expected to worsen, due to an enhanced retirement package which was negotiated by the union, and the eligibility of a large number of CHP personnel to retire. In order to reverse this trend, a staffing study was conducted which projected the need for 1,942 officers in addition to the 6,726 positions authorized in 1998. CHP officials maintain that these additional positions are needed to bring the Department back to the 1969 level of service (the last time staffing was considered adequate relative to the continued growth in State population, licensed drivers, numbers of registered vehicles, and vehicle miles traveled). Also, any additional uniformed positions naturally would require additional equipment and non-uniformed support staff.

Figure 7: Ratio of Licensed Drivers in California per CHP Officer, 1969-1997

Figure 7: Ratio of Licensed Drivers in California per CHP Officer, 1969-1997d

In fact, the authorization request for an additional 1,942 uniformed staffing positions is considered conservative by the California Highway Patrol Staffing Study, which has calculated current Statewide workloads compared to higher levels of service provided by CHP in 1969. These projections indicate a range of 3,857-9,541 additional uniformed positions would be required based on the increase in California's population, the increase in the number of licensed drivers Statewide, the increase in the number of registered vehicles in California, and the increase in miles traveled Statewide.

As always, the funding issue is the major obstacle to overcome when discussing an expansion program. CHP has identified its main funding sources and ways these resources may be expanded. As with most statewide LEAs, a state general fund and portions of monies from motor vehicle and driver fees are allocated to the Department. It may be possible to increase allocations and/or fees to increase fiscal support. Grants and state highway funds also have provided some funding in the past.

CHP has identified the other major problem as one of logistics. The process of recruiting, hiring, training, and assigning the large number of new personnel is a massive undertaking which must be distributed over a number of years.


We received statewide citation data from the California Department of Justice and extracted pertinent information from this database. In addition, we received citation information from the California Highway Patrol. The information from both of these sources was used as the basis for the figures presented in this section.

The numbers of all hazardous arrests are displayed in Figure 9 on the following page. Hazardous arrests are arrests made when the first violation was in one of the following categories: public drunkenness, DUI alcohol / drugs, manslaughter, stop signal or sign, speed, improper lane, impeding traffic, reckless driving, wrong side of road, improper lane change, improper passing, improper turn, following too closely, vehicle right-of-way, pedestrian right-of-way violated, unsafe starting and backing, pedestrian violation, hazardous parking, lights, brakes, other equipment, and other hazardous moving violations.

Concerning anti-DUI enforcement, the Department provided monthly breakdowns of the citations issued from 1994-1999, and yearly totals for 1990-1993. Yearly totals for DUI citations were also calculated from the data provided by the California Department of Justice. A comparison of these data from both sources is displayed below in Figure 8. Both sets of data indicate a downward trend in the number of citations issued for DUI offenses. This coincides with the number of hours spent dealing with DWI-related arrests as was illustrated in Figure 6.

Figure 8: Comparison of DUI Citations - CHP/CA DOJ, 1990-1998

Figure 8: Comparison of DUI Citations - CHP/CA DOJ, 1990-1998d

Figure 9: California Highway Patrol - Registration Violations, 1994-1999

Figure 9: California Highway Patrol - Registration Violations, 1994-1999d

Finally, the number of citations written for vehicle registration violations have been declining (Figure 10).

Figure 10: California Highway Patrol - Hazardous Arrests, 1994-1999

Figure 10: California Highway Patrol - Hazardous Arrests, 1994-1999d


The number of patrol hours and the number of traffic-related arrests made by officers of the California Highway Patrol have remained fairly flat for the past six years. While we were not able to separate citations by the various types of offenses (except for DUI), time spent on traffic control appears to have increased, and the number of traffic crashes have increased, demanding more investigative time by CHP officers. But combining all citations issued by the CHP for traffic-related offenses, the number of citations appears to have remained fairly constant.

Despite the consistent level of effort, the CHP appears to face a serious staffing shortage, which has, according to CHP's internal studies, worsened over nearly 30 years. Meanwhile, the population and the number of licensed drivers grew disproportionately within the State and still continues to grow. This predicament illustrates that, even if traffic-related enforcement activities remain constant or even if an LEA increases these activities, motorists and passengers may be at increased risk over a period of time, if the level of enforcement activities does not increase proportionately with the number of drivers and vehicle miles driven.

  1. California Highway Patrol. 1999. CHP Staffing and Workload Study. Sacramento, California: California Highway Patrol.
  2. Number of persons killed per 100 million miles of travel.
  3. From California statewide statistical historical data as reported by CHP.