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In Their Own Words

Officer Kerri Rivas
Graduated from the Academy in 2007


1. When did you first think about becoming a CHP officer? Include family, friends, school presentations, local or world events, etc. that may have influenced you.

I began to think of future career options when I was in the 7th grade. “What do you want to be when you grow up” became a common question posed upon me by my friends and family. Becoming a police officer was in my top three choices and it was something that interested me. There were no law enforcement personnel in my family at that time and no one to ask questions to. The only perception of law enforcement I had was watching the show, COPS, which quickly became a favorite of mine. It was also at this time that the Rodney King trial and riots had occurred. I remember watching the brave officers on TV trying to control a mob that was trashing the city. I remember feeling scared, but wishing I could be one of them in riot gear on the front lines. I wanted to be a part of that history.

As life moved forward, and I went into other avenues of the work force, I thought back to the line of work I was originally interested in, the police force. I conducted an online search of the FBI, the Los Angeles Police Department, the L.A. County Sheriff Department, and the California Highway Patrol (CHP). After researching the different departments, I decided that the CHP was the best department to be a part of and I applied.

2. What obstacles did you encounter during your efforts to become an officer?

I had to overcome multiple obstacles in my efforts to become a California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officer. The first obstacle that I faced was that I did not know any law enforcement officers, particularly any female officers. I did not know what to expect from a career in law enforcement and I did not know who to ask my questions to. I decided to call the nearest CHP office (Baldwin Park) and request a ride along. I went on a ride along in 2005 and it was an awesome experience I’ll never forget. It was through that ride along that I was able to connect with an officer and he became my ‘mentor’ through the application process. Through my mentor, I was able to grasp difficult concepts about the hiring process, the CHP Academy, and law enforcement in general. Other obstacles I encountered in my efforts to become an officer was that I joined the CHP at 29 years old. I had an established career as a social worker and had numerous years of education and social work career experience already under my belt. It was not an easy decision to make and I left behind many good friends, co-workers, and clients. Additionally, my family did not respond well to my career change, discouraged my choice to become a police officer, and thought law enforcement was ‘too dangerous.’


3. Describe what you were like in high school. Activities, sports, interests, etc. If you went on to college, describe your college life.

I attended a private high school in Sierra Madre. I had an outgoing personality, was involved in sports, and had an interest in photography. I received a high grade point average in high school and was extremely studious. In high school, I played volleyball for four years and made the varsity team as a sophomore. For four years I played on the San Gabriel Volleyball Club Team and was involved in numerous volleyball tournaments around the United States. My senior year in high school, I participated on the track team – High Jump. I was also on the Yearbook Staff and assisted with the compilation of the yearbook. After high school, I received a volleyball scholarship to Azusa Pacific University (APU) and played collegiate level ball for four years. I graduated Cum Laude from APU with my Bachelors Degree in Social Work (BSW) and went on to apply for a post graduate degree. Three years after receiving my BSW, I attended California State University, Los Angeles (CSU, LA) and graduated Summa Cum Laude with my Masters of Social Work Degree (MSW). It was three years of hard work and complete dedication to get through my Masters program while working as a social worker part time, attending school 16 hours a week, and writing a 65 page thesis report.


4. What jobs did you have before becoming an officer? You don’t have to list them all, but we would especially like to know the one, or ones, you had immediately before going into the Academy.

Before I became an officer, I worked as a foster care social worker for a non-profit agency. I was the liaison between the court system, the foster parent, the foster child, and birth parents, as well as, any other entity, for example, school psychologist, doctor, other family members. The year before I entered the California Highway Patrol (CHP), I worked as an Associate Clinical Social Worker (ACSW), Child Therapist, and worked with patients from 5-18 years old in weekly therapeutic sessions.


5. How did your family, friends, or different groups of friends, react when you were in the selection process and then became an officer? If it was a less than positive reaction, how did you handle it?

When I initially told my family about applying for the California Highway Patrol (CHP), they replied, “Dispatcher?” I related that I would be applying for the Police Officer position and I was not met with much enthusiasm. They thought it was too dangerous and pondered why I would apply for this job when I had degrees for social work. Some family members did not have a positive view of police officers and stated so. My friends were excited for me and wished me luck. They enjoyed hearing about the process and wanted me to succeed. When I became an officer, my family was surprised, but excited for me. There is still concern and worry for me and my life, but they understand more about my job and are proud of my accomplishments. My friends seem to have little or no understanding of what I actually do as a police officer, so it has been educational, and sometimes challenging, to inform them of all of our different duties.


6. What words of wisdom, if any, did you receive about becoming an officer?

I had a meeting with two senior California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officers from my Area office immediately after graduating the Academy. I will never forget what they told me. They said as a new officer, I need to be polite and respectful to everyone in the office. They also told me that being humble and willing to learn will get me far in my career. They stressed the importance of having a good reputation, working diligently, being honest, and having a positive attitude. These traits will stay with me for the rest of my career and earn respect from my fellow co-workers.


7. What are some of the interesting things you’ve done on the job (or off) while on the patrol?

I have done many interesting things while on patrol. Dealing with the public as an enforcer of the law versus being in a therapeutic civilian position has been an interesting challenge. Working in a position where I have to constantly know where I am, who I am with, and practice officer safety tactics has changed me as a person and how I view life. Learning to shoot a gun has definitely been empowering, because before I became a police officer, I had no experience with guns. It has also been a great experience solving hit and run collisions, arresting drunk drivers, and solving crimes. It is quite satisfying to ‘catch the bad guy.’
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In 2010, I became the Public Information Officer and was able to do numerous events of interest. To name a few, I made a PSA with Clint Eastwood, I help collect toys for the yearly Chips for Kids program, I was a part of KTLA’s segment called ‘Women In Law Enforcement,’ and becoming a Car Seat Technician.


8. What words of wisdom (or encouragement) would you like to pass on to possible applicants?

No one is going to ‘hold your hand’ through the process of getting hired. You have to be strong, you have to be a ‘go-getter,’ and you have to be motivated to REALLY want to be a California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officer. There is so much pride and accomplishment with wearing this patch. No one will just give this job to you. Do not get discouraged while going through the application process or the CHP Academy. Find a mentor who is as dedicated as you and work together through the process. Be in the proper physical shape before entering the CHP Academy and NEVER give up, no matter how difficult things seem. Self-motivation, respect, and the willingness to learn will help you become a good officer. Last, but not least, you will make life-long friends in this career choice. You will truly know what a ‘brother’ is when you enter the police officer world. Good luck!


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