Central Division encompasses the heart of the San Joaquin Valley and serves as the gateway for two spectacular national parks, Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon. The valley is the world's richest agricultural area, and the CHP's traffic enforcement responsibilities reflect agriculture's impact.
Two long freeway segments run the flat length of the Division: a 244-mile stretch of State Route 99 and a 275-mile stretch of Interstate 5. Dust storms and dense winter fog can create dangerous road conditions and travelers should be constantly alert and ready to react to those situations. To enhance the safety of driving in low visibility situations, CHP vehicles may be seen "pacing" small groups of freeway traffic by using their emergency lights when visibility is 500 feet or less. State of the art low visibility detection equipment, warnings on changeable message signs and use of the Emergency Alert System are also utilized to ensure driving safety during adverse weather conditions. The south end of the Division is highlighted by the Grapevine; the portion of Interstate 5 that the climbs out of the Central Valley and then descends into the Los Angeles basin. High winds cause adverse driving conditions and snow can close this main transportation corridor between northern and southern California during the winter months.
While the patrol officer remains the foundation of the CHP, additional support from various units within Central Division augment the CHP's mission:
The Air Operations Unit provides assistance with traffic enforcement, search and rescue, criminal surveillance, pursuit intervention, and aerial photography. Since 2001, as part of the state's homeland security mission, CHP aircraft patrol the California Aqueduct; which conveys water collected from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and valleys of Northern and Central California to Southern California. Helicopter 40 (H-40) is routinely involved in dramatic rescues of injured climbers in Yosemite National Park.
The Background and Recruitment units actively promote the philosophy that the vitality of the CHP depends upon the successful recruitment of qualified personnel.
The Central Valley Transportation Management Center (TMC) is a partnership between CHP and Caltrans. With a staff of CHP and Caltrans employees, the center uses transportation management technology, including computer-aided dispatch, changeable warning message signs, and live TV and radio updates to provide real-time traffic information to the public.
The Commercial Vehicle and Motor Carrier units are comprised of two Inspection Facilities, Mobile Road Enforcement officers and Civilian Inspectors/Specialists. Their mission is to ensure the safe and efficient operation of commercial and regulated vehicles as they travel through the central part of the state.
The El Protector Program and Safety and Farm Labor Vehicle Education (SAFE) Unit are involved in enforcement and education efforts using Spanish-speaking officers. The SAFE program's focus is the migrant farm labor community and the El Protector program serves the large Hispanic population in the Central Valley.
The Investigative Services Unit has several functions. Auto Theft Investigators recover stolen vehicles and apprehend those responsible for the thefts; including chop shops and auto theft rings. Canine officers and their dogs are utilized for the detection and apprehension of criminals transporting drugs throughout the state. Task Force officers work with Allied Agencies in the criminal apprehension of gang members and those involved in drug manufacture and transportation.
The Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation (MAIT) Team conducts in-depth investigations and analyses of major traffic collisions using the physics of collision analysis and reconstruction.
The Public Information and Community Outreach officers are responsible for developing, coordinating, educating and assessing the impact of traffic safety and outreach programs, as well as assisting the CHP in evaluating public perception of departmental activities.
Nick Norton is a chief with the California Highway Patrol (CHP), assigned to Central Division. Chief Norton started his career with the CHP when he entered the Academy in 1989. Upon graduation, he was assigned as an officer to the Central Los Angeles Area. After working three years in the heart of Los Angeles, he took an administrative assignment within the Investigative Services Section of the CHP’s Headquarters in Sacramento. In 1994, he promoted to sergeant and was assigned as a transition team member for the 1995 State Police Merger and supervisor for the Department’s statewide drug enforcement program. In 1998, he promoted to lieutenant and worked as the Fresno Area field operations officer, the executive assistant to the Central Division Chief, and subsequently the Area Commander in Coalinga. In 2006, he promoted to Captain and held the positions of commander for the Antelope Valley Area, Coastal Division Special Services, and Central Division Special Services. In 2012, he was promoted to Assistant Chief and worked in the Department’s Information Management Division, Valley Division, and back home to the Central Valley before he was promoted to Chief of Central Division on January 1, 2016. As the Central Division chief, Chief Norton commands operations consisting of 17 Area offices throughout the Central Valley with more than 1100 employees. Central Division’s geographical area stretches from Modesto to Fort Tejon. Chief Norton earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1985, from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; has completed several courses in emergency management, personnel management, terrorism and homeland security, and is a graduate of the Police Officer Standards and Training Command College. Throughout his career, Chief Norton has been recognized and awarded three Commissioner’s Unit Citations, several Division Commander’s Certificate of Commendations, and several awards for his work in promoting traffic safety and community programs. When not at work, Chief Norton enjoys spending time tending to his small farm and participating in outdoor activities. He is especially proud of his daughter and son, who have both followed his footsteps and are officers with the CHP.
CHP – Central Division