Before 1974, if women wanted to work for the California Highway Patrol, regulations said they could only work in non-officer jobs.
But women challenged those regulations, and thanks to a federal ruling, the Women Traffic Officer Project (WTOP) was created. The project was a two-year experiment to determine whether women were able to effectively perform state traffic officer duties.
In 1974, for the first time, female cadets entered the CHP Academy alongside their male counterparts. By the end of the 16-week Academy, a female cadet, Deborah A. Street, had captured the pistol shooting award with a perfect 300 score. Academically, five of the top eight graduates were women. The WTOP class proved that women could complete the grueling Academy training, and opened the door of opportunity for others.
Graduation ceremony keynote speaker, Judge Joan Dempsey Klein, told the women, "You carry a heavy burden of responsibility because all eyes are upon you while you are advancing the cause of opportunity for all women."
The female graduates of that first class, and the many that followed in subsequent classes, showed that women perform the job on an equal level and footing with their male colleagues. Graduation ceremony keynote speaker, Judge Joan Dempsey Klein, told the women, "You carry a heavy burden of responsibility because all eyes are upon you while you are advancing the cause of opportunity for all women."
The female graduates of that first class, and the many that followed in subsequent classes, showed that women perform the job on an equal level and footing with their male colleagues.
"My attraction to the CHP," noted Sergeant Diane Hartz, "was the idea that the work was outdoors and offered a great deal of independence. I have spent the majority of my career working in the Orange County area in field assignments. As a sergeant, I have a great deal of variety in my job and I enjoy the ability to remain actively in touch with what is happening on the road. Additionally, with my field assignments, I have been given a great deal of flexibility with my off hours."
"Officer Thea (Hite) Nevatt came from a law enforcement family (Her father was a Lieutenant with the Los Angeles Police Department). As Nevatt reminisced, "I was first inspired to enter law
enforcement by my dad. His enthusiasm and the fulfillment he enjoyed in his career led me to LAPD. While waiting to enter their academy in August, I overheard one of the CHP's ads on the radio for the first class to include females. Though LAPD had always had female officers, the CHP went one better - offering the opportunity to patrol solo. Instead of reporting to LAPD in August, I reported to the CHP Academy in September 1974."
Later in her career, Nevatt also took on another challenge and transferred to the Banning Truck Scales to work with commercial vehicles. As she remembers, "I entered an arena not traveled
normally by females at that time, and now am thankful to be part of the Department's big focus on commercial enforcement."
The California Highway Patrol salutes the commitment and dedication of all of the women who attended and graduated from the pioneer WTOP Class. Because of their efforts, women are able to share the proud tradition of uniformed members of the California Highway Patrol.
On November 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Amanda L. Ray as the 16th Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol (CHP); the first woman to lead the Department of more than 11,000 members. Prior to her appointment to Commissioner, she served as the Deputy Commissioner and was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the CHP.
Commissioner Ray is a 30-year veteran of the CHP and has earned numerous awards and commendations in her personal life and during her professional career with the Department. Commissioner Ray has been a pioneer for women in law enforcement as the first African American female in the CHP’s 91-year history to hold the position of Commissioner for the nation’s largest state police agency.
For additional information, contact the CHP at: 1-888-4A CHP JOB (1-888-422-4756) TT/TDD 1-800-735-2929 EOE/ADA or by e-mail.