CHP Lieutenant responds to citizen complaint

chp_logo.jpgIn the wake of the petroglyph thefts near Bishop, law enforcement officers in all branches have had an eye out for clues. In the view of one of the commenters on our website, too close an eye. The California Highway Patrol Lieutenant in Bridgeport investigated a complaint.

According to a local resident, he took friends to view a petroglyph site near Round Valley. He said a CHP officer drove up, asked for their drivers licenses and said he was checking to see if they were removing anything or disturbing the site. The resident posted a comment on our website that reported that the CHP officer said his wife looks through a high-powered scope from Paradise and reports to him anyone walking around the petroglyphs.

The man said the CHP officer took photos of the licenses and car license plates. This resident said the officer made him and his friends feel “very uncomfortable.”

The area described by the complaint is under the jurisdiction of the Bridgeport CHP office. Lieutenant Ron Cohen talked to us and said he would look into it. Lt. Cohen did say that one of the points in the CHP Mission Statement is to assist other agencies. He said his officers were briefed on the activities of potential rock art theft and considered that they would be on the look out to assist BLM and the Forest Service.

I spoke to Lt. Cohen again on Wednesday. He said that he discussed the complaint with his personnel to make sure no one makes people feel uncomfortable or unwelcome on public lands. Asked specifically what officer was involved and what the Lieutenant discovered, he said he still doesn’t know if the incident was exactly as described by the citizen. Lt. Cohen said he has not “had an opportunity” to speak to the officer implicated.

Lt. Cohen said first and foremost his people are not looking to make the public uncomfortable. He said his officers are assisting BLM in the petroglyph case and sometimes things people do prompt an inquiry.

Lt. Cohen said he did personally speak with the man who complained on our website and assured him the CHP does not want to make people feel unwelcome on public land. He did confirm that officers do use their cell phones to shoot pictures of identification for accuracy’s sake. He said they write down the information in computers later and destroy the photos.

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42 Responses to CHP Lieutenant responds to citizen complaint

  1. Sean February 24, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

    So many of you haters are so clueless as to the written law, case law, and to the tactics and training of our officers. This goes all the way to the Supreme Court. The officers are acting within the authority given to them under law. If you don’t like it try actually doing something about it and contact your local law maker (not law enforcement). Many of you are simply ignorant as to what the law actually is. Sorry to say that. You simply don’t know what you are talking about. Trying reading some case law on detentions and consensual contacts for starters. If you don’t like what you find then complain to the people who actually make the laws.

    Good Job CHP! There is nothing wrong with making contacts in the field and there is nothing wrong with using technology to be more efficient at your job (ie taking a picture of an ID instead of taking the time to write it all down in a notebook).

    • Tourbillon February 25, 2013 at 8:56 am #

      Calm down Sean. No one is expressing “hate”. Loving liberty and being concerned about officious government intrusion is not “hate”.

      You happen to believe that what the CHP has done is just fine, dandy and legal. Others do not share your view and this does not mean they are “haters” or “racists” or whatever pejorative you choose, which are cheap if overused substitutes for intelligent debate. Nor does it mean they are ignorant of the law. If you really were a cop you should know full well that like most of its “lines”, the Supreme Court has drawn a hazy one around what is and is not permissible “consensual” contact. Little subtleties in the circumstances can make huge differences to the legal outcome.That’s what this debate is about. It is healthy. It is not hatred.

      • sean February 25, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

        A good place to start any debate is with facts and reality. Things most comments seem to be short of when people make comments to the effect we live in Nazi Germany and all the police are out to get all the civilians.

        The case law is very clear on when contacts turn into detentions. It is only fuzzy to people who actually haven’t taken the time to read real case law (aka the excited person yelling at police “I know my rights!”.). Often times they actually don’t know their rights, the law, or how to find where they are on a map.

        Try reading the California Peace Officers Legal Source Book. Go buy yourself a copy here:

        Once you have a foundation of knowledge based on law you can actually make arguments as to what specifically needs to be changed. Most of what has been complained about here has been hashed out in courts in the 1970’s thru 1990’s. The new case law generally revolves around advanced technology that everyone has access to (ie can police search your cellphone during a detention or can police use publicly available satellite pictures to “search” your private property from space).

        And by all means Dear Sir I hope you don’t find my comments impertinent, scurrilous, boorish, brusque, cheeky, or churlish. I would hate to offend the tender kinesthesia of your sensibilities.

        • Benett Kessler February 25, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

          A better idea – stay in balance. Remain aware of yourself and others. Try to understand situations, and if you feel wronged go to higher authorities
          and express your concern. Life is already too complicated to carry around copies of legal source books.
          Benett Kessler

        • Tourbillon February 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

          Well Sean, the only place you express “hate” in your latest is for how you feel about offending my sensibilities, so we’re making progress.

          “Kinesthesia” really doesn’t fit though, does it? I do not see how being aware of my body’s motion has anything to do with “sensibilities”, although I confess to being moved emotionally – emo-kinesthesiastically, as you might put it – over your concern for my sensibilities. Isn’t this better: “I would hate to offend your sensibility, over-developed as it is and delicate as a hothouse flower which I could easily crush under my all-purpose Legal Source Book.”

          • sean February 26, 2013 at 12:42 am #

            Lol Tourbillon I was wondering if you would actually look all those up. Yes Kinesthesia does not fit… you pass the test.

  2. david m February 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    Do you think it is okay for a CHP officer’s wife to look through a scope, see three people at a well known petroglyph site right off the road, call her husband, divert him from his duties to come over and harass citizens and run their license for no reason?

    One of the people who was there that day being shaked down is a retired forest service ranger who used to be responsible for protecting natural and cultural resources for thirty years. He has also helped BLM for the past 20 years to protect and map archaeological sites on the Volcanic Tableland.

    He told the officer that he helped to protect sites as the officer was photographing his license with a regular camera, not a phone.

    This officer and his wife are stepping way out beyond their bounds. The information the officer is taking from citizens is going into his own personal data base. It is absurd to think that the information is being destroyed. It goes right to the wife.

    Furthermore, Lieutenant Cohen told the ranger on the phone that he would talk to the officer in question and never did. He lied.

    The CHP officer also profiled construction workers that day saying they are out of work and have the equipment necessary to saw and chisel out the petroglyphs. Therefore, he implied, they are prime suspects.

    Where is the probable cause for this vigilante CHP officer to ask visitors to an archaeological site for their license? He did not see anybody put anything in their pocket. He did not see anybody committing an act of vandalism. Nobody had a shovel, hammer, chisel or rifle.

    Anybody who thinks this officer did the right thing is nuts. It was a slap in the face to citizens who care about cultural resources far more than the cop will ever know.

    He and his squirrelly wife want to be heroes and solve the petroglyph theft case. They are going about it entirely the wrong way. They are making enemies instead of friends. They are losing support instead of gaining more people monitoring. They are shaking down and harassing the wrong people.

    All I have to say is stay out of Round Valley if you don’t want to be harassed by a cop and his wife. Lieutenant Cohen showed a high degree of unprofessionalism by not talking to his officer about this royal screw up. So, now he is going to try to cover it up. Good luck!

    • James February 22, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

      This chp person is not an officer, he is a sergeant and was promoted from the bishop office to the Bridgeport office because chp generally will not promote within the same office. While we all want protections, this may be going to far. I hope those involved do us all a favor and call for an internal investigation out of Sacramento, not the local office. If formal letters of complaint are written, the chp must investigate and I’m sure the Sacramento HQ will have a problem with the wife / husband conflict of interest. While the discipline might be minimal, this person needs to be reminded that he is not above the law.

  3. R.R. February 22, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    A fairly unknown local site is now getting way too much air time.
    Look for patrol cars in remote areas for other obscure sites.

  4. bishop lover February 22, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    whaaaa try putting that vest on and do their job.
    Glad the CHP are out there. If you are a law abiding citizen you have no worries. That is for all of you above.

    • Jeremiah's stance February 22, 2013 at 11:25 am #

      As much as I like acknowledge/complain/address/Wine about things that I don’t approve of, but dang lets keep it real. They day in and day out put themselves on the line, sacrificing their whole family’s livelihood with the dangers they face. I honestly believe if I needed help no matter who is on duty they would take it as serious as the next call.
      What really has me questioning the protocol and policy’s is the social injustices we see all the time and I feel I really don’t need to get into specifics because the evidence is out there, if you need to be reminded about specific situations you are in denial.
      I know in my heart I am a good person so anytime I am being made out to be a criminal under their justifications it really has me questioning what people think justice is.
      But We the People have not the chance we are naturally granted. Our systems are tainted by the corrupting influence of MONEY. If you believe the corrupting influence of money is a bipartisan problem, then check out this link

      • trouble February 22, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

        Jeremiah- their heads are big enough without you blowing them up more.

        • Jeremiah's stance February 22, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

          No way Trouble, those inflated heads had done soaked up all they can hold. So there is no way they can adhere to what I am throwing down.

  5. johnjcampnfish February 21, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    I liked the CHP a lot more before they started using radar guns.

  6. Big AL February 21, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    The problem here is a failure to communicate … some men just can not be reached! hehe

    Actually … humor aside, the problem here is what some individuals do with their authority. Do they look after something as in this case, the petroglyths, do they wield their power because they have authority?

    I know who this individual is, I have worked with him a few times over the years. I know how he is. Was he doing something to protect this site, yes I believe he was, was he abusing his power by photographing ID’s and such .. that can be a gray area. Was he wrong in how he handled it, without being there to experience it, I can not say, knowing him, I can say he might have.

    I think there is a lot of pressure to find these people who have stolen these treasures, and I think if a CHP officer comes to check it out .. he is within his duties to check. He or she isn’t obliged to verbally abuse people or make them feel like they are guilty of something.

    It all stems from the individual, how they do their job, and how they respect people …. and respect their authority. I think we need to give the commander the benefit of the doubt as well, to correct problems such as this. It is to their benefit as well not to have these things happening.

    Trouble … I agree with you to a certain extent as well. There are those who are doing junk, yes …. And it seems that they have a free hand. That only lasts until enough people complain about an individual. I don’t think law enforcement as a whole is out of control, but it does need to take a look at what it allows to happen.

    Wayne, yes I think I remember that CHP officer, and I know a few of them, the ones I know .. and it goes for any agency, for the most part, they are good people, some just have hang ups, like anything else, any other group.

  7. Konzo February 21, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    This thread sounds like typical whining from locals who like it when the cops go after the people heading to Mammoth. But, when the locals are stopped, they want the cops to hold them to a different standard. What hypocrites! It sounds like the cop was doing his job and more. Do you want the cops to drive by and wave or do you want them to be inquisitive and investigate? A lot of you keep whining that they get paid so much for doing so little.

    So what do you want?

    • Trouble February 21, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

      Konzo-I want them to respond to real emergency and go out of their way NOT to harass people. Especially tourist. Some CHP dude hiding in the bushes, in the middle of nowhere, does no one any good. “Inquisitive”, give me a break.

  8. Wayne Deja February 21, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    I know some CHP officers that seem to be good,friendly people that are nice to know….but a few years back, had an incident in Independence with a young officer that’s no longer around this area that was disturbing.He pulled me over for going a bit too fast through town…When he got to my truck,he backed off and said he smelt “the faint but distinct odor of marijuana “..When I told him not true,and could search if he wanted to,he ordered me out of the vehicle,ran me through some sobriety tests,and then stated he felt,”through his training”,I was under the influence of meth….also not true….and said for him to please take me in for a blood test to prove so.After about 20 minutes of accusations and my denials,he said I could go.But stated for me to remove a baseball bat I had in the cab of my truck into the bed of the truck…When I did what he said to do,as he was walking away,he spun around,grabbed his pistol in the holster,acting as though I was going to attack him with the bat…When I mentioned this incident to a CHP friend I have,he informed me the officer was no longer in this area. The contacts I’ve had on the highway with Law Enforcement,though few and far between,are usually very professional and for the most part friendly…..but this one here,with this officer,was to say the least ,very disturbing,that’s for sure.

  9. Jennifer Duncan February 21, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    Frankly, any enforcement towards the protection of antiquities gets a “hooray’ from me.
    Unfortunately the local theft of the native petroglyphs creates the need for a careful watch.
    I wonder how folks would feel if their family heirlooms were taken right from there own backyard?
    I am hopeful there will be no more such thefts but in the meantime lets be grateful for the CHP or whatever law enforcer is providing protections!


    • Reality Check February 21, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

      The problem about stopping the average citizen viewing rock art in broad daylight is that the suspects went in at night to a remote location, out of view, with power tools to cut the pieces out.

      Also, does anyone think that the suspects don’t know the heat is on and that they would go to a site in broad daylight in view of other people?

      It could become a full time job for CHP to guard all the rock art in Mono County.

    • Big AL February 21, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

      What people seem to forget Jennifer, is that these are our heirlooms … everyone, they are from our past. We as a people, the present generation. When they are stolen, we all suffer.

    • sierragrl February 22, 2013 at 11:37 am #

      Jennifer…that is EXACTLY the attitude that allowed Nazi Germany to flourish….America is great because of our system of checks and balances. We need a healthy police presence in our country, but we need it to be kept in check by rules, regulations, guidelines, laws….stopping people for no reason is unacceptable. no ifs ands or buts about it.

      • Big AL February 22, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

        And I would like to add .. being stopped for no reason is unacceptable, but if a cop really has a hunch about someone and he stops someone and makes a discovery of someone who is wanted for something, then they did their job. They stop someone … same hunch .. and they strike out, well they still did their job. If you don’t have anything to worry about then you’re OK.

        But I think .. individual officers need to be right in their hunches and not use it as an excuse to harass people. I don’t have a problem with being stopped in such a manner, but I do have an issue when the officer cops an attitude with me, and suggests I might be doing something illegal and treat me like crap.

        Sometimes people who need to be caught, get caught in such a manner. That is why we have them .. and as long as they remember that, and we remember that, it is all good.

        But we also need to give some the credit due as well when they do their job right. That seems to get drowned in the BS about how they all are a bunch of nazi’s stormtroopers.

  10. Steve February 21, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    I was there and it happened as stated! They have a picture of my ID… Bennett can you ask the CHP if it is ok to take pictures of our ID. Am I going to be a victim of Identity theft? Who’s camera was that?

    • Benett Kessler February 21, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

      Check the story. The Lt. said, yes, they do take pictures of ID with their private cell phones. He claims once they enter info into a
      computer, they destroy photos.

      • sierragrl February 21, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

        let’s see if I’ve got this straight….citizens on public land, not breaking any laws are being asked for their ID and having it photographed and their license plates photographed…doesn’t that go against all law enforcement standards??? Its my understanding that there is suppose to be ‘probable cause’ or ‘reasonable suspicion’ for LEO to stop you. What is the probable cause in these cases? Please ask Lt. Cohen to answer that question.

      • Tourbillon February 21, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

        Just so I have this straight – once they enter the info they photograph into a computer database that will be backed up from here to eternity, they destroy the original photos, and therefore we should feel better?

        I wonder what the LT would say if asked whether it would be OK for motorists who get stopped to take a pic of the officer then post it on the Internet, promising to delete the photo from their phone afterward.

        • MWTC February 27, 2013 at 10:52 am #

          I always take a photo and record the officer if they make contact with me. CHP and Mono SO particularly in Northern Mono are out of control with their stops and searches with no probable cause and consent searches when a citizen doesn’t know he can refuse a consent search. Ask the officer to have their supervisor on scene if they want you to consent to a search, and use your cell phone or camera to record the contact.

  11. Mark February 21, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    “he said he still doesn’t know if the incident was exactly as described by the citizen”

    If I was one of the three people harrased by the CHP officer I would be offended by the lieutenant’s comment above.

    It’s rediculous that the Lieutenant even responded to the pubiic without speaking with the CHP officer first.

  12. MJA February 21, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    I am always uncomfortable when I see a CHP with guns hiding along the road that suddenly jump out of the bushes and race their cars with reckless abandon only to catch another vehicle that wasn’t doing nearly the speed of their own. They remind me of wolves going after the sheep.


    • erik simpson February 21, 2013 at 11:27 am #

      Funny, I’ve often wondered why the armed (oh, the horror) CHP lurking behind the bush didn’t chase the Escalade that just burned by me as I lumbered along at 65.

  13. tj nella February 21, 2013 at 8:41 am #


  14. Mark February 21, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    “He said they write down the information in computers later and destroy the photos.”

    They are building a database of citizens they find standing on public land?

    All the more reason to not show them any i.d.

    and the Lieutenant has had plenty of time to talk to the officer..

    I’ve had time to talk with two of the three people who were harrased by the CHP why hasn’t the lieutenant had time to talk to one of his officers? I’m pretty sure the Lieutenant has every form of communications at hand that we citizens have plus he has radio communications. To say he hasn’t had the oppertunity is hard to believe.

    Can you tell I’m not happy with his response?

    • Reality Check February 21, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      So the CHP don’t have telephones? The Lieutenant, over a week after the incident couldn’t call the officer and order him to write a memo by the end of shift detailing what happened during the contact? Or the Lieutenant could not have a sergeant interview the officer?

      This lieutenant seems very stinky to me.

  15. Wayne Deja February 21, 2013 at 7:17 am #

    After making my first post concerning what Big Rick mentioned about Nicki Catsouras and the CHP photos,should have mentioned a few other things BEFORE anyone googles it…VERY graphic photos of a tragic vehicle accident where this young girl was killed…and people wanting to see it is a part of the problem…and why it is such a problem for the family and friends of hers.The person or persons that posted the photos seem to be making a joke of the incident,with no compassion at all for the victim,or the family and friends….and a big reason to why,in this internet age,that some things just should not be seen,or exploited…or made fun of or commented on when it involves the tragic death of a young person…WARNING…..and hope by saying that doesn’t make people want to “google” it more so….Before you do,think of the family….and IF it were to happen to your child,if,you’d be wanting people to see what was photographed,put on the internet,commented on,and joked about,along with catchy little nick-names to go along with it…definataly something your not going to want to see and will have trouble getting out of your head if you do.

    • Big AL February 21, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

      Wayne .. good post, thank you, I wasn’t thinking of googling them, but in reading this post, yes I totally agree without even seeing the junk surrounding this tragedy. Some people can do these things like you say to show photos of someone’s deceased body and joke about it, kinda sick.

  16. Big Rick OBrien February 20, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    The CHP was also supposed to delete the photographs that they took of Nicki Catsouras…and it ended up costing the tax payers of California over a million dollars. If and only if, you have a VERY strong stomach, google it and you’ll see why. If a chippy can’t spot a bogus CDL, he’s got no business being in the field. There is absolutely NO reason to photograph someone’s ID other than to use it at a later date. We all know that once it’s in a computer, it’s there for good.

  17. Desert Tortoise February 20, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    You might want to read a thread on another local discussion forum called The Truth Points to Itself. The CHP have become very abusive and dismissive of personal rights. I used to admire them, even tried to become one many decades ago, but now they more closely resemble the LAPD than a professional law enforcement agency. Opening someones car door during a routine traffic stop, even as the owner of the car told the CHP officer they were emphatically not giving them permission to search their car, followed by the cop opening the individuals glove box and rifling through everything inside. The victim of this abuse of authority eventually prevailed in court, but only because the CHP officer could not keep his story straight and contradicted himself on the stand so blatantly that even a traffic court judge clearly sympathetic to the cop could not sustain his testimony and cleared the defendant.
    I have had my own experiences where CHP officers have lied under oath in court, but could not prove it. They can no longer be trusted.

    • Trouble February 21, 2013 at 6:38 am #

      Desert Tortoise- I agree with you to a extent, but I would say all the local law enforcement have become way to aggressive . Especially up here.Some people are actually scared of most of our law enforcement. I know of one case in Inyo where a police officer was basically fired for lying under oath, but then hired by the sheriffs dept. a short time later. Lt. Cohen comments here are just his way of covering his partners back. Nothing will come of this. But I will add that most police won’t lie under oath because the Judges will always take their words over yours.

  18. bishop lover February 20, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    Yay CHP. They are always watching out for us, and our lands. Go ahead leave your negative comments about this post…. but it was first.
    I love the California Highway Patrol!!

    • Trouble February 20, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

      Think Lt. Cohen might find time to talk to his employee some time soon. Nice response Cohen, now give us a break.


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