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Educating kids among new CHP captain's goals

February 03, 2001|By MARCY MISNER, Staff Writer

The El Centro area's new California Highway Patrol captain has goals for his officers, including getting them into schools talking to students about safe driving and getting more involved with Spanish-speaking drivers.

Vince Calderon was moved to the El Centro CHP office at the beginning of January. He left a post as commander of the Santa Barbara station.

CHP Capt. John Edelman, a Brawley native, left the El Centro office after he was promoted to assistant chief for the San Diego area recently.

An avid marathon runner, Calderon grew up in Visalia and was employed by the California Department of Corrections for two years. He spent three years in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer before joining the Highway Patrol in 1968. In 1972, then-Gov. Ronald Reagan presented him with the Carnegie Award for saving a man from a burning vehicle loaded with ammunition in San Jose in March 1972.

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Calderon founded the National Latino Peace Officers Association and is still involved with that organization as a corresponding secretary for the state chapter and also is national political action chairman.

Calderon said this isn't his first time working in the Imperial Valley. A 33-year veteran of the Highway Patrol, Calderon was the supervisor of the Mexican liaison unit for the border division, which includes Imperial and San Diego counties, in 1986.

Calderon established relationships with Mexican law enforcement officers, including those in the federal highway patrol, which broadened the safety measures for motorists on both sides of the border, particularly during holiday weekends. Calderon and other officers published telephone numbers motorists could call in Mexico and the United States if they were involved in a collision or needed information.

Calderon also has cousins in Brawley and his brother, Art Calderon, was interim warden at Centinela State Prison last year after his retirement as warden from San Quentin State Prison in February 1999.

"I've spent a lot of time here," Calderon said.

Calderon said he is proud of the job his officers are doing in the El Centro area.

"My officers picked up 80 pounds of cocaine the other day … They did an excellent job," he said, referring to the case of an El Centro man arrested near Westmorland on Friday.

Calderon went to the scene of a double-fatal traffic collision near Brawley on Tuesday because it's his philosophy to be involved and because of his concern for safety.

He thinks the openness of the region and the wide open roads result in more severe traffic collisions here because motorists increase their speeds. Anytime speed goes up the impacts are going to be greater.

He cautioned that skill and common sense are factors often lacking in traffic collisions.

"There's a lot of things people don't think about," Calderon said, explaining the faster a driver is traveling, the less time the person has to react to roadway hazards.

He'd like to see students become educated about safety and thinks kids talk to their parents about things like drunken driving and wearing seat belts.

"That is especially true with driving under the influence. If kids are in the car and father has been drinking, I've heard about where kids say ‘Hey dad, you can't drive, you've been drinking' and mom will drive," Calderon said.

"The main thing is informing and educating the public about safety and what can happen when you don't use common sense while driving," Calderon said.

Staff Writer Marcy Misner may be reached at 337-3441.

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