MADERA COUNTY – The Oakhurst office of the California Highway Patrol has a new Commander. Lieutenant Jason Daughrity stepped into the job on Jan. 2 when Lt. Sandra Adams retired after serving in the post since 2003.
Daughrity, 41, comes from a law enforcement family, and knew from a very early age that this was his calling.
“I had a very singular focus,” he says. “I played cops and robbers as a kid, and never broke out of that. It was in my blood, and I knew my entire life I wanted to be in law enforcement. It was kind of the family business.”
Daughrity was born in Riverside, and was raised all across the state due to his father’s promotions and transfers in his job in law enforcement. After graduating from high school in Ceres, he went straight to the police academy at Modesto Junior College, and signed on as a police officer for the city of Patterson at age 18. Being a cop at such a young age presented some interesting quandaries.
“I could carry a gun but I couldn’t buy one. I could shoot a gun, but I couldn’t buy my own ammo. I could do a bar check, but I couldn’t buy a beer.”
Though he could serve as a police officer at age 18, joining the CHP had to wait until he was 21. After getting his feet wet on the force in Patterson, he applied for the CHP Academy at age 20, and began that training 6 weeks after his 21st birthday. Following graduation, Daughrity hired on at the Monterey/Salinas CHP office in 1994.
In 1996, he transferred to the Fresno Field Office, and later became the first full-time CHP officer ever assigned to MAGEC (Multi Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium).
After serving on MAGEC for a year, Daughrity joined the HEAT (Help Eliminate Auto Theft) Task Force until 2002, when he was sent to the California Department of Justice to work in the Criminal Intelligence Bureau following the 911 attacks.
“I got to learn a lot about things on a very grand scale,” he says of that assignment.
A promotion to sergeant in 2005 sent him to Hayward for a year, and then a stint in Los Banos. During his career thus far, Daughrity has had many interesting assignments, including supervisor of the Warrant Service Team, where he headed up a group of officers serving high-risk warrants and running undercover operations.
He also ran the Investigative Services Unit for the Central Division, which extends from the San Joaquin County line to the Grapevine. One of the most interesting and rewarding cases the detectives in this unit took on was the robbery of the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa in the summer of 2012. It was also one of the most challenging.
“We were all over the place on that case,” says Daughrity. “Up in Sutter County, Yolo County, Yuba and Nevada – chasing those guys, tracking down leads and writing warrants. All five are now in prison, so it’s kind of a badge of honor.”
Many people may be surprised to learn that the CHP investigated and solved that case, but the California State Mining and Mineral Museum is a state park, and falls under the purview of the state police – the CHP.
In 2013, Daughrity took over the Canine Unit for the CHP Central Division, overseeing the work of five teams of handlers and their dogs, from Bakersfield to Fresno. Then on Jan. 2, 2015, he was promoted to Lieutenant and into the job of Commander at the Oakhurst CHP Office, where he oversees 17 road patrol officers and 3 sergeants.
Having been a field officer throughout his career, this post will surely hold some new challenges and new opportunities. One thing he will be focusing on is strong community involvement, interaction and education.
“I’d like for people to see more than the traffic citation,” says Daughrity. “For some, that’s all they ever know. We want them to understand that there’s so much more to the CHP than writing tickets.”
The CHP incorporates the use of the “Three E’s” in their operations – Education, Enforcement and Engineering. Cal Trans handles the engineering part of things, and are tasked with keeping the roadways themselves in good condition. For CHP officers, education and enforcement are equally applied, says Daughrity, and are equally important.
“For instance, DUI checkpoints have an enforcement sense, but far more education comes out of them,” he says. “If two drinks makes you dangerously close to the limit of being impaired, then it’s worth talking to you rather than having you crash or face the consequences of enforcement action. The goal is not to catch you; the goal is to keep you from doing it. If we can’t keep you from doing it, then the goal is to catch you.”
Daughrity looks forward to the local CHP participating in community events such as the Coarsegold Rodeo, Heritage Days and the Smokey Bear Run, where officers and the public can get to know each other.
“We frequently have a booth at Chukchansi Park for the Grizzlies’ games,” he says. “We traditionally have a very strong turnout for the Susan G. Komen walk, and lots of our people run the torch for the Special Olympics. It’s important to let people see who we are, let them get to know our operation, understand what our goals are, and support our efforts toward traffic safety, keeping people alive and keeping property damage to a minimum.”
Another thing Daughrity will be pushing for is education in the schools, including the extremely impactful program, “Every 15 Minutes.”
“Every 15 Minutes brings awareness to the dangers of drinking and driving,” he says. “A full enactment plays out – a car crash fatality, the loss of a loved one, student interaction and reaction – to deliver a mock issue as real as humanly possible. It’s so real that we brief people ahead of time because it tends to impact them very heavily. If it stops them from doing it, then it’s absolutely worth it.”
In conjunction with the DUI awareness for teens, Daughrity says it’s important to teach them about smart use of the roadways, and not driving while distracted.
“It’s not just about dropping the hammer. There are times we write tickets, but the other part of our job is to prevent things from happening and ultimately save lives. That’s the reason for speed limits – to save lives; for wearing seatbelts – to save lives; for not texting and driving – a big one – and it saves lives.”
As for the career itself, Daughrity says his 21 years with the CHP have been varied and rewarding, noting the many opportunities available for officers, which can include canine narcotic enforcement, commercial vehicle inspection, fixed wing or helicopter operations (pilots and paramedics), patrolling the State Capitol on horseback or bicycle, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), auto theft investigators, computer crimes, and dignitary protection.
“When you see our commercials – fly a plane, ride a bike, ride a horse, work with canines, ride motorcycles – it’s all part of the domestic awareness and security handled by the CHP.”
On the homefront, Daughrity has been married to wife Jodie for 18 years, has two sons, ages 17 and 13, and has lived in Oakhurst since 2002. He doesn’t know if his kids will follow in his footsteps, and says he’s not asking.
“I’m not opposed to them being in law enforcement, I just want them to explore all the possibilities,” he says.
“Police work is taxing. It takes its toll when you’re putting in 20-hour days at times. When you’re working a case like the Mining Museum robbery, you want to go get these guys. It’s on your mind 24 hours a day, and you don’t mind it because it’s your passion. But on the other hand, there’s a wife and kids and other obligations that are expecting that equal share, and you’re not offering it, so law enforcement can be costly.
“Luckily, I’ve been blessed with great career, and a great family that is still intact. So I guess I’ve done an okay job of managing it.”
As for the California Highway Patrol itself and his responsibilities here in Eastern Madera County, Daughrity of very proud of the work they do.
“We are the largest state agency in the nation, the largest traffic agency in the nation, to receive CALEA [Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies] accreditation. That is the highest standard for professional excellence in law enforcement. The professionalism that we try to convey, the level of service that we want to provide is directly reflected in this program.
“What I hope to do in my position here is to keep the public’s confidence in the Highway Patrol high, have their trust, have their faith, and show a professional product through education and enforcement and application of the law.”