California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Darren Meyer engaging with the community.  Photos courtesy of the San Gorgonio Pass California Highway Patrol

Last week, the San Gorgonio Pass California Highway Patrol (CHP) office announced the retirement of Darren Meyer, the agency’s public information officer (PIO). Idyllwild and its surrounding communities benefited from Meyer’s nine-year tenure. 

Meyer spent time in Idyllwild and served the community by providing information during recent fires, engaging with the community during National Night Out, attending Caltrans community meetings, engaging with the students at Idyllwild School by teaching classes such as Impact Teen Driver and Say No To Drugs, attending Coffee with a Cop, participating in programs at Camp Ronald McDonald and by taking weekly (at least) calls from your Town Crier for the traffic collision report.

“Officer Meyer has helped the San Gorgonio Pass CHP establish itself as one of Riverside County’s premier law enforcement agencies through public outreach and media relations,” said CHP Commander Mike Alvarez. “Officer Meyer has spent the last nine years as our spokesperson, ensuring the relationships we have with our community members and media partners are built on trust, transparency and collaboration.” 

The PIO provides information to the public and the media, as well as educates the public about traffic and safety through the department’s outreach programs and represents the organization at community events across the region.

Meyer never really considered applying for the PIO position. 

“In 2011, the area commander personally asked me to step into the position,” Meyer wrote in an email to the newspaper. “I was reluctant at first, but accepted the challenge and soon realized that I enjoyed the role.”

Meyer spent 22 years in law enforcement with the CHP. Prior to his career with the CHP, Meyer spent nine years as a firefighter with the San Diego County Fire Department. 

How did he transition from firefighter to law enforcement officer?  

“I changed careers in 1998 because I wanted to fly airplanes for the CHP,” Meyer wrote. “I obtained my commercial pilot license, but the dream to fly for the CHP never came to fruition.” 

When asked why he chose the CHP over sheriff or a city police department Meyer said, “I admired the CHP officers and only applied with one agency, the CHP.” Meyer worked closely with the CHP when he was a firefighter.  

“Saying goodbye to such an instrumental person for our office will not be easy, but Officer Meyer has excelled in his position and it is time for him to enjoy retirement,” said Alvarez.

“I will miss the people here at the San Gorgonio Pass CHP office,” wrote Meyer. “I have made many friendships over the last 22 years.”  

When asked what Meyer felt is the most important thing drivers can do he wrote: “If I could wave a magic wand and change one unsafe driving habit … It would be speed. The majority of collisions could be avoided if people would just slow down. Obey the posted speed limits and, in inclement weather, reduce speed even more.”

Meyer’s last day with the CHP is Jan. 1, 2020 and his replacement has already been named. Officer Matt Napier, who has served with the CHP for four and a half years, will take over the role of PIO. Although Napier does not have a background in media, he started to express an interest in taking over the position about a year ago.  

“I became interested in the PIO position around December 2018 when I learned of Officer Meyer’s retirement,” wrote Napier in an email. “For about a year, I have followed Officer Meyer to events and partnered with Captain Mike Alvarez to make a few public safety announcements and short films for the office. So when it was time to interview for the position, I had a fairly respectable understanding of the job.” 

Prior to taking on the role of PIO, Napier spent about a year on road patrol in San Gorgonio. Before that, he spent a year at the Riverside CHP office and two years at the San Jose office.