BARSTOW The Barstow California Highway Patrol Station has a new captain.

Capt. Merritt Mielke is getting settled into to his new post after arriving on Sept. 1, replacing the retired Capt. Rick Linson, who was captain for less than a year.

A longtime veteran of the CHP, Mielke has worked at a variety of stations and performed numerous job duties since joining the force in 1985.

A native of the Los Angeles area, Mielke said that he joined the CHP because he "wanted to drive fast" and thought that he might ride out his career as traffic officer.

Instead, Mielke changed stations or job positions ten times in assignments that ran the gamut from parade security to border work. The new assignments meant moving his family several times.

"When my kids were in junior high they didn't like it so much," said Mielke. "It's kind of like being in the military."

The late 1990s saw Mielke working at a border inspection station in Calexico performing inspections on an influx of trucks from Mexico after the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Later, Mielke worked in Los Angeles conducting saturation patrols through the California Gang Reduction, Intervention & Prevention Program.

"We stopped everything we could," said Mielke. "Pretty soon there wasn't anyone on the street."

Mielke also commanded a Los Angeles communication center that took in 170,000 calls a day and worked with a special force that provided security for the Rose Bowl.

Even after his experiences, Mielke said that the Barstow Station offers unique challenges.

"We've got a lot of territory to cover with limited resources," said Mielke. "A lot of area and high speeds."

The Barstow Station covers the second largest territory of any CHP station in the state.

Mielke said he is continuously working with staff at the Barstow CHP Station to reduce traffic fatalities by looking at traffic counts during different times of the day to deploy officers appropriately.

Although the Barstow area is less populated than some of his previous posts, Mielke said that there are a lot of municipalities and agencies to work with.

"You've got Fort Irwin, Yermo, the BLM. I look forward to meeting them all."

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