Erik Estrada becomes a real-life police officer
The 'CHiPs' actor is a long way from Southern California.
For six seasons on CHiPs, Erik Estrada portrayed the macho police officer Ponch, who patrolled the highways of California on his motorcycle. Now, he's suiting up to become a police officer again, this time 1,000 miles away from the Pacific Coast Highway.
Estrada was sworn in as a reserve police officer Saturday in the town of St. Anthony, Idaho, home to about 3,500 people. The actor spent the day with his new coworkers and their families, and later visited the local high school to meet with the town's residents.
The newly sworn-in officer plans to work for the department by helping protect children from internet predators. He says education is the key to safety.
"Children should be educated in how to handle a chat room," Estrada said. "Don't give out personal information... Certainly don't ever go meet someone you've been chatting with."
Estrada chose to team up with St. Anthony because they were eager to work with him. The town's mayor, Neils Thuseon, says internet crime still affects smaller communities the same way it affects larger ones.
As a part of the St. Anthony police department, Estrada's first project will be helping to create a database that will be readily available should a child go missing.
"The first 72 hours is a very crucial time to recover a child," Estrada said.
CHiPs may have wrapped more than 30 years ago, but Estrada still takes his role as Ponch to heart. Over the last decade, Estrada has worked with several law enforcement departments to help keep kids safe online.
Thuseon says the whole town is excited to be working with the real-life Ponch. He added, "he's a great guy. He's going to be a great part of the team."