Many an adult of today will remember watching the California Highway Patrol officers with some awe as throughout the 80´s CHiPs played a part in their childhood entertainment and, in some cases, education, but when fantasy mixes with reality it becomes an almost surreal experience.
However, that is precisely what has happened for one of the stars of the show, Erik Estrada, who has been sworn in as a police reserve in East Idaho.
Having spent many years on two wheels pretending to be a police officer, 67-year old Erik has described his recruitment as a “dream come true”.
However, don´t be too concerned that Officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello will be riding alongside motorists and pulling them over as Erik has turned his attention to the internet and, in particular, to protecting children from internet predators.
With a population of 3,500 residents, the Mayor of St. Anthony, Neils Thueson, swore Estrada into office in the City Hall, after which “Ponch” spent time with the other serving officers and their families in a “meet and greet” at the local school. It has been little publicised but Estrada has spent the past decade working with various law enforcement departments to try to keep children safe on-line and now wants to be a figurehead in reminding everybody how important it is to teach children what not to do whilst on the web.
Estrada grew up wanting to become a cop thanks to his mother’s friendship with a renowned serving police officer but the acting bug took over in high school.
He promised his mother that if he didn´t make a career out of acting by the time he was 30 then he would return to New York and become a police officer. He landed the role of “Ponch” at the age of 27 and remained in the role until 1983, financially supporting his mother so that she no longer had to work, and she hasn´t since.
Estrada became a Reserve Police Officer in Muncie, Indiana almost immediately after leaving ChiPs and took to working nights so as not to draw attention to himself.
He later became aware of the power and force of the internet and its predators, thus prompting him to find his vocation and subsequently set up a foundation to help protect vulnerable children from internet enticement.