LANCASTER — Capt. Joseph Zagorski has worked in four different counties as a California Highway Patrol officer. The new commander of the Antelope Valley Area CHP station is on his seventh, and likely final, office.
“Once I’m done with my career, this is the place I will stay,” said Zagorski, who lives in Tehachapi with his wife.
Zagorski plans to retire from the CHP in the Antelope Valley. He was promoted to captain and assigned to the Antelope Valley in January.
Many of the officers who work at the AV CHP station also live in the area.
“Everything we do doesn’t just make the streets safe for the general public, but it makes it safe for our family and friends that travel here,” Zagorski said.
The Chicago native was raised in Palm Desert. He joined the US Marine Corps after he graduated from high school in 1990. He joined the CHP in 2004 after a successful career in bank management.
“It wasn’t a meaningful career path, but it was a profitable one,” he said. “It wasn’t a fulfilling career; I wasn’t making an impact.”
He joined the CHP in his 30s. Following graduation from the academy, Zagorski started his career as a field patrol officer in the South Los Angeles. He also worked in the Morongo Basin, Joshua Tree, Indio and Fresno CHP areas. During this time, he worked numerous details and assignments, including being a member of the CHP’s Honor Guard and Special Response Team; assisting K9 teams with training and traffic stops; human and drug trafficking details; combating street racing; gang suppression details; and finally as a public information officer, according to his bio. In 2009 he was awarded the Governor’s Gold Medal of Honor when he, his sergeant and his partner prevented an individual from committing suicide.
He promoted to the rank of sergeant in January 2014 and then the rank of lieutenant in October 2018. The last four years, Zagorski ran the CHP’s street racing enforcement unit for Los Angeles County. Zagorski and his team developed a program that spread throughout the state and into other states.
“It was impactful,” he said. “We saw a humongous evolution in the way things were happening in the street racing community.”
They targeted sideshows and takeovers in particular.
Zagorski is looking forward to restarting the CHP Explorer Program, which fell by the wayside due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is geared toward high school students and young adults ages 15 to 21.
“We want to bring that back because it’s also a good way to get a taste of what law enforcement is, but also get yourself prepared for our academy,” he said. “They learn all the things that an officer’s going to do.”
The program also qualifies students for community service, something most colleges look for, these days.
The CHP needs to hire about 1,000 new officers statewide. Academy graduates can work anywhere in the state at one of the CHP’s 103 offices.
“If you want to go work in Huntington Beach, or if you want to go work in the Sierras, if you want to go work in Northern California, you can to wherever you want in the state,” Zagorski said.
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