Bernard R. Caldwell; Credited With Modernizing the CHP

Bernard R. Caldwell, a former Los Angeles police traffic director credited with modernizing the California Highway Patrol during his six years as its chief, has died. He was 93.

Caldwell, who died Friday in San Diego, was appointed CHP commissioner by then-Gov. Earl Warren in 1953 and served until 1959. Under his tenure, the department grew from 800 officers to 2,600, more than doubled its vehicle fleet and built its training academy in Sacramento.

At the time of Caldwell’s appointment, about 600 friends and civic leaders attended a testimonial dinner in honor of his 28 years with the Los Angeles Police Department. The National Safety Council and 13 other organizations presented citations for his work as head of the Los Angeles Police Traffic Bureau.

Caldwell was born in Calico Rock, Ark., on Dec. 3, 1900, and came to California in 1920 to attend Santa Ana Junior College. He joined the Los Angeles Police Department in 1926 and rose to captain in charge of traffic bureaus in 1933.


Caldwell attended Northwestern University’s Traffic Institute for a year in 1937 to study new methods of traffic policing. In 1940, he was appointed deputy chief of the LAPD and director of traffic. His staff developed staffing and equipment standards, training curricula, planning and statistical bureaus, an operations policy and criteria for selecting officers.

After retiring from the CHP in 1959, Caldwell served as the director of Northwestern University’s Traffic Institute from 1960 to 1966.

He is survived by his wife, Wanda.