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Nevada County People

Rich Nickell is a California Highway Patrol officer with a mission: He wants to keep drunken drivers off the roads of Nevada County.

Last month, Nickell, 40, received a special award for performing the largest number of drunken driving arrests during the past three years for the CHP office in Grass Valley.

The award for DUI enforcement came from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a nationwide non-profit, and the California Office of Traffic Safety, a state public safety agency.



“It’s very important to keep drunk drivers off the roads,” Nickell said. “I have seen victims of DUI incidents. The troubles they go through, like the accidents or the whole legal process, can be very traumatic for people and their families.”

Nickell often chooses to work night shifts so he can help people in distress, he said.




“A lot of the time, when a car breaks down on a Nevada County highway, people may not be in cell phone range,” Nickell said. “When they see a police officer, they feel more secure.”

In the case of drunken drivers, Nickell arrests them and books them into the Wayne Brown Correctional facility, unless they are involved in an accident and need to be taken to the hospital.

During the past three years, Nickell has arrested 54 people for drunken driving, he said.

Nickell became a CHP officer in 1990, after working as a real estate agent in his native Southern California. He chose to be an officer because he wanted to assist the public, he said.

After working in Southern California and at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, he chose to move to Grass Valley four years ago in search of a rural lifestyle.

“I was looking to live in the country, own a horse property, and I found it very pleasant to live in the Grass Valley community, in the foothills,” Nickell said.

For a hobby, Nickell announces at horse shows. He’s announced numerous horse events in Northern California, and last year, he announced at the national show of the Friends of Sound Horses in Colorado.

To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail ssen@theunion.com or call 477-4229.


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