TV star Erik Estrada to visit St. Anthony

June 16, 2016 GMT

ST. ANTHONY — Under the rocket’s red glare, the upcoming 4th of July weekend will usher in a famous Hollywood star.

During the holiday weekend, the St. Anthony Police Department plans to swear into its reserve ranks famous television star Erik Estrada. He is known for playing a California highway patrolman in the 1970-1980s show “CHiPs.”

St. Anthony Police Chief Terry Harris will swear Estrada in as a St. Anthony reserve police officer at 11 a.m. July 2 at St. Anthony City Hall. That will be followed by a Meet and Greet with area residents. The next day, Fremont County Sheriff’s officials also plan a Meet and Greet from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Sheriff’s Office. During each get together, Estrada plans to sign autographs and take pictures with fans.

Estrada is here to raise awareness of and to join forces with the city’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC).

According to Harris, Estrada has created a foundation where he works with small town police departments in various child safety programs.

“He’s playing off his role to help other police departments. He actually has ties to law enforcement,” Harris said. “He partners with some computer programers that have something to do with assisting parents and keeping their kids safe.”

According to Estrada’s bio, he routinely works with the Safe Surfin’ Foundation aimed at protecting children against sexual predators on the internet.

Harris learned about Estrada’s organization via a mass email he received last month.

“It said Estrada was looking for a small police department in Idaho to partner with and to help that department raise funds for training and to help promote their child safety program,” he said.

Having served in law enforcement for many years, Harris was immediately suspicious of the email, thinking it was a huge hoax. Harris later did some research.

“I was skeptical, but the more I looked into it, the more it looked great,” he said.

Harris verified that the email he received was legitimate. Shortly afterward, he answered the email.

“When I see opportunity, I take it,” he said.

About 20 minutes later, Estrada’s organization answered Harris.

Plans call for Estrada to be in St. Anthony from July 1 through July 4. During that time, he will ride with St. Anthony police officers and along the way will meet with St. Anthony residents.

According to Estrada’s biography, he grew up in a single-parent home in Spanish Harlem. Thanks to the influence of a family friend, he once considered becoming a New York Police officer. After he landed the lead role in his high school’s play, he got into acting. From 1977 to 1983, Estrada played the role of California Highway Police officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello in “CHiPs” that ran from 1977 to 1983.

While continuing with acting, Estrada parlayed his success into creating several charities that include the Safe Surfin’ Foundation and the CHP 11-99 Foundation that provides scholarships to California Highway Patrol family members.

While Estrada is in St. Anthony, officials plan a fundraiser, the money from which will go toward funding various St. Anthony police department programs. Harris wasn’t sure what the fundraiser entailed.

“It sounded like they have some big partners that are going to help them,” Harris said. “I’m leaving all of the fundraising up to them.”

Any money raised would stay local, Harris said.

“I would use it to send my officers to mandatory training that we have to take every year. It would help fund that,” he said.