Joe Farrow sounded tired on Monday. Another scandal. Another phone call. Another reporter.
This time the CHP commissioner was taking questions about a Stanislaus County probe that alleges Walter W. Wells committed first-degree murder while he was with the department and charges that officers Scott J. McFarlane and Eduardo Quintanar Jr. were conspirators and accessories.
All three men were friends with two brothers who own a Turlock liquor store known as a popular cop hangout. The brothers, who also have been charged in connection with the death, had ties to a Modesto lawyer accused of being the ringleader of the group, according to police documents.
Farrow started the Monday interview with all the legal caveats: Innocent until proven guilty. Can’t say much about an ongoing investigation.
These guys are supposed to be loyal to the public, to the badge. But it appears they gave their loyalty away to their friends.
CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow
That stated, “These guys are supposed to be loyal to the public, to the badge,” Farrow said with a tinge of bewilderment in his voice. “But it appears they gave their loyalty away to their friends.”
California’s 7,800 Highway Patrol officers answer to Farrow. But when their bad behavior makes news, Farrow has to answer for them. Publicly.
It’s been a rough year for the CHP’s public image. Last summer, an officer was caught on video beating an African American woman on the side of a Southern California freeway. The department settled a lawsuit with the woman for $1.5 million, and Daniel Andrew quit the department.
In October, an officer based in Dublin was charged with two felonies for secretly forwarding nude and semi-nude photos from female arrestees’ phones to himself and colleagues. Sean Harrington pleaded no contest to the charges and received probation. He’s no longer with the Highway Patrol. The officers who received the photos were not charged.
That same month, a CHP sergeant in Fairfield was arrested on suspicion of possessing child pornography. Investigators said Eric Lund used a laptop computer, sometimes while sitting in his CHP cruiser at night, to download and watch the videos. Lund isn’t with the department anymore. His case is pending in Solano Superior Court.
Now the allegations in the Turlock murder of 26-year-old Korey Kauffman have become national news.
The new scandal has worn on Farrow, but he doesn’t expect sympathy. That would be misplaced. Kauffman’s loved ones deserve it, Farrow said in an interview, and he offered them his condolences publicly and privately.
Then Farrow recalled his solitary drive to Modesto last week to address the media. He thought about the 32 CHP officers who died on the job during his 36 years with the department, 11 buried since he became commissioner in 2008.
“And now I had to go tell the whole world what these guys were accused of,” Farrow said. “It’s interesting ... they all wore the same uniform.”