The Public Eye

Is the CHP commissioner leaving? He’s a finalist to become UC Davis’ police chief.

California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow talks to members of The Sacramento Bee editorial board on Monday, July 14, 2014.
California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow talks to members of The Sacramento Bee editorial board on Monday, July 14, 2014.

The California Highway Patrol’s top officer is on the short list to become the next UC Davis police chief.

Commissioner Joseph Farrow has led the CHP since 2008 and has not announced plans to retire. He leads the fifth-largest law enforcement department in the country with 11,000 employees and a $2.3 billion budget, according to the resume he submitted to the university.

Farrow is one of three finalists to become the next UC Davis police chief, a department that has 188 employees, only 51 of whom are sworn officers. The department works at the main campus in Davis as well as at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.

Farrow, 61, did not return calls from The Sacramento Bee.

Besides Farrow, the remaining three candidates include Nader Oweis, 47, the police chief at UC Santa Cruz, and Christina Lofthouse, 40, a lieutenant at Sacramento State. Both have previously worked at the UC Davis Police Department.

Farrow’s 30-plus years with the CHP and his age mean he is eligible for a pension from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System equaling 90 percent of his final salary when he leaves the department, said Amy Morgan, a spokeswoman for CalPERS. The exact amount of his annual pension can be calculated once he submits his resignation, she said.

He was paid $245,000 in 2016 as CHP commissioner. His 2016 benefits were not available, but state records show he earned $121,560 in benefits in 2015.

UC Davis is offering a wide salary range for the university police chief – between $98,100 and $260,900 – officials said Thursday. Former Police Chief Matt Carmichael’s salary was $179,621 when he left to take a job as the University of Oregon police chief in August.

If Farrow were to receive 90 percent of his CHP pay, plus salary on par with Carmichael’s at UC Davis, he could get roughly $400,000 a year. Because the University of California has a separate retirement system, Farrow also would be eligible for additional state retirement benefits after five years.

“The retirement system was meant to provide faithful and good public employees with a comfortable retirement, it wasn’t designed to provide them with two sources of revenue,” said Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “This is the kind of thing that has taxpayers scratching their heads.”

The salary for the chief’s job will be determined based on the selected candidate’s qualifications, experience and salary history, according to a university brochure. The salary is augmented by an attractive benefits package, the brochure said.

Because all three candidates live in California, they are ineligible for the relocation allowance – generally 25 percent of their salary to offset higher living costs in their new location.

All three candidates spoke at individual public forums over the last two weeks. After Farrow’s speech on May 25, a question-and-answer session took place.

Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert