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By Daniel Lopez
The Herald

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. - Joe Farrow has come a long way from the days he spent in fourth grade on school safety patrol in Pacific Grove.
In February, Farrow, 52, was appointed commissioner of the California Highway Patrol by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger - making his childhood dream a reality.
As the top brass of the CHP, denoted by the five stars he wears on each side of his shirt collar, Farrow leads one of nation's largest law enforcement agencies.
"It's certainly a dream come true, it's an honor and a privilege," he said Monday during a good will tour of Monterey County that concluded a weekend visit to his mother's Peninsula home.
Being in charge of transportation safety in a state where there are some 30 million vehicles on the road has its challenges, Farrow said.
From the Sacramento headquarters, Farrow oversees 11,400 sworn and nonsworn personnel all over the state.
Only the police departments in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and the L.A. County Sheriff's Department have more people.
Farrow admits he has yet to meet many of the people in his agency, but he says one day he hopes to.
"That's what I have to try, I want to meet them all," he says.
As impossible as it might sound, for Farrow that might not be case. He has already proven he can reach his goals, climbing to the top of the CHP as one day he said he would.

Peninsula roots
Raised as an "army brat," Farrow was born in Tokyo where he spent his early childhood until coming to the Peninsula in 1963.
While attending Forest Grove Elementary School in Pacific Grove, he showed signs of leadership.
In fourth grade he was lieutenant on the five-member squad of the school safety patrol.
"We got to meet the Highway Patrol, they were in charge of the program at the time," Farrow recalled. He asked one of the officers if he was the one in charge.
The officer told Farrow he was just a "worker bee" and that the person in charge was the commissioner.
"I was really impressed by that," Farrow said.
Weeks later, he wrote it was his goal to become commissioner of the CHP.
"I didn't really know what the big guy did, I knew it was a title, I knew it was a name. I knew it was something good because of the way the officer reacted to that," Farrow says. "As I got older I just made the decision that that's what I wanted to do."
But after graduating from Pacific Grove High School in 1973, Farrow was unable to join the CHP because of a hiring freeze. So he joined the Pacific Grove Police Department in 1978.
A year later, the hiring freeze over, Farrow applied and was accepted to the CHP.
"I always wanted to come onto the patrol so I made that move," he said, "Pacific Grove taught me a lot of great things but my heart always belonged to the Highway Patrol."

Climbing up the ranks
From cadet to his position now as commissioner, Farrow has held every rank within the CHP.
Most recently, since November 2004, Farrow served as deputy commissioner.
He was called to the top post when his predecessor, Mike Brown, resigned in February under increasing pressure from some state lawmakers who criticized his leadership.
Farrow says he doesn't want the CHP to be perceived as just another state government agency.
"We have to be transparent and we have to bring it down to the local level," he said.
"A lot of people view us sometimes as a state agency disconnected from what goes on within the community. That really is unfair. We do believe we are a part of this community. These are the same officers who are out here every single day." Officers who live, raise their families and shop in this community, Farrow added.
In addition to Farrow's new leadership, CHP officers are adjusting to other changes in their jobs.

Cell phones
Starting July 1, officers began enforcing the state's new hands-free cell phone law.
As of Monday morning 4,070 tickets had been issued to violators of the cell phone law. Of those, 87 have been issued to drivers in the Monterey and Salinas area.
"It is a distraction," Farrow said. "You are holding the phone, you are talking, you are engaged in dialogue, you are not fully concentrated on the road."
Farrow said he believes it will take some time for motorists to catch on and education will be key.
"Most people, they want to comply with the law, they don't want to get a citation, they don't want to hurt anybody."

Motorcycles and the CHP
This past weekend was a busy time for CHP officers around Monterey County as thousands of motorists came to the area for motorcycle racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The CHP reported that a team of motorcycle officers wrote 1,033 citations from Thursday to Sunday during an increased enforcement effort.
Officer Jim Covello, spokesman for the Monterey area office, said the majority of the tickets were handed out to automobile drivers.
Covello said officers were focusing on violations for excessive speed, unsafe lane changes, following too closely and mechanical violations. None of those cited for speeding were driving above 100 mph, Covello said.
"What we ask our officers to do is go out there and enforce the law," Farrow said.
"Most of the people we deal with are very good people ... they are doing everything we want people to do," Farrow said. "But there is this very small percentage that are bad people. They don't play by the rules. They impact your life. They impact my life.
"When our officers go out there they see a violation they don't know if it's you or if it's a bad guy."
Every year CHP officers contact more than 3 million motorists, and Farrow said in most cases it is not for enforcement purposes.
"We do make a lot of stops sometimes (when a) citation is not the answer," Farrow said. "Our officers will take the action they believe is appropriate."
For an agency of its size, Farrow said the number of complaints concerning officer conduct is relatively small.
But during the recent closure of Highway 1 through Big Sur, Farrow said there were a number of complaints.

Difficult situation
But the CHP was in a tough position, Farrow said, having to keep people from returning to their homes for their own safety.
"When your house is down there or you are worried about relatives or pets (and) we become the arm of government that stops you from doing what it is you want to do ..."
"But it's never on the premise that we are trying to hurt somebody or we are just trying to interfere. It's based upon a principle that we are told it's unsafe, that you can't go down there for certain reasons. We become that defense," he said.
Farrow said the highway closure caught many people by surprise.
"I'm sure it disrupted and impacted a lot of people's lives," Farrow said.
Farrow said that after every major event officers review the incident to determine if improvements can be made.
"My officers are very well disciplined and really they understand the emotions," Farrow said. "They understand what's happening but with their best tact and their best diplomacy they have to do what they have been directed to do."

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