CHP scandal part of a long, messy pattern

CHPThe alleged involvement of three California Highway Patrol officers in a Turlock murder is only the latest scandal for an agency that has been faced a variety of embarrassments for decades. A former CHP whistleblower — Austin, Texas, Police Chief Art Acevedo — blames the pattern on a good-old-boy culture of tolerating internal misconduct until it reaches extremes that can no longer be tolerated or kept hidden from outside view.

The present CHP commissioner is Joseph A. Farrow, who has been with the CHP since 1979 and was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2008 to succeed his boss, Mike Brown, after a series of scandals. In 2007, then-Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, R-Cathedral City, accused Brown of tolerating a sordid atmosphere at CHP’s Inland division, including looking the other way when a senior CHP leader seduced a subordinate whose husband was deployed overseas. Garcia said Brown acted to oust two CHP leaders in her district for their gross unprofessionalism only after he was told that she and then-state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, were going to Schwarzenegger to complain.

Whom did Brown appoint to shape up the troubled Inland division? Tim Clark, a CHP senior officer who had already been implicated in a scandal of his own related to close ties between senior CHP officials and vendors. This is from a Sacramento Bee story in December 2006:

All told, the state spent nearly $50 million on the new equipment, effectively excluding competition from other brands. As a result, California’s sky and highways today are branded: Eurocopters monitor its cities and landmarks from above, while BMW motorcycles patrol below.


As the CHP assembled those fleets, its bosses accepted hospitality from the companies, including visits to the companies’ European headquarters, dinner at an upscale Sacramento restaurant and a party at the home of a company lobbyist that featured a flyover by a CHP helicopter, the investigation found.


Commissioner Dwight “Spike” Helmick, the CHP’s top boss at the time, even got a jacket from BMW the same month the department awarded a contract to a BMW dealership.

Mass pension-spiking tolerated at highest level

Helmick, who was CHP commissioner from 1995 to 2004, is central to the criticism of the CHP over its internal culture. He and his proteges were the key figures in the biggest CHP scandal of this century. The Bee broke the story in 2004. Here’s the AP summary:

SACRAMENTO – Fifty-five of the 65 high-ranking officers who retired from the California Highway Patrol since 2000 filed workers’ compensation claims within two years, entitling them to lucrative disability settlements and medical pensions with tax-free income.


The practice is so widespread among the roughly 150 CHP chiefs and captains that rank-and-file officers have dubbed it “chief’s disease,” boosting costs in a department that pays the highest rate in state government for injuries and medical pensions.

The payments are in addition to routine pension benefits that let CHP officers retire at age 50 with up to 90 percent of their pay.

Nearly 70 percent of CHP officers retire on disability, and the department pays among the highest percentage of workplace injury claims, The Sacramento Bee found. The combination cost taxpayers $75 million two years ago.

“It turns out we need to be policing the police,” said state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Daly City, chairwoman of the Select Committee on Government Oversight.

CHP Commissioner D.O. Helmick, who is being nudged into retirement next week by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, has asked the Public Employees’ Retirement System to determine if he, too, should be granted a disability pension because of injuries from vehicle accidents in the 1970s and 1980s, said spokesman Tom Marshall.

CHP officials ‘unable or unwilling’ to cooperate in 2007 probe

Acevedo, the well-regarded Austin police chief since 2007, won a $995,000 judgment from the CHP and the state after establishing that he had been subject to egregious retaliation by top CHP officials for objecting to the pension spiking. The California State Personnel Board concluded that he had made a persuasive case of mass perjury among top CHP officials.

But a criminal investigation by Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully was stymied. In 2007, her office said top CHP officials were “unable or unwilling” to testify about details related to the mass pension spiking.

I interviewed Acevedo on a number of occasions. He said Helmick and his predecessor, Maurice Hannigan, encouraged a macho, secretive culture in which leaders and rank-and-file officers alike believed it was OK to look the other way when wrongdoing occurred.

Hannigan was notorious for punishing CHP officers who arrested or cited his daughters for driving offenses, including suspicion of DUI.


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  1. desmond
    desmond 19 August, 2015, 20:00

    Gee, are the police forces in California thick with corruption? The ChP jerks. I won t shed a tear for them or their families as justice is dealt. Put them in 1930’s Germany and the goose steps, and Furnaces would be ably manned by CHP. F You CHP.

    Reply this comment
  2. Charles Sainte Claire
    Charles Sainte Claire 20 August, 2015, 08:15

    Every CHP officer I have ever known has been a person of integrity. As a retired employee of Caltrans I worked with and depended on them. I consider your article a cheap shot at the 99%plus. Many journalists are simply where’s.

    Reply this comment
    • Charles Sainte Claire
      Charles Sainte Claire 20 August, 2015, 09:45


      Reply this comment
      • Rex the Wonder Dog!
        Rex the Wonder Dog! 20 August, 2015, 10:23

        Charles Sainte Claire you’re the biggest wingnut left wing lunatic there is, you are a trough feeding low life who is PAID to write opposition pieces to anything that will derail your SCAM.

        Well, the end is near trough feeder, so deal with it.

        BTW, we see YOU have one of those $100K pensions yourself, after a paltry 38 years of employment, meaning you worked for LESS than the 43-47 years the average SS retiree works, yet collect more than THREE TIMES (300%) AS MUCH!

        Reply this comment
        • Charles Sainte Claire
          Charles Sainte Claire 20 August, 2015, 12:53

          Where is my pay? I could use it, Mr. Dog.

          Reply this comment
          • Charles Sainte Claire
            Charles Sainte Claire 20 August, 2015, 12:57

            I don’t make $100000 per year. In fact after 39.6 years I collect 81%.

          • Rex the Wonder Dog!
            Rex the Wonder Dog! 20 August, 2015, 22:06

            You are getting a $95K per year pension for only working 38 years, of which you contributed maybe 5%-10%, if that.

            The AVERAGE per capita income in CA for actual WORKING private sector employees is only $29K…put that in your trough feeder pipe and take a few hits, and don’t let the door hit your chair shaped butt on your way to the trough….

    • Inzidious
      Inzidious 28 August, 2015, 14:41

      Wow. An ex public sector employee with a likely phatty 80k+ pension for moving a few levers up and down for 20 years is defending the status quo? Shocking.

      Reply this comment
  3. Charles Sainte Claire
    Charles Sainte Claire 20 August, 2015, 13:01

    A coward like you won’t use his actual name.

    Reply this comment
  4. Charles Sainte Claire
    Charles Sainte Claire 20 August, 2015, 13:11

    I am proud of standing up for California’s finest. They had my back as I did theirs. I am not paid, and cannot be bought. Pat Riley and Linda and Scooter and his sister (sorry honey bunny I drew a blank) are fine people. You are nothing.

    Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonder Dog!
      Rex the Wonder Dog! 20 August, 2015, 22:11

      The ONLY thing you stand up for is a handout for your trough feeding scams…like your GED Wonders over at the CHP, one of the biggest LE jokes in the state, AAA with guns.

      Want more slap downs chump, no problem!

      Reply this comment
      • SeeSaw
        SeeSaw 21 August, 2015, 20:12

        You must see a therapist Rex. The anger that you could not get a public-sector job has been building to a point that jealously is eating its way to your bones. Save yourself!!

        Reply this comment
      • Charles Sainte Claire
        Charles Sainte Claire 22 August, 2015, 01:13

        I don’t have a GED. I do have a California Registration as a Civil Engineer. Look it up.

        Reply this comment
    • Ulysses Uhaul
      Ulysses Uhaul 21 August, 2015, 13:20


      Relax….Poodle gets despondent at his pretzel saltbox station at Big Betty’s truck stop in Phelan, Calif., a doomer oasis in the barren high desert.

      He overeacts when he learns new derogertory words from his skinhead customers for some odd reason.

      Reply this comment
      • Charles Sainte Claire
        Charles Sainte Claire 22 August, 2015, 01:19

        Phelan is not such a bad place. Although they didn’t have enough guts to name their High School Phelan High. The named it Serrano High instead. Perhaps a double entendre. Serrano means “High”.

        Reply this comment
  5. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 20 August, 2015, 17:39

    Poodle has been taken to the wood shed….poor lad!

    Reply this comment
  6. Charles Sainte Claire
    Charles Sainte Claire 22 August, 2015, 01:29

    I keep telling myself to ignore the poodle. I will try to take my own advice. He just likes to blow people’s dresses up. My response from now on to him is “Troll! “

    Reply this comment
    • ULysess Uhaul
      ULysess Uhaul 22 August, 2015, 08:27


      Never hold back. Your fair and balanced. Poodle, Donkey and Desi have deep seated problems with civil authority and people center political leadership. So sad. Government is the last line of defense against goose steppers and the Visigoths….

      Reply this comment
      • Charles Sainte Claire
        Charles Sainte Claire 22 August, 2015, 10:43

        Poodle has no idea what engineers or any other public employees do. I have worked 7/12s for three months straight twice to open a State Highway. And stood for twelve hours straight in the ground in sleet and hail and wind and snow making motorists put their snow chains on so they don’t kill themselves or someone else. I have had desk jobs but never liked them. Poodle is a Troll.

        Reply this comment
  7. desmond
    desmond 22 August, 2015, 16:20

    Another member of People’s Republic of California who would have cheerfully guarded the unwanted at Bergen-Belsen to get his pension. You missed your calling, your socialist piece of feces.

    Reply this comment
    • SeeSaw
      SeeSaw 22 August, 2015, 21:23

      You are even sicker than RWD!! Where do you come off!! Instead of having proper debate about a proper subject, you choose to accuse public-sector workers of being Nazi-like. You better look in the mirror, because you will see the real hater in that reflection! Shameful!

      Reply this comment
  8. desmond
    desmond 23 August, 2015, 05:47

    Fraulein, I will let you defend the corrupt immoral CHP. How are the those Wall Street bankers(code for you know)?

    Reply this comment
  9. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 23 August, 2015, 11:38

    Charlie and Saw,

    You’re too good of people to discourse with Desi. Shun him. He is very disturbed and trying to find a torture chamber at CWD. So unfortunate… this great site attracts immature/stunted posters in their skivvies in their mom’s basement apartments!

    Reply this comment
  10. thebronze
    thebronze 28 May, 2019, 14:19

    Art Acevedo wasn’t a “whistle-blower” he was/is a serial sexual harasser and full-time political whore.

    He’s a POS unbefitting of a badge, which was why he was run out of the CHP.

    Reply this comment

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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