Scandal-shrouded CHP figure now Virginia police chief

Former California Highway Patrol Commissioner Mike Brown — a person of interest in several CHP scandals and mysteries — was installed Jan. 16 as police chief in Alexandria, Virginia, an affluent suburb of the nation’s capital.

Brown, 61, resigned the CHP’s top post in February 2008, then worked for a year in the Schwarzenegger administration before taking a transit safety post with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in Washington. He is married to an Alexandria sheriff’s deputy.

Brown quit after the CHP was sharply criticized in state audits for wasteful spending in using executive aircraft and in buying weapons, motorcycles and technology for patrol cars. 

But Brown’s 2008 resignation also came a month after the state personnel board found that former CHP Commissioner Dwight “Spike” Helmick Jr. and four of his top aides had subjected CHP official Hubert “Art” Acevedo to illegal retaliation after — among other issues — Acevedo complained in 2003 and 2004 about the CHP encouraging pension spiking by improperly allowing officers to work past their 60th birthdays. Acevedo eventually received a $995,000 settlement.

While Helmick was a friend and mentor of Brown’s, Brown was not named in the retaliation complaint. He was tapped by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to succeed Helmick in 2004 when Helmick was forced out after the Sacramento Bee broke a bombshell story about “Chief’s Disease” — a pattern of top CHP officials reporting newly discovered work-related injuries just before retiring, sharply spiking their pensions.

Houston police chief: Brown tolerated corruption

In interviews a decade ago, Acevedo — recently installed as the police chief of Houston after nine years as chief in Austin, Texas — called Brown an enabler of a CHP culture in which corruption and corner-cutting was tolerated.

Eye-opening things happened under Brown when he was CHP commissioner.

The criminal investigation of “Chief’s Disease” was impeded by several CHP witnesses whom Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully described as “unable or unwilling” to cooperate in January 2007. Scully dropped her inquiry without filing charges.

In the 2006 gubernatorial race, the campaign staff of Democratic candidate Phil Angelides, the state treasurer, alleged the CHP committed a political dirty trick to keep a cloud over the Angelides campaign and help Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger win re-election.

The flap began in September 2006 after Angelides aides surreptitiously provided audiotapes to the Los Angeles Times that they had found on the governor’s official website in which Schwarzenegger made risque comments about “very hot” Assemblywoman Bonnie Garica, R-Cathedral City. Both the CHP and the Attorney General’s Office began investigating the incident as a possible cybercrime.

The attorney general’s investigators quickly concluded no crime was committed. But CHP didn’t close its investigation until four months after Schwarzenegger won re-election. As the Los Angeles Times reported, the agency faced questions at the time about whether this decision was politically motivated.

In May 2011, it was revealed soon after Schwarzenegger left office that he had fathered a child with a former housekeeper at his Brentwood estate. The Associated Press wrote a story raising the prospect that the CHP detail serving Schwarzenegger had aided him in his hiding his illicit relationship and second family. If the CHP facilitated Schwarzenegger’s extramarital escapades, it’s difficult to come up with a scenario in which Brown was not involved.

This complex, checkered history got little to no coverage from the Washington, D.C., media. The Washington Post’s story about Brown’s hiring concluded with a laudatory quote from Alexandria City Manager Mark B. Jinks: “Chief Brown’s remarkable career has put him at the forefront of neighborhood protection, community policing, traffic safety, strategic planning, and other areas of concern here and around the country.”

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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