2014 Winner: Commissioner Joseph Farrow

Kathryn J.R. Swanson Public Service Award
Commissioner Joseph Farrow

Throughout Commissioner Joseph A. Farrow’s 35-year career with the California Highway Patrol (CHP), he has dedicated his life to the improvement of highway safety.

His service actually began as the safety coordinator for his elementary school, where he was responsible for safely escorting students across the street. In 1977, he joined the Pacific Grove, California Police Department, and soon became the department’s only traffic safety motor officer. Two years later, he moved to the CHP to be a part of an organization devoted to traffic safety. During his tenure at CHP, he has held every rank from cadet to Commissioner.

As Commissioner of the largest state law enforcement agency in the nation, he commands more than 11,000 uniformed and non-uniformed employees and is responsible for an annual budget of $1.9 billion.

Under Commissioner Farrow’s leadership, the State of California has experienced the lowest level of traffic-related fatalities since the federal government has recorded such data. The reduction in fatalities of almost 12 percent from unrestrained passengers, alcohol impairment, and speeding is credited not only to advancements in vehicle safety, but also to the aggressive enforcement and traffic safety education programs by the CHP.

In 2010, due to Commissioner Farrow’s strong commitment to excellence, the CHP became the largest law enforcement agency in the world to receive accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies, and in 2011, California achieved a 96.6 percent seat belt compliance rate. This commitment to traffic safety resulted in the only “A+” rating for compliance ever presented by the National Safety Council.

Commissioner Farrow’s active involvement in highway safety reaches beyond California’s borders to the national level. He is an active member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), serving on numerous committees, sub-committees and working groups, and as chair of the IACP Highway Safety Committee. He is also co-chair of the executive leadership group of the Federal Highway Safety Administration’s Traffic Incident Management program and chair of the executive leadership group of National Motor Vehicle Titling Information Systems and is a member of many other working groups dedicated to improving highway safety.

Commissioner Farrow has been recognized with numerous awards, including the IACP’s J. Stannard Baker Award, GHSA’s Peter K. O’Rourke Special Achievement Award, and the Martha Irwin Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

Commissioner Farrow began his CHP career patrolling the highways for the San Diego Area office. Throughout his lengthy career with the agency, he served as the program coordinator for 27 statewide departmental safety programs, including the Department Corridor Safety program, the Drug Recognition Evaluation program and the Drug Interdiction program, as well as programs for child safety seat technicians, older drivers and teenagers; oversaw the California Motorcyclist Safety Program, reducing motorcycle related fatalities by 53 percent and motorcycle-related injury collisions by 59 percent; commanded CHP’s Hayward Area office, experiencing a 50 percent reduction in the number of fatal traffic collisions and achieving the highest level of seat belt enforcement; and served as the departmental liaison with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the Transportation Research Board, and the IACP.

While serving as Deputy Commissioner, he established the California Law Enforcement Challenge to encourage all California law enforcement agencies to focus on reducing impaired driving, speeding, and seat belt related fatal and injury traffic collisions, while improving traffic safety. Today, California is one of only 10 states to hold a state-level competition.

Commissioner Farrow has outlined his expectations to all departmental employees through a vision statement to empower and hold each employee accountable for improving highway safety. He believes it is the Department’s responsibility to look internally to better utilize its resources to meet the needs of the people of California.

Commissioner Farrow has said that a position of command does not define one’s leadership abilities; it reveals them. Over the past 35 years, he has revealed his leadership at the local, state and national level – and our nation’s roadways are safer for it.