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New Head of CHP Is Named

The governor picks Michael L. Brown, the agency's Southern California chief.

September 16, 2004|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

Michael L. Brown, a veteran California Highway Patrol chief who most recently ran field operations for Southern California, was tapped by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday to head the 7,000-officer agency.

Brown, who assumes office at midnight, replaces D.O. "Spike" Helmick, who retired after serving three governors during a nine-year tenure as head of the third largest law enforcement agency in California after the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, with 8,000 deputies, and the Los Angeles Police Department, with 9,100 officers.

"Mike is a highly respected law enforcement officer with the vision to lead one of the most prestigious law enforcement organizations in the world," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

As head of the CHP's Southern California division since 2000, Brown was responsible for 1,700 employees and a $118-million annual budget.

If his appointment is approved by the state Senate, Brown will oversee nearly 11,000 patrol and support employees and a $1.2-billion budget.

Brown, of Santa Clarita, said he would report to the governor within 45 days on all practices, policies and procedures of the CHP.

He said one of the issues facing the CHP is a reported high rate of medical disabilities among the department's chiefs, as highlighted in recent articles by the Sacramento Bee.

According to the Bee, nearly 70% of CHP officers retire on disability and workplace injury claim payouts that cost taxpayers $75 million annually.

"It's a big concern of ours, it's embarrassing and portrays our department in a bad light," Brown said, adding that if the allegations were true, laws and policies would have to be changed.

The 27-year veteran inherits an organization that has evolved from one largely dedicated to enforcing traffic laws on state roads to one that also plays a role in state security.

In the 1990s, the CHP was given expanded responsibilities that included security for state buildings and statewide investigations into auto thefts.

And since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the agency has been coordinating statewide homeland security that includes protection of the state's electric power grid, aqueducts and major bridges.

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