After nearly 27 years in Lakewood, Police Chief Bret Farrar is moving on.
He announced his retirement Tuesday, a day after notifying the department that his last day will be April 6.
“Without a doubt, it has been a long, eventful and amazing ride, and while I’m sad to see it all end, I also know that the time has come to focus on my family and all the things we’ve been dreaming about doing for so many years,” Farrar, 57, wrote in his email to the department.
His last duty as chief will be carrying in the American flag for the Seattle Mariners opening game in honor of Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Greg Richards, who were gunned down Nov. 29, 2009, in a Parkland coffee shop as they were preparing for their shifts.
“I thought that’d be a fitting way to go out,” Farrar said Tuesday in an interview with The News Tribune.
The chief said personal challenges played a role in his decision to retire.
His father died last month, he had open heart surgery in August, his sister died in 2012, he overcame bladder cancer in 2010, and his wife still struggles with breast cancer.
Farrar said it’s time to focus on family, and the Police Department is in a position to flourish under new leadership.
City Manager John Caulfield said a plan had not yet been made for filling the position in the interim or to recruit a new chief long-term.
“I just have a lot of respect and admiration for Chief Farrar and what he’s accomplished in a long and distinguished law enforcement career, and particularly what he’s done for the Lakewood community,” Caulfield said.
“Lakewood today is a much safer city because of his efforts.”
Farrar started his law enforcement career in 1988 as a Pierce County sheriff’s deputy and transferred to the Lakewood Police Department shortly after it formed in 2004. He was named chief in 2008.
“Bret was able to come in and provide stability and consistency to establish a police department,” Assistant Chief Mike Zaro. “He gave us focus and direction and got us looking at the mission instead of just enforcing laws.”
Those who work for Farrar praised his sense of humor, compassion and positivity.
They were touched when he took the time last year to meet with all 100 or so commissioned officers at the time of their evaluation to tell them how much he appreciates their work.
After four officers were slain, he brought the entire police force with him onto the steps of police headquarters the first time he made a public address. He was first in line the morning the coffee shop reopened where the officers had been killed.
The Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs named Farrar law enforcement administrator of the year in 2011 for the first-time award because of how well he led the department through its darkest days.
In 2010, when he and his wife, Cindy Salazar, were diagnosed with different kinds of cancer, Farrar never lost his cheery demeanor and was back at work within four months.
His reputation as a leader led the union representing Washington State Patrol troopers to ask Gov.-elect Jay Inslee in in January 2013 to unseat their chief and move Farrar into the position.
Fae Crabill, 71, first met Farrar two decades ago when he responded to her meat shop after it was burglarized. She remembers him pulling a “big gun” and clearing the business before she could go inside.
Now, she’s listed in the chief’s cellphone as “Mom 1,” and he became an ordained minister online so he could officiate when Crabill and her husband renewed their vows on their 50th wedding anniversary two years ago.
Since the couple chose not to exchange rings at the second ceremony, Farrar snapped them into handcuffs to replace the lack of jewelry.
“He cares so much about people, and the people of Lakewood are going to miss him,” Crabill said. “He really and truly became part of Lakewood. He is for the community and for the people.”
Farrar said he’s proud of the training his officers underwent over the years, which he believes made them among the best in the state.
The chief sent his force to verbal judo classes so they could learn how to verbally de-escalate situations on call. Officers also undergo Dale Carnegie courses that teach them salesmanship tactics and how to influence people.
“I have really enjoyed the entire experience,” he said. “Being a chief is awesome and the easiest job I’ve ever had.
“The hard job is the one the officers are doing out there at 3 in the morning with things going on and making the right decisions and having to live with it.”
For now, Farrar’s plans for retirement include traveling and house hunting for a second home somewhere in Arizona where he and his wife can shake off the chill of the Pacific Northwest.