Troopers union asks for a new chief

Gov.-elect Inslee will appoint head of the state patrol

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Tacoma -- The union representing Washington State Patrol troopers and sergeants is seeking to oust WSP Chief John Batiste and replace him with Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar.

Union president Tommie Pillow said Friday that he's seeking to meet with Gov.-elect Jay Inslee to lobby for Batiste's removal after eight years as the state's top cop.

Pillow said his membership is unhappy with Batiste, saying the chief is out of touch, not listening to its concerns and unwilling to make contract concessions that don't involve wages and benefits.

"He's got too many layers between him and the boots on the ground, and he doesn't seem to be aware of our issues, so it's frustrating," Pillow said.

He said he told Batiste several weeks ago that the union would not support his staying in the job after Inslee takes office this month.

The Washington State Patrol Troopers Association already has found a successor, endorsing Farrar for the job.

Farrar's name rose to the top because he has recruited 10 troopers to work for Lakewood, and they reported back they "love working for the guy," the union president said.

Pillow described Farrar as more willing than Batiste to listen to the concerns of the rank-and-file and more reasonable in contract negotiations.

"He's the type of guy who would lead from the bottom up," Pillow said.

Farrar, 54, said Friday that the union first contacted him in September 2011, and they've been in contact since then. They last spoke two weeks ago.

Lakewood's police chief said he'd be interested in talking with Inslee about the position if the request is made. Ultimately, he said, the decision would come down to what the new governor wants and whether Farrar believes he would be a good fit.

No one from Inslee's transition team has been in touch with him, he said.

"It's an interesting thought," Farrar said. "The challenge would be awesome, to go in and work with an agency of that size."

Batiste, through a spokesman, declined to say whether he has asked Inslee to reappoint him. Nor would he comment on his management of the agency or his interactions with the union.

"The chief's just not at this point going to do anything that involves discussing future plans," State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said.

Nor is Inslee's team talking about its discussions over appointments.

Inslee gets advice

"For every Cabinet position, many, many interested parties have offered their advice and suggestions," spokesman Sterling Clifford said, "all of which are being taken seriously."

Pillow said he talked with Inslee a month ago, and the governor-elect indicated he would like to sit down and discuss the union's concerns.

"I'm assuming it's just a matter of time," the union president said of that meeting.

Pillow said he understood the union's position alone won't make the decision for Inslee, but said he hopes it's taken into consideration.

The union represents about 1,000 WSP troopers and sergeants.

Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed Batiste, then a 28-year veteran of the State Patrol, in February 2005, a month after she assumed office.

The State Patrol has more than 2,400 employees and a two-year budget of roughly $500 million. The Lakewood Police Department has about 100 commissioned officers and a two-year budget of about $38 million

Farrar's profile has risen since he became police chief in February 2008. He had earlier served as Lakewood's assistant chief and had worked with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department for 16 years before that.

He led the department through its darkest days, following the murder of four police officers at a coffee shop in November 2009.

In 2010, Farrar was diagnosed and treated for bladder cancer and was on sick leave for four months. Farrar said the cancer is gone and that he's in good health.