Remembering former Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar: A photojournalist's look back

By: Terry Griffin

Updated:

EDITOR"S NOTE: Terry Griffin, who has been a KIRO 7 photojournalist since May 1987, was a longtime friend of former Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar. Terry wrote this after getting the news of Farrar's death Wednesday at age 59.

My caller ID this morning said "Bret Farrar: Lakewood Police Chief (retired)."

It was a phone call that I knew would come one day, but still wasn't fully expecting, and when I answered, instead of hearing Bret's usual greeting of "Dude! What's up?" 

I heard his wife Cindy's voice quietly speak my name ... and I knew ...

Bret was far, far more than the retired police chief, not only to me, but to the community, to the men and women of LPD, but mostly to Cindy and their daughter Sam. 

Bret was a husband, father, friend, mentor, co-conspirator, vacation buddy, travel partner, neighbor, boss ... survivor.

My own relationship with Bret started three decades ago when he was a beat cop working the Puyallup fairgrounds and I was brand new behind a TV camera.

I will never forget the day I met him. I saw this bear of a man, looming large over the crowd, walking confidently along the midway at the fair, and I just knew ... immediately ... that if things were to ever go sideways, I wanted him to be around when they did.

Little did I know then how many times we would be together as friends when things would, in fact, go sideways, or how we would each find ways to support one other during those times, or how much his death would hit me, even knowing one day it would come.

I believe that some people are just meant to be friends. Cindy told me on the phone this morning that "when good guys meet, they just recognize one another". 

But to say that Bret was only just a good guy is to vastly understate the man, his deep love of family, community, and humanity.

Bret was not just a good guy. 

Bret was the best of guys. 

Bret was a giant among giants with an uncanny ability to be as gentle, kind, giving, and self depreciating to the point of being seen as shy or even reserved.

He never wanted praise or adulation for things he did, rather he looked for ways to praise and highlight the accomplishments of others. His successes were in the recognition and complete dedication of those around him. 

Bret was the kind of man people would choose to follow, not because they had to, but because he was in front of them. 

He never asked anyone to do something he was unwilling to do himself. He was that kind of guy at work, in the community, and with his close friends. He commanded respect through his own actions and example. He led quietly, but visibly, by doing, and showing, how to do things the right way.

There are far too many anecdotal stories I could recall about Deputy, Sargent, Lieutenant, Assistant Chief, and Chief Farrar. The litany of his professional accomplishments, trials, and tribulations can easily be found searching on Google.

The personal stories I will hold on my heart are those that show him as my friend. 

The man who I met for coffee before work religiously once a month. 

The man who, along with Cindy, went through cancer and chemotherapy at the same time as my wife Becky. 

The man who trusted me to take his only teen-aged daughter Sam with me on a day long ride along ... managing to only call 5 or 6 times to make sure she was ok and not causing me any trouble.

I will forever remember the man who held my personal friendship in highest regard, despite the sometimes opposing professional directions our careers sometimes took us. 

Bret cared more about the people in his life than the positions they held or the perceptions of outsiders.

I will forever remember his full bodied, two armed, wrap around bear hug, and a briefly shared private moment of personal grief the first time we saw each other in the hours immediately after the death of four of his own officers. 

I will never forget seeing him standing alone in the shadows next to four coffins draped with American flags and knowing his thoughts, even from a distance. 

I will forever remember enjoying his sense of humor and kindness in the darkest of so many hours and places.

One story I will tell about Bret from work comes from a time in Lakewood when he was still a sargent. 

We were at a SWAT standoff that lasted hours and hours. 

It was hot. 

People were displaced from their apartments. 

It was a long day for everyone involved.

One of the apartment residents that was displaced was a special needs man that Bret knew as a bag boy from the town center Safeway. 

He sat alone on the curb outside the crime tape waiting to go home. He was visibly upset because his own fragile routine had been interrupted.

I will never forget seeing Bret walking around outside the crime tape with a giant bag of cheeseburgers and fries he purchased with his own money from McDonalds. He was giving the food to the people stuck outside their homes. 

What I distinctly remember about his interaction with the special needs boy was the giant hug Bret received from the boy after giving him a burger and fries. 

It was a real, honest, and heartfelt thanks given for going above and beyond the call of duty.

That was the Bret I knew and loved.

Always going above and beyond the call in real, honest, and heartfelt ways. 

I will deeply miss my friend. Everyday. 

Those of us he has left behind are now honor bound by his friendship to fulfill his duty, take over his watch, and carry on where he has left off.

Rest now in peace my friend, and may we keep your memory eternal.

Bret Farrar 

End of Watch

9/13/2017

 
 
 
 

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