Robert Thompson was named Monday as the new chief of the Laguna Beach Police Department, following a months-long search to replace retiring Chief Laura Farinella.
Thompson comes to Laguna Beach after three and a half years as police chief for Dixon, Calif., a city of more than 20,000 people near Sacramento. Before that he worked for the FBI’s Sacramento field office for 15 years.
“I am excited and humbled by this opportunity and committed to continuing the strong community oriented policing programs in Laguna Beach,” Thompson said in a prepared statement. “I enjoy engaging community leaders, business owners, and citizens while creating an environment of public trust in the police department, and where employees feel connected to the community they serve.”
He’ll become the top cop in Laguna Beach starting Jan. 18.
Thompson will step into the shoes of a historic predecessor. In March 2015, Farinella shattered a glass ceiling as Laguna Beach’s first female police chief and Orange County’s first openly gay police chief. She’s retiring after a 30-year career, which included decades at the Long Beach Police Department.
“Rob’s success at working collaboratively with the community, his colleagues, and the police department really set him apart from other candidates,” City Manager John Pietig said in a prepared statement.
Thompson’s law enforcement career started in 1994 as an officer with the St. Louis Police Department. He joined the FBI after eight years with that department. During his time with the bureau, his duties included working as a Supervisory Special Agent in the Fairfield Resident Agency.
During his time as an agent, Thompson saw the FBI transform into more of an intelligence agency post-9/11, he told The Reporter after becoming Dixon’s police chief in 2017. He missed doing the police work he was most passionate about and was interested in leading a department.
Thompson earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History from Webster University. He also obtained a Master’s degree in Management from Webster. He is a graduate of the FBI Academy, a former instructor at the FBI’s Leadership Program, and has completed numerous post-graduate programs.
Thompson plans to move to Orange County with his wife and two children.
The union that represents local officers, dispatchers, and other police employees welcomed Thompson to Laguna Beach.
“We’re happy a selection has been made, and we’re looking forward to working with Chief Thompson to continue to provide only the best service to our community,” Brian Griep, president of the Laguna Beach Police Employees Association, wrote in a text message. “We’re grateful to Chief Farinella for her direction and leadership over the past six years and we wish her the best of happiness in retirement.”
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