Laura Farinella, a top Long Beach police commander and longtime Orange County resident, was named to lead the Laguna Beach police department this week.
She will become the city’s first female chief of police.
Farinella, 50, starts on the job March 16 and succeeds Chief Paul Workman, who announced plans to retire last August. Workman, 60, spent five years in the department’s top job and a 38-year police career devoted solely to Laguna’s 24,000 residents. His last day was Friday, Feb. 6. Captain Darin Lenyi, one of the department’s two most senior commanders who also applied for the top job, will act as interim chief.
“I’m looking forward to a police and community partnership; you’re never going to replace the cop on the street and Laguna allows that,” said Farinella, who wants to establish advisory groups with bicyclists, youth, artists, merchants and hoteliers. “You’ll see me in the community,” she promised.
Establishing such alliances gives citizens a direct pipeline to the department when issues arise, said Farinella, noting that Long Beach shares similar policing issues with Laguna, including bar crowds, property crimes and influxes of weekend tourists.
“Laura’s success at community outreach and working collaboratively with department personnel and the community really set her apart from other candidates,” City Manager John Pietig said in a statement.
Farinella’s assignments in her 25 years in the Long Beach department have included the gang division, field training, internal affairs sergeant and chief of staff to previous Long Beach Chief Jim McDonnell, who was elected Los Angeles County Sheriff in November. Her promotion was the first for a female deputy chief of police in the department’s 107-year history, the Press Telegram reported.
She credits her edge as a candidate to her former boss, who provided a training ground for commanders by shifting their assignments every two or three years to diversify their careers. “Diversity is positive in any management,” she said, referring to both her gender and the breadth of her professional experiences. She also figures she’s the 14th commander to leave the Long Beach department in a decade to become a chief of another agency. Ex-Long Beach brass now lead police forces in Oceanside, Carlsbad, Newport Beach, Seal Beach, Modesto and Folsom, she said.
Since living in the county since college, Farinella already feels at home in Laguna. “It’s built into our family,” she said, describing visits to the art festivals, Main Beach and local restaurants.
Laguna’s police chief earns $192,700, matching the pay of the fire chief and the assistant city manager. The chief supervises 47 sworn officers and 40 civilians, including the animal services division. The department’s $14.6 million budget comprises 21 percent of the city’s total $72.2 million budget in 2014, city budget documents show.
Farinella earned $178,569 as one of three top deputies for the department in Long Beach, a city of 462,000 people, according to the city’s 2014 budget. The force currently includes 803 sworn officers and 407 civilians, department spokeswoman Cynthia Arrona said. The department’s $213 million budget included special funding last year for gang enforcement, surveillance cameras, recruiting 40 new officers and keeping emergency response times to under five minutes. Its officers responded to 650,000 calls for a service in 2013.
Farinella holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Chapman University, and a master’s degree in emergency services administration from California State University at Long Beach. She is a graduate of the FBI’s National Academy.
Farinella, who married her 25-year domestic partner Dawn Collinske in 2009, lives in Rancho Santa Margarita. The couple have two school-aged children.