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Durham police chief has 'no regrets' ahead of retirement

Posted September 16, 2015
Updated September 17, 2015

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— Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said Wednesday he has no regrets about the eight years he has spent leading the department and believes the biggest challenge in years ahead will be growing the force to meet the needs of the community.

"I encountered a group of extremely professional individuals – they are the ones I’m going to miss," Lopez said, choking up briefly. "I also encountered a community that was extremely embracing. That’s why, more than likely, I’ll be staying here in the Durham community."

Lopez, 61, spoke at a news conference a day after city leaders announced they would seek a "change in leadership." Under an agreement, Lopez is retiring Dec. 31.

When asked for his reaction to the decision, the chief said a clause in the agreement prohibits him from making "any disparaging remarks."

City Manager Tom Bonfield said Lopez had to go because the department wasn't making enough progress. He pointed out an increase in the violent crime rate and said there was low morale within the police department. Lopez said if morale is low. it's not because of something he's done.

"It's a good police department...better than what i found it, best there is out there," he said. "Morale issue really involves a pay issue that has been here since 2007. That's outside of the police department."

Lopez says he is proud of what the department has accomplished in his time at the helm, pointing to a mental heath outreach program he helped start as an example.

"I always looked to make sure that the programs we had not only worked for the City of Durham but were cost-effective and were long-term enduring," he said.

When asked what he thought were the biggest misconceptions about the department, Lopez said too many people think law enforcement is like a television show.

"The biggest misconception is that the police department can solve everything...and we can do it in an hour w a few commercial breaks," he said.

He also highlighted the diversity of his department, saying he's the only police chief in North Carolina who is Puerto Rican and speaks Spanish.

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