Local News

Durham Makes Conn. Cop Its New Police Chief

Posted July 19, 2007 8:40 a.m. EDT
Updated July 19, 2007 8:34 p.m. EDT

— Jose Lopez Sr., an assistant police chief in Hartford, Conn., was named Thursday as the new police chief in Durham.

Lopez, who was introduced at a morning news conference, said he was humbled and at a loss for words about being picked for the job.

He will start his new position Sept. 1 and replace Chief Steve Chalmers, who will retire at the end of the year. Lopez's annual salary will be $125,000.

The new chief quickly met with favor Thursday when he announced during the news conference that he planned to move the police department forward and put the flawed Duke University lacrosse team sexual assault investigation in the past.

"I don't really believe the city of Durham is defined by Duke lacrosse and neither is this esteemed police department," Lopez said.

An independent panel plans to begin reviewing the police department's investigation of the notorious case on Friday.

City Manager Patrick Baker said selecting Lopez was a tough decision, but he was the best person for the job and the best choice for the community.

Baker said Lopez was selected because of his stance on community policing. He said Lopez has a reputation for being out on the street with the cops and community.

Baker said one of his top priorities for Lopez will be to improve the clearance rate on overall crime. He said Durham police have improved their clearance rate to better than the national average in recent years, but he wants more crimes solved.

Lopez was selected after a seven-month search process. He has served in Hartford for more than 22 years and has worked as an investigator with the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, which is the state attorney general's department and includes the New Jersey State Police and other law enforcement agencies.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Lopez holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, with a minor in police science, and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, according to the Hartford Police Department's Web site.

He also served in the U.S. Air Force as a law enforcement specialist and received an honorable discharge in 1980.

Lopez was one of three finalists for the job including Durham Deputy Police Chief Ronald Hodge.