Durham police chief says forced retirement was unexpected

Lopez on Wednesday. Photo by Lauren DesArmo/WNCN

DURHAM, NC (WNCN) — Durham police chief Jose Lopez says he did not expect to be forced to retire.

His 8-year tenure will come to end at the end of this year, after city manager Tom Bonfield said it was time for new leadership.

Previous story: Durham Police Chief Lopez forced to retire

During a press conference Wednesday, Chief Lopez defended the work he’s done at this department.

He said the department has challenges, but he believes he handled them to the best of his abilities.

When asked about the city manager’s decision Lopez said, “I have a clause in my agreement that prohibits any disparaging remarks so I want to adhere to my agreement.”

Chief Lopez was optimistic and said he’s focused on finishing his time at the department.

Read WNCN Investigates: Police use-of-force records inconsistent across jurisdictions

“The fact that it happened the way it happened, I wasn’t planning on it, but I’ve always said that I would be here for a minimum of 10 years or unless it was preferred that I would not be here as chief,” Lopez said.

The city manager says his decision came from a culmination of issues

He says some of his concerns centered on rising crime rates and employee morale.

“The morale issue with the police department really involves a pay issue that has been here since 2007,” said Lopez.

Under his leadership, the department has faced allegations of racial bias, an increase in violent crime, and a lack of community policing leading to uproars in the community.

“I have to say the criticism I’ve heard has been from a fractured portion of this community it hasn’t been from the community,” said Lopez.

He also specifically addressed racial bias.

“Anyone who wants to take a moment to read the real data that’s in a lot of our reports on our website regarding traffic stops would clearly see that this organization is not involved in racial bias,” Lopez said.

As for any regrets, “Let’s see,” Lopez thought “None that come to mind to be quite honest with you,” he added.

Chief Lopez says one of the biggest needs of the department is more officers.

“I think the biggest challenge is growing a police department that did not grow when I was here,” he said.

Chief Lopez also greatly defended the officers he’s led for 8 years.

“I encountered a group of extremely professional individuals and they’re the ones I’m going to miss,” said Lopez while holding back tears.

He says the department he’s leaving, is one he’s thankful to have worked for.

“A proud and good police department,” he added.

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