From the City’s web site, via an announcement written by city manager Bonfield:
After careful consideration, I have determined that a change in leadership is necessary at this time for the City of Durham and the Durham Police Department to continue to meet the law enforcement expectations and needs of the community. Yesterday, Police Chief Jose Lopez, Sr. and I reached an agreement for his separation from the City of Durham, resulting in his decision to retire effective December 31, 2015.
Oddly Lopez’s departure is being described as “retirement,” but the phrasing of the press release seems to imply that it wasn’t a voluntary retirement. Lopez issued a statement to the department, as well.
From my perspective, Lopez has had a really bad string of luck in a really tough job. The death of Jesus Huerta was a low point in his tenure, and the Department’s response to the aftermath was clearly problematic. Now, crime numbers are worsening; Lopez’s retirement even follows closely behind what appears to be a suicide by cop incident involving a pellet gun last week. It’s also notable that the timing of this announcement is mere weeks before the start of city council primaries…
I’m reluctant to pin the blame for much of the DPD’s issues on Lopez; there’s not a simple fix for crime, and Durham’s demographic breakdown has got to be more challenging than most cities of this size. Of course, the city needs to look like it’s addressing the crime issue, and one of the strongest statements one can issue to that effect is a change in management.
Ultimately, I don’t think Lopez has done an especially bad job, but I do think he was dealt a pretty bad hand. Hopefully whoever replaces him can make something better out of it.