City: Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez cleared of nepotism allegations

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez
September 6, 2013 4:40:44 AM PDT
The City of Durham is standing by its top cop.

In a meeting late Thursday afternoon, city leaders said Police Chief Jose Lopez broke no rules when he hired his nephew. However, Lopez may not be out of the woods just yet.

Community activist and former city council candidate Victoria Peterson has been leading the charge among those who want Lopez to go.

"This police chief should not be police chief here in Durham anymore," said Peterson. "So it's time for him to move on, for him to take his nephew, his wife's nephew with him."

A complaint obtained by ABC11 and filed with the Human Resources Department alleges Lopez showed favoritism in hiring his nephew, who was once charged with a felony.

"It's time for the city manager to ask him to move on and to take his family members with him," said Peterson, who held a small protest outside of the police station Thursday.

However, after a closed door meeting with the city council, City Manager Tom Bonfield said a full review of that hiring process showed no nepotism, and no violation of city policy.

"There was no undue influence and no improprieties," said Bonfield. "The process was followed appropriately."

But Lopez has other battles to fight including allegations of discrimination, not just on his watch, but by him in promoting white and Latino officers over black officers.

That perception was fueled by a comment he allegedly made about a black defense attorney deserving to be shot. If true, it was a joke perhaps, but one that could have painful consequences.

For the time being, however, Bonfield said the chief is safe.

"At this point, until I see something different, he's the chief of police," said Bonfield.

Bonfield said it is critical to get everything sorted out, but that could take a while with the discrimination complaint filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

As for the alleged comment about the defense attorney, Bonfield told ABC11 to expect something on that soon, but he wouldn't say how soon.

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