Durham police chief sorry for comment he says he doesn't recall

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez (ABC11 Reporter Jon Camp)
September 6, 2013 4:02:45 PM PDT
Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez has publicly apologized for a comment he may or may not have made about an attorney who was hurt after being hit by a stray bullet in June.

Lopez admitted during a news conference Friday morning that he did not recall the comment that was allegedly made in a closed door meeting, with a half dozen other people, about a black defense attorney deserving to be shot because he was a public defender.

"I assure you that any comment that may have been made among my peers was not made in malice," he said.

» Click here to read Chief Lopez's full statement (.pdf) «

Lopez went on to say he takes "full responsibility" for the comment, when asked why he would take responsibility for a statement he didn't remember making.

"I believe someone may have made it ... I cannot definitively say it wasn't made, I take responsibility," he said.

Lopez also admitted that it "really does bother me it would be ... taken out of context," if it was made.

"If it was made, it was made unintentionally and not with malice," he said.

Adding, that it is "unfortunate if this allegation would cause a strain" between the police department and public defenders. And said the department works closely with attorneys and they have respect for them.

Lopez confessed that he was apologizing because, "I am responsible for this organization."

The chief has been under fire recently for allegations of discrimination, not just on his watch, but by him in promoting white and Latino officers over black officers.

He forcefully said Friday that he does not tolerate discrimination in the squad.

"I have not discriminated against anyone in this organization being a man of color myself," he said Friday. "I don't feel anyone is out to get me. I don't believe I am being undermined, I believe I have a good organization."

He went on to say the department is addressing issues as they come.

"This will happen ... wait and be patient until investigations are done," he said.

City Manager Tom Bonfield told ABC11 Thursday that it is critical to get everything sorted out, but that could take a while with the discrimination complaint being filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Bonfield's comments came the same day city leaders said Lopez broke no rules after another complaint was filed with the Human Resources Department that alleged Lopez showed favoritism in hiring his nephew, who was once charged with a felony.

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