On Friday, the Chamber of Commerce partnered with the department to host a brunch to mark the anniversary. Dozens of guests visited and wished Lopez well.
“We strive for perfection, even though it’s not always possible because we’re human,” the chief said.
Lopez took the helm with former Chief Chris Brock awaiting trial on felony charges involving misappropriation of drug funds. The interim chief, Fernando Garcia, had recently stepped down amid further controversy involving questioned expenditures and allegations spray painted by his estranged wife.
The city was facing a lawsuit filed by Garcia and Officer Dean Ochoa on Sept. 24, 2010.
Morale in the department was low.
Lopez said his first priority was to change perceptions. The path to that goal was to instill the highest ethical and professional behavior in his officers.
“It’s been an experience of a lifetime,” Lopez said. “I don’t want to rehash the turmoil.”
The chief admits that the circumstances of his arrival “broadens your horizon,” and that big changes were needed.
Sgt. Enrique Diaz, the most tenured officer, said the department has done a 180-degree turnaround.
“The changes are all for the best and the good of the department,” Diaz said. “The bar has been raised and will keep on raising. The officers feel like they’re respected by the public now.”
The administrative role taken by the chief is new to the lawman.
“It’s been an eye-opener,” Lopez said. “But I have an excellent group of officers and I enjoy each one of them because they all bring their own perspective.”
Lopez also credits the city council which supported his policies and helped him turn the department around.
“The department has a new face – and it’s not mine – it’s the good officers who work here,” Lopez said.
Lopez says the department is a living, changing thing.
“I don’t have all the answers,” he said. “But I’ll guarantee you what I don’t know, I’ll find out. I’ll seek every resource to find out. We’re going to keep moving forward.”