Purtymun 'enjoyed every last minute'

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By Tris DeRoma

After 24 years of service to Los Alamos, Deputy Chief Kevin Purtymun is retiring from the force. According to Purtymun, it was simply the right time to do so. 


Besides exceeding all of the department’s requirements and goals for retirement by at least a year, Purtymun decided it wouldn’t be fair to his fellow officers to stick around any longer.

“Twenty four years is a long time,” Purtymun said. “I also thought it was time for my colleagues to step up and enjoy some of the experiences I have enjoyed while serving Los Alamos.”

Purtymun joined the LAPD Sept. 6, 1988 after receiving a degree in criminal justice from New Mexico State University. His last day on the job will be Sept 21. 

Purtymun’s 24-year career was a lot like many other law enforcement careers in Los Alamos, days of seeming routine, punctuated by days where chaos seemed to reign. But through it all, he said it was the experience of meeting and working with all kinds of people that made the job interesting and worthwhile. That, and there was never really a dull moment.

“Every day was different,” Purtymun said. “Everyday, it seemed like there was some problem or issue to solve and it really made things interesting.” Some of those more interesting times came with the wildfires of 2000 and 2011, he added.

Purtymun was a sergeant during the Cerro Grande fire of 2000 and a deputy chief when the Las Conchas Fire threatened Los Alamos in 2011. “They made up a lot of the more challenging, rewarding and at the same time, sadder times of my career,” Purtymun said. 

Along with the residents, he felt personally the overwhelming sense of loss everyone felt when Cerro Grande came and destroyed numerous properties in Los Alamos. 

“You felt such an overwhelming sense of loss at the time,” said Purtymun, who is also a Los Alamos resident.

As a sergeant during Cerro Grande, Purtymun said his experience was one of working more closely with his fellow officers. As deputy chief during Las Conchas, his experience was more of a “big picture” type of experience, a viewpoint that gave him much insight into how to fight wildfires more effectively. 

“We had them doing more of the right things during Las Conchas, and not repeating some of the mistakes we made during Cerro Grande,” Purtymun said. 

Though he accumulated a number of awards and citations during his career, they are not the things he’s most proud of, he said. He valued his work with Sgt. John Chicoine in crime prevention and his time serving as Los Alamos Middle School’s first community resource officer more than the awards and citations. 

“Those are the things I really got recognized for, serving my community and the relationships I created within it,” Purtymun said. 

Chief Wayne Torpy said they have not yet begun searching for Purtymun’s replacement since, as far as using up accumulated leave time, Purtymun won’t officially be off the force until mid-December. 

However, Torpy said officers within his department will have priority over outside candidates.

“It’s always my preference that if we have qualified candidates within the department,” Torpy said. “And we do have qualified candidates.”

So far though, since the news is relatively fresh, no one yet from within the department has approached him about applying for the position. 

According to Torpy, Purtymun was a corporal when Torpy became chief of the department in 2005. He said it didn’t take him long to notice Purtymun’s unique skills that would serve him well as deputy chief. 

“His knowledge of the community, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the LAPD in general was very impressive,” Torpy said. 

Torpy also said Purtymun was invaluable in creating a new dispatch center that included merging the fire and medical teams with the police. Another big job Purtymun handled with ease was getting the LAPD’s evidence room operating more efficiently and in compliance with current standards. “Kevin basically brought our evidence room into the 21st century,” Torpy said. 

At 46, Purtymun is not quite sure what he’s going to do after retiring from the department, preferring to leave that to fate. 

“I don’t know what I’m going to do next,” he said. “I’m going to take a little time and see what I want to be when I grow up.”    ry.