LA's top cop ready to call it a career

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Cites health issues as reason

By Tris DeRoma

Wayne Torpy, Los Alamos’ police chief for the past eight years, announced his impending retirement Monday afternoon. Torpy who suffered a stroke several months ago and then later underwent open heart surgery, cited the after effects of his medical ordeal as the motivation behind his decision to retire.

During his time at the helm of the LAPD, Torpy oversaw the construction of the Los Alamos Justice Center, gained accreditation for the department, and restructured the ranks to flatten the management structure.

That streamlined management structure may have some unintended consquences given the recent abrupt departure of a top commander. County officials have denied requests from the Los Alamos Monitor under the state's Inspection of Public Records Act to reveal the reasons for the commander's separation from the department. The state attorney general's office is currently reviewing the matter to determine the legality of those denials.

Torpy characterized his decision to retire as “the hardest decision I made in my life.”

“My health is not what it was a year ago, and for the good of the county, for the good of the department and for my personal well-being I had to take a hard look at everything,” Torpy said. “After 36 years in law enforcement, the signals are telling me it’s time to move along.”

Torpy plans to stay on through the summer, and though he has not set a specific date yet, he believes his last day on the job will come some time in the fall.

Torpy said he was willing and able to help County Administrator Harry Burgess to find a replacement if he needed his help. It is not known when the county will begin a search for a new chief.

Torpy was just as surprised as anyone regarding his decision.

“I didn’t anticipate this,” he said. “A year ago today if you said ‘chief how long are you going to  be here,’ I would have said ‘as long as they’ll have me’ but when I got sick in November, many people thought I wouldn’t come back to work. I tried, because it’s what I love to do, but I can’t continue to do something that would jeopardize me as well as others.”

Before informing the media, Torpy let his employees know first, writing to them that his last eight years with the department have been the most rewarding in his 36 years in law enforcement.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute here in Los Alamos,” he said. “I’m going to miss it. The only saving grace for me is that I plan to stay here in Los Alamos so I can still enjoy this beautiful community and the people that have become my friends.”

During his tenure as chief, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt knew him as someone who did much to strengthen the partnership the schools have with the LAPD through its school resource officer program. Schmidt said Torpy also distinguished himself during the Las Conchas Fire, acting as a calm and reassuring presence during the crisis.

“He is the last of the Las Conchas three,” said Schmidt, saying the other two were then County Council Chair Sharon Stover and then Los Alamos Fire Chief Doug Tucker.

“Those were the three that gave us reassurance everyday that everything was going to be okay. It’s sad that the last of those three musketeers will be stepping aside.”