Police chief Juan Torres says his decision to quit was agonizing.
Torres, whose last day is scheduled for April 6, said he’s loved his job in Oberlin but is leaving due to the serious illness of a family member. He sent his resignation letter to city manager Rob Hillard last Wednesday.
“I’ve been having a lot of sleepless nights thinking about what was the right thing to do. I sought a lot of advice from family and my mom and my dad about what to do,” he said. “This was a very, very difficult decision for me to make.”
Torres will return to Alexandria, Va., where he was a police officer from 1991 until taking over in Oberlin in August of last year. The 52-year-old Torres’ wife and adult son live in Alexandria.
Torres replaced chief Thomas Miller, who retired. He was selected from 50 applicants.
Torres said he liked going from being a captain in a roughly 345-officer department in a mid-sized Southern city to being chief of an 18-officer department in a small Midwestern city. He said the slower pace in Oberlin — and less traffic — allowed him to communicate more with residents.
“People really take their time to talk to you (and) listen to you,” he said. “I love that about the Midwest.”
Torres said one of his main goals when hired was to improve relations between police and residents. He’s feels he’s done it through face-to-face conversations, forums, and social media.
“I’m proud of what I did,” Torres said. “Hopefully, the next chief will continue that progress.”
Torres is also preparing to update the department’s policies and procedures — including use of deadly force — which he said haven’t been updated for over 25 years. He plans to ask city council to spend about $8,000 for Lexipol, a California company, to do the work for the department, which has a $2.7 million annual budget.
The city also plans to install GPS units in all police cruisers next year. And stun guns will be provided to officers who don’t have them.
Finance director Sal Talarico had been working on Torres’ annual evaluation while serving as acting city manager. Because Torres is leaving, Talarico said the evaluation probably won’t be completed but it would’ve been positive. “He’s been a great chief,” Talarico said.
Hillard, whose first day as city manager was last Monday, said he hasn’t decided whether he will hire a search firm to help select the next chief as was done in choosing Torres. Hillard said the chief of police is an important position and he expects to decide soon.
Hillard, a longtime city manager in Allegan, Mich., and Yellow Springs, said he hired a new police chief in Yellow Springs in the early 2000s. A committee of people with expertise in law enforcement was formed to provide him with guidance.
“I know the city of Oberlin has recently gone through the process and that will be the primary guide for how we move forward,” Hillard said.
Evan Goodenow at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter