Luis Velez, 52, is the new police chief for Colorado Springs and is the first Hispanic to hold the job.
A 27-year veteran of the police department, Velez has been alternating duties as acting chief with another candidate since former chief Lorne Kramer became acting city manager, then city manager.
Velez, deputy chief since 1998, was selected over colleague Pat McElderry, also a deputy chief. McElderry has 33 years with the department. The pair were the only candidates for the job.
“Being in a new position always creates a new perspective,” Velez said at a news conference. “But at initial glance, there isn’t anything there that needs changing.”
Kramer, chief for 11 years, said it was Velez’s community service and dedication to the department that convinced him Velez was the right person for the job. Kramer said he spoke with dozens of community leaders prior to making his decision.
A former high school dropout, Velez decided to pursue an education and earn his doctorate. His doctoral dissertation was on the police department’s use of force in Colorado Springs.
A graduate of the FBI National Academy, Velez earned a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
Defending the length of time he took to name a successor, Kramer said he “refused to rush into making this critical decision.”
“We are fortunate that there were two extremely qualified candidates within the CSPD ranks,” Kramer said. “In the end, Luis Velez was my choice for several reasons.”
Crowded in the small room at the city administration building for the announcement were the new chief’s wife, daughter, city council members, and fellow officers.
Councilman Lionel Rivera told a reporter Velez’s appointment “sends a message to the community that the city of Colorado Springs’ doors are open to anyone who wants to work hard and improve on their skills.” Rivera is the city’s first Hispanic vice mayor.
Velez now has the task of naming his own replacement, which he said would come from within the department.
His annual salary is $108,504, plus benefits.