Torrance Police Chief Joseph De Ladurantey, who has been on paid administrative leave for two months after a former police clerk pleaded no contest to embezzling $72,000 from the department's property room, will retire after heading the county's fourth-largest police force for more than five years.
The 54-year-old De Ladurantey plans this week to announce his retirement, which becomes effective May 14. "It is time for me to move on," he said Monday.
De Ladurantey, who will be leaving a $119,670-a-year job, said his plans include teaching graduate classes on one of the California State University campuses in Southern California. He now teaches a Saturday graduate class on organizational theory and human behavior at Cal State Northridge.
"I've been teaching for 20 years and I want to continue in that vein," he said. "I really enjoy teaching."
While city officials declined to comment about the chief's imminent departure, it is known that they have grown unhappy with De Ladurantey's management style, which critics say has not done enough to maintain accountability within the 237-officer department.
Some critics said those concerns were borne out Feb. 27, when John Lakatos pleaded no contest to felony embezzlement in the theft of $72,000 in cash from the department's property room between 1993 and September 1996.
Although De Ladurantey personally called the district attorney's office to investigate the matter once he discovered it, a number of city officials questioned the way the department was run.
City officials also were pressuring the police chief to move from Newport Beach to Torrance. He complied in February after he and his wife, a Los Angeles police sergeant, decided to divorce.
Since he was hired in 1991, De Ladurantey has spent a good amount of time dealing with hostility from some of the rank-and-file officers who resented an outsider being hired.
The Torrance Police Officers Assn. had hoped someone would be promoted from within the Police Department. But only two Torrance police captains made the list of the top 12 finalists. De Ladurantey, who was a captain commanding the Harbor Division of the Los Angeles Police Department, was No. 3 among the top 12.
De Ladurantey was only the second police chief since the 1920s to come from outside the department. The previous police chief, department veteran Donald E. Nash, spent 21 years in the job.
In his efforts to mollify some officers, critics contend, the police chief gave too wide a berth to some top staffers.
De Ladurantey took over the Police Department at a difficult time. The city, along with three other Southern California cities, was faced with a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department alleging that their police and fire departments discriminated against minorities during hiring. The other three cities--El Monte, Pomona and Alhambra--settled their lawsuits out of court. But Torrance spent more than $3 million fighting the allegations.
Last year, the Justice Department agreed to drop its lawsuit in exchange for the Police Department modifying its training and workplace practices.
De Ladurantey has been praised for adding community-based policing programs that have put more officers onto high school campuses to ensure that any problems with drugs, truancy, gangs or weapons were quickly solved.
After decades of police work, De Ladurantey said he doubted that he would ever work again in another police department. "I've done this for 32 years," he said. "Once you're out of it, you're out of it. . . . Now I am surfing, running marathons, and I am in good health."