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Pomona police chief is dismissed

December 11, 2008|Ruben Vives | Vives is a Times staff writer.

For Pomona Police Chief Joe Romero, 2011 was going to be a significant year.

His department would celebrate its 100th anniversary, and he would announce his retirement.

But Tuesday morning, all of that changed when he met with City Manager Linda Lowry, who told him that his services would no longer be needed.

Lowry could not comment further on Romero's dismissal, because he was still an at-will employee, making it a "personnel matter," said Mark Gluba, assistant to the city manager.

On Wednesday, Assistant Police Chief Dave Keetle was named the department's acting chief, according to a city official.

Council members could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Community activists were surprised by the dismissal. "Everyone's upset about this. [Romero] is respected and well-liked," said Frank Delgado, 32.

"I think it's unjustified," said community activist Virginia Madrigal. "He's served [more than] 30 years with the city."

Romero was hired as a police cadet in 1975. By 1994, he had become the department's first Latino police captain.

In September 2006, Romero was sworn in as police chief.

He has been praised by community activists for being accessible, staying active in the community and promoting youth programs such as Gang Resistance and Education Training.

But his short tenure as chief has also been filled with several controversies.

Last year, Romero clashed with former Mayor Norma Torres over an increase in killings and rapes in the city. In February, the department was criticized when relatives of a woman who was reported missing, Eileen Nicole Ponce-Orta, 22, discovered her dead body inside the van that officers had found and released to them.

In May, residents complained to the City Council about the department's DUI checkpoint involving all vehicles passing through the intersection of Mission Boulevard and San Antonio Avenue on Cinco de Mayo weekend. It was one of several clashes between residents and the department over checkpoints.

In October, Councilman Elliott Rothman, who now serves as mayor, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. The charge was dismissed in court because Rothman was below the legal limit.

Romero declined to discuss his dismissal, but said there had been "communication problems" between council members and the department. "Although this isn't going to be an open discussion, in my mind and heart, I know where I stand," Romero said. "To put it simply, it's been an honor to serve this community."


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