By Jim Tortolano
The stereotypes of police chiefs are often glum and dour. But Westminster’s new “top cop” is positively, well, positive.
“I absolutely love the people the people I work with and all my colleagues,” said Darin Lenyi, who assumed the job as chief of police on Nov. 1. “Everyone seems extremely supportive.”
That said, Lenyi, 55, does not put on rose-colored glasses when he talked about the challenges he faces as leader of the WPD.
Three issues stood out to him.
“Stabilizing the department after a series of short-term and interim chiefs would be a big one,” he said, “and everything that goes along with that.”
The second big challenge is out of his hands. “Our budget is dependent on a tax measure,” he said, referring to Measure SS, a 1 percent city sales tax that is set to expire in December 2022. If voters don’t approve an extension, a deficit in the municipal budget of $17.2 million is projected for the fiscal year of 2023-24.
So far, the city council has defeated efforts to place an extension on the ballot.
Third is finding qualified candidates to serve on the police force, which has 89 sworn positions authorized, but only 74 are filled at present.
“It was always a difficult job,” said Lenyi, “but the scrutiny involved in wearing the badge now is second to none.”
Lenyi feels he’s a good choice to tackle those and other obstacles.
Originally from the Queens borough of New York City, his family moved to California in his youth. “From the first thing I remember, I was always interested in both the military and law enforcement,” he said. While working as a police officer, he served four years in the California State Military Reserve [now the California State Guard] working with the military police unit at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos.
He began his law enforcement path in his hometown of Placentia as a police Explorer in the early 1980s. From there he was a police cadet in Anaheim, and then started a 30-year-stint with the Laguna Beach Police Department. Before coming to Westminster, he was chief of police in Placentia.
Now, he’s involved in the All American City’s law enforcement needs. “I’m excited to be here,” he said. “I think the challenges that face Westminster are things I’m suited for and have experience with. I look forward to making Westminster a safer place to live and work. I’m proud to be part of the Westminster Police Department because it has so many fine members to work with.”