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    Lawrence police chief resigns, will be reinstated to rank of captain

    Lawrence police Chief James X. Fitzpatrick has resigned and will be reinstated to the lower rank of captain this weekend.
    Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/File 2017
    Lawrence police Chief James X. Fitzpatrick has resigned and will be reinstated to the lower rank of captain this weekend.

    Lawrence Police Chief James X. Fitzpatrick has resigned and will be reinstated to the lower rank of captain this weekend, Mayor Dan Rivera said Friday.

    In a statement, Rivera said the chief submitted his resignation “after some discussion.” The release did not elaborate on his reasons for stepping down, and attempts to reach Fitzpatrick and Rivera for comment were unsuccessful.

    The mayor praised Fitzpatrick in the statement, calling him “a great partner in rebuilding the department and its integrity.”

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    Captain Roy Vasque will be named acting chief Saturday and will serve in that capacity “until a permanent appointment can be made,” Rivera said.

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    Rivera’s predecessor, William Lantigua, had named Fitzpatrick interim chief in 2013, and he shed the interim label two years later.

    The department has weathered misconduct scandals in recent years, including one case involving a former officer who received an 18-month federal prison term in 2014 for soliciting gifts from a towing company in exchange for sending it business while he was on the job.

    Another former officer received an 18-month term in November for extorting a drug dealer.

    In Friday’s statement, Rivera credited Fitzpatrick for his role in helping to reduce crime in the city. The mayor trumpeted crime reductions “in all areas, including decreases in car thefts, simple assaults, residential and commercial burglaries, with the exception of homicides. . . . We could not have done these things without [Fitzpatrick’s] leadership.”

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    The Globe reported in late December that there were nine confirmed homicides in Lawrence in 2017, along with a pending investigation into whether the death of a 10th person shot in the head was a murder or suicide.

    There were five killings in the city in 2016, five in 2015, six in 2014, one in 2013, two in 2012, 10 in 2011, and 10 in 2010, according to data posted on the Police Department’s website.

    Rivera said Friday that his administration and Vasque will pursue new goals in the coming years, including an “increased tempo and effort” in fighting the opioid crisis, initiatives to “stem the violence” behind the higher murder rate, and bringing on a community relations director for the Police Department to “improve community relations in all aspects, but with specific focus on the victims of crime, including domestic violence victims and runaways.”

    The mayor said the personnel change was not a signal of his disapproval of Fitzpatrick’s tenure at the helm.

    “This action is not a reflection on Chief Fitzpatrick or his time leading the department,” Rivera said. “I thank Chief Fitzpatrick for his time as chief and wish him and his family all the best.”

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    The statement did not indicate how long Fitzpatrick intends to remain with the department as a captain.

    Material from the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune was used in this report.
    Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.