Wilfredo Campos becomes Wilmington’s first Latino police chief

Wilfredo Campos poses in police uniform in front of a U.S. flag.

Wilfredo Campos is Wilmington's first Latino police chief. (Courtesy of City of Wilmington)

Wilfredo Campos, a 26-year Wilmington police veteran, was appointed Thursday as the city’s first Latino chief.

Mayor Mike Purzycki named Campos, currently a captain — the third-highest rank behind chief and inspector — to replace Robert Tracy, who will become the chief in St. Louis. Tracy, a veteran of Chicago and New York City police, had led Wilmington’s force since Purzycki became mayor in 2017.

Purzycki said the 50-year-old Campos’ “vast experience and leadership skills, as well as his decades of knowledge of city neighborhoods and city residents, will serve him well as he takes command” of the Wilmington force, which has an authorized force of 312 officers.

About 11% of the city’s 71,000 residents are Latino.

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Campos, who grew up on the city’s West Side, took his post Thursday. His salary will be $200,000, highest in city government. Tracy had promoted him to captain in 2018.

“It is truly a blessing and an honor to have the opportunity to continue serving the residents of Wilmington in this new role,’’ Campos said in a written statement.

“I thank my entire family, our many friends, current and former police officers, and all of the people who have provided support and guidance to me throughout the years to make this day possible.”

Chief Campos’s first act was promoting two former fellow captains, Anthony Bowers and Matthew Hall, to the rank of inspector.

City Council President Trippi Congo applauded Purzycki’s choice as “excellent” and said that when Tracy’s decision to leave became public in mid-December, many officers and community leaders recommended Campos as his successor.“He’s well respected in the community and within the department,’’ Congo said, noting that Purzycki sought him out for feedback on the decision.

Congo had criticized Tracy for having a lack of racial or ethnic diversity on his command staff, leading Council to approve a “no-confidence” a year ago.

Tracy was the first outsider hired to run the Wilmington police force. (City of Wilmington)

As for Campos being the first Latino chief in Wilmington’s nearly three centuries of existence, Congo said, “We want to be more diverse and that’s a plus. But I think he’s just a good person and a good officer and respected.”

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Congo said he doesn’t know Campos well, but said other officers “across the board” praised his knowledge, fairness, and his decisiveness.

“He’s not afraid to make difficult decisions,” Congo said.

Campos takes over after Tracy’s nearly six-year tenure, a period that saw city gun violence rise dramatically, then fall just as fast, then rise to record levels in 2021 before dropping sharply again in 2022.

In 2021, 152 people were shot, and the 39 homicides were most in Wilmington’s history. 

Last year, 107 people were wounded by gunfire and 18 of them died — fewest in about a decade.

Congo said it’s unfair to blame or credit police for the level of violence on a city’s streets, but said he hopes Campos prioritizes reaching out to neighborhoods and residents.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to re-engage the police officers” with communities, he said. “That’s the only way I think that we really stop crime as an officer is to have established relationships. I think that [Campos] knows that community policing is extremely important and that he’s going to instill that in the rest of the department.”

Campos elaborated on his vision for the force in a message on the city’s website.

“Over the past several years, we have worked to critically examine our department and our approaches to crime prevention and suppression,’’ Campos wrote. ”We have instituted significant changes in the way we police our neighborhoods, embracing technology and innovation, and leveraging intelligence and other resources to combat crime.”

“These approaches have helped to bring about historic reductions in crime, and we look forward to continuing our efforts to ensure we build on this substantial progress and further enhance public safety and quality of life for all of our residents and visitors.”

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