Cambridge Names New Police Commissioner

An extensive nationwide search came to an end last week when Chicago Deputy Police Chief Ronnie Watson was appointed the new police commissioner for the city of Cambridge.

According to members of the search committee that helped pick him, Watson was the overwhelming favorite.

"He emerged head and shoulders among a superb candidate field," said Chuck R. Colbert, a member of the Police Commissioner Hiring Advisory Committee, describing Watson as experienced, articulate and self-assured.

Committee members said they were impressed with Watson's experience with community policing. As commander of the Englewood District from 1990 to 1994, Watson introduced community policing to one of Chicago's most crime-ridden neighborhoods and achieved spectacular success.

In an interview yesterday, Watson described community policing: "It's not about one person, or one organization--the police, or Harvard--but about the whole city."

Watson says the city's universities will have a significant role to play in his vision of community policing.

"I think your role--the role of Harvard and MIT--has been understated," he said.

Watson said he envisions greater cooperation between the universities and the city, including a sharing of resources.

Watson, a graduate of Chicago State University, started his career at the Chicago Police Department as a cadet in 1963.

Watson worked his way up through the ranks, becoming an officer in 1966, a sergeant in 1977, a lieutenant in 1981 and a captain in 1988.

In 1995, Watson was promoted to deputy chief of Patrol Area Two and was made responsible for five police districts.

Watson was chosen for the Cambridge job from a group of 160 applicants, narrowed to 11 semi-finalists and five finalists. He is the second police commissioner to come from outside of Cambridge, following Perry Anderson, who left the post in 1993.

Watson said he is thrilled to be coming to Cambridge and hints at big plans.

"We can come up with a policing strategy that is among the best in the nation," he said.

Watson was formally appointed by City Manager Robert W. Healy. Several other city employees and 14 members of a Citizen Advisory Council were also involved in the search.