City Manager Hears from Residents at Forum on Hiring Watertown’s Next Police Chief

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Residents had a long list of requests for the qualities and qualifications they would like Watertown’s next Police Chief to have, and new initiatives they would like the new head of the WPD to take on.

Monday night, City Manager George Proakis held a community forum to discuss the hiring of the new Watertown Police Chief. He was joined by two members of the consultancy firm who will run the process of evaluating the candidates.

Attendees brought up a variety of areas they would like to see the next chief take on, including changes in the department.

Several wanted to see the Watertown Police be more transparent, and provide more data to the public, including arrests, traffic violations, and other incidents broken down by race, ethnicity and gender. Many came from the group that made a similar request in 2021.

The parents of two young Watertown Police officers said they worry about the safety of police when they take people into custody or do traffic stops, and want someone who knows about what patrol officers face on the street and who is looking out for them.

Others brought up the sexual discrimination lawsuit by a female detective in which a jury ruled against the Watertown Police Department. They wanted to make sure the same thing does not occur again, and that the department be a place where all feel welcome.

A resident wanted to see a focus on repeat offenders, such as shoplifters, and also work with the District Attorney’s office to make sure they are prosecuted for their offenses.

Some wanted to see the next chief be more engaged with the community, with particular focus on making people from groups that may feel fearful or uncomfortable with police feel like they can go to police when they need them.

Assessment Center

The applicants for Watertown Police Chief will have to go through an assessment center, in which they will have to react to real world situations and talk about how they handle issues they will likely face as chief.

The consulting firm of Parow Consulting & Associates will create and administer the assessment center. To help create the scenarios that will be in the assessment center, the consultants are interviewing all the Watertown police officers.

“We interviewed the entire uniformed staff to get a better at better idea of what they want to see moving forward, what’s working well, what’s not working well,” said Jack Parow, founder and principal of Parow Consulting.

The assessment center will also include issues raised by the community. Parow said the consultants already planned to incorporate many of the issues discussed Monday night, and added that every police and fire chief assessment center in recent years includes human resources issues, relationship between the department and the community, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The assessment center will be conducted by former and current chiefs, said Ken Lavallee, the former Police Superintendent in Lowell, who is a consultant for Parow. Proakis added that he and Lavallee worked in Lowell at the same time prior to Proakis taking the job in Somerville.

“We have a diverse group of assessors,” Parow said. “They are not all white males.”

Former Police Chief John Jackson shared his experience taking an assessment center.

“It is not a walk in the park,” Jackson said. “Every assessment center is different based on the community. It will cover all your concerns — most of them, at least.”

Public Safety chief searches can be done either through Civil Service, which would limit the candidates to internal ones, or can be opened to anyone. City Manager George Proakis said that he is leaning toward going the Civil Services route.

Looking at the experience, knowledge and training that members of the Watertown Police, Proakis said he believes there are qualified candidates to choose from within the Watertown Police.

“The intent is to stay with internal candidates but if you think opening it up is a good idea tell me tonight,” Prokis said.

Internal or Open Search

If it is a Civil Services process, the candidate pool will essentially be the two captains and six lieutenants in the Watertown Police, Parow said.

Parow said that when a search opens to outside candidates it can be hard for those in the department without experience as a chief to compete. Provisional Chief Thomas Rocca told Proakis that he intends to retire when the new chief is appointed, so he is not in the running, and no one else on the WPD had experience as a chief.

“If you have good quality captains and lieutenants, when an outside chief from another department applies it is difficult (captains and lieutenants) to compete with them,” Parow said. “It is difficult for your shining star who knows the community.”

Opening up the search would mean that anyone from around the state and the nation could apply, which would also make the process longer.

“If 200 people from across the country apply, all 200 would take the assessment center,” Parow said.

After the candidates complete the assessment center, the results will be sent to Mass. Civil Service, which will add any points for additional qualifications such as being a United States military veteran or having 25 years or more experience, Parow said.

The list will be released on the Civil Service website, and Proakis will be presented with the candidates with the top three scores. He and Deputy City Manager Emily Monea will interview the finalists, and Proakis will make the final choice. He noted that while he has not had previous experience hiring a police chief, Monea has done so during her time as chief of staff for the Mayor of Somerville.

Proakis said he hoped to appoint the next chief by the end of September, but it may go a couple weeks longer. At the next City Council meeting he will request a referral to the Public Safety Committee for the discussion of the Police Chief position. The assessment center will take place in September, and the list of finalists will probably take 20-30 days to be published so it could be in October. The top three will be interviewed and then Proakis will make and appointment.

If the top scoring candidate is not chosen, Proakis said he would have to provide a statement why he did not select the person or people who were ranked above his selection.

Proakis invited people who could not attend the forum to submit questions and comments to him by email at

8 thoughts on “City Manager Hears from Residents at Forum on Hiring Watertown’s Next Police Chief

  1. We need a Police Chief, that will defend his officers, that will create a positive work environment, that will make enforcing the law, protecting life, & property, keeping us safe from criminals, no matter their race, ethnicity, or gender. Those should be the new Chief’s priority.
    Diversity and Inclusion are not goals or priorities. They happen naturally. You can’t force it. If you do so, you are bound to sacrifice the quality of the officers we hire. And frankly wanting to know the race, ethnicity, and gender of suspects or people being cited for a violation, is RACIST AND SEXIST. Did the person commit a crime? Did the person violate the law? These are the questions that the public needs answers to. The last thing we need is a Police Chief who is expect to be a Social Engineer. The last people the Chief should answer to is the Diversity Demigods and Pluralism Prelates.

  2. The ideas espoused by the previous commenter demonstrate that many white people are blissfully oblivious to the discrimination experienced by women and people of color every day.

    1. Discriminatory behaviors do NOT just dissipate “naturally” because people who have power never want to give it up. The only way to dislodge discriminatory cultures is by digging up the roots, like a weed in your garden. Among other things, this means collecting statistics of those who police officers “think” may have committed a crime so that patterns can be detected. That “judgement” is one place where racism emerges into the daylight.

    2. A person arrested by police IS NOT GUILTY. Our system allows that person to defend against charges and be considered innocent until proven guilty. But some of the comments here and during the meeting seem to “assume” that anyone arrested by Watertown Police “must” be guilty of crimes. That thinking is unconstitutional.

    3. No one should “protect” police officers who LIE (about anything), use excessive force or commit crimes. Those officers should be outed and swiftly punished for the DAMAGE they do to individual citizens and to the community. They hurt people!

    Also – was this commenter in charge of the Watertown PD during the years when its culture of sexual harassment and hostile work environment continued in VIOLATION OF FEDERAL LAW?

    • I am wondering how Kathi Breen is qualified to accuse the Watertown PD of being a culture of sexual harassment and hostile work? Was it one ~ or two ~ or more individuals that were found guilty? Did the offended individual carry the complaint through the entire chain of command, including the then Town Manager? Was the existing town newspaper approached to publicize the “culture?” It is indeed unfortunate that the entire police department had to be tarnished because of the few involved; condemning the entire force is absurd in the extreme. I realize the court has spoken; I am not aware of a appeal has been initiated. If so, that’s the way the mop flops. You seem to be very hostile toward the WPD; it has been certified as one of the finest police departments in the Commonwealth. And no, I am not a police officer, never have been a police officer, and to the best of my remembrance or knowledge I do not and never did have a relative that was a police officer, police detective or police employee, nor do I have any friends or hang out with any members of any police department.

      • A court of law determined that, and as a result Watertown has to award someone $4 million to the former employee. As a former resident and taxpayer I would be livid. One need not be in a profession, particularily a profession which answers to a municipal manager and is funded by taxpayer dollars, to make recommendations. By this logic, one should not tell teachers, doctors and scientist how to do their jobs, and yet that happens frequently.

  3. “Diversity and Inclusion are not goals or priorities. They happen naturally. You can’t force it.”

    You might want to check in with some persons of color or women on that assertion. They may hold a different point of view.

  4. It should not be the responsibility of the Police Department to publicly identify the race or gender of arrestees. Full birth certificate name and/or driver’s license name is more than enough for legal purposes.

  5. As a semi-retired attorney and taxpayer, I am glad my new husband and I sold our condo in Watertown before the verdict came down in the Donohue/Watertown case and $4 million was awarded. Many of the recommendations (data collections, non-discriminatory practices, etc.) are very reasonable, and had Watertown implemented such protocol, then it may have avoided a lawsuit. I know many law enforcement officers who would not see these reasonable recommendations as an affront. Those who are affronted claim to value property and people, and yet have no concern for the taxpayers’ monies nor do they have concern for the profound damage done those involved. As many often say, if one is not breaking the law, then one should not fear law enforcement. By the same token, if one is upholding the law, then one should not fear data collection or having to behave in a non-discriminatory manner. The failure in logic on the part of those affronted for law enforcement is astounding. For the sake of the taxpayers, law enforcement and Watertown, I do sincerely hope the Town Manager takes the reasonable recommendations into account when hiring the new police chief. Good luck Watertown!

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