SACRAMENTO – In a 9-0 vote during the latest virtual meeting this past week, the Sacramento City Council approved the hiring of Dr. LaTesha Watson as the new director of the Office of Public Safety and Accountability.
Dr. Watson’s first day on the job is June 8.

The City launched a nationwide recruitment for a permanent replacement. As a result, Dr. Watson, an African American, became the candidate of choice. She herself a law enforcement officer by trade, has a long track record of experiences to fulfill the position.

“This is an exciting time for me as well as my family,” Dr. Watson said from her home in Texas. “I was graciously accepted for this position and I would like to say it’s an honor to be able to come and join all the wonderful members of the city of Sacramento.”

Dr. Watson was chosen from a pool of 40 applicants and made the cut of the last three finalists, said Sacramento City Councilman Jeff Harris, who led the recruiting search for the position.

Harris also said that Dr. Watson answered her interview questions with “grace and aplomb” during the process. She was born in Germany, but spent most of her law enforcement career in Texas.

“She has an interesting personality as well,” Harris said “I believe we selected her because we were looking for a candidate that could connect with our police department and the community. She has the exact background to do just that.”

Dr. Watson’s previous job was the police chief of Henderson in Nevada. The recruitment services for the search in 2017 were provided by the firm of Ralph Andersen and Associates.

Dr. Watson began her law enforcement career in 1994 with the Hutchins Police Department in Hutchins, Texas and worked for the Lewisville Police Department in Lewisville, Texas before joining the Arlington, Texas Police Department in 2002.

She was named Deputy Chief in 2014, becoming the youngest individual to hold that position in the history of the Arlington Police Department, Ralph Andersen and Associates released in a biography statement after she was hired for the Henderson chief of police position.

In addition to her law enforcement experience, Watson has a strong academic background that includes earning a Ph.D. in Management and Organizational Leadership, a Master of Science in Criminology and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.

Dr. Watson is also an accomplished researcher who has studied police management, the history of policing and diversity issues in law enforcement. She emerged as Henderson’s police chief out of nearly 90 applicants screened for the position.

Dr. Watson’s stay in Henderson was brief. The city’s officials fired Dr. Watson in part for “creating distrust and division between management and unions, and being uncooperative with an independent investigator,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in May 2019.

The Nevada newspaper stated that Dr. Watson was terminated for “showing a lack of respect for many employees represented by unions,” in reference to a April 2019 letter obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Despite Dr. Watson’s last employment, the city of Sacramento still saw her as a good fit to lead a department that previously had two African Americans running OPSA.

“There was no hesitation. We all came to the same conclusion for various simpler reasons,” Harris said of the hiring of Dr. Watson, the second Black woman to lead OPSA.”

The position of Director of the City of Sacramento’s Office of Public Safety Accountability became vacant in September 2019 after Francine Tournour left the position after 13 years of service. Ms. Tournour had earned the trust of the community and the police department.

The focus of OPSA is to improve the relationship between t the city’s police and fire departments and the community they protect and serve. OPSA promotes transparency, accountability, impartial oversight of complaints related to public safety employee misconduct.

The Director of Public Safety Accountability is an existing budgeted full-time equivalent position, and funding is available in the current city budget. Dr. Watson’s salary will be $175,000 annually, which is within the approved salary range for the position.

She will receive the benefits to which the Director of Public Safety Accountability is entitled pursuant to the Personnel Resolution Covering Unrepresented Officers and Employees.

“Your job will require a great deal of skill and dexterity to make sure the community has a strong voice when it comes to helping us oversee our police and fire departments,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “And at the same time to get to know people in our fine departments and be a leader on these issues.”

By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer