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Chris Watts named Rock Hill's new police chief
[January 08, 2013]

Chris Watts named Rock Hill's new police chief

ROCK HILL, Jan 08, 2013 (The Herald (Rock Hill - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Chris Watts, an employee with the Rock Hill Police Department for the past 24 years, was named the city's new police chief on Tuesday.

He replaces former Police Chief John Gregory, who retired in December after nine years as the city's top cop. Immediately after the 11:30 a.m. announcement at City Hall Watts was sworn-in and began his chief duties, City Manager David Vehaun said.

Since 2008, Watts, 49, has served as the department's support services captain, an administrative position he said didn't allow him to "get out" and build relationships with people in the community.

He said he aims to change that in the coming months by building on community involvement and encouraging trust between residents and police officers.

Watts, the department's first chief chosen internally in the last 35 years, has served as a patrol sergeant, master sergeant and managed the professional services unit in his time with Rock Hill Police. During the ceremony, he thanked his predecessor for developing strong leaders and "handing over an excellent department with outstanding employees." "It'll make my job easier," he said. "I want to build on what we have." Watts said he'll blend police officers' ideas with proven tactics that have worked for the department. He stressed that no new, radical changes would be coming "right out of the gate," saying he plans to continue the police department's use of Compstat, a computer program that allows Rock Hill Police to monitor crime trends and compile statistics in real time.

He said he would like to see more community volunteers work with police officers.

Despite his credentials, he admitted that he was surprised he made it as one of the three finalists in the police chief search.

"I was happy to make it as a detective before I retired," he quipped.

"I have been fortunate to have worked in all divisions and departments in 24 years," Watts said. "I think that will help building on the department." Watts' new salary as chief is $87,755--about $18,000 more than his salary as a Rock Hill police captain.

After six months in his new role, Watts will be eligible for a 5 percent pay increase, Vehaun said, which is standard for new hires in the city. Watts' new salary after the six-month probationary period would be $92,143.

Watts has seen all three divisions in the police department, including the investigations, patrol and support services divisions, Vehaun said after the ceremony. "Chris has been here for almost 25 years now -- I certainly think that played into it" when deciding who would succeed Gregory.

Vehaun said he met with lieutenants twice in the police chief search -- once a month ago and again on Tuesday -- to get their feedback on the finalists. All three were strong candidates with impressive leadership skills, Vehaun said, but Watts' experience and longevity with the department stood out.

Before his promotion to captain, Watts served as the police department's professional standards lieutenant, patrol lieutenant, patrol sergeant and investigator. He's served as team leader on the SWAT team and commander for the bomb squad.

He received an Associate's of Science degree in criminal justice from the University of South Carolina-Lancaster. He's currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from Anderson University. He graduated from the FBI National Academy and FBI Hazardous Devices School. He is a member of several police associations.

Asked about who would move up the ranks to captain, Watts said that decision will be coming "fairly quickly." He wouldn't disclose names of possible candidates.

The other two finalists for police chief, also internal candidates, were Capt. Steve Parker, who has held roles as a master police officer, sergeant and lieutenant since his July 1995 hiring, and Lt. Brad Redfearn, the department's public information officer and administrative assistant to the chief since 1997.

"I'm disappointed that I didn't get it but I'm very excited for Chris," Parker said.

Vehaun had a tough job, Parker said, but, "the department's going to be very well off." Former Chief Gregory praised the city's decision to pick Watts, whom he called "a great, great leader." Gregory said he wasn't involved in the selection process but did recommend that all the candidates come from within the department.

Touting the department's "good track record," Gregory said Rock Hill Police haven't experienced any major controversies in the past several years.

"Candidates chosen internally is a sign of great leadership," said Lee Gardner, CEO of Family Trust Credit Union in Rock Hill who was on hand for the announcement. "Great leaders develop great leaders." Check back for more details.

VIDEO OF WATTS ANNOUNCEMENT ___ (c)2013 The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.) Visit The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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