Henderson has gone outside the city for its newest police chief.
LaTesha Watson, deputy chief of the Arlington, Texas, Police Department, on Friday accepted the offer to become Henderson Police Department chief.
“It’s very exciting,” Watson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It’s definitely a blessing and an honor to be chosen to lead the Henderson, Nevada, Police Department.
“I have had many mentors in 20 years in law enforcement and to take all of the things I have learned over the years, it will be a blessing.”
Watson, 39, began her law enforcement career in 1994 in Hutchins, Texas, a Dallas suburb. She joined the Arlington Police Department in 2002, where she has been in supervisory roles for 12 years. When she was named deputy chief in 2014 she became the department’s youngest officer, in both tenure and age, to achieve the rank.
Todd Peters, who had served as acting chief since June, when Patrick Moers left the department under a cloud of controversy, also was a finalist from a field of 88 applicants. Henderson Police Department employs about 627 people, of which 434 are sworn officers and police supervisors.
“LaTesha Watson brings proven leadership skills, extensive law enforcement experience and a vision for building on the success of the Henderson Police Department to the role of police chief. As the next leader of our police force, her number one job will be making sure Henderson remains one of the safest cities in America,” City Manager Bob Murnane said in a statement.
Watson, who will be paid between $125,985 and $193,823, said no official start date has been decided, but she will begin in November pending the approval of the Henderson City Council. City spokesman David Cherry said no date for a council vote has been set.
Moers, who was placed on administrative leave then “voluntarily separated” from the department, was investigated by the city after he sent mailers to local business owners promoting Friends of the Henderson Police Department. The mailers included Moers’ photo and an image of a Henderson police badge. The city has not released specifics of his departure.
Watson is set to become Henderson’s second female police chief. Jutta Chambers had the role from 2008 to 2012, when she retired after publicity about a controversial police beating that was recorded by a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper’s dashboard camera.
Not an easy choice
Watson said she was not job hunting when she was contacted by Ralph Andersen & Associates, which conducted the national search for candidates. With a 15-year-old daughter, Alena, and 8-year-old son, Thorne, Watson had politely said no when other departments called.
That was her answer when the firm called, but it refused to take no for an answer, Watson said.
“They were very persistent and wanted me to review the announcement,” she said. “When I finally took a look at it and saw what they wanted in an ideal candidate I agreed that I was a good fit.”
So Watson had a discussion with Alena and Ralph, her husband of 18 years.
“I have done a lot of hard work and sacrifice to be in the position I am in, and before I went all in I wanted to be sure this is something they were willing to do,” Watson said. “They were all for it.”
But with Alena, a competitive volleyball player getting attention from colleges, the family will not make the journey west at the same time. Ralph, Alena and Thorne will stay in Arlington until the school year ends.
Watson said diversity and community will be key aspects of her tenure.
“The thing I’m going to have to do from the onset is evaluate where we are because that will dictate what we need to do in the future,” she said. “But one thing I know I will focus on is diversity. Very important to organizational growth is diversity through all levels, even diversity of assignment.”
Watson said one of the things that attracted her to the Henderson job is the department’s relationship with the community, something she has seen first hand in Arlington.
“The innovation of the department and strong relationship with the community really stood out to me,” she said. “Those align very well with the Arlington Police Department.”
Watson has earned advanced degrees while juggling family and police jobs. She attended the University of North Texas to earn a bachelor’s in criminal justice in 2000 and a master’s in criminology in 2003 before getting a Ph.D. in management and organizational leadership in 2010 from the University of Phoenix.
“We look forward to welcoming her to Henderson and to the innovative new ideas she will bring to the department from her more than two decades in the law enforcement field and strong academic background,” Murnane said.
Name: LaTesha Watson
Family: Husband Ralph, 15-year-old daughter Alena, 8-year-old son Thorne
Current position: Deputy Chief, Arlington Police Department
Education: Bachelor’s degree criminal justice, University of North Texas; master’s degree criminology, University of North Texas, Ph.D. management and organizational leadership, University of Phoenix
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