After being hired as a patrol officer, Watson was at the police academy in Montgomery while two very dramatic events took place in Talladega. A serial killer left his tragic mark on the community, and around the same time an undercover police officer was shot while working on an investigation at a club at the edge of town.
One of his instructors at the academy asked Watson if he knew what he was getting into.
The Anniston native was hired by former Chief Mike Hamlin. He served as a patrol officer for two years and patrol sergeant for several years before becoming a detective. After five years, he became a patrol lieutenant before being elevated to chief in June of 2000.
Watson has guided the department through a number of changes and improvements during his tenure. He gives credit to others for accomplishments made, but at the very minimum, he was responsible for managing big changes in the way the department works. They are worth noting here.
The Talladega Police Department is the smallest of only six municipal police departments in the state to be accredited by CALEA, the Commission for Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies. The department went through a three-year process of documenting its policies and procedures and making sure its entire staff is on board with an efficient and professional approach to their jobs.
“It covers absolutely everything we do in the department and mandates we do it right,” he said.
During Watson’s tenure, the city jail was closed as all of the cities in the county and the Sheriff’s Department collaborated to form the Metro Jail, a professionally run facility that has been a win-win project for everyone involved, including the inmates.
Those same agencies also joined forces with the 911 system to establish a central dispatch facility that helps keep emergency responders throughout the county informed of incidents where their response is needed. That replaced a system in which each department was responsible for having dispatchers on duty at all times.
Watson also served as the head of a two-county communications board that oversees the operation of the CSEEP radio system, and has been instrumental in guiding system users to managing the next upgrade to that system.
He is also pleased he was able to improve the quality of life for his police officers through a major change in their work schedule. Previously, officers worked shifts of seven days on, two off, with precious few days off to spend with their families. That schedule added stress to a stressful job. Watson worked out a schedule with 12-hour shifts that gives officers more consecutive days away from the job.
The city also now provides weapons, belts and supplies and shoes that officers previously had to supply from personal funds, and each patrol officer is assigned a car for his or her exclusive use.
Watson has seen a lot of tense moments that ended peacefully, for which he has been grateful. He credits the department’s performance to a good team of people working together, and also credits the switch to the city manager form of government with having a positive impact on operations.
Watson guided the department into the 21st century and managed big changes that have enhanced operations that benefit everyone involved.
We appreciate the impact he has had on the city and wish him well as he enters a new phase of his career.