NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Making Connecticut better for everyone is at the core of what Ronnell Higgins hopes to do as the state’s top public safety official.
Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) named him as the next commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) on Wednesday.
“Not only did I know early on what I wanted to be, I knew who I wanted to be like,” explained Higgins.
For Higgins, that was to be like his dad who served as a police officer in New Haven.
“I felt like he was always solving problems,” Higgins said.
But he didn’t think that was the path he’d take.
“My brother was a victim of police brutality in the early 90’s, which made me say I want nothing to do with policing,” Higgins said.
He took a job as a correction officer but told News 8 he always felt he was being called towards something else: to be a police officer, too.
“I just pledged to myself that the first department that called me, I was going to go there, I was going to be loyal, and I was going to work my butt off and show the others what they could have had,” recounted Higgins.
Higgins joined the Yale Police Department in 1997 and rose through the ranks, becoming the chief of police. He’s currently the university’s associate vice president for public safety and community engagement. He said, at first, he didn’t say yes to this new role.
“Sometimes, we make plans, and God smiles,” Higgins said. “It was actually my wife who said, why not you?”
As the state’s top public safety official, he’ll oversee six divisions, including Connecticut State Police. After an audit revealed troopers may have falsified thousands of traffic stop records, the agency is the subject of investigations.
“I always felt that I had the ability to lead maybe organizations that were going through something,” Higgins said. “Who knew we’d be there today, but here we are.”
Higgins vows to lead consistently and fairly, keeping the community at the forefront.
“As a leader, I see myself as an orchestra conductor,” he explained. “It is going to be my role to ensure we’re on the same sheet of music. When we are, that’s when we can get things done and move forward.”
Once confirmed by the state legislature, Higgins will officially replace Commissioner James Rovella, who is retiring after holding the position since January 2019.