MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — The state has a new top public safety official. Ronnell Higgins was sworn in Monday as the new Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) commissioner.
“I am charged. I am ready to go,” Higgins said.
He will replace James Rovella, who has held the position since January 2019 and is retiring. Higgins will serve as the interim commissioner of DESPP until he is confirmed by the state legislature when the session opens in February.
“I’m a collaborator,” Higgins said. “I’m a convener. I want to bring us all together to make sure we’re all on the same sheet of music, and the state of Connecticut is safer as a result.”
Higgins told News 8 he felt the pull towards service from a young age. He was a corrections officer before becoming a police officer at Yale University, where he went through the ranks to become chief and later the associate vice president for public safety and engagement.
In his new role, he’s focused on recruitment and retention, restoring public trust, fostering growth and leading with transparency and fairness.
“Making sure our practices align with our policies, making sure leadership, even at the sergeant’s level, is doing as they should and on the way up,” Higgins said.
Higgins will oversee six divisions, including the Connecticut State Police. After an audit revealed troopers may have falsified thousands of traffic stop records, the agency is the subject of investigations. He said he’s in the process of gathering more information and will receive an in-depth briefing soon.
“I just think that the number of people that were thought to be involved was not as wide as they initially thought,” Higgins explained.
When asked about it Monday, Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) said they will get to the bottom of it.
“I say, without hesitancy, we have the best state police and community policing than I can imagine,” Lamont said. “The only lesson learned is we have a few bad apples that will be held accountable.”
Higgins hopes to make Connecticut safer and better for everyone during his tenure.