Robert Haas, Cambridge Police Commissioner
Photo: Cambridge Police Department
A week after the city manager announced his retirement in June, Police Commissioner Robert Haas said he will also retire this May, after nine years leading the department.
“It’s been 40 years for me in law enforcement. There’s no better place to serve as a capstone in ending my career,” Haas told the Chronicle. “My view is I want to leave at a high point, not in a situation where I regret leaving or something has happened. My decisions are based on my whole respect for this organization. Things are coming together and it’s just the right time.”
By focusing on community — from the homeless and seniors to at-risk youth and those suffering from mental illness — Haas has led the force in cutting-age policing, his colleagues say.
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“He’s brilliant in the way he thinks about policing, and how he sets the example for his team,” said Rossi. “I love the way he engages the community and I love the fact that he’s kept the lid on Cambridge through tough situations. That’s a high-stress job. That’s not a job when you go home at night you leave behind. … His mark will remain here for a long, long time.”
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“It may be heresy to say, but we, [police departments in general], set ourselves up [for a negative image] in the way we train our officers to be warriors in the community, fight crime, fight drugs. But that’s not who we are in a community,” Haas told the Chronicle. “The people who most need and are most deserving of our services are the people who’ve been victimized by police in the name of trying to make the community safer and that has made them feel disenfranchised.”
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Prior to his role in Cambridge, Haas served as secretary of public safety for former Gov. Mitt Romney, as well as undersecretary of law enforcement and homeland security, where he oversaw such agencies as Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Corrections and the State Police.
He was chief of police for 12 years in Westwood, and before that was a chief in New Jersey.
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The department has two superintendents — Burke and Joseph Wilson, who was promoted to superintendent of operations last year — and five deputy superintendents. The choice will most likely be among those seven, said Rossi who will sit down with Haas to narrow down the pool.
The last three times a new commissioner was appointed, the process was “elaborate,” according to Rossi, with citizens, police professionals and business people all having a say in the selection. Rossi said while the interim commissioner is in place, he will figure out this year’s process, which will most likely be similar to past years.
Haas’ announcement comes just a week after Rossi said he will retire in June after 45 years of working for the city. Having two major figures in the city’s administration retiring within a month of each other was inevitable, according to Rossi.
“We’re in an era of baby boomers; there are a lot of people in this age bracket,” he said. “We’ve focused on the strength of the teams, so in the event of someone leaving, there are people behind them who certainly can keep the ship running and I’m sure we have that in the police department, which gives me great confidence.”
The strength of the police department and its commanding staff is a big reason why Haas decided to retire at this time.
“I’m particularly proud of the members of this department,” Haas said. “They’ve gone through a number of changes in a short period of time and that speaks to their character and their capacity and how devoted they are to this city.”
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Haas said he didn’t just fall into this line of work; policing was his chosen profession. So he can’t imagine not continuing to work in this field in some capacity.
“I love policing. It’s noble work and I don’t want to divorce myself from it,” he said. “I can’t go cold turkey, so I suspect I’ll do a lot of work around the policing arena. It’s a critical time in policing. We’re in a crisis, and there’s opportunity to make significant change. And I can’t wait to be a part of that.”
Police Commissioner Robert Haas announced he will retire this May, after nine years leading the department.
By Amy Saltzman
Posted Mar. 23, 2016 at 1:15 PM
Updated at 1:37 PM