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Watson Hopeful Ferguson Commission Will Create “Blueprint of What to Do”

January 16, 2015

Byron Watson  

Byron Watson, a police officer at St. Louis Community College, hit the ground running after being appointed to Gov. Jay Nixon’s Ferguson Commission in late December.

Within days he was taking part in late night conference calls, and on Jan. 10, was part of the Youth Speak Commission event held at STLCC’s Florissant Valley campus. It was there that his role on the commission became clear.

“As the young people left the podium after speaking, one of the things I noticed was that they felt like they’d been heard. We have to tap into that,” Watson said. “You have to give people hope. When people lose hope, society pays.”

Watson was chosen for the commission because of his background in both law enforcement and community engagement. Watson served for 27 years with the St. Louis County Police Department before joining STLCC in 2008. During his 27 years with the county police, Watson served as a community relations officer and as supervisor of the Community Policing Unit. He was part of organizing and developing more than 100 Neighborhood Watch programs. He also served as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education/School Resource Supervisor.

Since 2010, Watson has been assigned to STLCC’s William J. Harrison Education Center.

“My work in the schools and with the community is what Gov. Nixon said impressed him the most,”
Watson said. “What I bring is that I know both sides. I know how to build bridges between the community and the police. That is the perspective I bring to the commission.”

Watson said Nixon told him while he was looking for an additional law enforcement perspective on the commission, Watson’s background in education, community engagement and law enforcement made him a better choice than an active duty member of the St. Louis Country Police Department. Watson was recommended to Nixon by Kevin Ahlbrand, Ferguson Commission member and president of the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police.

In addition to his overall role, Watson serves on the commission subcommittee focusing on municipal courts and police. Watson believes this his day-to-day interactions with STLCC students will pay dividends for both the commission and the college.

“I’m going to be a sounding board for our students,” Watson said. “They are going to feel like they have a voice in this process. It shows that we as a college have skin in the game.”

The commission has been charged with delivering recommendations to Nixon by Sept. 15. While the commission members recognize that their task is challenging, they also realize that they are playing an important role in moving the St. Louis community forward in a positive way.

“Change doesn’t happen overnight. Do we have all the answers? No. Are we making progress? Yes. We are uncovering some of the issues that are driving some of the anger and some of the frustration,” Watson said. “The eyes of the world are looking at St. Louis, and we can either be a blueprint for what to do, or a blueprint for what not to do. We hope this is a blueprint of what to do.”