NEW MILFORD — For the past 31 years, Lt. Spencer Cerruto has worked with the Watertown community through his various roles in the police department.

Residents of New Milford can expect that same sense of civic engagement when he takes over as the new police chief next month. Cerruto, 52, was named the new permanent chief Monday afternoon. He replaces Chief Shawn Boyne, whose contract expired on Sunday.

“I’m very proud,” Cerruto said. “It’s a department with a lot of potential and I’m very fortunate to lead such capable, experienced and professional officers and staff."

Mayor Pete Bass said he chose Cerruto because of his community involvement vision and his experience.

“I’m very excited to have the new chief come in and join our force,” Bass said, adding he will bring a lot of experience and enthusiasm to town.

Cerruto was chosen from 11 applicants — all from Connecticut. Bass selected him with the help of other first responders, including former New Milford officers and others in law enforcement. One member is also the head of IBM’s human resources. The search began in July, shortly after Bass announced Boyne’s contract would not be renewed in the fall.

The details of Cerruto’s contract and salary are still being negotiated, Bass said.

Cerruto started his career at the Watertown department in 1987 as a patrol officer, advancing to detective, then sergeant before overseeing the research and development division and the Office of Professional Standards as a lieutenant. He spent a combined 12 years in the U.S. Army Reserves and the Connecticut Army National Guard.

He’s an adjunct criminal justice professor at Post University and Naugatuck Valley Community College. He has several degrees, including a master’s degree in justice and law administration from Western Connecticut State University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in law and society from the University of Connecticut.

He lives in Torrington with his two sons, Spencer Jr., 23, and Joseph, 19.

“I want to thank the mayor for the confidence he’s shown in me,” Cerruto said. “I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work.”

Cerruto hopes to start his new post in New Milford by mid-November.

Interim Chief Jeff Covello is leading the department in the meantime. He was sworn in on Friday along with Sgt. Katherine Massicotte, who was sworn in as acting interim lieutenant.

Covello, 46, of Plymouth, joined the New Milford department in 2016 after serving 22 years with State Police, including a decade with the State Police Western District Major Crime Squad. During his time with the state police, he investigated more than 300 death cases.

Shortly after joining the New Milford department, he was promoted to oversee the detective division. He used that experience to train the department and bring skills up to a higher level.

It’s rare for a local department to handle a homicide without assistance from the state, but New Milford officers investigated the double homicide in April alone. In that case, a North Carolina man shot and killed two people in a pickup truck before turning the gun on himself.

“To have that skill-set and be able to bestow it on the workforce is rewarding,” Covello said, adding this elevates the whole department.

Covello said he looks forward to working with the new chief and starting a new chapter at the department.

Cerruto said he was drawn to New Milford because of the tight-knit community and the high calibre of the department.

He said he plans to be very visible in the community and hopes to evolve the department’s community policing efforts. This includes starting a citizen police academy, where residents can understand what the town’s police officers experience; implementing bicycle patrols and adding programs for youth, senior citizens and veterans. He strives to be approachable and said his door will always be open to the public and officers.

“I think working together, we can make a difference,” Cerruto said.

Another goal is to improve officer development, safety and well-being. In Watertown, he is the accreditation manager and the training officer.

“I believe that we’re all in this together and no one of us is smarter than all of us,” he said.

Watertown Police Chief John Gavallas said the community has responded very positively to all of Cerruto’s efforts to build relationships between residents and officers. Cerruto started the Citizen Police Academy about eight years ago and hundreds of residents have since completed it. Cerruto is a regular at community events and active in veterans affairs.

“Our loss is certainly New Milford’s gain,” he said. “I’m confident the men and women of New Milford’s department will benefit from Chief Cerruto’s leadership.”

Gavallas has known Cerutto since he joined the department about 30 years ago. He described Cerutto as highly dedicated, highly motivated and committed to the mission of law enforcement. He said he’s looking forward to working with him as a fellow chief.

“He’s going to be missed here in Watertown,” Gavallas said. “We wish him the best.”