By Jeff Mitchell
Fairfield Daily Republic
SUISUN CITY- Erik Watts says he's always been intrigued by the idea of being of service to good people and of taking bad guys off the streets.
Born in Vallejo and raised in Fairfield, Watts says he was often regaled by family members of his grandfather's exploits as a Chicago cop on the beat in the late 1920s when famed mobster Al Capone ruled the town.
"It was neat knowing who he was and what he did. I was told he was one of the officers who responded following Capone's St. Valentine's Day massacre," Watts of the criminal kingpin's infamous execution-style hit of seven men in 1929.
"It was a story that always stayed with me."
If his grandfather's stories put a luster on the idea of police work, it was the advice of a friend's father, a cop in San Francisco, that made the 26-year-old Watts certain he wanted to go into law enforcement.
"I've found that being a police officer allows you to make a positive difference in people's lives - especially in the lives of young people," Watts said. "For me, that's what makes the job satisfying."
Although Watts has been on the small force since March 2004, he's already suitably impressed colleagues and superiors.
Police Chief Ron Forsythe says Watts may be a "natural" who handles himself with the maturity of veteran officer. Forsythe said Watts is a stickler for punctuality and attendance and had developed a reputation as a dogged worker.
For these and other reasons, Forsythe recently named Watts the department's officer of the year for 2004.
"(Watts) is a hard-working police officer who can always be relied upon," Forsythe said during a brief online interview. "His work ethic reaffirms my hope for the future of law enforcement in our community."
The recently married Watts - who said he is deeply honored by his department's public recognition - said his immediate goals include the idea of starting a family, returning to college for a degree and eventually, earning a sergeant's stripes.
Watts said he enjoys working for Suisun City because he gets to do a lot of different things, including investigations and follow-ups, that he wouldn't be able to do if he worked for a larger, more compartmentalized agency.
"I like conducting investigations so we'll see - that may be one path. At this point I'm keeping my options open and gathering as much experience as I can," Watts said.
Reach Jeff Mitchell at 427-6977 or firstname.lastname@example.org.