Chief MacPherson Retires

Published by Chris Wangler- February 17, 2021.

Waltham Police Chief Keith MacPherson retired Wednesday after seven years in the top job and 41 with Waltham Police.
Soft-spoken and respected, the Waltham native (WHS Class of 1974) was appointed chief in February 2014 after serving as interim chief for more than a year.
He proved a steadying influence after scandals that overshadowed the previous two chiefs.
He got right to work. Not long after his appointment, Waltham Police joined other law enforcement agencies to apprehend the suspects in the fatal shooting of WHS senior Tyler Zanco, 17, in Gardencrest.
Waltham Police also investigated multiple domestic violence killings, including one involving the son of sports broadcaster Jerry Remy and a murder-suicide involving a former WPD officer.
Chief MacPherson chatted with a Waltham Police motorcycle officer before a 135th anniversary parade for the City of Waltham in 2019.
The following years saw a dip in violent crime, but a rise in opiate overdoses.
In 2017, the chief and the department were put to the test when more than a hundred bomb threats, including 24 in one day, were made in Waltham by a cyberbully later convicted on multiple federal charges.
Some major crimes remained unsolved during Chief MacPherson’s tenure, such as the massive 2017 arson fire at the Cooper Street construction site and a series of startling random attacks that made international headlines in late 2020.
Part of the chief’s legacy will be greater community outreach.
The chief testified multiple times before the city council in summer 2020 amid new scrutiny of police departments nationwide.
Before becoming chief, MacPherson helped set up an emergency notification system that has become a key police contact point for residents, alongside the department’s popular social media accounts.
His tenure also saw gun buybacks, safe prescription medication disposal and resident meetings for coffee with cops.
In spite of the new visibility, the chief kept a low profile, following department tradition. He was known as a fair and articulate moderator of the city’s traffic commission.
In 2020, after the death of George Floyd in police custody, Waltham Police was thrown into the spotlight amid nationwide calls for police reform. In response, the chief amended the department’s use of force policy and made other changes.
At the city council’s request, he supplied records on police complaints. One councilor requested cuts to the police budget, but all proposed cuts were overwhelmingly rejected by fellow councilors.
The council also voted to approve new police contracts, with raises and higher detail pay. (Only a few years earlier, police unions had picketed against the chief and the mayor over pay and other issues.)
While the council stood behind the chief, police support signs sprouted up all over the city.
2020 ended with renewed discussion of a new police station, although doubts continue to linger over the long-overdue project, especially where it should be built.
Throughout his busy tenure in the top job, Chief Keith MacPherson maintained a strong Waltham Police tradition, listening to residents while bringing criminals to justice.
The Waltham Channel wishes him a happy retirement with his family, including a daughter on Waltham Police who carries on his name.