A former New Haven assistant police chief became chief of the Providence Police Department in Providence, R.I., after a swearing-in ceremony last Friday.

Dean Esserman, a 1979 graduate of Dartmouth College, was appointed to the position by Providence mayor David Cicilline. Esserman formerly served as assistant chief in the New Haven Police Department from 1991 until 1993, during which he implemented Connecticut’s first federally funded drug gang task force.

According to officials in the Providence Public Safety Commission, Cicilline overlooked three other candidates — including current NHPD assistant chief Douglas MacDonald — proposed by a selection committee formed under former mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci.

Cianci was convicted in June on federal racketeering-conspiracy charges.

“He appointed this chief on his own,” said an official with the Providence Public Safety Commission, who would not give her name. “The [selection] commission serves at the pleasure of the mayor.”

MacDonald interviewed in late March 2002 for the top position with the Providence Police Department. He was one of three finalists retained by the selection committee, which chose from an original pool of 72 applicants.

Officials at the mayor’s office said Cicilline appointed Esserman without aid from the selection committee formed under Cianci.

MacDonald said Cicilline wanted his decision to be independent from work done under his predecessor.

“He wanted to establish himself,” MacDonald said. “He felt that he was selecting an individual that he was compatible with — The mayor did what he thought was in the best interest of his city,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald said he believed Cicilline sought advice from the mayor of Stamford, where Esserman served as chief of police from 1998 to 2001.

While serving in Stamford, Esserman implemented a community policing program that cut crime by 50 percent over a four-year period.

“I am proud to say that we have found the best police chief in America for the City of Providence,” Cicilline said in a statement released by Providence City Hall. “Dean Esserman has impeccable credentials, a demonstrated record in combating crime, and has proven time and again his ability to restore the public’s confidence in the police departments in which he has served.”

Esserman is also the executive managing director of Thatcher Associates, LLC, one of New York City’s largest corporate investigation firms. He was appointed by former mayor Rudy Giuliani to protect demolition and construction projects at Ground Zero.

Esserman received his law degree from New York University School of Law, after which he served as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., a special U.S. attorney, and the general counsel to the New York City Transit Police.

Esserman also serves as a fellow at the Yale University Child Study Center.