Yale will soon receive e-mails about crime and safety from a new chief of police — but those e-mails might come from a familiar face.

Already, a beaming Ronnell Higgins stands at attention in the masthead image of every Yale Police Department e-mail. Although he formally serves as the YPD’s assistant chief, Higgins has been the public face of the department since former chief James A. Perrotti retired in June 2010.

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Sources involved in the search process, which began last summer, have said that the announcement of a new chief is imminent, and history indicates that Higgins may be the new hire.

The YPD’s last national search for chief resulted in the internal promotion of then-Assistant Chief Perrotti, a 25-year veteran of the department, in 1998.

Since Perrotti left last year, former New Haven Police Department Chief James Lewis has stepped into help oversee YPD administration on a part-time basis. But Lewis, who spends half of each month at his home in Wisconsin, is not available to run YPD’s daily operations.

Higgins, who was named assistant chief in 2008 after joining the YPD as a patrol officer in 1997, has already assumed some of the day-to-day responsibilities of the chief.

Dressed in a dark olive suit, Higgins sat down with a dozen Silliman College students and other YPD officers in a Silliman meeting room Monday night. The event, which was sponsored by the Silliman Activities and Administrative Committee, is part of a YPD college tour designed to familiarize students with the department. Accompanied by Lt. Joseph Vitale, Officer Carmen Romano and Officer Raymond DeJesus, Higgins was the highest-ranking YPD officer at the meeting.

“I’m competing in that but I’m not campaigning,” Higgins said about the competition to be Chief. “I’m not a politician.”

The selection committee — which includes Lewis, Deputy Secretary for the University Martha Highsmith and Associate Vice President for Administration Janet Lindner — began accepting applications for the job at the beginning of November.

But Higgins was mentioned as a possible candidate long before that.

“If [Higgins] doesn’t apply, I will nominate him,” Highsmith told the News in April, two months before Perrotti’s departure.

That search process took eight months, but Lindner told the News in November that she anticipated selecting a chief by January.

An advertisement for the position posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website in Novemeber said the chief will be responsible for all operational, administrative and financial areas of the department. The new chief will oversee a staff of 87 certified police officers, an administrative staff and a $13 million annual operating budget.

Candidates for the position are required to hold a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and have at least 10 years of police experience, according to the advertisement.

Grace Patuwo contributed reporting.