The announcement comes after the retirement of Chief Thayle “Buzz” Nielsen, who left the troubled department back in March.
Chief Russo has served in law enforcement for nearly 30 years, most recently as Chief of Police for Covington, Kentucky. He began his career in law enforcement with the Baltimore County Police Department as a patrol officer and served that organization for more than 20 years. Russo has a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Delaware and a Masters Degree in Management from Johns Hopkins University.
Mayor Mike Winder said, “He brings some experience, some real world experience and not just keeping the seat warm where’s he’s been but actually enacting change and not being afraid to ruffle some feathers to make things happen in the community he serves.”
Chief Russo was chosen out of a field of 36 applicants. The city believes he is the leader who will turn around the police department, bolster the rank and file and repair its relationship with the public. Russo says he’s up for the challenge.
“Anybody can go sit behind the desk in an agency that’s running well, but true leadership is what’s required when there’s trouble inside an agency, or perceived trouble inside an agency; when there is a concern or question being asked by a community of how a police department is serving them. I thrive on that.” said Chief Lee Russo.
Russo has experience with turmoil. In 2009, the Fraternal Order of Police approved a vote of no confidence 94% to 6% citing low moral among the rank and file. Russo says he had to make some unpopular decisions to enact change and he makes no apologies about it.
“I’ve sailed some rough seas. I’ve stepped on some toes and that may happen here too, but in the end I promise you I will not back down from challenges. I will work with the community. I will work with the police department and we will be better and we will grow,” promises Chief Russo.