WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – Chief Lee Russo of West Valley City Police announced Friday he will be stepping down on September 8. This came as a surprise to some, but city officials said the chief had been talking with them about it for some time.
Chief Russo had planned to make the announcement next week, but with word getting out city officials decided to make it public. City Manger Wayne Pyle had nothing, but praise for the chief and the reforms made during his four years heading the department.
West Valley City Police Department was embroiled in scandals and had several high profile resignations before Chief Russo was brought in. Pyle said the chief helped restore trust back in the department.
"The work that we needed to accomplish around that was to achieve more transparency, and a better relationship with the media, you folks, as well as transmit that message to our community," said Pyle.
Chief Russo became well known for his reforms, many of which were the first in the state. He required every officer to wear body cams. He dramatically change how the department handles sexual assault cases with the start by believing campaign.
The department was also one of the first to submit every rape kit to the crime lab for testing. Chief Russo said he hopes to look for new opportunities in the future and looked forward to moving closer to his three children.
Deputy Chief Colleen Nolan will take over as interim chief while the city selects a new chief. That search could take up to six months.
Read Russo's full statement:
It is with mixed emotions today that I announce I am retiring as the Chief of Police for West Valley City effective September 8, 2017. Working with the officers of the West Valley City Police Department, the leadership of West Valley City and especially working alongside the residents of this city have been some of the proudest moments of my career. We have accomplished so much together.
In the four years that I have served as Chief of Police, we have set the West Valley City Police Department on a course, not only to be better than it has been in the past, but to be one of the very best police agencies in the nation. We have led the way locally and across the country in addressing the sexual assault kit backlog. We have developed victim-focused protocols that made it more likely that someone who commits sexual assault will be prosecuted for their crime. We set the example in our community by saying that when someone comes to us and tells us that they have been sexually assaulted, we will start by believing.
We have created an environment of transparency in this police department by meeting with the community face to face each month and answering questions; as well as by implementing body cameras for the benefit of both our police officers and our community. The partnership we have with our community is stronger than ever before and our city is a better place because of it.
Working together, this police department has become the only nationally accredited police agency in this entire state. The West Valley City Police Department is now nationally accredited through CALEA; a distinction held by less than five percent of police agencies nationwide. Together, we have aligned our operations with the best practices governing all facets of law enforcement. These best practices are considered the “gold standard” of the profession.
These are some of the goals that the leadership of West Valley City and I had in our sights when I took this job. We discussed at length the time it would take to achieve these goals and we have accomplished that in just over four years.
The City Manager and I always understood that, as much as I have grown to love this city and its people, West Valley City would not be my permanent home. I have three children across this country and my wife and I have always hoped to find the opportunity to have better access to them. Now that our city leaders and I have accomplished our goals for this police department, I feel confident that the time is right to go out and find that new opportunity.
I am grateful that City Manager Wayne Pyle supports me in this decision and in turn, I want to thank Mr. Pyle, the West Valley City Council and the city staff. It has been my pleasure to work with you and I have very much appreciated your support. I have been very impressed with the management of the City.
To the Police Department I am leaving I say that you are the very finest in this profession. Every accomplishment this police department has made is owed to you. This department will continue to achieve great success.
Finally, to the community, I can’t thank you enough for the support you have shown me and this department over the past four years. This Police Department is stronger now than ever, our relationship with you is stronger now than ever; we are truly working as partners to make this city the very best it can be. I want you to know that this City’s elected officials and administration are committed to you. Residents of West Valley City, you are in great hands.
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