West Valley City’s new police chief spoke candidly with members of the community Thursday night about the future of the long-embattled agency. It was the first in a series of monthly community meetings Chief Lee Russo says he plans to hold.
Lori Bailey is part of the Solomon Farms Neighborhood watch in West Valley City. She told Russo, she’s not getting a timely response from the police when she report crimes like drug deals and graffiti. Russo took Bailey’s information assuring her he’d follow up. Bailey says she’ll come to every community meeting from now on.
“There is a lot of good and bad said about West Valley Police Department; a lot more bad," Bailey says. "But I think they can improve their image a ton with this new chief and new policies and new procedures put in place.”
After the meeting residents mingled with Russo and other officers, asking questions and offering tips.
Russo says he’s determined to move the department away from its troubled past and create a positive future which requires addressing inadequate leadership, a lack of accountability and communication. One woman questioned whether Russo’s inquiry into leadership at the top was truly rigorous. Russo said he wants to focus first on the system.
“The opportunity that I’m looking for is to make sure that the system is effective and then establish the accountabilities; set the expectations, demand the accountabilities and those that can’t perform need to be dealt with on an individual basis," Russo says.
In the past year, West Valley City Police dealt with scandals linked to its Neighborhood Narcotics Unit and Sex and Domestic Violence Unit as well as fallout from the unjustified shooting death of a young woman during an alleged drug bust. Russo says he plans to launch a “positive image campaign” to help the community look forward to the future instead of dwelling on the departments past mistakes.