West Valley City officials announced Tuesday; they’ve hired a police chief out of Kentucky to lead the city’s embattled police department. Lee Russo, former Chief of the Covington Kentucky Police Department will replace retired West Valley City Police Chief Buzz Nielson.
West Valley City Manager Wayne Pyle says Chief Russo brings a great deal of wisdom to the West Valley City police department.
“He was the chief in Covington for five in a half years approximately and brought at that time to Covington a great balance of change and love and interest for a police department and the challenges that are internal to and face any police department," Pyle says.
West Valley City PD attracted scrutiny when the Salt Lake County district attorney's office and U.S. attorney’s office dismissed more than a hundred criminal cases linked to the department's Neighborhood Narcotics Unit. The department disbanded the squad last year, but a week ago Pyle confirmed that four officers from the unit have been reinstated. Also narcotics detectives Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon remain on leave after District Attorney Sim Gill ruled their actions unjustified when they shot and killed 21-year-old Danielle Willard during a routine drug stop. But despite these setbacks, new Chief Lee Russo says he’s ready to reinvent the reputation of the department.
“Anybody can go sit behind a desk in an agency that’s running well," Russo says. "But true leadership is what’s required when there is trouble inside of an agency, or perceived trouble inside of an agency.”
Russo says his first objective will be to develop a plan for building trust in the community and responding to department concerns, which could include monthly meetings with the public.
Russo served on the Baltimore County police force in Maryland before becoming chief in Covington. In Kentucky his management style got him a vote of no confidence from the Fraternal Order of Police. He will take over the chief’s job pending the approval of the West Valley City Council. A vote is scheduled on September 3rd .