West Valley City selects new police chief

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 27 2013 10:20 a.m. MDT

The West Valley City Police car sits outside the West Valley Police Department building Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

WEST VALLEY CITY — West Valley has selected an Ohio man to be its next police chief, an announcement expected to come this afternoon from city officials.

Lee Russo, former chief executive officer and chief of police for the Covington, Ky. police department for five years, was selected to lead the embattled West Valley force, sources said.

"It's a great day for taking a step forward with the West Valley police department," West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder said. The mayor said the formal announcement would come in a 3 p.m. press conference.

One priority for the selection of the chief was the ability to let the people of West Valley be the boss and not be influenced by political, media or other pressure, criteria which Winder thinks the new chief meets.

"Changing culture" was listed as Russo's top Key Competency on his profile, a strength he will need in leading the force that was racked with scandal.

Assistant West Valley City Manager Paul Issac said two-thirds of those who applied for the job were from out of state, submitting applications from as far away as Alaska and Florida to lead the department that has been embroiled in controversy during the past year.

"It's a good day to press the reset button for West Valley police," Winder said, of the motivation for searching outside of Utah for candidates.

Those 36 original candidates were whittled down to 23 by having each person submit a video presentation, answering a question they were given by the city. From that point, nine candidates were brought to West Valley City Hall to be interviewed by a group of 15 people that included city employees, business leaders and chiefs of police from cities outside of West Valley. Most of the 15 interviewers, Issac said, were from outside West Valley.

"We tried to get all walks of life," Winder said.

West Valley's embattled police department has been under intense public scrutiny following a series of high-profile incidents. In November, two undercover narcotics officers shot and killed 21-year-old Danielle Willard during an investigation.

In August, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced that Willard's shooting was not justified.

That shooting sparked a series of investigations revealing the mishandling of evidence that led West Valley police to disband its Neighborhood Narcotics Unit. It also prompted the district attorney's office and the U.S. Attorney's Office to dismiss 124 criminal cases linked to the narcotics unit.

Contributing: Pat Reavy

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com

Twitter: whitevs7

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