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New West Valley chief can't take oath just yet — he has to be certified

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 1 2015 4:54 a.m. MDT

West Valley City Mayer Mike Winder, left, shakes hands with his new Chief Lee Russo Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, at City Hall in West Valley City. Susan Russo stands to the side. But before he's sworn in, Russo must first pass a written and physical test in order to be certified in Utah as a police officer. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) West Valley City Mayer Mike Winder, left, shakes hands with his new Chief Lee Russo Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, at City Hall in West Valley City. Susan Russo stands to the side. But before he's sworn in, Russo must first pass a written and physical test in order to be certified in Utah as a police officer. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

WEST VALLEY CITY — The man hired to be West Valley's new police chief said his first day on the job was Tuesday.

But Lee Russo can't quite take the oath of office just yet, according to Utah state law.

All law enforcers in the state must be certified by Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training. Russo, 49, must pass both a written and a physical fitness test and become a certified law enforcer in the state.

"If he's going to be chief, he has to pass it before he takes the office of chief," said POST Director Scott Stephenson.

According to the Utah Code Book, a police chief has the authority to "suppress riots, disturbances, and breaches of the peace; apprehend all persons violating state laws or city ordinances; and diligently discharge his duties and enforce all ordinances of the city."

New West Valley City Police Chief Lee Russo, speaks at a press conference Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013 at City Hall in West Valley City. But before he's sworn in, he must first pass a written and physical test in order to be certified in Utah as a police officer. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) New West Valley City Police Chief Lee Russo, speaks at a press conference Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013 at City Hall in West Valley City. But before he's sworn in, he must first pass a written and physical test in order to be certified in Utah as a police officer. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

"They've assured me he's not doing any of those. He's handling personnel issues. There's nothing in the statute that says he has to be certified to handle personnel issues," Stephenson said.

Until Russo becomes POST-certified, he can act like a department head, similar to the city manager, he said, "but (he can't be) doing any police functions whatsoever."

Russo has already submitted his application to take the POST tests, Stephenson said. There is no time limit of when he needs to pass them.

The tests are uniform for everyone, he said. There aren't separate tests for veteran and new officers, or in-state and out-of-state people.

"We treat chiefs and officers the same way," Stephenson said.

Although the written test includes several questions specific to Utah law, Stephenson said people from outside the state should be able to learn quickly. "If he studies, we very rarely have people fail," he said.

There are more people who generally retake the physical fitness portion.

The fitness standards Russo must pass are also the same for each officer. There is not a curve based on age, Stephenson said.

The test includes being able to complete a vertical jump of 17.5 inches, run 300 meters in 64 seconds, complete 29 sit-ups in one minute, complete 21 push-ups without breaks, and run a mile and a half in 14 minutes and 46 seconds.

Russo was most recently the chief of the Covington Police Department in Kentucky but had been retired for about a year before accepting the West Valley City job.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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