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Former Covington Police Chief Tapped to Lead Utah Department

Former Covington Police Chief Lee Russo has been selected to lead the police department in West Valley City, Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Tuesday.

Russo, 49, will be presented as the top pick to the city council for approval after a months-long search.

The former chief and the City of Covington parted ways in May 2012 when Russo's resignation was accepted just months after a 3-2 vote made him an at-will employee without a long-term contract.

"I appreciate the opportunity that I was given to serve as police chief," Russo said in a statement at the time. "I want to express my appreciation to the city commission and citizens for their trust and support. Most of all I want to thank the men and women of the Covington Police Department for their support without which most of the accomplishments that we have achieved in the last five years would not have been possible. I am proud to have served with you and encourage each of you to continue on the path that we have forged together."

Hired from the Baltimore County Police Department in Maryland in 2007, Russo was the first chief hired from outside the Covington Police Department. While noticeably popular in many parts of the community his reign was marked by contention and low morale among the rank and file within the department. In 2009, the Fraternal Order of Police approved a vote of no confidence in the chief by a 94% to 6% margin. 

 
The decision to part ways followed a review of each city department by Cincinnati-based Management Partners, though the resignation came before the release of those findings.
 
Then-Mayor Chuck Scheper said at the time that he reviewed statistics and credited Russo for leading the department to a twenty-five percent drop in violent crimes.
 

"The selection process has been detailed and thorough, involving a carefully selected committee of West Valley City officials and members of associated outside entities including law enforcement, legal, media and other groups," Pyle said in a written release. "I am confident that we have chosen the best candidate to lead our police department into the future."

A West Valley City Council member who asked to not be named described Russo as "the right guy to lead the department going forward."

According to Census figures, West Valley City, Utah has a population of more than 129,000, more than three times the size of Covington.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Lee Russo