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New WVC police chief plans to improve department

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Posted at 9:21 AM, Aug 27, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-27 19:51:30-04

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah --The new West Valley police chief was formerly introduced to the public at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

After completing a nationwide search, West Valley City chose Lee Russo, a former chief with the Covington Ky. Police Department. He will take the place of former Police Chief Thayle "Buzz" Nielsen, who retired in March, Fox 13 News has learned.

West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder said Russo brings the experience to enact change.

Russo was among 36 candidates who applied for the position across the nation. The selection process was narrowed down to nine individuals.

Russo said he looks forward to the life that he and his wife will be sharing with the community.

"I plan to be here for a long time -- we plan to make it better," Russo said.

West Valley Police Department has been in the spotlight for almost year because of distrust and allegations of corruption.

It started November 2012 when Detectives Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon shot and killed 21-year-old Danielle Willard.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office ruled the shooting was not justified in earlier this month.

The Neighborhood Narcotics Unit within the department was dissolved in December 2012 after 19 cases connected to Cowley were dropped by DA's office because of a lack of substantial evidence, Fox 13 News previously reported.

Russo said he's not going to immediately change the structure. He plans to look at the system and see what changes need to be made.

"The rift isn't going to improve over one meeting," Russo said. "It will take time."

Before working in Covington, Ky., Russo worked in the Baltimore County Police Department in Maryland as a precinct commander.

According to Russo's LinkedIn profile, he received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Delaware and a master's degree in business management and organizational development from John Hopkins University.