New Police Chief Plans A Preventive Approach

May 01, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

Rapes and burglaries are becoming more common and "large numbers" ofchild abuse cases go uninvestigated, newly appointed County Police Chief Robert P. Russell said.

But instead of dwelling on the problems facing his force of 555 officers, Russell chose to emphasize the new direction in which he hopes to lead his department.

"The focus we're going to have is problem-oriented, community-oriented policing," the 25-year police veteran said minutes after being appointed yesterday by County Executive Robert R. Neall.

Russell, who climbed the career ladder from patrolman to acting chief before his appointment, said he wants to train his officers to recognize drugand alcohol abuse and to be able to refer families to counseling.

"If we can identify the root cause -- if it's a domestic quarrel, does someone in the family have a problem with alcoholism; if there is a problem with burglaries, dothe family's kids have a problem with drugs -- it seems much more effective to identify the problem and solveit that way."

To illustrate his concept of problem-oriented policing, Russell recounted a tale of construction site vandalism.

Police repeatedly responded to reports of vandalism in a single neighborhood, Russell said. Workers had erected a fence around heavy equipmentbut not a pile of sand and gravel. Children playing in the pile werehurling heavy stones into the road, smashing car windshields.

Eventually, a young officer asked the crew to move the pile inside the fence and the problem disappeared, Russell said.

"That's problem-oriented policing," he said. "Move the damn rocks, so you don't have the problem."

Russell said he also wants his force to become more familiar with the community. He already has begun by decentralizing hisnarcotics unit, reassigning detectives to each of the four precincts.

He said he will order more footpatrols such as those begun in Meade Village earlier this month.

"You could take it back to the concept of the old foot patrolman

whom everybody knew, and who knew everything about the neighborhood," Russell said. "He could even tell you when your kids werehooking school."

Russell was appointed actingdirector in January after Chief George W. Wellham III retired.

He has served in the narcotics, vice and internal affairs divisions and earned a master's degree in criminal justice from the University ofBaltimore in 1989.

Although Wellham recommended Russell for the chief's job, Neall interviewed 13 candidates from several states.

"I asked state and federal officials for advice on picking a new chief, and they said we already had the right man to lead our law enforcement effort in Anne Arundel County," Neall said.

Russell, who earned about $81,000 as deputy chief, will receive between $82,000 and $83,000 as chief, police spokesman Dick Malloy said. Wellham, chief for five years, was paid $85,000.

Since Russell joined the force in 1966, he said, crime has worsened as the county has grown.

He singled out the increase in child abuse as the most disturbing.

"We've always had our share of robberies, burglaries and family disputes," Russell said. "But I think now we're seeing more child abuse than we did before. Maybe it's just that they weren't reported. I don't know."

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