Police chief being considered for post in New Orleans

May 12, 1994|By Gregory P. Kane | Gregory P. Kane,Sun Staff Writer

After 28 years with the Anne Arundel County police force, Chief Robert P. Russell may be headed to New Orleans.

Chief Russell, 51, is one of three finalists for the job of superintendent of police there.

He toured the city and met with a search committee two weeks ago, he said yesterday. But he added that he still is uncertain whether he will take the job.

"It's an intriguing challenge," he said. "It's certainly exciting to contemplate that kind of a challenge."

County Executive Robert R. Neall, who appointed Chief Russell, has said he will not run for re-election, which could leave the chief out of a job in December under a new administration.

While the populations of Anne Arundel and New Orleans are similar -- 450,000 in the county, 500,000 in New Orleans -- the differences between the jurisdictions are vast.

Chief Russell heads a department of 555 officers and 192 civilian employees. The New Orleans department has 1,500 officers and 500 civilian employees. The county has four police districts. New Orleans has eight.

While Anne Arundel County had 18 homicides in 1993, New Orleans had 389. Arrests by county police average fewer than 2,000 a year. New Orleans police make 43,000 arrests a year, said Sgt. Barry Fletcher, a spokesman for that city's police department.

There also is talk of corruption in the New Orleans police department, a subject that has been broached in newspapers there, Chief Russell said.

"I read a newspaper article when I was down there that said in the past 16 months 16 officers have been arrested. I don't know of any who've been arrested in the history of our department," he said.

The challenge apparently has intrigued the chief so much that he said he hasn't even discussed his pay.

"Salary doesn't enter into it," he said.

Chief Russell was contacted about the job by the Police Executive Research Forum, a group assisting the New Orleans department in its search.

"They were basically familiar with some of the things we've done here," Chief Russell said.

Those include community policing, decentralization, the use of volunteers and developing an approach in which police try to help solve community problems rather than arrest people, Chief Russell said.

He said he is ready to apply those tactics in New Orleans.

The other two finalists for the job are Michael Brasfield, an assistant chief of police in Seattle, Wash., and Robert Olson, commissioner of police in Yonkers, N.Y., Sergeant Fletcher said.

Although he has met with the search committee, Chief Russell has yet to schedule a meeting with New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial.

Born in Baltimore, Chief Russell moved to Anne Arundel County 29 years ago.

He joined the police force a year later, working his way up to become deputy chief in 1988 and chief when Mr. Neall came into office.

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