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Russell retires as PPD chief

By Staff, 03/7/17 2:25 PM


PRESCOTT – Tuesday was a time for tears. Both tears of happiness and sadness.

The reason for the tears was the retirement of Prescott Police Chief Brian Russell. A community coffee was held in his honor at the Spot Youth Center. Russell was police chief in Prescott for more than 11 years and was with the Prescott Police Department for 12 years.

The center was packed with friends, family and well-wishers, all congratulating Russell on his retirement and wishing him and his family well in their future endeavors. Speeches aplenty were given, starting with Prescott Mayor Terry Oliver, who, once finished, turned the mike over to anyone who wanted to talk about Russell.

Prior to the start of the event, Russell said the high point of the job for him was having the chance to do something like this and help others. He thanked the Prescott City Council and former mayor Howard Taylor for taking a chance and hiring him as chief. He added, another high point was watching the young officers grow into the profession. However, where there are high points there are also low points. Russell said the low points for him was having to watch people hurt and not being able to help.

He and his family have no fixed plans for the future, though he is looking forward to watching his children grow up and being there for them more. He said his daughter only knows him as a police officer, but now he gets to be “dad”. The family, he added, has talked about possibly moving to Florida as his daughter wants to be a swimmer. “They’ve followed me this many hears, now it’s time for me to follow them.

“I’ll miss it,” he said of being an officer, “and it’ll never be out of my system. I did the best I could.” Russell said he likes working in small towns because it allows him to get to know everybody. Prior to his moving to Prescott, Russell worked with the Hempstead County Sheriff’s Office. Overall, he has 23 years of law enforcement experience, along with more than four years with the US Army, where he was in both Desert Storm and Desert Shield.

“One of my biggest joys,” he said, “was helping other officers advance. I’ve met presidents, congressmen, Senators and generals, but the most prestigious people I’ve ever met were the men in blue. Being a patrolman is everything. I’ll always be blue.”

Russell offered some advice for young officers and those considering a career in law enforcement. First, is no matter what, not everyone will like the officers. But, regardless, he added, officers need to treat people with respect in order to earn their respect.

Oliver said he first met Russel in 2010 and quickly learned he wasn’t a “yes man”, but was a policeman. “I didn’t know anything about law enforcement when I took over as mayor, but we’ve done a lot of work together.” Oliver said Russell was one of the driving forces behind the city getting the old Presbyterian church as a youth center.

One of Russell’s strength’s, Oliver said, is his ability to communicate with people. “He knows how to settle people down. We had a long talk about his retirement. Things will be different with Joey coming on and he’s shown what he can do. We’ll be in good hands.”

Oliver presented Russell with a wristwatch as a retirement gift.

John Brannon spoke next, saying it seems as though the world’s gone crazy and it take a lot to survive a career in law enforcement. He congratulated Russell on his retirement, saying he appreciated him for what he did.

Councilman Patricia Roberts also spoke, saying Russell comes to the school where his daughter does on a daily basis. She called him a wise man who made wise decisions for the community. Roberts recalled a time a few years ago when her church was having an event and asked Russell to speak. She said he answered all the questions the young people had. She added he always made people feel safe.

Mary Godwin, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office, said Russell was always supportive and would respond any time of the day or night when called. “He was always happy to help us. We wish you well,” she said. “Joey, we look forward to working with you as well.”

Councilman Howard Austin also lauded Russell for his service to the community, saying he would be missed and hopes he stays in Prescott to continue helping the community.

Beavers said he began five years ago with the PPD, and the two, he and Russell, had a common goal in mind – to make the department the best it could be. He said Russell told him he wanted to be known as a man who worked and left things better than when he found them. “I believe he did.”

Russell thanked Oliver for putting the retirement reception together, and wound up emotional several times as he talked about his time as chief and plans for the future. He talked about how small the department was when he took over as chief and said a defining moment for him was when David Thomas did everything he could to save a baby that had been mauled by a dog. “I knew then he was blue. A lot of people don’t get what blue is, but he’s a hero. That was great, something special.”

He talked about hiring Michelle Weaver and how she worked to get grants totaling more than $250,000 for the department, which helped it expand and buy much-needed equipment. “She was a civilian blue and that meant a lot to me.” He told how her husband went on to become a police chief and, while with the PPD, took a lot off Russell.

“The council took a big chance on me,” he said. “I’d only been here a few months at the time, but I became friends with everyone here and everyone had a part in my career.” Russell talked about the officer’s he’s hired, saying he’s always hired who he thought would be the best for the community and department, even though his judgement was questioned at times. His goal for the other officers, he said, is to see them advance and make Prescott and the PPD proud. “We need people with passion in law enforcement. Everyone here wants to work.

“Joey, you’ve got a good group of men and women. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people and it’s been fun. I appreciate everybody.”

Russell teared up and had to pause when he began talking about his son, saying he’s talked with his son more in the last three weeks than he has in the last five years because of the job. Being a police officer, he said, takes a lot out of a person and their family. “I put everything into the job and missed out on some things. I’ve got time now. My wife is the real hero and I don’t know how she’s put up with me.”

A pinning ceremony was held with Russell pinning the chief’s badge onto Beavers. Beaver’s talked about being with the Criminal Investigation Division of the Arkansas State Police and being at the PPD regularly, eventually getting an office. Russell asked what it would take to get him to join the PPD as assistant chief and eventually replace him as chief. “I gave some ridiculous figure,” Beavers said, “and later got a call from Russell and the mayor.

“Everybody,” he continued, “came together to build the department we have now. The torch has been passed and I’ll do the best I can. You’re in good hands.”



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