Keene Police Chief Steven Russo to retire effective Sept. 1

·3 min read

Jul. 27—Keene Police Chief Steven Russo announced Wednesday that he will retire from the department effective Sept. 1.

A 23-year veteran of the Keene Police Department, Russo worked his way up the ranks before being appointed as chief in 2017, City Manager Elizabeth Dragon said in the news release announcing his retirement.

"Chief Russo and his department have truly been ... leaders in the region and the state," Dragon said. "I am grateful for his service to our community and his prior service to our country. I wish him a long, healthy, happy retirement."

Before joining the department as a patrol officer in 1999, Russo served for 21 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a sergeant major the same year he joined the police force. He had served as a captain since 2010, before succeeding Police Chief Brian Costa, who died unexpectedly in 2017.

Under Russo, Dragon said the Keene police quickly met or exceeded many recommendations of the Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community and Transparency. Gov. Chris Sununu established that commission in 2020 in response to the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis that spring.

That includes plans to implement body cameras and in-car video by next year, she said. Lessening the impact on local taxpayers, Russo successfully sought $465,000 in grant funding toward the body-camera program, she said.

Moreover, Russo has subjected the department's policies and procedures to rigorous review, helping it to maintain its accreditation with the Commission on the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies since 2013, according to Dragon.

In the news release, Dragon describes Russo as an advocate for mental health both inside and outside of the Keene Police Department. He established the department's first in-house peer-to-peer program and has strived to create a stronger partnership with Monadnock Family Services to help support people the department interacts with who may be in crises, she said.

In 2021, he initiated implicit-biases training for his department, receiving a $5,000 grant from the Panjandrum Foundation to update ethics training, Dragon said. The department worked with Keene State College's Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies to develop a unique program, which was approved by the Police Training and Standards Council, she said.

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Russo was a vital member of the city's emergency management team and routinely responded — including on nights and weekends — to community concerns and provided guidance for developing city-wide health policies, Dragon said.

She said in a phone interview that the city will begin the search for a new chief with an internal process to determine if there are potential candidates within the Keene Police Department.

That process is expected to take several months, and she and Russo will discuss who will lead the department in the interim, Dragon said. If it is determined there is not a candidate within the department, the city will initiate a wider search to fill the position, she said.

Russo did not immediately return a request Wednesday afternoon for comment.

Ryan Spencer can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1412, or rspencer@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter at @rspencerKS