Even in his uniform, he’s just Mike, says Victoria Police Department’s new spokesman.
Despite that, when he’s not in his uniform, Const. Mike Russell still has his cop brain switched on. At a recent family cycling event with his wife and two kids, Russell spotted a suspicious character and approached the man for a talk.
“It’s not constable this and constable that, yes sir no sir; it’s hey Mike,” Russell said. “This is what I do as a job, but I’m a father, I’m a cyclist, I’m an advocate, I’m a community builder. There’s so many other facets and that goes for the other 243 sworn members and 100 civilian (employees).”
Russell took over the spokesperson’s position at VicPD in early May, after former spokesman Grant Hamilton was promoted from sergeant to staff sergeant.
Russell, 31, started as an officer with the Edmonton Police Service seven years ago, as a community liaison officer. Three years ago, he moved to VicPD, continuing his community resource work.
The public information job is one Russell is looking forward to.
“My passion, my background is community development as a community resource officer in two different departments in two different cities,” he said. “I’m just trying to be able to draw those connections a little bit more closely, now I get to do that even better with the media.”
Russell said social media will be an important part of the department’s future, as VicPD tries to connect better with city residents.
“We’re lacking right now, and I freely admit it, in making that connection.”
Social media is one way Russell hopes to tackle public opinion of the police department.
“There are crises in every organization. That tends to drive the messaging that’s out in the public and the good stuff gets lost. We have officers that go and feed lunches to kids at school, we have officers who volunteer to coach soccer.
“I don’t think we’ll ever change that 10 to 15 per cent of the people’s minds who just think the cops are out there to pull one over on everybody.”
Married for eight years with two kids, a four-year-old boy and a girl who is not quite two, Russell said he’s a fan of the outdoors. His spare time is spent biking with his family or running.
And while it’s a statement not every police officer would make, Russell said he’s proud to tell friends and strangers alike about his line of work.
“I’m pretty outgoing,” he said. “I don’t hide it from anyone when they say, ‘What do you do for a living?’ I’m proud to say I’m a cop and I’m proud to say I’m part of the community.”