October 12, 2004.
Raul Russi, Chairman of the Local Conditional Release Commission, met today with NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg to offer his resignation as Chairman of the Commission. Russi characterized the meeting as extremely productive, and offered the following statement:   

The Mayor has done an extraordinarily good job in reducing crime and violence in the City. As an individual who has spent his entire career in law enforcement and criminal justice, I feel a commitment to do everything I can to assist the Mayor to continue to achieve success in this area. Because of the furor surrounding the Local Conditional Release Commission, and the fact that its ability to function is impaired, I have today submitted my resignation as Chairman of the Commission. I fully agree with the Mayor that it best serves law enforcement officials and the citizens of New York for him to select another chairman so the work of commission can proceed.

After a 34-year career in the criminal justice system, starting as a beat cop in Buffalo through running prisons and making decisions about parole and probation for some of the most violent, hardened criminals, I was – and remain - convinced that Velella was absolutely no risk to the community, but was in fact a broken man who had disgraced himself and brought about the end of a distinguished career as a public servant in a most ignominious way. His was a compassionate release having nothing to do with politics.

I am gratified that the Mayor has asked me to remain on the New York City Board of Corrections and I look forward to continuing to serve the Mayor in the future.

Russi is a hero cop, ground-breaking Latino activist, NYC mayoral and NYS gubernatorial appointee, and now human service executive in the South Bronx. He was awarded a Purple Heart by the Buffalo, NY Police Department when he was shot in the line of duty early in his career in law enforcement.  He was the first Hispanic police officer in Buffalo, NY, where he received numerous awards for arresting and convicting more violent offenders than any other officer in the department’s history and for his recruitment initiatives to increase minority hiring.

After he left the force in 1985, Russi’s career skyrocketed.  He first became a member of the State Commission of Correction’s Citizens Policy and Complaint Review Council, then in 1986 became assistant superintendent of the Erie County NY Correctional Facility, and in 1987 was promoted to superintendent. Two years later, the New York State Division of Parole lured him back to state service and appointed him Chairman of the Parole Board. In that capacity, Russi managed a state agency with 2,600 personnel, 40,000 clients and a budget of $160 million. He was also the first Latino Sheriff of the City of New York, serving from May 1995 to August 1996.

Russi’s reputation for unimpeachable integrity and exemplary management extends far beyond state and local government.  He serves as a consultant to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as it embarks on an ambitious program to reorganize its prison system, and earlier this month was honored by the City of Buffalo, serving as Grand Marshall for that city’s Hispanic Day Parade.   He sits on the Board of NDRI, a prestigious research institute many of whose studies are funded by the Federal government, and is a member of the New York City Board of Corrections.  

He has proved as adept an executive in the arenas of advocacy and human services as he has been in law enforcement. In 1973, Russi created the Consortium of Spanish Speaking Organizations, the first full service agency headed by a Latino in Buffalo. He then went on to found the Western New York Hispanic and Friends Civic Association, an activist organization responsible for the election of the first Hispanic judge outside of New York City. He provided the leadership for and spearheaded the creation of Western New York’s first residential substance abuse treatment program, Horizon Village, then incorporated and chaired the board of La Alternativa, Buffalo’s first Latino based substance abuse prevention program. He then merged La Alternative with two other organizations to create Hispanic United of Buffalo, that city’s largest Hispanic organization.   

For the past two and one-half years, Russi has led BASICS Inc., a multi-service agency located in the South Bronx.  Since taking over the reins of that organization, he has expanded BASICS mission from alcohol and substance abuse treatment only to the provision of holistic, comprehensive services to children and families, as well as substance abusers.  In his short time as CEO, he has developed 8 transitional residences for families, opened a community health clinic, secured funding for an Adolescent Treatment Program that will open by the end of December 2004, and created the Julio Martinez/Charles LaPorte Foundation, a separately incorporated operating subsidiary of BASICS Inc., that is gearing up to provide youth ages 11 to 21 with substance abuse prevention programs that include tutoring, mentors, counseling and scholarships, among other activities and supports.