Ex-VP of Amazon joins Seattle Police Dept to lead tech operations

By | March 13, 2015
Greg Russell Amazon

Greg Russell has the kind of resume that would many in tech industry would envy, with executives roles at Cisco, Flextronics and recently Amazon. Now, in an unusual Move, he’s leaving the tech giant behind to work at his city’s police department. The Seattle Police Department couple of days ago named Russell as its new chief information officer – aiming to boost its technological prowess and improve its ability to use data to fight crime.

Greg Russell Amazon

Greg Russell, 46, was previously an Amazon vice president overseeing areas including corporate applications, information technology and enterprise data warehousing. He is soon to be part of broader management shakeup by Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole. Apart from overseeing the Seattle PD’s internal technology systems, Russell will be tasked with finding new ways of using data to track and predict crime, while balancing those capabilities with the privacy concerns of citizens. The department has been facing issues related to police body cameras, drones and other emerging technologies.

In an interview, Mr. Russell said he sees the new job as an opportunity to simplify law enforcement and make it more efficient. He encouraged making more data available to the public, but acknowledged he will have to grapple with concerns around privacy and data use. “What’s important for me to understand is what we can and cannot share based on privacy,” he said in the interview. “I don’t quite understand that yet. So that would be number one.”

Russell, a native of Scotland who lives on Bainbridge Island, became a U.S. citizen last year. He will make $180,000 a year as the Seattle PD’s CIO — a 65 percent pay cut from his Amazon job, reports KING 5 News. When asked why he took up the job, he replied,  “Amazon was a fabulous company to be at. I learned so much,” Russell said in the SPD Blotter interview. “That’s the smartest team I’ve ever worked with. It grew me as an individual. But, really, what I’m doing is helping ship brown boxes across the universe. Is that useful to the world? I wanted the opportunity to give something back.”