Meet Sully Police Commander, Major Jane Russell

Meet Sully Police Commander, Major Jane Russell

Her distinguished law-enforcement career spans 27 years.

Major Jane Russell at her desk in the Sully District Police Station.

Major Jane Russell at her desk in the Sully District Police Station.

Because of her dad’s career in the Marines, Jane Russell grew up a “military brat,” moving every two years. But when she went to college at JMU, she stayed in one place long enough to get a bachelor’s degree in sociology. And it was there that she decided on a career in law enforcement.

“In college, I watched ‘Cops’ on TV and liked the idea of not being behind a desk and not knowing what my day would hold,” she said. “I also wanted to interact with the community and take the bad guys off the streets.”

Throughout her 27-year career as a police officer, Russell’s done just that, and she’s now the commander of the Sully District Station in Chantilly. Along the way, she’s served in several different positions, beginning in 1997 as a patrol and K9 officer with the Herndon Police Department. 

“Having a K9 was truly a highlight of my career,” said Russell. “I got to take my dog, Tommy, to work and he was my buddy and lots of fun. But he was also fiercely protective, especially when it was just him, me and a bad guy in a building.”

Eventually, though, she said, “I saw that the Fairfax County Police Department had a larger playground and more opportunities to do a variety of things. However, it was a tough decision because I gave up my dog after having him for four years. And when I graduated from K9 school in 2002, we got the top dog-team award of our K9 training class.”

Russell started with FCPD in 2004 in patrol at the Mason District Station – and in 2012, she was honored as its Officer of the Year for her overall performance. “I developed a sex-offender liaison program for the station,” she said. “We wanted to make sure the officers knew where the sex offenders within our jurisdictions were living and working. I developed it for all the stations, and the officers were trained on the laws and requirements these people needed to abide by.”

She also served on Mason’s Neighborhood Patrol Unit. “Not only was it pro-active crime enforcement on our bikes, but we were also involved in public outreach,” she explained. “I’d ride through Culmore – I speak Spanish – and developed friendships there, and it was really neat. When you’re in a cruiser, people don’t see your face; but on a bike, you get to interact on a more human level.”

Russell was also promoted to sergeant in 2012 and went to the Franconia station. “I was still on the streets, but in a supervisory role,” she said. “Early on, I was on the scene of an officer-involved shooting – three of my officers discharged their firearms. And it was that day I realized what a significant responsibility I carried. That was a powerful experience. What I liked most about that job overall was that it was an opportunity to mentor new officers.”

At the end of 2013, she was transferred to Internal Affairs as an investigator. “It was a tough job but important,” she said. “I realized that we make mistakes; but as an agency, we have to police ourselves – and that’s critical.”

Afterward, said Russell, “I went on to have some fun. In November 2015, I briefly returned to Mason in patrol. Earlier, I’d put in to go to the Major Crimes Bureau and, after four months at Mason, I was selected for it.”

There, she was a supervisor with the Child Exploitation Squad, dealing with cases involving child pornography, online solicitation of minors and human trafficking. And although the subject matter was difficult, she said, “You have a bond at work with your peers, but you have to leave the job at work and not take it home with you. I also had to monitor my people’s mental health because that job can wear on you.”

Furthermore, said Russell, “I liked the camaraderie I had with those detectives. They were the most fun because you have to have some emotional levity and release. You deal with such sensitive, terrible and sad things, so you have to have that kind of outlet. Otherwise, the material would consume you.”

Then in 2021, she was promoted to the commander rank of first lieutenant. “I hadn’t put in for promotions before because I was having so much fun,” she explained. The new rank sent her back to Mason – but this time, as assistant station commander – seeing things there from a totally different perspective than previously.

In that job, said Russell, “The focus is to interact with the commander and solve problems together, plus work closely with the officers – be present with them and make sure they have the tools they need. And I liked returning to leadership in a much bigger role.”

She continued on that path when, in July 2021, she became assistant commander at the Criminal Justice Academy. She oversaw the mandatory in-service training for current officers – which included the driving track and firearms range – and supervised the new officers’ basic training. “I enjoyed their energy and excitement at going out and hitting the streets,” said Russell. “That was a great job.”

Next came a promotion to captain in March 2022, returning Russell to Internal Affairs – however, as the commander, instead of an investigator, as previously. “It was an important role in decision making,” she said. “And it was an honor to be entrusted with it.”

Then in July 2023, she became commander of the Violent Crimes Division, overseeing cold cases, homicides, sex crimes, child-abuse cases, domestic violence and armed robberies. “All my experience from when I was a supervisor at Major Crimes was valuable to me,” she said. “And those were the most serious of cases.”

Her entire career’s worth of experience ultimately led Russell to coming to the Sully District Station in February as its newest leader. And shortly thereafter, she was promoted to major. At Sully, she’s in charge of more than 70 officers who cover 70 square miles.

“This has been a dream job for me,” she said. “I worked all those years in patrol, and this job lets me work with the community and interact with patrol officers again. I’m also back in a uniform again, after being in business attire all those years.”

In turn, the community welcomed Russell warmly. “People here are so appreciative of the officers and their work, and the officers feel that,” she said. “We even post elementary-school kids’ drawings in the hallway, and we’re grateful when the officers are recognized.”

As for the station personnel, she said, “I felt extraordinarily welcomed here by the officers and supervisors. My predecessors left me a great environment. And [Assistant Commander] Capt. Ryan Low and I get out as much as we can into the community to get eyes on places where there have been crimes or complaints.”

Most of Sully’s crimes involve crimes of opportunity – thieves stealing valuables people leave in plain view in unlocked cars. “Our crime numbers all year have been trending down, and I attribute that to our officers being out and being seen before a crime can happen,” said Russell.

Her leadership philosophy is twofold. Internally, it’s about giving her officers the tools and motivation they need. “And that comes from their feeling valued and supported,” she explained. “They know I care about them.” In fact, she recently told them how proud of them she was for their issuing more than 400 warning citations – for things such as tailgating and other dangerous-driving behaviors – during the countywide Road Shark traffic-enforcement initiative.

Externally, Russell’s carrying on the positive community outreach already in place by Sully’s previous commanders. “I’m continuing to foster that relationship to make sure everyone feels safe in their homes and workplaces here,” she said. “And we work closely with Supervisor [Kathy] Smith to address any community concerns to keep people’s quality of life a priority.”

The toughest part of her job, said Russell, is “only being one person and not being able to do everything I want. I have lots of great ideas.” The best part, she said, is “being back in patrol doing what I love. We’re in this thing together at this station, and I see the positive impact the officers have on this community, firsthand.”

She recently married a fellow FCPD officer and has a daughter who followed in Russell’s public-safety footsteps as a firefighter/paramedic in another Virginia county. “We’re extraordinarily proud of her,” she said. In addition, Russell just enrolled in a master’s program for organizational leadership, for her own professional development. And in what spare time she has, she enjoys woodworking and hiking all over the country.

To the community, she says, “Thanks for your overwhelming support for the Sully officers. And please don’t hesitate to reach out with any concerns; even if they seem small, they’re important to you.”