Seattle Police Department Plucks Amazon VP for CIO Role

More than 200 applied for the position, but an Amazon executive will fill the role as the Seattle Police Department's new head of technology.

by / March 11, 2015

The Seattle Police Department announced on March 11 that Amazon Vice President Greg Russell will serve as its new CIO. Russell will begin on March 17, and apply his experience overseeing corporate applications and enterprise data warehousing to the police technology world.

Among more traditional IT responsibilities, Russell will use data to track and predict crime, while maintaining Mayor Ed Murray’s preservative stance on citizen privacy. In that vein, a hackathon was recently held to tap the public’s ideas on how best to share police data such as police video.

With the help of local tech activist Tim Clemans, the police established a YouTube channel for some of its video, which is processed through a filter that makes the video black and white, removes sound and blurs the image to preserve anonymity of those in the eye of the camera.

“You have to understand what information you can’t share,” Russell said. “But beyond that, the more transparent you can be with information, the better. If you can show the public that you’re sharing the good news and the bad news, you become more trustworthy. … My understanding is that we have a lot of data, we just can’t really make it available. It’s not that we don’t want to. It’s just that we don’t know how to.”

Russell told a local news station that he left Amazon because he wanted to “give something back.”

He also noted that in the coming months, the city will also equip each of its officers with a smartphone, to help reduce time spent on administrative work.

“We’re very excited to have Greg come in to join the city,” Seattle Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller told Government Technology. “I think any time we can bring someone of that caliber into city government who’s excited to leverage their talents to serve the people of Seattle, it’s a tremendous win for us.”

Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.