What’s Past Is Prologue: Criminal Justice Crystal Ball Series, Part 2, with Brad Russ

Season 2Episode 20November 19, 2020

What can we learn from past criminal justice reforms, and how might partnerships between police, multidisciplinary team members, and Children’s Advocacy Centers provide a path forward for our communities?

It was after midnight one night in 1983 when young police detective Brad Russ heard the knock on his front door that would transform his career. A 16-year-old girl named Kathy had run through a driving rainstorm to reach the one person in her neighborhood she thought might help her. Russ had never investigated child abuse before, and overnight he got a crash-course in the disjointed way the system handled—or didn’t handle—such cases. It launched him on a lifelong mission to improve his own community’s response to abuse and made him a champion of Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) and the multidisciplinary team (MDT) model.

Fast forward to today, with communities across the United States confronting problems with our justice system and police-community relations. In part two of our Criminal Justice Crystal Ball Series, “What’s Past Is Prologue,” we talked with Russ about his own experience with systemic reform. What can we learn from the past? How might deep partnerships between the police, MDT members, and CACs set an example and provide a path forward in these community conversations? How can meaningful collaboration and trust form the glue that keeps it all together?

Topics in this episode:

  • The past: A siloed approach to child abuse cases (1:53)
  • Common issues in abuse investigations (11:26)
  • Collaboration is difficult and necessary (21:14)
  • How to make things happen (32:20)
  • Our next episode (42:39)


Brad Russ, former police chief of the Portsmouth, N.H., Police Department, is executive director of the National Criminal Justice Training Center of Fox Valley Technical College

Abbreviations used in this interview: CPS (child protective services); CACs (Children’s Advocacy Centers); DCYF (New Hampshire’s name for CPS, the Division of Children, Youth, and Families); MDT (multidisciplinary team); OJJDP (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention)

Seacoast Mental Health Center

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program

CACs mentioned: Colorado Springs, Colo.; DallasHuntsville, Ala.; Rockingham County (Portsmouth), N.H.

During his conversation with us, Brad Russ credited a number of people he worked with over the course of his career. Some of the names were edited out when we trimmed the interview. The full list of people mentioned: Joy Barrett, Bill Black, Ed Garone, Wendy Gladstone, Brian Killacky, Ron Laney, Sandy Matheson, Marci Morris, Bill “Mort” Mortimer, Jim Reams, and Kay Wagner.

Transcript to come.