Franklin Reporter & Advocate ‘Man Of The Year:’ FTPD Lt. Darrin Russo

Darrin Russo

The 2015 Franklin Reporter & Advocate Man of the Year, Franklin Township Police Lt. Darrin Russo.

Editor’s Note: Starting with this honor, the Franklin Reporter & Advocate will annually recognize one person who, in our opinion, has made the greatest impact on Franklin Township in the preceding year. Our inaugural award goes to Franklin Township Police Lieutenant Darrin Russo.

On Dec. 2, 2015, Franklin Township Police Lt. Darrin Russo had a split second to make a decision that could have had far-reaching effects.

Russo had just stopped a Bound Brook man wanted for stealing a car while the man was driving down DeMott Lane. The man, 38-year-old Terrence Foendoe, exited the car on Russo’s command, but then reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a folded knife.

Russo drew his service weapon and pointed it at Foendoe, ordering him to drop the knife. Inexplicably, rather than do that, Foendoe began to flick the knife open.

Exhibiting what can only be described as heroic restraint – borne both of his temperament and his 30 years’ experience as a police officer – Russo did not fire his weapon. Fortunately for all, as he was trying to deploy the blade, Foendoe lost his grip on the knife and it went sailing through the air, into a ditch on the side of DeMott.

Russo was by then aided by another township policeman, and Foendoe was subdued and arrested.

We don’t have to point out how this scenario could have been dramatically – and tragically – different. Had Russo, a white man, fired his weapon at Foendoe, a black man, comparisons would have immediately been made to Ferguson, Chicago and Cleveland, among others. The ramifications in the township could have been horrendous.

But thankfully, that didn’t happen. Russo was able to return home that evening, and Foendoe, incarcerated in the Somerset County Jail in Somerville, is still alive.

With the focus on so many bad or questionable acts reported as being perpetrated by police on civilians, we’re thankful that we have officers of Russo’s character, and is why he is the 2015 Franklin Reporter & Advocate’s “Man of the Year.”

A little bit about Russo, as provided by Sgt. Phil Rizzo of the FTPD: Lt. Darrin Russo joined the Franklin Township Police Department on August 19, 1985. Throughout his tenure with the FTPD he has served in many capacities including: patrol officer, detective, detective sergeant, and is currently the day shift commander. He also served as the Delegate to the New Jersey State PBA and is currently the President of the Supervisory Officer’s Association. Lt. Russo is a highly decorated officer and has been involved in numerous high profile investigations.

FTPD Chief Lawrence Roberts, who said he has known Russo for nearly 30 years, called the Lieutenant “not only a great officer, but a natural leader.”

“Throughout his career he has proven not only to be a valued member of the department, but also the community,” Roberts said. “Through his training and experience, he has passed on to our younger officers knowledge that will have a positive, lasting effect on the agency for many years to come.”

Outgoing Mayor Chris Kelly said Russo’s action that day speaks “to the leadership of the department and the quality of the officers we have.”

“That guy (Foendoe) should thank Darrin, too,” he said. “For an incredibly horrible lack of judgment, to pull a knife on an officer and to have it end with everybody alive, nobody injured, is probably the best-case scenario.”

Russo was nominated for the award by Mayor-elect Phil Kramer, who had this to say as to why:

“Chief (Lawrence) Roberts commands what I believe is the finest and most professional police force in the state,” Kramer said. “Darrin Russo’s performance this year and his sustained performance during his long career exemplifies the dedication of the many outstanding individuals who protect us.”

Franklin residents: Take notes during the year of people you think should be considered for the 2016 “Person of the Year” award. We’ll let you know when to send in your nominations for this award.



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