News at Mason
Mason grad becomes first female deputy superintendent of Virginia State Police
March 1, 2017 / by Alexa Rogers
Lt. Col. Tracy Russillo got her first taste of a career in law enforcement during a law cadet program at the age of 16.
“From the first time I sat in a police car, I knew this is what I wanted to do,” Russillo said.
Russillo, who graduated in 1988 with a BS in law enforcement from the Department of Criminology, Law and Society, is a 28-year veteran of the Virginia State Police.
She has become the first woman to be appointed deputy superintendent of the department. Prior to this position, she was also the first female to receive major and lieutenant colonel status.
Appointed in August 2016, she now oversees three bureaus within the department, including the Bureau of Administrative and Support Services (BASS), Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Bureau of Field Operations. Russillo served in all three of these bureaus throughout her career with the state police, which she said has helped her better understand the needs of each one.
Though her parents hoped that going to college would set her on a different career path, Russillo chose George Mason for its law enforcement program, which also worked with Northern Virginia Community College at the time. She says she enjoyed learning from professors who were also law enforcement practitioners because they brought practical knowledge from their careers to the classroom.
“It was that practical side that you got to hear about. It wasn’t all theory,” Russillo said. “It was truly from experience.”
Russillo joined the state police in May 1989. She began as a trooper in Spotsylvania and worked her way up as she moved around the state, from academy sergeant to field lieutenant. She achieved the rank of captain in 2008 and served as the Fairfax division commander before becoming the deputy director of BASS, later serving as its director.
Almost 28 years later, Russillo said she never imagined being in this position and feels honored and privileged to be deputy superintendent.
For current students and recent graduates hoping to enter law enforcement, Russillo advises embracing the evolving challenges that the career has to offer.
“Once you walk out the door with your diploma, your learning is literally just starting,” Russillo said. “Although you learn a ton on the job, you need to continue your formal education too because there’s so much to be gained that you can bring back to the real world.”