By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor

There are thousands of people in Baltimore, many of them among the most disenfranchised communities of the city, who dread this week because they will have to bid farewell to Chief Melvin Russell, a man who embodied the term “public servant” as a member of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), for 39 years.

Russell, the former chief of the Community Collaboration Division and a deputy commissioner, will officially step down from his posts on April 24, the first day sweeping changes to the BPD are scheduled to begin; much of the restructuring is aimed at BPD command staff, which Russell was a part of.

However, there is a massive celebration planned in honor of Russell that will take place in front of City Hall on the 25th, beginning at 4:00 p.m. Allegedly, the send off for Russell is being spearheaded by new Police Commissioner Michael Harrison. Several members of the BPD command staff will also reportedly be in attendance to honor Russell and his work, which some argue has been transcendent in many communities.

Several influential members of Baltimore’s clergy allegedly pushed hard to make sure Russell, an ordained minister and an elder at New Beginnings Ministries, under Pastor Terry Love, was feted properly and publicly.

“The clergy of the city has been working with Chief Russell for many years, even before the Freddie Gray incident…we’ve worked with Russell for many, many years, building relationships between the community and the police department,” said Bishop Angel Nunez, senior pastor of the Bilingual Christian Church of Baltimore. Although Nunez will not reveal specifics of the confidential meeting between Baltimore clergy members and Commissioner Harrison (who is also an ordained minister), Nunez did suggest that Russell will continue to serve the city he loves.

“In my mind I think there are other avenues we need to approach to make sure that there is not a loss,” Nunez said. “We are excited for what the future is to bring. I will not elaborate at this moment, but we are in expectation of a better police department … and our beloved chief will be involved one way or another.”