Delray Beach’s New Chief of Police Russ Mager
If you’re afraid of heights, you might not want to read Chief Russ Mager’s resume. The 26-year Delray Beach police department veteran has scaled the depth and width of the department as if he were spiderman.
But unlike a superhero, Chief Mager is very down-to-earth and relatable. He’s the person officers and others in the Police department rely on to make sound judgment calls and keep justice scales on equal footing.
He’s also the person everyone counts on to keep his hands on the wheel when reality may shift under his feet. After all, Chief Mager has held almost every position in the Delray Beach Police Department. He started out in the Community Patrol Division, was a member of the SWAT Team, a Field Training Officer, TACT Team Officer, and Auto Theft Detective. He was a founding member of the Honor Guard Unit and was promoted to Sergeant in 2014.
As a sergeant, his goal was to experience as much diversity in the role as possible. He was a Field Training Sergeant, Clean & Safe Unit Sergeant, and the Internal Affairs Sergeant. Mager was also assigned to the Investigative Division, where he served as the Crime Scene Sergeant, Property Unit Sergeant, and Crimes Against Persons Sergeant.
In 2015 he was promoted to Lieutenant in the Community Patrol Division and then Administrative Lieutenant. He was also a Special Operations Lieutenant and Captain in the Investigative Division. In 2020 Mager was promoted to Assistant Chief of Police. On August 31st of this year, he took the moniker (and responsibility) of Chief of Police of the Delray Beach Police Department.
To say that Chief Mager is an overachiever is like saying the sun rises in the East. The Florida native has always been one to work hard and view learning as something to be imbibed voraciously. He is a by-product of his upbringing. His father was a judge in the Palm Beach County Fourth District Court of Appeal and later became a private mediator. Though his father spent 60 years in the legal profession (and his brother is a lawyer), the legal profession did not appeal to Mager.
Instead, he found joy and success in the hospitality industry. He started as a front desk clerk (in a hotel) making $5.35 an hour and was promoted to front desk supervisor. From there, he became a night manager. It wasn’t long before he was recruited as assistant general manager of a hotel in California, but after two years, he transferred to a hotel in Deerfield Beach.
“I loved working with people. I was always a talker. I’m not shy; I engage in conversation with others. I am also a fixer and like to help people.”
But after six jobs and eight years in the hotel industry, Mager was looking for a change. When his roommate suggested he work as a police officer in Delray Beach, Mager was non-plussed.
“My roommate thought I would do well as a police officer, but I said no thanks. After a year, I did a ride along and got a front-row seat to ‘see a day in the life of a police officer.’”
The rest is history – 26 years, to be exact. Mager filled out an application, was accepted, and was sent to the police academy. A year later, he became a road patrol officer.
If you believe that destiny plays a strong role in life, you have to believe that Chief Mager was tailor-made for a career in law enforcement. Others tend to agree.
“Chief Mager served in the trenches and knows what police work is all about. He is methodical about his decisions and does what’s best for the organization and its people. He knows what needs to be done and how to implement it,” said lieu-tenant Vinnie Gray of the DBPD.
Mager is a rare find in the stratosphere that he inhabits because of his humility and kind demeanor. He is also quick to unearth the history of his strong work ethic. At age 13, he woke up at 4:30 am, swept clay tennis courts by hand, and re-lined them. He also worked at a pet store cleaning cages and, in high school, parked cars at a country club.
His good nature and ability to absorb information like a sponge have set the stage for success in whatever capacity draws him near. He credits his good nature to his mother, who “always has a smile on her face.”
Others see the golden hue that tinges on his genial smile as well. “Chief Mager is a genuine, authentic guy. He speaks to you honestly and has sincere concern for your opinions on all matters,” said Captain Anthony Martinez.
Mager may be high up in the ranks of the Delray Police Department, but his sights are always at ground level. He was recently the announcer (and cheerleader) for the 10th Annual Guns N’ Hoses softball challenge between the DB police department and the DB fire rescue.
As for the future of the DBPD, Chief Mager wants to reinforce the importance of treating people fairly and doing the right thing in the community.
They will continue youth programs, such as high school baseball camps and criminal justice classes. “I like being in a position to effect positive change and Interact with people in the community. I want to be a great ambassador for law enforcement.”
If you ask Perry Don Francisco of Delray Citizens for Delray Police, he’ll tell you that Chief Mager’s mission is a slam dunk. “Chief Mager is a well-rounded, highly trained police professional. He is a great communicator and a believer in excellent service and will work hard to provide a safe community.”
** The DBPD is always looking for dedicated applicants to become police officers. Go to their website to apply.