Special/Signature Issues » 2016 Top 40 Under 40

Chris Rizzuti, 31

Master Detective, Chesterfield County Police

In the fall of 2012, then-Chesterfield patrol officer Chris Rizzuti was finishing paperwork at the Woodlake police station when a call came in that Village Bank in Midlothian had been robbed. Only 45 minutes from the end of his shift, Rizzuti thought about letting the other young officers handle it, but swung into action after hearing the suspect had fled west on Route 360 in a silver Ford Taurus.

“I went as far west as I could,” he recalls, noting that the only description he had was that the possibly armed suspect was wearing a construction uniform.

“Sure enough, I look up and see two silver Ford Tauruses about the same year. … One suddenly pulls into a gas station. That guy sees me, turns white as a ghost, and goes back east on 360. It didn’t make sense. So we pulled him over and found a construction vest and hardhat in the vehicle. We soon determined we had the guy, who had stolen $7,100.”

Solid instincts like these helped Rizzuti quickly rise to become a master detective, as well as a hostage negotiator and perhaps his favorite role, a community leader with the Crime Solvers monthly scholastic program. It awards scholarships in schools and helps improve the relationship between communities and law enforcement.

“If you understand why [an officer] does something or says something,” he says, “it gives kids a much better understanding.”

Rizzuti is the antidote to such sentiments as “snitches get stitches,” which he calls the “highest degree of bullying.”

“The one or two bad guys are not in charge of your neighborhood — you are,” Rizzuti says, noting that anyone who reports crimes anonymously will be protected with fail-safe methods.

Helping people is in Rizzuti’s blood. His grandfather and uncle were New York City police officers and his Dad was a New York state trooper. His family moved here in 1995, and Rizutti attended Midlothian High School and Virginia Commonwealth University.

“I admit sometimes you see these dash cam videos and you wonder, why did they do that? But I like to get the full story first. Video will never capture the emotion of a situation, or what we may previously know, or really the full picture.”

He says he feels fortunate for the degree of support within the Chesterfield community that he’s helping improve every day.

“People stop by and say hi, offer to buy us meals all the time,” he says. “That means the world to us. Just saying thanks. We want people to trust us and feel that they can come to us with anything.”