News: A Cop Watching Cops

New chief at Citizens Complaint Authority

Nov 15, 2006 at 2:06 pm
Joe Lamb

Both police and the public must work to improve relations, according to Kenneth Glenn.

A former cop is the new head of the agency handling citizen oversight of the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD).

With 25 years as a police officer in Detroit, is Kenneth Glenn, the new director of the Citizens Complaint Authority (CCA), just another example of an insider posing as a critic? At first glance that might seem to be the case, but Glenn dispels that concern with ideas about what role the CCA can take during his tenure as the third person to head the four-year old organization.

One idea is something other citizen oversight organizations do all over the country — review police policy, procedures and training and not just in response to a complaint.

"I think that our agency needs to be more pro-active, just bring things to the police chief's attention," Glenn says. "Whether or not he incorporates that is up to him, but at least we can say that we're taking a look, that we're trying to help the city and being pro-active and saying to the city, 'Hey, maybe these are some things we need to take a look at. Let's not wait for something to happen.'

"When I say take a look at it, I mean a partnership with the police department to say, maybe, 'Hey, this is something that we observe from Denver or Seattle or somewhere. Maybe this could be incorporated, or maybe this is just something you might like to take a look at.' "

He explains that all major policy changes are currently reviewed by the Justice Department as part of the collaborative agreement on police reform, the same agreement that brought about the formation of his organization.

The right to say no
Glenn started out as an investigator with the CCA and moved up to chief investigator before he was tapped to serve as interim director in December 2005 when director Wendell France unexpectedly resigned before his contract ended (see "An Official Oversight," issue of Jan. 18). During the yearlong national search to find a director, the CCA took in approximately 400 complaints and conducted 110 investigations.

Even though the CCA's charter is to "investigate allegations of misconduct by police officers including, but not limited to, shots fired, death in custody and major uses of force," Glenn wants to take its work on the road.

"We need to get our message out to the community, what we're about," he says. "And we're not just about taking complaints and investigating complaints. I think that we need to get out there and talk about not only how police officers should conduct themselves when there's an interaction with a citizen, but also how citizens should act when there's an interaction with the police officers. We need to talk about both.

"We all have to do our part. The police have to do their part but the citizens, we've got to do our part, too, because it's dangerous work that these officers are doing. We have to understand that. We all have responsibilities. Police officers and citizens alike have responsibilities to conduct themselves properly."

When listing suggestions such as making sure your turn signals work and keeping your hands visible during a police stop, Glenn isn't blaming the victim. He's talking about everyone taking responsibility for their actions and making a positive impact on the community. That means upholding the ideal of innocent until proven guilty and making sure citizens know their rights.

"In the police department policies and procedures, they have what they call a consensual stop," Glenn says. "If there's a consensual stop, it means you're free to leave. If an officer approaches you and you're just walking down the street and the officer says, 'Can I talk with you?' you have a right to say, 'What did I do?' and he says, 'You didn't do anything.' Then, 'No, I don't want to talk to you.' You have that right as a citizen."

The big embrace
That kind of balanced approach doesn't always sit well with people, including cops.

"It's not just about civilian oversight that police officers really don't like, it's just the nature of being a police officer, that law enforcement — that they don't like people looking over their shoulder," Glenn says. "I came up in the Detroit Police Department with an 'us against them' mentality: 'You can't tell us how to do our work. We got this. You just sit back. Let us do our thing.'

"Police work is police work throughout the country. The thing is to catch the bad guys. All the law enforcement agencies across the country are dealing with the same issues. How do we get a handle on how to control crime in our country? I say 'the country' because it's just not exclusive to Cincinnati."

As a member of National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (, Glenn has access to studies of best practices.

"Police agencies throughout the country have realized that you have to be embraced by the community," he says. "It's so critical. Your different community groups, your neighborhood groups are the eyes and ears of the police department. They know who the bad people are in the community. If you embrace the community, guess what? It makes your job a lot easier because they're supplying you with the information.

"The police department has to embrace the community, and the community has to embrace the police department."

If your group would like to ask Glenn to speak, call 513-352-1600.

The CCA Board meets at 6 p.m. the first Monday of every month in city council chambers. To file complaints, visit Centennial Two Plaza, Suite 610, at 805 Central Ave., from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays; call 513-352-1600; or write [email protected], including your name, phone number and mailing address. ©