Over the last year, Hans Menos, a 34-year-old social worker, has helped place, train, and supervise more than 100 victim advocates inside police precincts in New York City — a program he helped develop from scratch. The opportunity provided the thrill of building something new, and the difficulty of trying to bring change to a large bureaucracy.
His new assignment in Philadelphia won’t be quite the same, but he’ll almost certainly face similar challenges.
In October, Menos will take over as executive director of the Police Advisory Commission, the citizen oversight board that since February has been bogged down by controversy. Mayor Kenney’s office is expected to announce the appointment Monday.
Established in 1994 by Mayor Ed Rendell, the commission was designed to provide civilian oversight of police misconduct, investigating citizen complaints and, in recent years, evaluating department policies and progress on suggested reforms.
Menos, in an interview Friday, said he understands that, as the Police Department’s chief citizen watchdog, his organization will have to juggle serving the public and working with the police. But he believes that his experience has prepared him for the role, which he described as a “unique position” for citizen involvement in law enforcement.
“I’m not short on ideas,” said Menos, who currently works in New York City for Safe Horizon, which provides services to crime victims. “Ultimately, it all leads to this ability to take on what’s a really challenging issue when it comes to police-community relations.”
Although Menos declined to offer specifics about his goals — he said he hasn’t even spoken with his future staff members yet — the commission could use a fresh start.
Earlier this year, its executive director, Kelvyn Anderson, resigned as police investigated allegations that he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a woman who had come to the commission for help. Anderson has not been charged with a crime.
His interim replacement, Erica Atwood, who had previously worked in the Nutter administration, has since been criticized by activists as ineffective. Asa Khalif, of Pennsylvania’s Black Lives Matter chapter, said in an interview last week that Atwood “failed completely in the job.”
Khalif said that under Atwood’s leadership, members of the commission staff had stopped showing up at the scene of shootings by police, and he took issue with the fact that Atwood had criticized him for his tactics in protesting the fatal shooting of David Jones.
Khalif said Friday that the commission needs “someone permanent, with integrity, [who] is not afraid to criticize politicians when they’re silent.”
Ronda B. Goldfein, the commission’s board chair, acknowledged that after Anderson resigned, the organization was “not at its full operating potential.”
Even with new leadership, the commission will not have the power to discipline officers, and it also currently has just six staffers, five board members, and a budget of $400,000. Menos will be paid $120,000, the mayor’s office said.
The Police Department has about 6,300 officers, and the local Fraternal Order of Police — which has about 14,000 active and retired members — has grown into a potent political force.
Menos said he understands that he will face challenges in his role, but he is hoping to build relationships with activists, victims, and officials inside the police department, including Commissioner Richard Ross, to help ensure that the organization can be an effective counterweight for the city.
“My job is going to be to hold people accountable at times, to have conversations about accountability, to have conversations about change, and to have conversations to say: ‘This wasn’t done right,’ ” he said.