Philadelphia’s citizen-led board for police oversight has a new leader.
Hans Menos, 34, a social worker who helped create a victim-assistance program in New York City, is set to oversee Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission. City officials say he will start in October.
Menos worked with survivors of domestic violence, families in crisis and recent immigrants in New York, where he ran the largest victim-services organization in the country.
In an interview Monday, Menos said he hopes to bring skills he has honed in New York police precincts to Philadelphia. One of his aims is to improve community trust in a department that federal officials have found operates with an “undercurrent of significant strife” with many communities officers are sworn to protect.
“We need to make sure that people feel that their police force is legitimate as much as possible,” Menos said. “I’m not suggesting that we’re going to have 100 percent feeling that, ‘we love everyone,’ but an improvement in that sense,” he said.
The Police Advisory Commission has strong investigative powers, like the ability to subpoena records. But the group has been criticized for being toothless, since it’s not able to directly discipline officers in cases of misconduct.
“Things are maybe not ideal way, but if we think about things in a bigger picture, nothing is set in stone. And I say that without the belief that I’m so pie in the sky that things will change for me overnight either, but I do focus on incremental change,” Menos said.
The commission was formed in 1993 under former Mayor Ed Rendell. Recently, the board has been slammed for not visiting the scenes of officer-involved shootings. The change seemed to coincide with the former executive director of the commission, Kelvyn Anderson, resigning in February after a woman accused him of starting an improper sexual relationship following her reaching out to the group to lodge a complaint against an officer. Anderson, who has not been charged with a crime, has told WHYY that he resigned to pursue opportunities in consulting.
Menos said it is too early to outline what changes he would like to make to the commission — and what policy proposals he will be making to the police department. He said he would like to look into the commission having a role in independently investigating shootings by police officers.
“To the extent possible, I would want to improve that,” Menos said. “But I’m not clear what it stopped from happening.
“I’d like to serve two masters — provide some investigation to the people of the city, while also thinking macro and considering policy issues that we can recommend to the police leadership,” he said.
This week, city officials will announce the commission’s 13 new members, all of whom are appointed by the mayor.